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Carrying a Piano Up Chilkoot Pass

By | June 5, 2013

In February, 1898 Mike Mahoney aka “Klondike Mike” made a deal with Hal Henry. He would escort the Sunny Samson Sister Sextette and their luggage over the Chilkoot Pass and down to Dawson city for $3000 plus a share of the musical group’s proceeds once they started performing in the Dawson Saloons. The six blonde and virtuous sisters were sure to be a huge smash in the rough Klondike frontier, where feminine charms were worth their weight in gold.

There was just one problem – the sisters insisted on bringing their accompaniment piano. Klondike Mike, a strapping Ohio farm boy and champion boxer turned stampeder, duly hoisted the entire piano onto his back and went step-by step up the Golden Stairs and into Klondike fame. Fortune eluded him, however, because the Canadian customs officer at the top of the pass, seeing the piano, asked what he was about. When he heard that 6 delicate, ill-equipt showgirls were coming his way, he was aghast (this was only his second day on duty – he had yet to see the sort of folks trying to get to Dawson). Certain they would die on the trail! He refused to let the party continue any further.

Fuming, Mike stormed back to Skagway and left the piano atop the pass, where eventually someone hauled it back down and sold it for a tidy profit.

About Corrie Francis Parks

Corrie Francis Parks is a photographer and filmmaker based in Big Sky, Montana. An alumna of Dartmouth College and University of Southern California, her award-winning films have been exhibited at over 100 national and international film festivals. She combines photography and animation in time-based works for gallery exhibition and installation. Through long exposures and open-shutter camera movement, her still photography and animated light paintings bring a new palette of textures and rhythms derived from the natural world into the galley setting. She has been an artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony and Fundación Valparaíso, a Fulbright Fellow to New Zealand, and a recipient of a Sierra Foundation Grant for her work in experimental photography. You can find more of her work at www.corriefrancis.com.

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