Klondike Kate's dress

Full length sleeveless beaded dress: narrow silk crepeline ruffle collar (double layers) and under dress. Beige silk crepe with yellow synthetic under dress. Dress made of two parts - a sleeveless top and skirt. Both are attached to the under dress. The skirt is attached just under the bust and the top at the neckline (through the rhinestone jewels and the collar). The dress is both machine and hand stitched. Decoration includes beads, rhinestones and diamond studs. Two types of beads were used to decorate the dress, translucent glass beads with silver colour inner coating, and pearl like white beads. Rhinestone jewels (claps, necklace, bracelet) and buttons are clipped or sewn on to the garment. The brilliant studs are in metal settings. The top covers the shoulder to the hips. It is decorated at the front neckline with rhinestones and it is heavily beaded front and back from just under the bust to the hip line. The hemline is scallop shape. The skirt is beaded all around at the scallop hemline but only the front is decorated with beads and rhinestones from the knee down.

Klondike Kate was an entertainer who came to Dawson to work in the saloons and vaudeville shows. She was best known for her fire dance where she twirled 200 yards of chiffon up in the air so it appeared that she was dancing in flames. Her real name was Kathleen Eloise Rockwell but she was known as the 'Flower of the Yukon' and the 'Belle of Dawson.'

She often boasted how she stripped drunken miners of their pokes, claiming to have earned $30,000 in her first year in Dawson. On top of her gratuities, Kate was paid by the saloon owner in percentages of dances or drinks she sold. She earned 50% of the cost of dances and 25% of the cost of a drink. Klondike Kate claimed that on her best night she earned 750$ from one lonely miner. She certainly justified taking the money that men gave her claiming it was for the men's own good: "[w]ell, he'd have just spent that foolishly anyways". Her appeal and allure was legendary. She was described as taller than the average girl, slim, blue eyed with golden red hair and the complexion of peaches and cream. Miners would bestow Kate with gold nuggets for dancing with them, talking with them, or just for being Kate. She never denied partaking in lascivious acts in gratitude for the gold but was discreet in her actions.

That is until she met a Greek waiter named Alex Pantages. They were lovers and they had promises of marriage between them. Alex Pantages left Dawson in 1902 and moved to Seattle. They continued to write each other and Kate was genuinely shocked when she discovered that he had married a violinist named Lois Mendenhall. He went on to develop an extensive theater empire throughout Canada and the United States of America. Kate married twice and died in 1957.

Less then a year before her death Kate decided to write her memories, she told her biographer that "she had no regrets". She held on to the fact that: "I was never a gold digger. The men threw their gold at my feet when dances pleased them… Then there was gold in the streets of Dawson, gold in the hills, and gold in the Yukon. And I was named the queen of it all…All my lingerie was French and handmade. My dresses were covered with rhinestones and seed pearls and spangles and sequins."


Dawson City Museum, Dawson City

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