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EXPLORING THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
By Gary F. Kurutz, Curator of Special Collections
When James Wilson Marshall saw something golden shining in the tailrace at Sutter's Mill, he not only set off a worldwide rush to California but also touched off the greatest writing and artistic frenzy in our nation's history. Newspapers, guidebooks, government reports, sermons, diaries, and letters written home all spread the word about a land where golden dreams could be realized. Artists through sketches, paintings, prints, pictorial letter sheets, birds-eye views, and illustrations for books likewise gave visual meaning to this new El Dorado. Nineteen ninety-eight commemorates the discovery of a precious mineral, but as historian John Walton Caughey so eloquently noted in 1948, this anniversary also marks a momentous cultural and intellectual awakening. It is only appropriate that the California State Library should create this exhibit since the institution itself got its start during the height of the Gold Rush. Many libraries and archives across the country from Yale University to the Henry E. Huntington Library preserve formidable collections of Gold Rush material, but the State Library's direct relationship to Marshall's earthshaking discovery gives it a unique role in this sesquicentennial year. Without the mad scramble to our golden shore, California would not have been admitted into the Union so quickly and the institution of the State Library would not have come into being as it is presently constituted.
The goal of the exhibit is many fold: provide an overview of the Gold Rush, emphasize the strength of the Library's collection, and incorporate items that will simultaneously delight, surprise, and inform. In creating this exhibit, the varieties and richness of the material proved to be both a joy and challenge. Literally, I scrutinized hundreds of items and explored various themes. Unavoidably, because of space limitations, many choice documents and topics were grudgingly set aside. It is no accident that so much documentation exists about the run for gold. In fact, it could be argued that the California Gold Rush stands as the best documented event in our state's history. There are many reasons for this. Most importantly, though, the Gold Rush took place when people commonly kept diaries and wrote detailed letters. Fortunately for us, many Argonauts possessed exceptional powers of description, the ability to express philosophical thoughts, and the gift to record what they saw with drama, emotion, and on occasion with humor. Because the Gold Rush represented the adventure of a lifetime, participants, through letters and diaries, eagerly shared their experiences with friends and relatives and made sure that their writings would be preserved for future generations.
A Gathering of Gold Rushiana
The exhibit features many examples drawn for the California History Section's extensive manuscript collections. Scores of Gold Rush manuscript collections holding thousands of letters were examined. Included are such treasures as Marshall's own map showing where he discovered gold, pioneer preacher Joseph A. Benton's journals of his voyage to California and his first years in Sacramento looking for souls instead of gold, and letters to his mother by Sacramento's first historian, Dr. John F. Morse. Letters by those less well known, however, vividly tell us of the travel to California by land and sea and then the cold reality of the diggings and its hardships, loneliness, lawlessness, and disappointments. Printed books, pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers, of course, form a major component of any Gold Rush exhibition. These printed sources, more than any single medium, spread the news and influenced would-be gold seekers.
Bayard Taylor's El Dorado, the best seller of the Gold Rush; Dame Shirley's celebrated letters from Rich Bar which appeared in California's first periodical, The Pioneer, and the Journal of the Hartford Union Mining Company, actually printed on board a California bound ship in 1849, serve as a solid foundation of early eyewitness accounts. An array of rare guidebooks, foreign language works, and printed pamphlets issued by mining companies supplement these seminal publications. The very first issue of the Panama Star, an American newspaper printed in Panama, records the importance of that narrow isthmus as a link between the United States and its new mineral-rich territory. The gold discovery and its immediate aftermath took place when the visual means of mass communication was making great strides. Lithographs and wood engravings gave visual credence to the incredible news that poured out of California. Artists were not immune to gold fever and some real talent came to California first to hunt for gold, and then finding this to be hard and unproductive work, turned back to their god-given natural abilities. Charles Christian Nahl, Harrison Eastman, John David Borthwick, and George Holbrook Baker, to name just a few, produced memorable images that publishers even to this day reproduce over and over. The result of all of this made the Gold Rush one of the first important episodes in our history recorded visually and systematically by its participants. Consequently, pencil sketches, pictorial letter sheets, illustrations found in books and newspapers, and birds-eye views of cities and towns form an essential component of this display. One other form of visual documentation emerged, photography namely in the form of the daguerreotype. The Gold Rush represented the first important event in our nation's past to be captured by photography. Those one-of-a-kind, silvery, mirror-like images held together in beautiful, protective leather cases provide a breathtaking, crystal clear view of life during that rambunctious era. Certainly a highlight of California As We Saw It are the exquisite open air daguerreotypes of mining operations near Georgetown and Nevada City attributed to J. B. Starkweather. Daguerrian portraits of men and women put a human face on that golden era. Last, we have supplemented the above objects with what rare book and history librarians call ephemera, items that were meant to last only a moment. Judiciously placed throughout the display are wonderful examples of Gold Rush sheet music, stock certificates, broadsides, printed receipts for gold bullion, illustrated postal covers, and a rare clipper card (advertising a voyage to California). These transitory items, held and read by the gold hunters, give as much meaning to the display as rare books and manuscripts.
