John Emmett Berns Collection of "Packer Jack" Newman Photographs, approximately 1898-1929

Overview of the Collection

Berns, John Emmett
John Emmett Berns Collection of "Packer Jack" Newman Photographs
approximately 1898-1929 (inclusive)
25 photographic prints ((1 box))
Collection Number
Images relating to Klondike Gold Rush packer and muleskinner John "Packer Jack" Newman.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John Emmett Berns maintained a steady correspondence with John Newman. He used this correspondence to write an article about Skagway, Alaska, as it was during the Klondike Gold Rush. Berns also developed and patented gun holsters, including the Berns-Martin split-front holster.

John "Packer Jack" Newman (1863-1931), Klondike Gold Rush packer and muleskinner, was born in New York and had various rugged careers prior to packing supplies in the Yukon. He served on the British vessel Falstaff , rafted on the Mississippi, and packed supplies into remote settlements in Arizona and Colorado. In 1897, Newman moved to Alaska and began packing supplies for the Brooks Packing Company; eventually he was made its chief operator. Significant events during Newman's life in Alaska include the suicides of two roommates, one of whom was fellow packer Ross Steiner (Newman was charged with, but later acquitted of, Steiner's murder).

Newman commissioned James Wehn to create the White Pass monument, and in 1930, he also asked Wehn to sculpt a bust of Mollie Walsh. Walsh, with whom Newman is generally acknowledged to have been in love, ran a supply and grub tent near the summit of White Pass during the Gold Rush. She was murdered in Seattle in 1902 by her husband, Michael Campbell. The bust now stands in Skagway's Mollie Walsh Park. After the Gold Rush, Newman settled in Seattle where he died of acute appendicitis in 1931. He was survived by his wife, Hannah, to whom he erected a plaque in 1930 (which still exists on the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and Union in Seattle).

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

An estimated three thousand pack animals, mainly mules and horses, died carrying supplies on the White Pass trail from Skagway into the Yukon gold fields in 1897-1898. During the Gold Rush, the Canadian Mounted Police required that miners bring one ton of provisions per person, so pack animals often carried as much as 400 pounds of provisions each. Hay was an expensive commodity, and as a result, starving animals literally were worked to death on the trail. White Pass soon earned the name of Dead Horse Canyon. John Newman is quoted by Raymond W. Thorp as saying, "We drove them, we starved them, we beat them, and when they couldn't carry the loads on top of their maggoty sores, we killed them. Because of the Klondike, gold rush animals died by the thousands."

In 1928-1929, Newman joined with the Ladies of the Golden North to participate in erecting a monument at White Pass to the pack animals that died in the Gold Rush. The monument depicts two mules with full packs against a bank of snow. Newman wrote the inscription on the monument and contributed $50 toward its erection. Also prominent in the effort to erect the monument was Mrs. Florence M. Hartshorn of Seattle, who in 1898 traveled White Pass by horseback as far as Log Cabin, where her husband was a blacksmith. The monument was completed by James A. Wehn, a Seattle sculptor known for creating the statue of Chief Seattle in Tillicum Square. The White Pass monument was dedicated on August 24, 1929.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains images relating to the life of John "Packer Jack" Newman. The collection consists of four groupings of images, including his work on securing a monument to the dead horses of White Pass. Newman's gold rush adventures are depicted in a series of photographs which shows him in Skagway and on the White Pass Trail. Views of the monument, tourists, and attendees at what may be the monument's dedication appear in another series.

Many of the photographs depict John Newman; his wife, Hannah Newman, as well as a man who may be sculptor James Wehn, also appear.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Contact Special Collections for more information about rights governing publication, use and reproduction.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Processing Note

Processed by Linda Klein, 2002.

Item 8a transferred from the Alaska Subject File, 2015.

Related Materials

The following collections contain items related to John Newman:

  • Florence M. Hartshorn Scrapbook Collection
  • John Emmett Berns Papers (Manuscript Collection 0586) includes letters from Newman.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Life Before the KlondikeReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 1
Newman's discharge certificate from vessel Falstaff, Liverpool
January 31, 1889
1 2
Newman and two men, Seattle
Bailey, Seattle (photographer)

Skagway and the White Pass TrailReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 3 circa 1898
1 4 1898
1 5 circa 1898
1 6 circa 1897-1898
1 7 1898
1 8 1898
1 8a
Man with two packer dogs
circa 1898

The White Pass Monument Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 9
Newman and other man [sculptor James Wehn?] with monument, Seattle
1 10
Newman with monument, [in James Wehn's studio?], Seattle
1 11 circa 1929
1 12
Display showing photographs and letter from curator of Alaska Historical Museum
circa 1929
1 13
Monument plaque showing carving and inscription
circa 1929
1 14
"The Lust for Gold" illustration showing pack horse and monument
Caption: "I was made an unwilling part in this most merciless scramble for gold ever recorded. I wanted no part in it, yet I was driven into it, and worked with maggoty sores under my pack saddle, and when at last I sank dead in the trail, they cut the flesh from my poor thigh and sold it for .05 a pound to feed the dogs. They left me unburied, and now my bones are scattered they abused me most cruely [sic]. Look! See what foolish words they have inscribed to my memory."
circa 1929
1 15
circa 1929
1 16
Two versions of Item 16, each with a different caption, are included.
circa 1929
1 17-18
Visitors at monument event (possibly dedication)
circa 1929
1 19
Tourists visiting monument
Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 20
John Newman
circa 1929
1 21
John Newman
Hartsook, Seattle (photographer)
circa 1929
1 22
Hannah Newman
circa 1929
1 23
John and Hannah Newman in rowboat on Lake Chelan
Lindsley (photographer)
circa 1929
1 24
John and Hannah Newman
Frank Jacobs, Seattle (photographer)
circa 1929

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Gold miners--Alaska--Photographs
  • Gold rushes--Alaska
  • Horses--Alaska--Photographs
  • Monuments--Alaska--Photographs
  • Mules--Alaska--Photographs
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)

Personal Names

  • Newman, John, 1863-1931--Photographs

Geographical Names

  • White Pass Trail (Alaska and Yukon)--Photographs