A Most Wicked Conspiracy

The Last Great Swindle of the Gilded Age


By Paul Starobin

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A tale of Gilded Age corruption and greed from the frontier of Alaska to America’s capital.

In the feverish, money-making age of railroad barons, political machines, and gold rushes, corruption was the rule, not the exception. Yet the Republican mogul “Big Alex” McKenzie defied even the era’s standard for avarice. Charismatic and shameless, he arrived in the new Alaskan territory intent on controlling gold mines and draining them of their ore. Miners who had rushed to the frozen tundra to strike gold were appalled at his unabashed deviousness.

A Most Wicked Conspiracy recounts McKenzie’s plot to rob the gold fields. It’s a story of how America’s political and economic life was in the grip of domineering, self-dealing, seemingly-untouchable party bosses in cahoots with robber barons, Senators and even Presidents. Yet it is also the tale of a righteous resistance of working-class miners, muckraking journalists, and courageous judges who fought to expose a conspiracy and reassert the rule of law.

Through a bold set of characters and a captivating narrative, Paul Starobin examines power and rampant corruption during a pivotal time in America, drawing undoubted parallels with present-day politics and society.


Cast of Characters

Pioneer Mining–Wild Goose Alliance

The “Three Swedes”

Jafet Lindeberg, president of the Pioneer Mining Company

Erik Lindblom, partner in the Pioneer Mining Company

John Brynteson, partner in the Pioneer Mining Company

William H. Metson, chief attorney for Pioneer Mining

Charles Sumner Johnson, former judge and attorney for Pioneer Mining

P. H. Anderson, head of Swedish mission

Kenneth M. Jackson, attorney for Anderson

Jo Hahn Tornanses, native of Lapland

Charles D. Lane, proprietor of Wild Goose Mining & Trading

G. W. Price, agent and supervisor for Lane

Samuel Knight, chief attorney for Wild Goose

Fred A. Healy, editor, Nome Daily Chronicle

William Morris Stewart, Nevada senator

McKenzie Ring

Alexander McKenzie, boss of the Dakotas, president of Alaska Gold Mining Company

Mary Ellen, first wife

Elva, secret second wife

James J. Hill, McKenzie mentor and railroad baron

Arthur H. Noyes, judge, second division, Alaska, appointed over James Wickersham

Joseph K. Wood, district attorney for second division, Alaska

Reuben N. Stevens, US commissioner appointed by Noyes

C. A. S. Frost, special examiner for the Justice Department

Henry C. Hansbrough, North Dakota senator

Porter James “P. J.” McCumber, North Dakota senator

Thomas Henry Carter, Montana senator

James Galen, Carter’s son-in-law

Milton S. Gunn, attorney in Montana law firm of which Carter had been a name partner

Cushman Kellogg Davis, Minnesota senator

Hubbard, Beeman & Hume law firm

Oliver P. Hubbard, partner

Edwin R. Beeman, partner

Wilson T. Hume, partner

Alaska Gold shareholders

Robert Chipps

Kirke Requa

E. M. Walters

“Captain” Mike McCormack, Alaska Gold director

Dudley Dubose, attorney for McKenzie

Thomas J. Geary, attorney for McKenzie

US Army and Law Enforcement in Cape Nome

J. T. Van Orsdale, major

Charles D. French, captain

O. L. Spaulding Jr., lieutenant

C. L. Vawter, US marshal, second division, Alaska

Cape Nome Miners

Sam C. Dunham, also a poet and US Labor Department analyst

H. T. “Deep Creek” Jones, leader of beach miners collective

Edwin Sherzer, engaged to Clara in Saint Louis

Will and Ed McDaniel, brothers from California

Ninth Circuit San Francisco Group

William B. Gilbert, judge

William W. Morrow, judge

Erskine M. Ross, judge

F. D. Monckton, clerk

E. H. Heacock, US commissioner

Evans Searle Pillsbury, court-appointed special prosecutor

John H. Shine, US marshal for Northern District of California

McKinley Clique

William McKinley, US president

Mark Hanna, Ohio senator, close adviser of McKinley, friend of Hill and McKenzie

John W. Griggs, attorney general

Philander C. Knox, attorney general, Griggs’s successor


“Would You Like to Be a Millionaire?”

