Gold mining pans were used during the Klondike Gold Rush as a simple way to find placer gold. The standard gold pan has a flat bottom with flat sloping sides (about 4") and would be used for testing. Miners would use this type of concentrating pan to search the remnants of the sluice box, a large trough like sifter that uses water and undercurrents and to separate the gravel from the gold. Concentrating pans would be used as the final step in the 'clean-up'.
The pan filled with heavy materials would be repeatedly washed, a process involving immersing the material into water, shaking, tilting and rotating the pan. Discarding the worthless pebbles and sand occurred by dipping into and lifting the pan out of a tub of water allowing the water to carry with it the top materials as it drains from the pan. The pan is then "shaken" back and forth to allow the gold to settle to the bottom, and the washing process repeated. The 'concentrates' found in the bottom of the box are worked down until only gold and black sand remained. The black sand (magnetite) would then be separated with a magnet. Sometimes mercury (quicksilver) was used as it adheres to the gold and helps separate it from the other 'concentrates'. The mercury is then burned off (vaporized) by heating the pan.
The Klondike Gold Rush occurred in 1897 after George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie made a discovery along Rabbit Creek, now known as the Bonanza, close to Dawson City. A good dicovery was 10 cents worth in the test pan when prospecting. Carmack, Skookun Jim, and Dawson Charlie discovered 4 dollars in the pan while prospecting Rabbit creek. This discovery led to thousands of prospectors coming up over the Coast Ranges into the Yukon. There were two paths to get to Dawson City: The Chilkoot Pass and The White Pass. The Chilkoot was 10 miles shorter than The White Pass, but more mountainous. Some prospectors brought horses under the pretense that they could help along the White Pass, after a while the horses were useless among the cold and mountainous terrain. The horses would be killed or left behind earning the nickname Dead Horse Trail. Of the some forty thousand prospectors that made it over the Chilkoot or White Pass, only a few thousand found gold.
George Johnston Museum, Teslin