Some Themes Explored
Several topics apart from the discovery and long journey to California and the diggings have been developed. The title of J. S. Holliday's brilliant book, The World Rushed In, provided inspiration for two exhibit cases. One case is devoted to accounts and guidebooks published in England, France, Australia, and Germany. Another features the experiences of women, African Americans, and Chinese. One remarkable manuscript consists of a bill of sale whereby a slave imported by his Southern master to hunt for gold buys his freedom for $1,000. Within a couple years after the discovery, miners extracted gold from the earth by working in teams and then by forming companies. Turning rivers with dams, delivering water by flumes to wash away the hillsides in search of gold, and setting up stamp mills to crush the ore was not a simple, individual endeavor.
This mechanization of mining and the need to raise capital is documented by manuscripts and printed by-laws, articles of incorporation, mining claims, and bills of sale. A selection of beautifully engraved early stock certificates provides visual evidence of the financing needed to work the mines. The need to supply the mines gave rise to instant cities and mining camps. While San Francisco emerged as El Dorado's most important port and city, Sacramento also experienced unbelievable growth. On display are a sampling of books, letters, sketches documenting Sacramento's transformation from the citadel of Captain Sutter's New Helvetia empire to a vital entrepot to the northern mines. Highlights include the first Sacramento directory by Horace Culver, a broadside proclamation concerning the formation of city government in 1849, and one of the earliest known sketches of its famed embarcadero by George Holbrook Baker. Not all was seriousness when it came to looking for gold. The gold mania spawned a series of satirical prints and books by the likes of Alfred Crowquill, Jeremiah Saddlebags, and Old Block. A centerpiece is a beautiful hand-colored lithograph entitled the "Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California." Crowned with a pot, the bespectacled gold hunter is loaded down with every conceivable appliance and weapon including a set of gold scales from which hangs a strong of sausage, dried fish, and a tea kettle. A rare series of hand-colored lithographs by two Cuban artists gives a light-hearted look at a group of miners who evidently had made their pile and enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
California as We Saw It could not have been put together without the able and cheerful assistance of Gerrilee Hafvenstein of the Library's Preservation Office. Her skill in preserving and preparing materials for display earns my constant gratitude and admiration. To coin an appropriate phrase, she has a golden touch. The following describes the one hundred plus items that comprise the display. Since most of readers cannot visit the Library's gallery, it is hoped that this compilation will provide a sense of the display and a permanent record of a truly remarkable grouping of primary source material. As demonstrated by this exhibit, James Marshall's discovery produced not only treasure in the form of yellow metal but also the foundation for the Library's great California history collection.
Section I. The Great Discovery
James Wilson Marshall
Drawn by James Wilson Marshall, the gold discoverer himself, the map depicts the Coloma Valley with the south fork of the American River and shows mountains, gulches, trees, and brush. Despite its crude appearance, the map, according to Marshall's biographer Theressa Gay, was fairly accurate. Marshall apparently made the map sometime after the discovery but an exact date cannot be determined.
