Biographical Note

Historical Background

Scope and Content

Restrictions on Access

Processing Info

Related Material

Inventory   [ + ]

Subject Terms


Guide to the John Emmett Berns Collection of "Packer Jack" Newman Photographs
ca. 1898 and 1929



VM Collection No.: 504
Creator: Berns, John Emmett , collector
Title: John Emmett Berns Collection of "Packer Jack" Newman Photographs
Date Span: ca. 1898 and 1929
Quantity: 22 photographic prints (1 box)
Location: K0166
Languages: Collection materials are in English.
John "Packer Jack" Newman with the White Pass Monument, Seattle, 1929. Special Collections, UW Libraries, UW22251z

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Biographical Note

John "Packer Jack" Newman (1863-1931), Klondike Gold Rush packer and muleskinner, was born in New York and had various rugged careers prior to packing supplies in the Yukon. He served on the British vessel Falstaff, rafted on the Mississippi, and packed supplies into remote settlements in Arizona and Colorado. In 1897, Newman moved to Alaska and began packing supplies for the Brooks Packing Company; eventually he was made its chief operator. Significant events during Newman's life in Alaska include the suicides of two roommates, one of whom was fellow packer Ross Steiner (Newman was charged with, but later acquitted of, Steiner's murder).

Newman commissioned James Wehn to create the White Pass monument, and in 1930, he also asked Wehn to sculpt a bust of Mollie Walsh. Walsh, with whom Newman is generally acknowledged to have been in love, ran a supply and grub tent near the summit of White Pass during the Gold Rush. She was murdered in Seattle in 1902 by her husband, Michael Campbell. The bust now stands in Skagway's Mollie Walsh Park. After the Gold Rush, Newman settled in Seattle where he died of acute appendicitis in 1931. He was survived by his wife, Hannah, to whom he erected a plaque in 1930 (which still exists on the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and Union in Seattle).

Historical Background

An estimated three thousand pack animals, mainly mules and horses, died carrying supplies on the White Pass trail from Skagway into the Yukon gold fields in 1897-1898. During the Gold Rush, the Canadian Mounted Police required that miners bring one ton of provisions per person, so pack animals often carried as much as 400 pounds of provisions each. Hay was an expensive commodity, and as a result, starving animals literally were worked to death on the trail. White Pass soon earned the name of Dead Horse Canyon. John Newman is quoted by Raymond W. Thorp as saying, "We drove them, we starved them, we beat them, and when they couldn't carry the loads on top of their maggoty sores, we killed them. Because of the Klondike, gold rush animals died by the thousands."

In 1928-1929, Newman joined with the Ladies of the Golden North to participate in erecting a monument at White Pass to the pack animals that died in the Gold Rush. The monument depicts two mules with full packs against a bank of snow. Newman wrote the inscription on the monument and contributed $50 toward its erection. Also prominent in the effort to erect the monument was Mrs. Florence M. Hartshorn of Seattle, who in 1898 traveled White Pass by horseback as far as Log Cabin, where her husband was a blacksmith. The monument was completed by James A. Wehn, a Seattle sculptor known for creating the statue of Chief Seattle in Tillicum Square. The White Pass monument was dedicated on August 24, 1929.

Scope and Content

The collection contains images relating to the life of John "Packer Jack" Newman. The collection consists of four groupings of images, including his work on securing a monument to the dead horses of White Pass. Newman's gold rush adventures are depicted in a series of photographs which shows him in Skagway and on the White Pass Trail. Views of the monument, tourists, and attendees at what may be the monument's dedication appear in another series.

Many of the photographs depict John Newman; his wife, Hannah Newman, as well as a man who may be sculptor James Wehn, also appear.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open to the public.

Processing Info

Processed by Linda Klein, 2002.

Related Material

The following collections contain items related to John Newman:

Florence M. Hartshorn Scrapbook Collection
John Emmett Berns Papers (manuscript Accession no. 740-1 and 586-1); includes letters from Newman.

Inventory

 
Folder Item Date
Life Before the Klondike
11Newman's discharge certificate from vessel Falstaff, LiverpoolJan. 31, 1889
2Newman and two men, Seattle1897

Photographer: Bailey, Seattle

 
Folder Item Date
Skagway and the White Pass Trail
23Newman and mule train, Skagway   View imageca. 1898
4Newman and other men on street, Skagway   View image1898
35Newman and mule train, White Pass Trail   View imageca. 1898
6Newman and mule train, summit of White Pass   View imageca. 1897-1898
47Newman and men with mule train, tollgate, 5 miles from Skagway   View image1898
8Newman in front of his cabin, Skagway   View image1898

 
Folder Item Date
The White Pass Monument
59Newman and other man [sculptor James Wehn?] with monument, Seattle1929
10Newman with monument, [in James Wehn's studio?], Seattle1929
11Display showing photograph of Newman and original panel from which monument was cast   View imageca. 1929
12Display showing photographs and letter from curator of Alaska Historical Museumca. 1929
13 Monument plaque showing carving and inscriptionca. 1929
14"The Lust for Gold" illustration showing pack horse and monumentca. 1929
Caption: "I was made an unwilling part in this most merciless scramble for gold ever recorded. I wanted no part in it, yet I was driven into it, and worked with maggoty sores under my pack saddle, and when at last I sank dead in the trail, they cut the flesh from my poor thigh and sold it for .05 a pound to feed the dogs. They left me unburied, and now my bones are scattered they abused me most cruely [sic]. Look! See what foolish words they have inscribed to my memory."
15Monumentca. 1929
16Monumentca. 1929
Two versions of Item 16, each with a different caption, are included.
617-18Visitors at monument event (possibly dedication)ca. 1929
19Tourists visiting monument

 
Folder Item Date
Seattle
620John Newmanca. 1929
21John Newmanca. 1929

Photographer: Hartsook, Seattle
22Hannah Newmanca. 1929
723John and Hannah Newman in rowboat on Lake Chelanca. 1929

Photographer: Lindsley
24John and Hannah Newmanca. 1929

Photographer: Frank Jacobs, Seattle

Subject Terms

Personal Names:
Newman, John, 1863-1931--Photographs.
Subjects:
Gold miners--Alaska--Photographs.
Gold rushes--Alaska.
Horses--Alaska--Photographs.
Monuments--Alaska--Photographs.
Mules--Alaska--Photographs.
Geographic Names:
White Pass Trail (Alaska and Yukon)--Photographs.
Genre Headings:
Postcards.
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