Gold Rush Dogs

In the process of photo research, Jane remembered the many named photos of dogs in the north, Struck by the general affection and enthusiasm that people had for their dogs, Jane persuaded Claire to complete the series with Gold Rush Dogs, (Alaska Northwest Books 2001.)

Jane has also published two photo histories,

Denali Early Photographs and the Alaska Highway: An Historic Photographic Journey, both from Friday 501 Books


Searching for Fannie Quigley

With the new film “Into the Wild” hitting the big screen, I paused to reflect that the bus where McCandless died is only about 100 miles from where Fannie not only survived, but perfected her wilderness lifestyle over 40 years.

Fannie was no starry-eyed idealist, but a realist. She did not have the luxury of placing  her existence in the context of adventure, or even wilderness, but instead was focused on  simply making a living, and supporting the prospecting efforts of her husband Joe.

I have often wondered whether or how Fannie understood the concept of wilderness scenery. Wilderness is a concept which, as a basically romantic ideal, leaning on the concept of the sublime, virtually requires the idea of leisure. Absent the leisure for contemplation, wilderness is only about survival. And survival, requires hard work.

Like most Alaskans, I see Chris McCandless as someone with a death wish. For Alaskans, enjoyment of wilderness is synonymous with preparation, and preparation for hard work. if you are not ready for that, stay home. Or enjoy the wilderness on an organized wilderness tour, a fly-n cabin, or somewhere,  closer to the road.

Fannie made an art form out of the  hard work of survival,  carefully coordinating the numerous tasks of hunting, trapping, gathering, growing and  preserving food,  and of course, cooking.


King Con The Story of Soapy Smith

In the first full biography of the notorious con man Soapy Smith in more than forty years, Alaskan historian Jane Haigh chronicles the rise to power of a man without a conscience. Starting as a street corner shell game artist, Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith rose to power as a gang leader in Denver, then chose raw, lawless Skagway as his headquarters to fleece the thousands of tenderfeet heading for the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. Less than a year later he was dead, killed in a vigilante shootout on the Skagway wharf.
Well spoken and charming, Soapy could have been a businessman, minister, politician lawyer, or judge, but he chose to use his talents as a confidence man. In Skagway he gathered shills and toughs from around the West and commanding his gang as a colonel might command a battalion, he constructed an empire that any Mafia don might envy. King Con documents Soapy’s life from his infamy as a Denver crook and gang leader and his take over of early Creed, Colorado, to the fake businesses, rigged card games, and brutal murders that marked his year of dominance in Gold Rush Skagway. This fascinating biography is illustrated with period photographs that show Soapy and his gang from their glory days to his autopsy in 1898.


Gold Rush Women

Jane and Claire Rudolf Murphy spent three years researching the stories in their first book together, Gold Rush Women , (Alaska Northwest Books, 1997.)

You can see many of their stories in the Threads of Gold Exhibit on-line at the University of Alaska Museum. Jane was guest curator for this exhibit in 1997 in honor of the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush.

While reading about the women, Jane and Claire were also fascinated by the stories of the many Children of the Gold Rush, and decided to write another book, (first published by  (Roberts Rinehart, 1999, and a second edition by Alaska Northwest Books 2001).

Children or the Goldrush is officially out of print. However, it is available directly from Claire, who bought out the publishers stock.

e-mail Claire:


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