Gamblers and Dreamers


250 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0650-8
DDC 971.9'102





Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is also the
author of The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek, and
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Hom


Gamblers and Dreamers is the story of the biggest gold rush in Canadian
history, the frontier town built in the Yukon in 1896–97 by tens of
thousands of men and women, and the lasting community that grew out of
their extraordinary experiences.

Charlene Porsild, a professor of history at the University of Nebraska,
was born in the Yukon and raised in northern Alberta. Her grandparents
were pioneers in the Yukon’s Sixtymile mining district in 1935, a time
when conditions were still primitive. Inspired by family legends,
Porsild has gone back a further 40 years to 1896 and the discovery of
gold dust in Dawson, which precipitated the last great gold rush of the
19th century.

The average stampeder traveled some 2500 miles to pan for gold while
living in a rudimentary cabin in the harshest of climates. In seven
chapters, Porsild brings to life the original Klondike gold rush. She
explores the social life in Dawson’s underworld of entertainment and
sex trades; the social work and religious life established by a clique
that excluded Native people, miners, and working women; the development
of professional and business sectors in the instant city; and the
building of a stable community that would endure. Her findings, complete
with maps, notes, and photographs, show the inaccuracy of many common
assumptions about the Klondike.

Gamblers and Dreamers is a fascinating, well-researched narrative of a
daring community and the exceptional times in which it thrived.


Porsild, Charlene., “Gamblers and Dreamers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024,