ONE DAY NEAR THE END OF FEBRUARY 1900, A YOUNG MAN IN HIS twenties set out from his home near Dawson City, in the upper northwest of Canada, on his bicycle. Under a canopy of polar stars, the sun reluctant to appear at this time of year, he made his way along a rough narrow track on the frozen river used by sled dog teams, the trail spotted with the blood of the animals, their nails cracked and paws shredded by shards of ice. Mountainous ice jams halted his progress, forcing him to haul his bike aloft for many yards at a stretch. The wind lashed his face, and the temperature plunged as low as forty-five degrees below zero. The wolves, luckily, let him be as he pedaled across the length of the territory of Alaska, sustained by muskrat stew. Nearly five weeks and a thousand miles later, he arrived at his destination, the settlement of Nome on the Bering Sea coast. His body was badly bruised, his hands and elbows skinned and his left knee nearly fractured from numerous tumbles along the way, and his nose, along with the rubber tires of his bicycle and the oil in its bearings, frozen. But he had made it. The townspeople, accustomed to seeing the occasional dogsledder but never before a cyclist, greeted him with astonishment. The purpose of his journey, though, came as no surprise. Ed Jesson had made for Nome to get a head start on the gold-mining season. His gamble, for which he might have paid with his life, was to reach the town before the Bering thawed and steamers arrived with thousands of prospectors in frenzied search of the glittering treasure.

Alaska’s gold was the talk and envy of the world. All signs pointed to abundant deposits in the Nome region. Indeed, prime discoveries already had been made, including by foreigners—“aliens”—whose claims some in the United States viewed as invalid. America’s gold was for Americans, the feeling went. On the US mainland, tens of thousands of men and more than a few women were making plans to get to Nome, the maddest dash of this kind since the Forty-Niners rushed California a half century earlier. For those afflicted with the fever, the trek was nowhere near as arduous as pedaling a bicycle across jagged ice. From Saint Paul on the Mississippi, getting across the Rockies and the Cascades all the way to Seattle on the Pacific took two and a half days by rail. From Seattle’s wharves, the voyage to Nome lasted about two weeks, icebergs permitting. Cape Nome offered “the chance of your whole life,” a flier distributed by the Great Northern rail line promised. “Few men become rich by slow economy. Fortunes are made by men of nerve and decision who take advantage of opportunities… WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?

Most tantalizing of all, treasure seekers could literally find Cape Nome’s gold on the beach, in flakes mixed with the ruby-colored sands stretching for many miles along the coast. Equipped with nothing more than a shovel and a crude, cradle-like wood box, known as a rocker, for filtering out the unwanted materials, a miner could clear $100 in a single day’s work, more than enough to cover the cost of the Alaska expedition. Beyond the beach, just a few miles inland, larger veins of gold lay in deposits in the creeks running through tundra speckled with stunted willow trees and covered with snow for most months of the year. And beyond these confirmed discoveries lay a vast and still largely unexplored terrain, containing possibly even more gold.

The idea that “few men become rich by slow economy” was not limited in its appeal to panners and miners. Nome exerted a pull on a class of people seldom disposed to lift anything heavier than a fountain pen. The lure of easy money bred speculative fancies and schemes, as various con artists and conniving lawyers, who were often in on the action, angled to gain control of choice mining properties. Why bother to pan for gold, why bother to sink a shaft into semifrozen ground warmed by a fire demanding constant tending, why brave the wilds at all, when someone else’s claim, already yielding the prize in mouth-watering quantities, might be there for the “legal” taking?

Few of these schemes came to anything. But one of them did. The mastermind was a political boss, a maker of US senators, with connections to the Executive Mansion, as the White House was then called, and to the most powerful business moguls in the nation. Alaska’s gold beckoned, and he wanted it. Naturally, he planned to cut in his friends. This was, after all, the time in American life known as the Gilded Age, and the bosses operated like lords of the realm, dispensing and receiving favors as a matter of course. The question was, Who would stop him?

Part One


Gold “throws off rays that devour the soul.… Gold, like passion, makes glands work until the human mind goes berserk.”

