Lesson Plan

Gold Fever! Seattle Outfits the Klondike Gold Rush

Black and white photograph of prospectors, settlers, and merchants.

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 6 Standard 1B: The student understands the rapid growth of cities and how urban life changed.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


1. To list several impacts the Klondike Gold Rush had on Seattle;
2. To examine why people came to Seattle to purchase their supplies and transportation to the gold fields;
3. To evaluate methods used to entice stampeders to outfit in Seattle;
4. To describe some of the difficulties stampeders encountered on their journey from Seattle to the Klondike;
5. To determine the effect of a dramatic event on their own community.


Time Period: Late 19th century  
Topics: The lesson will help students understand how Seattle exemplified the prosperity of the Klondike Gold Rush. It can be used in units on western expansion, late 19th-century commerce, and urban history.


Seattle's Pioneer Square bustled with excitement as news of a major gold strike in Canada's Yukon River valley reached the port city during the summer of 1897. Soon eager prospectors from all over the country descended on Seattle to purchase supplies and secure transportation to the far-away gold fields. Newcomers were beset with information from every corner. Hawkers offered one sales pitch after another, explaining where to find lodging, meals, gambling, and other entertainment. Outfitters tried to entice prospectors into their stores to purchase the supplies necessary for the stampede north. Anticipating large crowds, these outfitters piled merchandise everywhere, including the sidewalks in front of their stores. One clever merchant opened a mining school where greenhorns could learn the techniques of panning, sluicing, and rocking before setting out for the gold fields. Some anxious stampeders headed directly for the piers where ships were ready to sail north, joining the great migration to the Klondike gold fields. The intense bustle and commotion of the Klondike Gold Rush dramatically changed the face of Seattle.

Lesson Hook/Preview

In February 1852, a group of settlers founded the city of Seattle on the shores of Puget Sound. They chose the location because it provided a good place from which to ship logs and timber south to San Francisco, California. The following year, a steam sawmill was built, and with it Seattle's first industry was born. The town grew slowly at first due to its isolated location and the nation's involvement in the Civil War. This isolation ended in the late 1880s and early 1890s when the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads crossed the Cascade Mountain range into Puget Sound. During this period, Seattle began to enjoy economic prosperity as a hub for shipping and railroads.

During the summer of 1897, news of a gold strike in the isolated and desolate Klondike region of Canada's Yukon Territory reached the United States. The ensuing Klondike Gold Rush marked the last of the great gold rushes that had played a part in the development of the West since 1848 when John Marshall discovered gold in California. In the second half of the 19th century, gold and silver were discovered in many places throughout the West, including Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and the panhandle of Alaska. Each discovery triggered waves of migration to the respective gold fields, including the Klondike in 1897-98. During the Klondike Gold Rush, thousands of prospective miners, known collectively as "stampeders," flocked to Seattle to secure transportation to the gold fields and to purchase supplies (commonly called an "outfit") for their excursions. Seattle's merchants and ticket agents were suddenly beset with frenzied people preparing for the long and treacherous journey north


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


Yukon Territory

Additional Resources

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Seattle Unit
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page details the history of the park and visitation information. The site also offers a virtual museum that provides stories, maps, and photographs of the Gold Rush Era in Seattle.

Hard Drive to the Klondike: Promoting Seattle During the Gold Rush
The National Park Service interprets the Klondike Gold Rush, including Seattle's role in the Klondike trade and the legacy of the Gold Rush, in their historic resource study, Hard Drive to the Klondike: Promoting Seattle During the Gold Rush.

National Register of Historic Places
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places' on-line travel itinerary, "Seattle," provides information on places listed in the National Register for their association with the city's history, including the Pioneer Building and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Gold in Alaska: A Century of Mining History in Alaska's National Parks
Many of the Alaskan gold discoveries took place in areas that are today part of the National Park System. This online history book contains the histories of a sampling of park units that interpret their gold rush past.

Alaska's Gold
Alaska Gold Rush was developed by the Alaska Rich Mining Project Committee to make archival, library and museum materials more accessible to users throughout the state and to assist teachers in using primary source materials in classrooms. Alaska's Gold has two parts: Alaska's Gold Themes and Alaska's Gold Lode. Alaska's Gold Themes includes primary source materials enhanced with questions, suggested activities and a teacher's resources packet. Alaska's Gold Lode includes a larger selection of documents related to the project themes.

Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
The Valdez Gold Rush pages provide a database to research information about gold rush participants. This site also features a time line, historic photographs, and a Gold Rush Links page to other sites and information about the Klondike and California gold rushes.

University of Washington Libraries' Digital Collections
For a wonderful collection of photographs of Seattle, Washington during the Klondike Gold Rush, visit the University of Washington Libraries' Digital Collections. The Seattle and the Alaska and Yukon collections will be of particular interest.

Stories from the Gold Rush
The National Postal Museum celebrates the Klondike/Alaskan Gold Rush centennial with two features that explore the last great gold rush of the 19th century and the role of the mail carriers who provided contact between those so far from home and the families they left behind.

The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times web page provides unique insight in their Klondike Special Report where a reporter travels north by ferry, foot, and kayak on a Klondike adventure with his historical "companion," Mont Hawthorne, who made the trip in 1897-98. Included on the site is an article titled The Day Seattle's Ship Came In, and letters and journals chronicling the stampeders experience.

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Last updated: October 12, 2018