Item #8364 [Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]. Kate Rockwell.
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]
[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]

Sign up to receive email notices of recent acquisitions.

[Archive of Kathleen Rockwell, AKA “Klondike Kate,” the celebrated Gold Rush dance hall performer.]

Bend, Oregon, and elsewhere, 1904–1956. Original typed and manuscript poetry, photographs, postcards, and ephemera, as detailed below.

An archive of the poetic efforts, public life and abiding appeal of Kate Rockwell—in her words, “the only dance-hall girl left from the Yukon,” and later a beloved figure in Bend, Oregon.

Kathleen Eloise “Kitty” Rockwell (1876?–1957)—better known as Klondike Kate—was a celebrated entertainer and vaudeville performer who made her name as a dance hall girl in Dawson City at the height of Yukon Gold Rush. Born in Junction City, Kansas, Rockwell grew up in Spokane, Washington, moved to Chile for a time with her mother, and after being expelled from boarding school and working a brief stint at bars and vaudeville houses in New York City, made her way to Whitehorse, Alaska and eventually to Dawson City in 1900, at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. At a job along the way she began developing her own song-and-dance acts, and in Dawson was recruited to dance at the Palace Grande Theatre, where she developed her signature performance: the “Flame Dance” was “a racy number in which she wore a red sequinned dress trailing 200 feet of chiffon that she twisted and turned into an illusion of flames” (Pedersen). In addition to dancing and singing on stage, Rockwell earned twenty five percent of every drink and $7.50 for every bottle of champagne she sold. In an interview some forty years later, Rockwell said: “I’m not trying to put over the idea that we were vestal virgins. Far from it. We fell head over heels in love and we made mistakes. But primarily we were vendors of laughter and music to men who were starved for beauty and gaiety” (Rasmussen). With her lively and generous personality, as well as her red hair, violet eyes, and curvaceous figure, Rockwell became a beloved presence in Dawson. But the fortune she made from the newly-rich miners—she once earned $750 in one night, she later told her biographer, “just for talking to a lonesome miner”—was mostly lent to Alexander Pantages, her bar-keeping boyfriend, in service of his hopeful career as a theater manager (Schillios). The couple successfully opened the Orpheum in Dawson—and may have had a child together—but when they returned to Washington State to open more theaters, Pantages suddenly abandoned her and married a Washington State violinist. Rockwell sued him for $25,000 for breach of contract, publishing their hotel registers and love letters to increase the pressure of scandal, but eventually settled out of court for just $5,000.

Heartbroken and in financial distress, Rockwell attempted a vaudeville circuit along the West coast, but a mental breakdown forced her to change course. So, with the exception of a few Hollywood stints later in life—during which she taught the starlets how to roll cigarettes one-handed—Rockwell settled in Oregon, first on a 320-acre homestead claim, and then in Bend, where she was actively involved in charity work and became affectionately known as “Aunt Kate.” She married three times. Her first marriage, to Floyd Warner, a cowboy twenty years her junior, was short lived; her second, to Johnny Matson, a Yukon prospector almost twenty years her senior who had fallen in love with her during the Gold Rush, was a happy one until Matson’s body was found in 1946 in his Yukon shack, where he had continued to mine his claim in the hopes of buying a house for her. In 1948, Rockwell married Bend, Oregon accountant Bill Van Duren. The two retired to Sweet Home, and, three years after appearing on “The Groucho Marx Show,” Rockwell died in her sleep at age 80. Throughout her life, Rockwell “personified the free-wheeling, gay spirit” of the West’s party girls, and she was unusual in continuing to speak openly about her Gold Rush days, remarking at one point that “I sometimes think I must be the only dance-hall girl left from the Yukon, for I am the only one who will admit the past” (Ellis, p. 8).

This archive embraces two volumes of Rockwell’s original poems and songs (both titled “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Brain”), as well as numerous loose leaves of poetry and photos, real photo postcards, and ephemera from or about her life. The first volume includes some twenty manuscript poems, twelve of which are included, typed, in the second volume, along with some thirty additional typed works. Many of her written pieces reflect her experiences, especially those of her Klondike Gold Rush days. “The Tourist” and “Remembrance” were both published in The Dawson News while Rockwell was back in the Yukon visiting Johnny Matson in 1937: the first piece playfully ribs visitors to the famous town, the second sadly recounts strewing flower seeds on the graves of “sourdough” friends (“sourdough” being a nickname for prospectors, who would cuddle their bread starters on cold nights to keep the yeast alive). “My Dear Friends of the Gold Rush Days” was apparently written for the 1941 Sourdough Reunion held in Los Angeles:

While you grasp the hand of the Sourdough friend
And you live once again those thrills
Searching the Rainbow’s End
In the Yukon’s Northern hills.

