The Gold and Coal Fields of Alaska 

The Gold and Coal Fields of Alaska 
Together with the principal steamer routes and trails
Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Charles D. Walcott, Director. Published January,1898.
Scale: 1:3,600,000

Hello everyone,

Happy April! For this week’s map of the week, I would like to feature this map of “The Gold and Coal Fields of Alaska” that were made during the Klondike Gold Rush period. At the end of the 19th century, a series of financial recessions and bank failures stimulated the rise of gold specie’s value and also therefore the worldwide demand for gold. In Alaska, gold was first discovered by prospectors in the Yukon River in the 1880s. In 1896, large gold deposits were found in the region of Klondike–upstream of the Yukon River–leading tens of thousands of prospectors from the west coast of the United States to travel through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska for wealth.

The gold in the Klondike is known as orogenic gold, the gold that formed during the metamorphic events caused by the mountain-building movements. With tectonic uplifts and glacier movements causing the gold-rich veins to be exposed and eroded, nuggets and gold dust–known as placer gold–were created and left in the river deposits.

Though entitled “The Gold and Coal Fields of Alaska,” it’s clear that the focus of this map is the gold fields instead of the coals’. On the lower right of the map, the two major gold rush regions–the Yukon River and Klondike–are highlighted by the two map insets. In addition to marking out the gold or coal regions using red characters, the map creator has shaded the regions of the Birch Creek and Fortymile River with yellow and green to foreground their importance as the major gold discovery sites. 

Moreover, this map also featured the water and land transportation routes for its general U.S. audiences and perhaps particularly for the potential prospectors. Made 8 years after the establishment of USGS, This map therefore also reflects the original mission of the institute–to explore the geology and mineral potential of western lands.

Have a great week!

Yidan Xu ’24