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Green Frog Made Prospector Rich, Began Gold Rush: Lewis Lapham

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Lewis Lapham
Lewis Lapham of Lapham's Quarterly in New York. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Gold prospector George Washington Carmack went native: In Canada, he befriended two Indians, Skookum Jim and Charley, and was initiated by a shaman into the Tagish tribe.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

During a vision quest, Carmack was disappointed when his animal spirit guide turned out to be a bright-green frog. But this was Wealth Woman, and she spoke to him.

So far, Carmack had found no gold, but then he started having visionary dreams: he saw two salmon with shiny metallic scales and $20 coins for eyes. Following his instincts, he wound up in the Klondike.

On Aug. 16, 1896, scrambling down the bank of a creek, Carmack spotted a nugget as big as his thumb. The three men quickly staked their claims, ultimately becoming millionaires. As news spread, 338 additional rich claims were made in the area.

With gold as the only currency, the small Yukon town of Dawson, sporting tattered tents, a reeking saloon and tiny trading post, was suddenly the richest community in the world, more expensive than Paris, London or New York. A keg of nails cost $800, a small herd of cattle went for $200,000, and poker was routinely played for a king’s ransom.

I spoke with Howard Blum, author of “The Floor of Heaven,” on the following topics:

1. End of the West

2. Rush for Gold

3. Bonanza Creek

4. Riches Beyond Imagining

5. Reinvention

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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