“Dance Hall Lady,” meanwhile, is written from the perspective of a weary girl in “show biz”:

My man is watching so I have to smile,
And keep on dancing, mile on mile,
Weary feel and heart like lead; shoulders back, hold up my head.

One step, two steps, three steps, whirl–
Mister, you’re dancing with a dance hall girl.

Same old question, – “Do you like this biz?”
Listen Sweetheart, all I have is his,
If he says dance then dance I must.
I must change my chips for good gold dust.

Some poems, expressing heartbreak and nostalgia, seem to speak to Rockwell’s relationship with Pantages, and at least one—“The Prospector”—is certainly about Matson, who “hunted in vain for the Rainbow’s end / and its fabled pot of gold. / And he seemed to forget as the years rolled by / That we both were growing old.” Other pieces give voice to her love of the high desert of Oregon, where she spent seven years homesteading after leaving the stage, and others—for instance, “The Bed Pan Lament,” which imagines a “De-lux pan appointed with / No stoop, no squat, no stink!”—exhibit Rockwell’s playful humor.

Photos and real photo postcards show Rockwell, almost as glamorous a performer in the 1930s as she was in the 1890s, and numerous shots capture her, candid or posing, with others, including Matson (around the time of their marriage, which received newspaper attention); Ann Savage, who starred in a 1943 film production of “Klondike Kate”; and Rolv Schillios, Rockwell’s biographer.

The archive also includes two smaller lots, one relating to Pantages—mostly his 1931 retrial in a rape case involving a young dancer—and the other to the filming of “Klondike Kate.”

A multifaceted record of the long, rich life of a legendary—and poetic—Klondike dance hall girl.

ARCHIVE CONTENTS:

Written and Printed Material:

Rockwell, Kate. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Brain. 8vo (8.375” x 6.625”) pebbled black paperboard with manuscript title piece at upper cover. Two ownership inscriptions on p. 1: “Kate Rockwell, 1920” and “Kate Rockwell Matson, 1936.” 22 pp. manuscript, mostly poems, a few prose reflections, 6 pp. of typed or printed material (mostly newspaper publications of Rockwell’s poems, a few pieces by other authors) tipped in. Numerous blank pp. CONDITION: Good, spine perished, covers rubbed, contents very good.

N.p., poems dated 1904–1938.

Matson, Kate Rockwell. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Brain. 8vo (9” x 5.75”) brown paperboard with typed title piece taped at upper cover. Title and author inscribed at inside of upper cover: “Idle Thoughts of An Idle Brain Kate Rockwell.” 43 typed poems (including a few prose reflections) and 2 poems in manuscript taped to pages, with several ephemeral items (newspaper clippings, telegrams, manuscript notes) taped or laid in. CONDITION: Very good, cover split at upper hinge, aging tape.

Bend, Oregon, poems dated 1904–1949, though evidently typed and compiled later. Many poems signed by Kate (as Kate Rockwell Matsen or Van Duren) in type or manuscript.

[Manuscript poems and brief prose reflections.] 21 pp. on 16 leaves (10.75” x 8.25” to 6.25” x 5”), including 2 leaves of “Sour Dough Hotel” letterhead. CONDITION: Overall very good, occasional creasing and soiling to some leaves.

[Typed poems.] 7 pp. on as many leaves (11.75” x 4.25” to 6.5” x 4”), including one sheet of letterhead from the Imperial Hotel in Portland, Oregon. CONDITION: Very good to good, occasional light soiling and old tape.

Young, Charles. Autograph letter, signed. Scio, Oregon, 23 June [19]52, 2 pp. in ink (10.5” x 7.25”). To Rockwell, regarding a photo of the first car to reach the Yukon. CONDITION: Good, old tape repairs to tear separating lower and upper parts of page.

Jensen, Gertrude Glutsch. Autograph note, signed. N.p., 1 September 1983, 2 pp. in ink (7.25” x 5.5”). Regarding Young’s letter, the photo of the first car to reach the Yukon, and attesting that Young’s letter “was given to me by my friend ‘Klondike Kate.’” CONDITION: Very good.