The map was found in a desk at his cabin in Kelsey (near Placerville) after his death. John Sipp, who purchased the cabin at an administrator's sale, gave the map to the State Library in 1910 along with a double-sided drawing of the mill by Marshall. According to cartobibliographer Carl I. Wheat, Marshall's map ranks as one of the most important documents in the State Library's collections.
James Wilson Marshall
Untitled drawing of the gold discovery.
This crude pencil drawing delineates perhaps the most important event in California history in the discoverer's own hand. Marshall wrote on the lower right side: "Situation of all hands on the mill at the time I brought the gold and show'd it." The workman (left of center) asks: "What is it?" Marshall (right of center) answers: "I have found it." William Scott, the carpenter (right of Marshall), replies: "I guess not."
The drawing, like the map, was found in Marshall's desk, and John Sipp presented it to the Library in 1910.
James Wilson Marshall
Untitled drawing of Sutter's Mill.
The gold discoverer made this drawing on the other side of his gold discovery sketch. Marshall wrote the following caption: "The mill as finished at the time of the gold discovery Jany. 19th 1848." Sutter's millwright confused the actual date of the discovery and hence the date of the 19th rather than the 24th.
Lease agreement between John A. Sutter & James Wilson Marshall and the Yalesummi Tribe.
February 4, 1848. 4 p. Contemporary copy.
Captain Sutter and James Marshall attempted to gain legal control of the Coloma Valley by entering into a lease with the local Indians. This document was actually made on January 1 but not signed until February 4. With the discovery of gold, control of the valley became imperative to Sutter. The document was signed by two chiefs and two alcaldes of the Yalesummi tribe. As historian Theressa Gay notes: "This historic document defined the boundaries of the first mining claim on the Mother Lode just eleven days after the discovery of gold." Sutter sent the lease document to Colonel R. B. Mason, military governor of California, for his approval. Mason rejected the lease in a letter to Sutter: "The United States do not recognize the right of Indians to sell or lease lands on which they reside."
The original document was probably lost in the fire that consumed Sutter's Hock Farm. The copy in the State Library's possession is part of the George McKinstry Collection. McKinstry worked for Sutter at the fort in the 1840s.
Unsigned letter of John A. Sutter to Governor R. B. Mason.
New Helvetia, February 22, 1848. 1 p.
This cover letter to Mason accompanied Sutter's lease agreement with the Yalesummi Indians. Written less than a month after Marshall's discovery, Sutter explains the expense of building and settling Coloma and the need to protect his property. Without mentioning gold, Sutter went on to write: "The settlement will be of great benefit to the Indians by protecting them against the wild tribes above them, furnishing them with food, clothing, etc. and teach them habits of industry." On display is a contemporary copy of the lost original. George McKinstry Collection.
"Captain Sutter's Account of the First Discovery of Gold. Portait [sic] of Mr. Marshal [sic], Taken from Nature at the Time When He Made the Discovery of Gold in California.
View of Sutter's Mill or Place Where the First Gold Has Been Discovered."
Lithographed and published by Britton & Rey, San Francisco, 1854.
Sutter's account of Marshall's momentous visit to his fort after finding gold appeared in San Francisco Pacific News for October 9, 1849. The letter sheet reproduces Sutter's text. Sutter recalled: ". . . suddenly all my misgivings were put at an end by his [Marshall] flinging on the table a handful of scales of pure virgin gold. I was fairly thunderstruck and asked him to explain what all this meant." Sutter then accompanied Marshall to Coloma and found gold himself by picking out with a small knife a lump of gold from a dry gorge. He concluded his statement with the words: "- Oro! - Oro! - Oro!"
George Frederick Parsons
The Life and Adventures of James W. Marshall, The Discoverer of Gold in California.
Sacramento: James W. Marshall and W. Burke, 1870. 188 p.
