The 2nd & 3rd Gold Rushes: 1896-1942

Black and white photo of showing a man cleaning the plate of a stamp mill.

Compared to the frenzy of the first gold rush, the second and third gold rushes were calm and methodical, yielding much more gold than the first rush. Gold mining companies formed, and individual claims dwindled. Rather than breaking the rock apart by hand with a hammer, dynamite was introduced and used for blasting. Using mercury and cyanide to concentrate gold from ore and more efficient machinery further increased the gold yield.

Owning a Gold Mine

Capital Stock Certificate for 2,500 shares from the Caribou Gold Mining Company.

Capital Stock Certificate from the Caribou Gold Mining Company.

NSA: Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, MG 100 vol. 23 no. 46

Minnie Ross Holman from Rockland, Maine purchased the properties belonging to the Baltimore & NS Mining Co. and the NS & Mexican Mining Co. and consolidated them to form the Caribou Gold Mines on March 30, 1908, thus making her the first female co-owner of a gold mining company in Nova Scotia.

Tributer System

Black and white photo of three Waverley, NS tributers at the top of a mine shaft c.1930s.

Waverley Tributers c. 1930s

NSDNR Index of Historical Mining Photography, Nova Scotia 1870c-1960c.

Another way gold was taken from the ground was by tributer miners - individuals or small groups of men that mined small plots of land leased from the companies that owned the mineral claims of the gold district. The tribute system helped keep gold mining alive in lean years, but it was not good for the industry overall as mining was small scale and failed to get deeper deposits of gold. It also paid little attention to safety and clean-up.

How much gold was produced?

A graph showing the amount of gold produced in Nova Scotia since 1862, measured in troy ounces.

A graph showing the amount of gold produced in Nova Scotia since 1862, measured in troy ounces. The 1st gold rush (1861-1876) produced 208,942.85 oz t, the 2nd gold rush (1882-1903) produced 497,842.75 oz t, and the 3rd gold rush (1935-1943) produced 154,319.7 oz t.

This graph shows the amount of gold known to have been produced during each of the three Nova Scotian gold rushes. Not all gold found was recorded as miners sometimes pocketed gold as they left the mines for the day, despite the watchful eye of mine managers. Similarly, companies might under-report their production in order to avoid paying government royalties. By law all mineral producers in the province must pay a royalty on the commodity they produce. The royalty is set as a percentage of the value of the mineral, so the more gold they produced, the more they would have to pay. It is widely accepted that there was a substantial amount of unreported gold.

The Stock Market Crash of October 1929 and the Great Depression likely played a role in the onset of the 3rd gold rush, as gold usually does well in times of recession. In contrast, gold production decreased sharply during both World Wars.

Troy Ounces

Banks weighed gold to give it a cash value based on troy ounces. The troy ounce, a type of weight measurement indirectly derived from the ancient Roman monetary system, is the global standard for weighing and pricing gold. The troy ounce is equal to 31.3 grams. One avoirdupois ounce, the type of ounce used in bathroom scales, is equal to 28.3 grams.

Photograph of an historic hanging balance scale, weights and wooden storage box.

Balance scale, historically used in banks to weigh gold.

MOI: I2010.12.1a-i

Troy ounces are still used to weigh and price gold because the London Bullion Market Association uses mechanical beam balances to weigh gold. The mechanical scales measure in troy ounces - electronic scales have proved unreliable in measuring gold accurately.