North to Alaska by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #goldrush #Alaska #classicmovies

Here is my August article reposted from the Prairie Rose Publications’ blog.

On or about August 16, 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon, which is in northwestern Canada. When word of this discovery reached Seattle and San Francisco, prospectors swarmed to the area between 1896 and 1899.

This gold rush has several names: Yukon Gold Rush, Alaska Gold Rush, Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, and Last Great Gold Rush. It’s estimated that 100,000 prospectors tried their hand as diggers and panners. This wasn’t the last great gold rush in Alaska, however. In 1899, the Klondike area was all but abandoned for the new gold field in Nome.¹  The Nome Gold Rush lasted from 1899 to 1999.

Klondike Map – Citation below

 

This gold rush has several names: Yukon Gold Rush, Alaska Gold Rush, Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, and Last Great Gold Rush. It’s estimated that 100,000 prospectors tried their hand as diggers and panners. This wasn’t the last great gold rush in Alaska, however. In 1899, the Klondike area was all but abandoned for the new gold field in Nome.¹  The Nome Gold Rush lasted from 1899 to 1909-ish.

 

 

Prospective prospectors on Chilkoot Pass near Skagway, Alaska – Citation below

But I’m not here for an Alaskan gold rush history lesson.

I’m interested in a song that introduced a movie by the same title and that both tell a delightful story about the Nome gold rush.

Coming up on August 22nd, Johnny Horton’s song North to Alaska will have its 60th anniversary.

 

 

 

 

 

Right around the corner on November 13th, the movie North to Alaska will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

The movie is a comedy-western (of sorts) starring John Wayne, Capucine, Ernie Kovacs, Stewart Granger, and Fabian. The movie was based on a 1939 three-act play, Birthday Gift, by the Hungarian novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Ladislas Fodor aka Laszlo Fodor (1898-1978). It is set during the Nome gold rush.

Johnny Horton’s song introduced the movie as a set-up to the storyline. The song topped Billboard magazine’s Country Singles chart. Horton co-wrote the song. Sadly, he died in a car wreck on November 5, 1960. He was 35.

Side note: His second wife was Hank Williams’ widow, Billie Jean Jones. In one of those weird coincidences in life, Johnny Horton’s and Hank Williams’ last public performances were at Austin’s Skyline Club—Horton on November 4, 1960 and Williams on December 19, 1952, AND they were married to Billie Jean Jones at the time.² (Williams died January 1, 1953 near Oak Hill, West Virginia and Horton died November 5, 1960 after leaving the Skyline Club near Milano, Texas.)

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here is Johnny Horton singing North to Alaska over scenes from the movie. It’s great fun.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

 

 

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References:

1-Nome Gold Field information HERE
2-Horton and Williams – Last performances: HERE and HERE
North to Alaska MOVIE
North to Alaska SONG
Klondike Map: created by en:User:ish ishwar in 2005, Tlingit-map-modify, CC BY 2.0
Chilcoot Pass: Cantwell, George G., ChilkootPass steps, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons