The Golden Sands of Nome
When destitute miners on the beach at Nome realized that the ruby colored sand at their feet was laced with gold, they must have thought that they had died and gone to heaven. The beach strike was a poor man's paradise where digging the gold was said to be easier than stealing it. The work required only a shovel, a bucket or can, and a crude, easily built rocker. Efficient use of the rocker required two or more people, with one filling the hopper, another pouring water over the sand and another rocking the cradle. The shallow diggings on the beach were open to everyone; beach land could not be staked by any individual. If you left your diggings another prospector could move in. Poet Sam Dunham wrote in 1900, "For many miles along the beach, double ranks of men were rocking, almost shoulder to shoulder, while their partners stripped the pay streak and supplied the rockers with water and pay dirt." At the height of the summer mining season, nearly 2000 men, women and children were rocking on the beach. It is estimated that the "beachcombers" mined as much as $2 million in gold from the sand. By fall of 1899, Nome, easily reached by ship, had become a booming city of about 5,000. Among the variety of businesses were at least 20 drinking establishments, 16 lawyers, 11 physicians, 12 general merchandise stores, 4 real estate offices, 4 drug stores, 3 watchmakers, 3 fruit and cigar stores, 5 laundries, 4 bath houses, 2 paper hangers, 2 hospitals and one "massage artiste."
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