October 4, 2013
Beset by a series of speculation-fueled banking collapses and stock market lows, the United States was in a sorry state during the mid-1890s. Thousands of businesses closed as communal potato gardens and soup kitchens opened, while in Washington the Republicans and Democrats tussled endlessly over who was to blame for it all. Who could imagine that happening now? So when ships reached San Francisco and Seattle in 1897 carrying gold-laden miners flush from prospecting the Klondike, it caused a stir. Some 100,000 hopefuls headed north. Before rushing up to the Yukon for gold, however, they provisioned themselves. In Seattle, Clinton Filson, a 47-year-old Ohio-born former railroad conductor, built a business selling cold-weather gear to the hot-to-trot hopefuls.