On August 16, 1896, George Carmack sparked the last great gold rush in the America’s when he discovered a large nugget of the metal while salmon fishing in Rabbit Creek in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Despite the lack of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even MySpace, word of Carmack’s discovery went viral. Over the next two years, it is estimated that over 100,000 people ventured to the Klondike to seek their fortune. Most who were fortunate enough to return home after the rush, did so with nothing more to show from their trip than frostbitten limbs and an assortment of venereal diseases.
For George Carmack, also known as “Lyin’ George” by his Native American companions due to his exaggerated claims, life would never be the same. Returning to his native California at the end of the Rush with over $1 million to his name, Carmack found it difficult to lead a modest life (ironically while living in Modesto, California). It wasn’t long before Carmack left his Native American wife and ran off with some floozy to Seattle (Seattle was apparently considered very exotic at the end of the 19th Century). Expanding his wealth further through real estate ventures, Carmack’s lavish lifestyle became that of legend.
It is said that shortly after the turn of the century, Carmack began insisting all visitors to his home refer to him as “King Midas”, after the legendary Greek king who could turn anything to gold with his touch. He is also said to have created the first set of gold teeth covers (or “grills”), though the trend would not catch on for another century. Most historians credit George Carmack for setting the example of lavish living that modern pop artists still try to emulate today.
Even with his excessive wealth, George Carmack was never truly happy. For years he continued to prospect for gold, hoping to recreate the excitement of the major discovery from his youth. In June of 1922, while prospecting a new claim in the Cascade Mountains, historians believe that Carmack finally finished reading Jack London’s, Call Of The Wild, dropped everything, ran off with a pack of wolves, and was never heard from again.