—Nome dogsled driver A. A. “Scotty” Allan, quoted in Preston Jones, Empire’s Edge

Chapter 1


A YOUNG MAN STOOD IN A SHALLOW CREEK, PAN IN HAND, THE CLEAR, cold water rushing by his feet. It was a fairly narrow creek, hemmed in on both sides by dark green brush. In the near distance was a small mountain, ringed by patches of snow, with an eerie-looking pile of large dark rocks, in the shape of an anvil, on the summit. Muskox, a type of wild goat, sometimes could be seen resting on the snow. With two companions, Jafet Lindeberg had arrived at the creek, in a stretch of northwestern Alaska several miles inland from the Bering seacoast, in search of gold. It was late September 1898—seventeen months before cyclist Ed Jesson made his heroic journey across Alaska. Jafet, slight of build and new to the work, did not find panning easy. Scooping sand, gravel, and water and sloshing and swirling the slurry strained the muscles of the hands and arms, the shoulders, neck, and back. Gold, if there was any, was apt to take the form of a fine power, mixed with all the other elements of the sand. The idea was to separate gold particles, heavier even than lead, from the mixture. This could consume twenty minutes or even half an hour for a single scoop of dirt, the pan tilted to let water and unwanted sand escape, refilled to recreate the slurry, a weary finger tapping the side of the pan to get the speckles to move toward the rim. The unpracticed eye might get taken in by crystals of a shiny yellow mineral, iron pyrite, known as “fool’s gold.” The reward for this effort and aggravation, even in a place known to contain gold, might be little more than a small fraction of a single gram.

But on this day, Lindeberg’s first at the creek, the task was easy. Gold abounded, not in a dust but in flakes. Anvil Creek, as the men named this blue ribbon of water, was a spectacular find. The vast majority of prospectors would never stumble upon such a discovery in a lifetime of pursuit. Lindeberg and his two fellow prospectors broke off twigs from what counted for trees in the Arctic tundra—the dwarf willow, standing from three to five feet high—and staked a claim across and along a section of the creek, in the shape of a parallelogram. The men marked each corner stake with a notice written in lead pencil, the notice listing their names, the date of the find, and a physical description of this particular spot. They agreed to share the claim as equal partners, and they called it Discovery.

The men could not know this, but there was gold to be found just about everywhere in these parts. There was gold in many of the creeks, gold in the gulches, gold in the meadows on which prospectors walked, in some places in lodes sixty feet under the ground on top of bedrock, the lodes formed possibly more than four billion years before, in the Precambrian geological era. There was gold in the coastal beach sands, gold beneath the Bering floor, gold embedded in bluffs jutting into the sea. Gold of every conceivable shape and texture—including, in the not-distant future, a seven-inch-long slab weighing 107 ounces—awaited discovery. It might have been supposed the gold came from the seas, spat up on land by gigantic waves. But the truth was the opposite: the gold came from the tundra; some of the accumulated deposits washed into the sea. The gold in the icy streams draining the mountains originated in the veins under the earth, ground down by glaciers, the dust, flakes, and nuggets in time migrating to the water beds and concentrating there in pockets. The gold had lain in wait for eons, noticed by natives as “colors” in the streams.

The dream of gold had led Jafet Lindeberg to leave his uneventful life in Norway. Jafet was from Varanger, in the northeast corner of the country, along the Barents Sea. Born there in 1874, the youngest of twelve children, he was raised to work in the lumberyards, cutting cordwood out of birch. He was just past twenty years old when he heard the news of a sensational strike in the Klondike. Eager to travel there by any means, he signed up for a mission of the US government to transport reindeer from Norway to southeastern Alaska for the purpose of conveying supplies to the miners in the Yukon. He knew nothing about tending reindeer but was hired anyway. He made passage to Seattle and then on to Skagway, on the south coast of Alaska. His task was to find food for the animals, many of whom proved too weak to survive. He resigned his commission and by April 1898 had joined the throngs heading north. Dozens of trekkers had died from snowslides and dozens more from spinal meningitis. Toes and fingers had been lost to frostbite. One adventurer made it over the pass and built a boat to maneuver through rapids only to smash the boat against a rock and lose all his belongings. After retracing his journey from the start, making a new boat, and setting off again, his boat shattered against the same rock as before—at which point the thwarted adventurer blew his brains out. Such stories were known by all; yet still Jafet longed to get through that “storm-locked gate to the golden door,” as the trail to the Klondike was called. Fortunately for him, perhaps, an avalanche blocked his path. After helping to rescue the stricken, he returned to Seattle. Again he enlisted in a reindeer mission, only this time the job was to assist native peoples in northern Alaska—the Eskimos—in the development of a sustainable reindeer industry. By government boat he proceeded to Saint Michael on Norton Sound. There he met a medical officer in the reindeer expedition, a fellow Norwegian, Dr. A. N. Kittilsen. The doctor told Jafet that there was no need to risk death by trying to get to the Klondike—there was gold to be found nearby in a new mining district, known as Council, reachable by a boat ride across Norton Sound to Golovin on the coast and a journey inland by river.

