News of the Klondike Gold Rush excited the imaginations of depression-weary people the world over. When the steamer Excelsior docked in San Francisco in July, 1897, thousands of people crowded the wharf to greet her. Most of the passengers were miners from the Klondike, bearing half-a-million dollars in gold. By the fall of 1897, as many as 100,000 people had left their homes, taking various routes to the North to seek their fortunes.
Skagway, Alaska, became a staging area for gold seekers heading to the Klondike. Skagway was a true legendary frontier town, a long way from the southern United States and far from the law.
Clifford Sifton, Canada’s minister of the Interior, ordered the Mounties to set up customs posts at the Chilkoot and White Pass summits. In February, 1898, the police began collecting Canadian customs duties and ensured that all gold seekers had a ton of goods necessary for a year’s survival in the harsh Canadian North. Ensuring that the stampeders had enough equipment and provisions to make it to Dawson City was one of the most important early roles that the NWMP played in the opening of the North. While they were responsible for the safety of others, they dispatched their duties with very little equipment and provisions of their own.