Gold Poke

Gold Poke

Tiny moosehide gold poke

Hand sewn, vertical seam running up in back; round cup bottom with horizontal seam; thong for tie, sewn opposite to vertical seam, coloured gold/tan/light brown.

A gold poke is a small sack used to carry around gold dust and nuggets. During the early years of the Klondike Gold Rush gold dust was an acceptable currency and the poke was used by most as a type of wallet. In 1898, every saloon, store and payment office in the Yukon owned a gold scale, in order to measure the gold for payment.

Within about two years, gold dust fell out of favour. Too much spillage, concealment and dishonest measuring moved people to use paper money or gold coins. The two banks and a jewelry store could at least evaluate the quality and melt the gold into bricks for miners in exchange for other currency. Once paper and coin currency gained popularity, gold pokes filled with gold dust and nuggets were replaced with bill folds and wallets.

Dawson City was a town where rich miners became weary and restless when unable to work due permafrost or lack of water. It was the perfect atmosphere for a phenomenon known as a saloon spree.

"A man on a saloon spree would roam from saloon to saloon swinging a club as a weapon and pretending to threaten the bartenders. The barkeeps good-naturedly relinquished their normal host roles so that the man on the spree could set up all the glasses and bottles. Then he treated the house to whiskey and cigars. After a round, he would flourish his club again, then drive everyone before him to the next saloon where the whole performance was repeated, when the spree reached it's apex, prospectors, trappers, dog-punchers and even the saloon owners would line up on two sides of a saloon and hurl cordwood at each other from the pile that stood beside the sheet iron stove. When the spree was over, the man who started it would hand over his poke to the saloon owners and ask them to take out enough gold to pay for all the damages. The expenses could be enormous. One legendary spree cost a miner $2900 including drinks and damage." (Dial)

Institution

Dawson City Museum, Dawson City

Accession Number

1993.57.19