The frontispiece represents Marshall holding a golden nugget. Gold Rush historians call this one of the most important books of California history. It is based on materials supplied by William Burke, a business associate of Marshall, and Parsons' interview of Marshall. It details not only Marshall's discovery but also the "curse" that dogged much of his life. Marshall and Burke published the book to win support for the discoverer's petition to the legislature to obtain a pension and as a means of promoting his lecture tours.
William S. Jewett [attributed to]
A View of Sutter's Mill and Culloma [sic] Valley.
New York: Sarony & Major, .
17 ¾ x 24 ¾ in. Image on 21 x 26 in. sheet.
This beautiful hand-colored lithograph depicts the Coloma Valley during the heyday of the Gold Rush. In the foreground, a Native American gazes on the scene. Sutter's Mill, the site of the gold discovery, is in the center of the print. By 1850, Coloma emerged as a bustling mining town with hotels, saloons, restaurants, stores, and a bowling alley. The text below the title and image reads: "On the South Fork of the American Line, Alta California / Respectively dedicated to Capt. John A. Sutter; / by his obedient servant'; [signed] "John T Little." Little's store is depicted in the center across the river from the mill.
Section II. By Sea to the Golden Land
Map of the Gold Regions of California. Showing the Routes via Chagres and Panama, Cape Horn, &c.
New-York: Ensign and Thayer, 1849
Lithograph, hand-colored, 16 x 14 in.
The gold region is tinted in yellow. In addition to showing the principal routes to California, the publishers included two text blocks: "Important Directions to Persons Emigrating to California" and "Description of California, or the new Gold Region." The text concludes with the following glowing statement: "Such is California – the richest, most picturesque and beautiful region, for its extent, upon the face of the earth. Such is the El Dorado of the Gold mines; and such is the great acquisition of the late war with Mexico."
The Library's copy was originally inserted in the 1849 issue of T. J. Farnham's Life, Adventures, and Travels in California. The map may have been printed later and given with the book to help sales.
For California, San Francisco, and the Gold Mines.Ship Balance.
New York: Brooks & Frye, Dec. 26th, 1848.
Gold fever reached the eastern United States in the fall of 1848. The winter of 1848-1849 marked the first season of the dash to California by sea. Typical of the many broadsides designed to lure desperate gold seekers, this advertisement touted the amenities of the ship Balance. Its owners, B. S. Brooks and Frederick Frye, employed E. Washburn Ruggles as the ship's captain and announced a sailing date of January 18, 1849. The ship was made of oak and teak "and in all respects perfectly fitted for a safe, expeditious, and comfortable voyage around Cape Horn." For a cost of $150, passengers received a stateroom, 5 cubic feet of space for freight or baggage, and meals.
E. L. Cleaveland.
E. L. Cleaveland, in this fire and brimstone sermon, warned gold seekers to worry about those left behind and the danger to their own health, life, and character. He warned: "The filth and scum of society, [have] gathered and poured in there to seethe and ferment into one putrid mass of unmitigated depravity." Many preachers exhorted the Argonauts to take their Bibles in one hand and plant their New England virtue on the golden soil.
Jethro C. Brock.
A List of Persons from Nantucket now in California, or on Their Way Thither.
Nantucket: Jethro C. Brock, 1850. 24 p.
This tiny and rare publication includes the names of vessels, and their departure and arrival times. Demonstrating the impact of gold fever on the New England whaling island, Brock provides information on 650 individuals. The last page lists persons who returned from California and the names of eight who died in California or on their passage to the golden land.
Rev. Joseph A. Benton
Voyage from Boston to San Francisco, Alta Califor., in the Ship Edward Everett.
Left the Wharf in Boston – Thursday – January Eleventh _ A.D. 1849. Reached the Anchorage Ground at San Francisco; July 6th 1849.
Rev. Benton, going to California to seek souls and not gold, provided a detailed eyewitness account of the voyage of the Edward Everett. Named for the president of Harvard, the vessel was the first to sail from Boston to the gold fields with an organized mining company, the Boston and California Joint Stock Mining and Trading Company. Benton preached sermons and gave talks on religious subjects during the voyage. After arriving in San Francisco, he immediately went to Sacramento and established the First Church of Christ (Pioneer Congregational Church) and became one of the most influential Protestant clergymen in California. His diary describes in detail the voyage and his life ministering to the gold seekers.