In this, a global age of gold, with big strikes not only in North America but also in Australia and Africa, fortune seekers like Jafet might travel thousands of miles to get to the fields. The influx raised a sensitive question of law and politics. The gold belonged to a common earth; yet the earth was divided among sovereign nations. As a legal matter, who was eligible to stake a claim in a given country? While in Saint Michael, Jafet received a vital piece of information. Even though he was a citizen of Norway, not of the United States, he was nonetheless eligible under the prevailing US law to stake a claim—so long as he first declared his intention to become an American citizen. In July 1898, he formally made his pledge before a judge operating as a US commissioner in Saint Michael. And that act, so he thought, took care of his right to participate in the chase for gold on the promising soils of Alaska, an American possession since its purchase from Russia just over thirty years earlier.

The Council district, as the white Europeans named it, covered a traditional fishing region for the native peoples. There was some gold to be found in the numerous creeks but not, as it proved, a great deal. In the settlement of Council City, on the banks of the Neukluk River, Lindeberg met his future partners, and the three men would soon become known as the “Three Swedes” (also the “Three Lucky Swedes”)—even though only the other two were natives of Sweden and they, unlike Lindeberg, were already naturalized US citizens. At the age of twenty-four, Jafet was the youngest of the three. The eldest, Erik Lindblom, forty-one, the son of a schoolteacher, had arrived in California in 1886. A dozen years later, barely making a living as a tailor and entranced by visions of gold, he joined a whaling expedition bound for the Bering Sea. He jumped ship at Grantley Harbor in northern Alaskan waters and found his way to Council City. The third man, John Brynteson, twenty-seven, the son of a farmer, came to America in 1887, one year after Lindblom. Having worked in the copper and iron mines of the upper peninsula of Michigan, he was the only one of the three with any actual mining experience. He arrived in Alaska in the spring of 1898 with the task of finding coal for the Swedish Covenant Mission at Golovin on Norton Sound, but before long he started prospecting for gold.

The “Three Swedes” resolved to head for fresh terrain. At Golovin, known by natives as Chinik, they attached a keel to an old flat-bottomed boat, hoisted a sail, set forth west along the sound, and turned north only to wash up at the mouth of a river in a storm, well short of their destination. To the native peoples, the coiling river was known as the Egoshoruk; white people renamed it as the Snake. From this spot the voyagers came upon what they called Anvil Creek, a tributary of the river about six miles in length. There were other promising streams too, and in addition to staking the Discovery claim jointly, the men marked individual claims for themselves. By power of attorney, they also staked a claim for P. H. Anderson of the Swedish mission. Anderson ran an educational program for Eskimo children, whom he aimed to make good Christians. There was no question of his status as an American: he was an Iowa farmer.

The men sailed back to Golovin to obtain more supplies at a trading post, their sampling of gold, worth about $50, stored in shotgun cases. They disclosed their find to Anderson as well as to Dr. Kittilsen of the reindeer station. Anderson, in turn, confided in a professional mining man in Golovin: G. W. “Gabe” Price, an agent for Charles D. Lane of San Francisco, one of the richest and shrewdest mining barons in America. Lane had fixed his wide-ranging eye on Alaska and tasked Price with scouting the territory for him. So far, Price had found nothing of value.

Although the discoverers were at first reluctant to disclose the location of their strike, Price won their trust and became their adviser. He told them a party had to return to the Anvil Creek area to restake the existing claims with a tape measure to conform exactly to the dimensions allowed by US law (1,320 by 660 feet), properly stake any new ones, formally establish a mining district, and legally record the properties. And with the Bering soon to freeze and become impassable, time was precious.

The missionary, Anderson, who was now a stakeholder, offered to lend them the Swedish mission’s huge two-masted schooner on the condition that the miners first construct a schoolhouse at Golovin for his charges. The schoolhouse hastily constructed, the schooner laden with food and mining equipment, the return party set sail.

As Price knew, a minimum of six adults was required to establish a mining district. The three discoverers, along with Price and Dr. Kittilsen, made five. The sixth man was known as Jo Hahn—his full name in English rendered as John Tornanses. Jo Hahn was a Laplander, or Lapp, a people indigenous to an Arctic Circle region of ice and snow encompassing portions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Like Jafet Lindeberg, Jo Hahn had signed up with the American government to come to Alaska to help tend the reindeer. Unlike Lindeberg, Jo Hahn knew everything about these creatures, for the Lapps were a reindeer people. The reindeer gave them their meat, cheese, milk, and butter, as well as the hides for their clothing and footwear, their bedding and tent coverings. The animal, Jo Hahn and his cohorts found on arrival, was ideally suited for Alaska, finding abundant food in the white lichens that grew on tundra rocks. The reindeer was possibly more valuable than a dog, whose food—meat—humans had to supply. But once in Alaska, Jo Hahn abandoned his reindeer job. Just like Lindeberg, he went before the court of the US commissioner at Saint Michael and swore his intention to become an American citizen.

