1950 Yukon Nuggets
Anton Vogee Klondike Sign painters
Photographs of early Bennett City, Whitehorse and Dawson show street scenes of gaudy store fronts with hand-painted advertising at its very best. The signs, extolling the virtues of diverse business establishments, weren’t like the neon sixties or the plastic electric creations of the present day. Instead, they were hand-lettered and illustrated beauties created by artists who specialized in the art of advertising sign-painting.
Even a kid’s lemonade stand in Dawson had a sign worth a good price if auctioned today on Ebay. So, who were these artists who ended up in the goldfields carrying not pick and pan, but brushes and paint.
One Klondike sign-painter was Anton Vogee. He was born in Norway in 1867 and emigrated to the United States in 1888. His artistic endeavours led him to paint studio landscapes for sale. He later became a travelling sign painter for a tobacco firm. Vogee was also a photographer and made good use of his camera to take photographs of his hand-painted signs as proof for payment from the tobacco firm.
Vogee opened his first sign shop in Portland, Oregon in 1896. When news of the Klondike Gold Rush reached Portland, he joined the rush and opened a shop in Dyea in 1897. The following year he opened a paint store and shop in Skagway.
In 1899, he moved to Atlin where he started a tent gallery with a branch operation in the nearby mining town of Pine City. In Atlin, he took many photos which today are contained in the Yukon Archives and form a priceless legacy of the early Atlin gold rush days. Anton Vogee moved again in 1900, this time to Dawson City where he prospected for gold with little success.
He then resumed his old trade and opened Vogee's Sign and Paper Hanging Shop which was later called Vogee's Sign and Wall Paper Shop. He seems to have had quite a business painting signs and decorating homes. In 1901, Anton Vogee married Inga Brevik in Dawson City. They had a son, Arthur, and lived in Dawson City until 1908. Anton Vogee, the gold rush sign painter, died in Vancouver in October 1950, at the age of 83.
Anton’s son, Arthur Vogee, inherited the glass-plate negatives and donated them to the Yukon Archives in 1972. The images include buildings and street scenes in Atlin, Dawson City, Dyea, Skagway, Bennett, Pine City, and Whitehorse, mining activity in Atlin and at Pine and Spruce Creeks, scenes of the Dyea Trail and Chilkoot Pass including the avalanche of 1898 on the Chilkoot Pass.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.