The second volume of Benton's diary is open to the entry for July 14, 1849, marking his arrival in Sacramento. Seeking shelter from the angry Sacramento sun, he pitched his tent in a grove of oak trees. The following day, Sunday, he planned to preach his first sermon, but an attack of dysentery kept him down.
Reverend Joseph A. Benton
Sixth plate daguerreotype, maker unknown.
Nantucket: Jethro C. Brock, 1850. 24 p.
The Yale educated Reverend Benton preached his first sermon in Sacramento, "the city of tents and trees" on July 22, 1849, after recovering from a siege of dysentery. A congregation of about 100 men and three women met in an oak grove to hear him. A wagon served as Benton's pulpit.
Rev. Joseph A. Benton
Outlines &c. of Sermons &c. Preached on Board the Edward Everett. Also in California at Various Times and Places.
January 28, 1849 – January 16, 1859.
The Reverend Benton dutifully preached to the passengers on the famous California bound Edward Everett, and when he established his church in Sacramento, his sermons brought the message of the Almighty to the rambunctious Argonauts. Benton wrote: "The world's centre will have changed and no man will be thought to have seen the world till he has visited California."
February 21, 1850 (Vol. 1, No. 1) – April 14, 1850 (Vol. 1. No. 8)
One of the ways passengers relieved the tedium of the long ocean voyage around Cape Horn was to produce a newspaper. Sailing on the barque Mary Waterman, a group of editors formed aboard ship to issue this folio size paper weekly "for the amusement of the passengers."
Letter of Gooding, Lucas & Co. To Mr. [Charles] Brown
New York. May 20, 1849. 1 p.
A representative of Gooding, Lucas & Company wrote the father of Jared Brown to inform him that his son was off to California on the steamer Antelope and that he did not have time to write. Further, Jared did not have sufficient funds to pay his way, and therefore, worked his passage as a coal heaver. Letters in the Library's collection document that Jared crossed the Isthmus of Panama and made it to California where he enjoyed a lucrative business as a blacksmith in Coloma.
View of San Francisco Taken from Telegraph Hill, April 1850
Published by Nathan Currier, New York; William B. McMurtrie, San Francisco, 1851.
Hand-colored lithograph. 17 x 29 in.
The instant city of San Francisco, the destination point of the world, is magnificently portrayed in this spectacular view. Ships in Yerba Buena Cove abandoned by gold hunters dominate the scene. McMurtrie captured such prominent Gold Rush landmarks as the Long Wharf, Pacific Street Wharf, and the converted warehouse ships Apollo and Niantic. Showing the rawness of the city, hastily thrown up wooden buildings and canvas tents predominate. Fire consumed many of the structures represented in this print.
Signed letter of Joseph L. Lyon to His Parents
San Francisco, October 7, 1849. 4 p.
With pencil sketch
Lyon, after 222 days at sea, described in this letter the voyage, conditions in San Francisco, prospects for the mines, and news of his health and that of his companions. He hoped to return in a year or two and was unsure if he would go to the mines. The last page of his letter features a beautiful pencil drawing with the following caption: "The above represents the situation of our barque as she appeared on the morning of the 25 of Sept. last having been struck by a small squall. I sprang to the deck thinking she had struck a rock."
George G. Foster
The Gold Regions of California: Being a Succinct Description of the Geography, History, Topography, and General Features of California; Including a Carefully Prepared Account of the Gold Regions of That Fortunate Country.
New York: Dewitt & Davenport, 1848. 80 p.
Foster produced what antiquarian bookseller and historian Edward Eberstadt calls "the first considerable pamphlet on California." He was one of the first to advocate going to California in companies or associations and predicted that those who possessed a skill or practiced a trade would do well in California. The frontispiece consists of an untitled map of California with the gold region encircled.
[wrapper title] Wonderful Facts from the Gold Regions; Also Valuable Information Desirable to Those Who Intend Going to California.