The mission’s schooner arrived at the mouth of the Snake in the middle of October. It was already cold and getting darker by the day. The tundra was starting to freeze, the creeks icing up, a thick blanket of snow soon to make mining virtually impossible. The men made it to the Anvil Creek site and declared the creation of the Cape Nome Mining District, the name taken from a bluff jutting out into the Bering. Gabe Price staked a prime Anvil claim for his boss, Charles Lane, and with Price and Dr. Kittilsen as witnesses, Jo Hahn staked a claim, Number Ten Above, meaning the tenth property upstream of the original Discovery claim. There was gold in the earth around the streams, not only in the beds of the waters, and the men lit fires to warm and soften the ground. Using rockers, they took as much gold as they could in the difficult conditions—about $1,800 worth. By the first week of November, work was no longer possible, and with the schooner that brought them now locked in by Bering ice, they made their way back to Golovin over land by dogsled.

These, then, were the principal stakeholders in the new Cape Nome district as the miners left the area: a Norwegian alien with a declared intention to become a US citizen and a Lapp alien in the same category; a pair of Swedish American immigrants with American citizenship; a Swedish missionary from Iowa who had not staked his own claim; and a US-born California mining magnate, represented by his agent. But what about the native inhabitants, the people known as Eskimos? Why were they not sharing in these riches? Decades later, an interviewer asked Jafet Lindeberg whether Eskimos were “in the neighborhood” at the time of the Anvil Creek discovery. “No, not even Eskimos” were present, he replied. To be charitable, Lindeberg’s memory perhaps failed him. Nevertheless, the truth was that the Eskimos were everywhere in the region—and more than that, the Anvil Creek finds might not have been made without them.

An Eskimo elder recorded a story featuring his grandfather, who was in the Sitnasuak village, at the mouth of the Egoshoruk, when the first missionaries arrived:

He saw the first one and said to him, “You come up here for gold too?”

He said, “No.”

My grandpa said, “What you come up here for?”

“Oh, I’m up here to spread the good word of the gospel.”

“Oh, you’re not interested in gold?”

He said, “No.”

“Okay, I can still tell you where that gold is, up here.”

By one account, an Inupiat Eskimo boy from Golovin, Constantine Uparazuck, steered the schooner that brought the mining party of six to the mouth of the Snake in October 1898. Constantine was a pupil at Anderson’s Swedish mission and was baptized there. In the Inupiat oral tradition, Constantine’s role in the Anvil discovery was expanded along with that played by a second boy, Gabriel Adams, a standout pupil at the Swedish mission whom Anderson had hired as an assistant. What came to be known within this oral tradition as the story of the two Eskimo boys became a kind of parallel narrative to the standard tale of the Three Swedes as told by white people. By the natives’ account, the two boys were, in effect, partners with the Scandinavians.

Whatever the precise truth, the Eskimos were cut out almost entirely from the Anvil Creek claims. The white people presumed falsely that the Alaskan natives were not eligible to stake mining claims in their own names. The founders of the Cape Nome Mining District awarded claim Number Nine Above Discovery to P. H. Anderson as a “trustee,” apparently on behalf of the two Eskimo boys, Constantine and Gabriel. But this arrangement became the subject of protracted litigation that in the end yielded very little for the Eskimo boys and their heirs. The encounter between the Eskimos and the white prospectors largely amounted to an exchange of diseases like measles, pneumonia, and syphilis transmitted to the natives and the theft of their boats, dogs, and food.