Werner, George. Klondyke Kate : A Reminiscense. 1759-18th Ave N.W., Seattle, Washington. 3 August 1941. Typed poem by the “Orchestra Leader at the Savoy Theatre, Vancouver, B.C.----1898–1900.” Four verses. CONDITION: Good, .25” loss at top center, loss of “s” in title’s “Reminiscense”; 1” x 4.5” loss to lower edge, no affect to text; light soiling, old folds.

[Barks, Carl.] Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge : Back to the Klondike. New York: Dell, 1953. Four Color #456. 4to (10.25” x 7.125”), color-illustrated wrappers, 32 unnumbered pp. CONDITION: Good, some dampstains and rubbing to wrappers, 1.5” split at lower spine; contents very good with traces of dampstain at right fore-edge.

This is the second appearance of Carl Barks’s Uncle Scrooge, and the first appearance of Goldie O’Gilt, or “Glittering Goldie,” a Dawson dance hall girl based on Klondike Kate Rockwell.

Photographs:

1 cabinet card (5.75” x 3.75”), with newspaper clipping reading “Kate Rockwell” affixed beneath, in yellow, gold and black plastic frame with gold backing. Inscribed in pencil on verso: “[I]n friendship : Kate Rockwell, to Kid Coffin.” CONDITION: Trimmed at edges to fit in frame, otherwise very good.

1 original silverprint photograph, 4.875” x 3.25”. Typed caption on verso: “Klondike Kate, as she looks today.” CONDITION: Very good, light wear to edges.

6 real photo postcards, 5.375” x 3.5”. Two signed and inscribed by Rockwell on verso, one signed by Rockwell below image: “Klondike Kate Dawson, Yukon Ty Canada. 1942.” CONDITION: Very good, one with horizontal crease across center.

16 original press photos, including several of Rockwell and Matson, 7.625” x 3” to 10.75” x 7.75”. 1933–1956. Many with production markings on image and press stamps, newspaper copy, and/or newspaper clippings affixed to verso. CONDITION: Overall very good, some waving, occasional tape stains to verso and tack holes to corners.

Lot of materials relating to Alexander Pantages:

1 postcard from Pantages’ 1920–21 tour of “It Just Happened.” Postmarked June 16 1921, inscribed and addressed in pencil on verso. CONDITION: Very good, some wear at edges and light soiling.

Steel, William Gladstone, pub. Steel Points. Vol. 1, No. 3, May, 1927. 24mo (5.625” x 4.5”), printed wrappers in blue and gray, 16 unnumbered pp. CONDITION: Very good.

[Program for Pantages Theatre.] San Francisco, California, 9 March 1929. 24mo (5.875” x 4.5”), 4 pp. on bifolium. CONDITION: Very good, faint vertical and horizontal creases.

5 press photos, 7” x 5” to 10” x 8”, some with production markings on image and all with press markings and/or newspaper copy or clippings on verso. CONDITION: Very good, some waving and wear at edges, 

Lot of materials from the estate of actress Ann Savage, from the 1943 film “Klondike Kate”:

11 original set photos, showing Ann Savage, Tom Neal, Glenda Farrell, Lester Allen, George Cleveland, et al. 8” x 10”. Several photos with manuscript notes or small adhesive traces on verso, one with studio stamps and publicity copy on verso. CONDITION: Very good, one photo with light wear and two small tears to upper margin.

Certificate of Authenticity. Ann Savage Collection, signed by the legal executor of the Ann Savage D’armand Estate, 2009.

Ephemera:

Embracing two Rockwell autographs (“Klondike Kate” in purple ink, and “Kate Rockwell” in blue); a blue matchbook reading “Mush On And Smile : Klondike Kate” on recto and “Kate Rockwell Van Duren” on verso; a menu card; a newspaper clipping; several advertisements; a postcard; and the upper part of pictorial letterhead, showing “Cap. Cooper and his Mail Team. Norton Sound 1903 ALASKA.”

REFERENCES: Ellis, Lucia. Klondike Kate : The Life & Legend of Kitty Rockwell, the Queen of the Yukon (New York, 1962); Morgan, Lael. Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush (Whitecap Books, 1998); Pedersen, Nathan. “Klondike Kate (1876–1857),” Oregon Encyclopedia online; Rasmussen, Cecilia. “Free-Spirited ‘Klondike Kate’ Mined Life to Its Fullest,” Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2004, online; Schillios, Rolv. “Dance Hall Girl: Memories of Klondike Kate,” The Alaska Sportsman, March 1956, pp. 8–11, 30–32.

Item #8364

Price: $4,500.00

See all items in Autographs & Manuscripts
See all items by