Boston: Stacy, Richardson & Co., 1849.
Wrappers. 32 p.
The title page reads: "The Book Needed for the Times, Containing the Latest Well-authenticated Facts from the Gold Regions." Walton went on to caution his readers about the lure of California writing: "Our opinion is, that there is a great deal of knavery in getting up this gold fever." While many accounts proclaimed that gold could literally be picked up from the ground with little effort, a number of more balanced views like that of Walton soon appeared.
The Eastern Argus
January 1, 1849
Reflecting the gold mania that swept the eastern United States, the newspaper published this long satirical poem that begins: "Come on good friends – all other things give o'er, / We'll talk of Gold, on California's shore, / Gold! The great end and aim of human strife; / The all-exciting stimulus of life." It continued; "Go then, ye slaves, to California's shore / Go delve and dig, and grasp the precious ore."
A. Henry Stevens
Journal of the Passage of the Mutual Protection Trading and Mining Company in the Barque Emma Isadora. Sanford Henry Master. From Boston towards California.
March 31 – September 12, 1849. 95 p.
Stevens' journal records the voyage of a Massachusetts joint stock company. By combining resources into companies or associations, Argonauts hoped to increase their chances once they got to the golden land. This company consisted of 60 members with each paying $300. In return, each member was entitled to an equal proportion of all profits. Before departing, the company purchased and outfitted a ship, the Emma Isadora, which they advertised as "coppered [bottom sheathed in copper] and very fast sailing."An experienced physician also accompanied the expedition. Captain Sanford Henry of Chelsea served not only as master but also as president. The Emma Isadora arrived in San Francisco on September 13, 1849 after a passage of 165 days. The volume is open to the entry for April 24. Stevens attached to the page two specimens of "wings" from flying fish that they caught.
Attached to Stevens' journal was this broadside issued by his trading and mining company. Before embarking for California, stockholders frequently drew up rules and regulations similar to those on this broadside. It outlined 21 articles or rules for its members to follow over a two year period. In addition to specifying typical duties of its officers and responsibilities of each member, the broadside included rules of conduct. Article XI, for example, forbade games of chance and use of intoxicating liquors.
Articles of Association and By-Laws of the Hartford Union Mining & Trading Co. Adopted, January 19th, 1849
Wrappers. 8 p.
The Connecticut company was formed for the purpose of "Mining, Trading, Purchase and Sale of Real Estate, Navigation, Commerce, Building and Manufacturing in California." Twenty-two articles in the bylaws governed the company and detailed rules of conduct, responsibilities, provisions for a member's death, accounting procedures, and duration of stay in California. The company left New York on February 17, 1849 and arrived in San Francisco on September 13, 1849.
J. Linville Hall
Journal of the Hartford Union Mining and Trading Company. Containing the Names, Residence, and Occupation of Each Member, with Incidents of the Voyage. Printed by J. Linville Hall, on Board the Henry Lee
1849. 88 p.
Hall's journal ranks as one of the rarest and most interesting of all Gold Rush journals. It is regarded as the first printed journal of a California gold seeker. Hall actually printed the little book en route to California as the Henry Lee sailed around Cape Horn. More than likely, he printed the title page and preface in San Francisco. The Hartford Company numbered 122 members and included three printers and four paper makers. Like so many other companies, this group disbanded shortly after its arrival in San Francisco. Hall and a few companions then headed to the mines.
This pocket-size journal is a fine example of a record kept by a member of one of the many mining companies that set out for California in the spring of 1849. The company shipped on the brig Henrico. This volume belonged to an Edward Keegan of South Carolina, but according to his daughter, he did not write the journal. Despite this, it is loaded with information, and the writer continued chronicling the activities of the company as they hunted for gold near Coloma. One of their members became sick in Panama and died in Coloma. The volume ends with a discussion of the high prices.
Miss Julia W. Pomeroy
California Polka. Composed for and Dedicated to the New York Mining Company
New York: Wm Hall & Son, 1849
The New York Mining Company was one of many mutual protection companies formed in the Empire State as a result of gold fever. Perhaps Miss Pomeroy anticipated the departure of a sweetheart or a father or brother.
