William Clark Fonda (1858-1938), also known as "Skagway Bill," was an adventurer and early gold prospector during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899. Born in the town of Fonda, New York, he left at age seven to help build the Erie Canal. By age nine, he was painting the Brooklyn Bridge, and, by age 21, he owned a steam boat company operating on the Hudson River. In 1888, he took a job on a ship that sailed around the tip of South America to Seattle, Washington, where he settled and lived much of his life. When word of the discovery of gold in Alaska reached Seattle, Fonda headed to Skagway in 1897 where he developed much of the early city. While he never struck it rich, he spent many years in Alaska, helping to build the Alaska Railroad, schools, and hospitals. In Seattle, he was a painting contractor and an active member of the Seattle chapter of the Alaska-Yukon Pioneers (AYP). He was also a fixture in the sourdough parade in Seattle, an annual event commemorating prospectors and the Gold Rush. Despite his lack of formal education, Fonda was known to be quite the writer and poet, contributing to several newspapers and publications. He is also famous for being the model for which artist Alonzo Victor Lewis made two sculptures: one called "The Prospector," which stands outside of the Pioneer Home in Sitka, Alaska, and a smaller version which is affiliated with the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Seattle, Washington.
From the description of William Clark Fonda scrapbooks, 1897-1937. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 264761390