"Just the facts, ma'am". That's a line Joe Friday frequently used in the 1950s radio drama, Dragnet. But when it comes to gold in the Yukon, sometimes "just the figures" tell a more interesting story.
Figures for gold production in the Klondike date back to at least 1885. That year, just over 4800 ounces were declared, fetching $100,000. Not bad considering a dollar would buy a lot of grub back then ... at least in the city.
The amount of gold found in the next twelve years fluctuated, reaching 12,000 ounces in 1897, a year after the big strike on Bonanza Creek. Then came the deluge. By the end of 1898, the year of the big rush, over 48 thousand ounces were declared, carrying a total value of 10 million dollars.
But the best was yet to come. In 1899, as big companies bought up large tracks of paying ground, 77 thousand ounces were found for a total of 16 million dollars. But it was in 1900, the turn of a new century, that the motherlode was declared. That year, over one million 70 thousand (1,070,000) ounces turned up in the pans and dredges working the Klondike valley...the largest single year of gold production, yielding over 22 million dollars at a time when gold was $16.00 an ounce.
Production dwindled from then on until 1972, when just over 4,000 ounces were found with a value of $254,000 dollars. After that, there was a steady rise in production as placer miners began going over the old ground with new methods making significant cleanups.
The biggest dollar value in Klondike gold occurred in 1988 when nearly 130,000 ounces resulted in a payout of 68 million dollars.
In the 110 years between 1886 and 1996, over 12 million ounces have been officially declared for a total dollar value of just over one billion. Just the figures, ma'am, just the figures.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Born in Valleyview, Alberta, Les McLaughlin was just three years old when he arrived in Whitehorse. His youth included playing midget, juvenile for the Hougens team, and senior hockey, along with volunteering at the military-run radio station CFWH in the late Fifties. It was just the beginning of a long broadcasting career.
Les has spent countless hours helping to preserve the history of the Yukon with his recordings of special people and events over many years for CBC Radio.
More than two hundred hours of audio selections are housed in the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife and the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse.
The founding producer of the True North Concert series broadcast across Canada, Les also produced a unique and innovative series of broadcast recordings featuring Northern musical talent from across the north. The series includes over one thousand musical selections.
Another musical offering is "The Songs of Robert Service", a CD featuring ten poems by the famous poet, set to contemporary music.
Robert Service was the subject again in one of a series of hour-long recordings created for the Yukon tourist market, including "Colourful Characters of the Klondike", "North to Alaska on the Trail of ’42," "The Northwest Mounted Police in the Klondike;" and "The Robert Service Story."
Les was also the author of "High Flyers", the story of the improbable quest for Olympic gold in 1948 by the RCAF Flyers hockey team, which ran in the national publication AirForce Magazine and in the Globe and Mail.
In 1996, he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, who wrote that it was "to recognize the contribution of Les McLaughlin to the preservation of the Yukon’s heritage".
With his efforts to record and highlight the history of the North, Les McLaughlin himself has left his own mark in the more recent history of Whitehorse.
You may know him best as the author and host of CKRW’s "Yukon Nuggets".
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Ron McFadyen
Les McLaughlin passed away on January 08, 2011.
Friends of Les McLaughlin have established a "Les McLaughlin Fund" in his honour to be administered by the Yukon Foundation. The family directed that the annual proceeds of the fund be used to assist students who wish to pursue a career in journalism or history. Contributions can be made to "The Yukon Foundation" P.O. Box 31622, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 6L2 or by dropping it off at the CKRW Studios, 4th & Elliott St.