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The Founding Of Juneau
The Tlingit have fished, hunted, trapped and traded in the Juneau area for thousands of years. When gold was discovered in 1880 near the site of downtown Juneau, the character of the country quickly changed.
When Joe Juneau and Richard Harris pulled their boat onto the shore of the Auk fish camp at the mouth of Gold Creek, they were in search of gold. Believing he was helping his people transition into a cash economy, Tlingit leader Kawa.ee led the two prospectors there from Sitka, and then up Silverbow Basin where they found the precious metal and staked their claims.
The discovery became the first strike that resulted in the founding of an Alaskan town and eventually Alaska's Capital City - Juneau. Hundreds of miners, merchants, and laborers flocked here from all over the world to work in the local mines and businesses, and Juneau soon became a booming town.
The days of the independent miner, with gold pan and sluice box were numbered, as the loose gold in the stream beds ran out. Hard rock (underground) mining was the only way to mine the gold which was locked up in the quartz-veined rock. Soon, several large mining companies developed. Because local gold ore was extremely poor quality (up to 28 tons of ore had to be mined to get one ounce of gold), new efficient technology was developed for the Juneau Douglas mines. This technology set industry standards at the time and was implemented world wide.
Mining was the mainstay of the economy, but on the trail of the miners came merchants, businessmen, fishermen, logging, tourism and their families. Dairies and fox farming sprang up in various areas. In 1900 Juneau was incorporated and named the seat of government for the Alaska Territory. Government operations actually moved to Juneau in 1906. When the last mine closed in 1944, the economy transferred to the business of government. Today a significant portion of the population works for State, Federal or local government.
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum fosters among its diverse audiences an awareness of Juneau's cultural heritage, values and community memory so we may draw strength and perspective from the past, inspire learning, and find purpose for the future.
As a public trust, we collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit those materials that document the cultures and history of the Juneau and Douglas area.