Two men reading

Panning for gold

As a result of its acquisition of the Bank of British North America (BBNA), Bank of Montreal was the first bank established in Dawson, Yukon, in 1898. The branch was established in response to the Klondike Gold Rush, when tens of thousands of people eagerly migrated to the region to make their fortunes. In addition to accepting coins and paper currency, the Dawson Branch accepted gold as deposits.

Image: Photograph of bank employees and prospectors standing in front of the Bank of British North America (BBNA) branch in Dawson, Yukon, c. 1898.

This gold ledger book, dated between 1899 and 1900, reveals how deposits of gold were organized. The names of the account holders, including both mining companies and individual prospectors, are arranged alphabetically. Beside the account name, deposits of gold are recorded in the ledger keeper’s clear hand. While many flocked to Yukon in search of nuggets, most prospectors were successful only in panning for gold dust. Others, however, were luckier, and some pages of the ledger book record deposits of entire sacks of gold, a veritable bonanza.

The monetary value of the gold deposits is noted in the adjacent column. These recorded sums were redeemed by the prospectors in the form of a cheque, thereby offering a unique window into the fruits of a prospector’s labours. In that regard, the ledger is worth its weight in gold.

Image: Dawson Branch gold dust ledger, 1899-1900.