SO FAR AS AMERICA WAS CONCERNED, ALASKA WAS VIRGIN TERRITORY, more or less a blank slate. No matter that the word derived from a native expression for “a great land,” pronounced as “al-ak-shak” or “al-ay-ek-sa.” Human habitation began in Alaska several thousand years before American settlers arrived, with the Inupiat, Chugach, and Yup’ik in the northern coastal region, the Aleuts in the southeast, and the Athabascan Indians in the river valleys of the interior. America tended to overlook, too, the Russian foray into Alaska, dating to an expedition in the 1740s, among its goals “to look for any distinctive rocks and earth in which one might expect rich ores.” Alaskan history, in the American eye, began on March 30, 1867—the day that US Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with the tsarist government of Russia for the purchase of Alaska. The price was $7.2 million, about two cents per acre for an expanse twice the size of Texas. Critics of the acquisition railed against “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.” They said the land was not worth the cost of maintenance alone. Supporters saw promise. “The treaty is a wise one,” said South Carolina’s Charleston Daily News. “It is very clear that, following the instinct of proprietorship that is always developed from a plantation to an empire, we intend to own this continent, ‘from the center all around to the sea.’” That was certainly Seward’s intention. “Give me fifty, forty, thirty more years of life,” he told a gathering in Boston, “and I will engage to give you the possession of the American continent and the control of the world.”

It took thirty-one years, but with the find at Anvil Creek, the “folly” seemed redeemed. Seward by then was long in his grave, but posterity at least could smile on the discovery, which chanced to take place on the body of Alaskan land named after him, the Seward Peninsula, appearing on maps as a large thumb jutting out into the Bering, tilted upward. Such was the power of gold to change, virtually overnight, the political and economic calculus of men with power and money and the mood of a nation. And so the jousting began. No matter who laid first claim to the riches of Alaska, the question remained as to whose hands the wealth would end up in.


  • "Entertaining....Sturdy research and clear prose reveal some truly abominable snowmen wreaking havoc in Alaska."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Well-researched and entertaining, A Most Wicked Conspiracy is an impressive accomplishment."—Historical Novels Society
  • "Into this narrative Mr. Starobin skillfully weaves the political evolution of Alaska, purchased from Russia in 1867, and the insidious rise of nativism at the turn of the century....In his lively account of the Nome conspiracy, Mr. Starobin takes satisfaction in the outcome: Even during the Gilded Age's rampant capitalism, the American justice system prevented McKenzie from looting Alaska."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "Thoroughly-researched and skillfully-written...It's a story well worth telling, and Paul Starobin tells it very well indeed."—Washington Times
  • "Starobin tells a jaunty tale of jaw-dropping greed at the dawn of the 20th century."—Associated Press
  • "...this book is important. If we do not study and remember our history, we are doomed to repeat it... This book also serves as a hopeful reminder that ultimately there are people who will stand up for what is right."
    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “[A] lively account….what emerges in Starobin’s skillful hands is a real-life legal thriller.”—Anchorage Daily News
  • "In this anatomy of a swindle, Starobin clearly relishes the tale he brings to life and separates the colorful victimizers from their victims, patiently evoking the lives of both in atmospheric detail...this cautionary story is a pleasure to read."—Los Angeles Review of Books
  • "Starobin keeps the drama flowing."—Booklist
  • “Among the most comprehensive and entertaining explorations of Nome in its heyday to date….A Most Wicked Conspiracy is a narrative rooted in Starobin’s impressive research, attention to detail, and impressively clear prose….anyone who appreciates a good heist and scandal will find this book engaging.”—Rutgers University’s CLCJ Books (Criminal Law Criminal Justice)
  • "Most stories labeled unknown are quite well known, but Paul Starobin bares an audacious and largely forgotten swindle that implicated prominent politicians, corporate leaders, and handpicked judges in an attempt to rob ordinary Alaskan miners of the fruits of their labor. An intriguing and well-told tale of avarice and greed that reveals how corrupt American business and government were in the Gilded Age."—Richard White, Emeritus Professor of American History at Stanford University and author of The Republic for Which It Stands - The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • "The Gilded Age at its gaudiest, Alaska at its most demanding, human nature at its . . . most human. A rollicking tale with sobering lessons for today."— H.W. Brands, Professor; Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at University of Texas, Austin
  • "In this vivid tale, Paul Starobin takes us back to a time when American dynamism and imagination came head-to-head with chicanery and fraud. Set in the wild Alaskan gold fields, the struggle of enterprising miners against the greed of swindlers and the corruption of public officials provided a fit coda to the Gilded Age and offers a warning for our own time."—Jack Kelly, author of The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America

On Sale
Jun 30, 2020
Page Count
320 pages

Paul Starobin

About the Author

Paul Starobin is the author of Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War, praised by the New York Times as a “fast-paced, engagingly written account” of the hysteria that descended on Charleston, South Carolina, on the eve of the Civil War. He has been a frequent contributor to the Atlantic and is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week. He has written for other publications including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, City Journal, Politico, and National Geographic. He lives with his family in Orleans, Massachusetts.

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