Log Cabin





Gold Fever Strikes Iowa

In December 1897, at the Park Hotel in Fort Dodge, Iowa, a Mr. J. M. Starbuck, persuaded 32 businessmen to each contribute $50 to pay Starbuck to advise them on how to get rich in the Klondike.  Gold fever must have be high for these businessmen and farmers to ante-up the equivalent of $1,358 in 2017 dollars for some information Starbuck said he had in a secret letter.  Also, Starbuck had never been to the Klondike, or planned to go now.  His only contribution to the venture was “advice.”  As the reporter for the Fort Dodge Semi-Weekly Chronicle dryly noted, “…it is easy to see that [Starbuck] doesn't have to travel far to his Klondike. This money is merely a fee to Mr. Starbuck and pays no part of equipment or transportation.” [1]

But the “The-Iowa-Alaska Co-operative Mining Association." was formed and shortly left for the Klondike.  One of the participants in the Fort Dodge meeting and an active member of the association was E. M. Vail of Marshalltown, Iowa.  Vail was an amateur photographer and took photos of the association and the trip to the Klondike and back. 

Vail produced two sets of photographs of the trip.  One set was probably a folder-type booklet of probably all the trip photos.   That set was titled: Alaska Views…From Seattle to Skaguay and return via St. Michaels and Unalaska.  That set probably had 150 photos.  About 40 of those photos are printed again in an album.  The album was not printed as such, but the photos were inserted into an album with handwritten notes below the photos. 

I’m searching for the full set in Alaska Views, however one of Mr. Vail’s partners, Marvin Marsh, had a selection of the photos and these are in the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse. [2]

A copy of the album is in the University of Iowa Archives [3], who made high quality scans of each album page.  By today’s standards the original photos are not high quality, but the photos and notes provide a poignant history of the association’s journeys and Yukon and Alaska just before the turn of the century. 

I’m currently doing some historical research into the association and also trying to acquire the rest of Vail’s photos and would be like to hear from any interested readers. Email Robert A. Perkins at

Alaska Views Contents. This pdf file lists, presumably, all the photos Vail offered in Alaska Views folder.

Yukon Archives Citation. This pdf file has the acknowledgment for the Marsh photos and diary.

Marsh Diary. This 16 meg pdf file has the Marsh Diary, from February 5, 1898, to October 28, 1898.



  1. ORGANIZING FOR KLONDIKE, Fort Dodge Semi-Weekly Chronicle, Fort Dodge, Webster co. Iowa, January 1, 1898. Transcription by Linda Ziemann, co-editor Iowa Old Press: (IAGenWeb Special Project:
  2. Marvin S. Marsh fonds, Yukon Archives, Whitehorse YT, Canada.
  3. Special Collections and University Archives, University of Iowa