New-York Mining Company
January 22, 1849
By putting up a sum of $300, a shareholder received all rights and privileges of the company. Many shareholders actually made the trip to California rather than stay at home only as an investor. Gold seekers pooled their resources by joining similar companies. With the money raised, they often purchased a ship, necessary supplies, prefabricated houses, gold-washing machines, and hired the services of a physician. Most companies, however, disbanded soon after their arrival in the diggings.
Salem & California Trading & Mining Expedition
February 15, 1849
The company, composed of 63 men, sailed out of Salem, Massachusetts on March 19, 1849, on the barque La Grange. The ship was later hauled up to Sacramento and converted into a prison. In 1849, 124 mining companies set out from Massachusetts.
Section III. Ho for California! The Overland Trek
Hutchings' Panoramic Scenes. - Crossing the Plains
Views Drawn from Nature in 1853 by George Holbrook Baker
Placerville: J. M. Hutchings, c. 1854
George Holbrook Baker, one of the most important Gold Rush artists, created this famous pictorial letter sheet. Baker delineated 13 scenes associated with the overland trek including encampments, buffalo hunts, pioneers' encounters with the Indians, driving stock, and leading landmarks such as Scott's Bluff and Chimney Rock.
Horn's Overland Guide, from the U.S. Indian Sub-agency, Council Bluffs on the Missouri River to the City of Sacramento, in California
New York: J. H. Colton, 1852. 78 p.
+ 18 p. of publisher's advertisements
Horn actually went to California in 1850, and consequently, produced one of the most accurate and detailed of the overland guidebooks. The New York Observer, March 11, 1852, praised the book by writing: "No one should venture across the desert without it." He included a table of distances and descriptions of the camping places, creeks, rivers, lakes, and other prominent landmarks along the way. He also noted the quality of the grasses, timber, and roads. Equally as interesting from today's perspective are the advertisements of various Iowa businesses that appealed to the gold seeker.
Henry I. Simpson
The Emigrant's Guide to the Gold Mines
Three Weeks in the Gold Mines, or Adventures with the Gold Diggers of California in August, 1848. Together with Advice to the Emigrants, with Full Instructions Upon the Best Methods of Getting There, Living Expenses, etc. etc., and a Complete Description of the Country. With a Map and Illustrations.
New York: Joyce and Co., 1848. 32 p.
Noted historian Dale Morgan called Simpson's guide "an outright fraud." It is one of the earliest dated guides and it was designed to take advantage of the gold fever sweeping the continent. Simpson, despite the claims in the text, never made a trip to California or stayed in the mines. Further, Simpson was never a member of the New York Volunteers as stated on the title page's author statement. Like many publications of the day, it pulled together information from various sources including Colonel R. B. Mason's reliable report on the gold diggings and an article from the New York Herald of December 13, 1848.
J. Ely Sherwood
The Pocket Guide to California; A Sea and Land Route Book, Containing a Description of the El Dorado . . . To Which Is Added the Gold-Hunter's Memorandum and Pocket Directory
New York: J. Ely Sherwood, 1849. 80 p.
An experienced traveler, Sherwood assembled a useful description of land and sea routes, an overview of California's geography, and a discussion of its "people, climate, soil, productions, agricultural resources, commercial advantages, and mineral wealth." The writer also called attention to Rufus Porter's aerial locomotive which promised transportation from New York to California in three days. Sherwood wrote: "We advise our readers to look-out for the fast line." The advertisements that embellish this guide form a fascinating picture of the bewildering merchandise choices that bombarded gold seekers. Sherwood published an even earlier guide called California: Her Wealth and Resources (New York, 1848).
J. Ely Sherwood
California and Its Gold Regions with a Geographical and Topographical View of the Country, its Mineral and Agricultural Resources. Prepared from Official and Other Authentic Documents; with A Map of the U. States and California, Showing the Routes of the U.S. Mail Steam Packets to California, also the Various Overland Routes
New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1849. 144 p.
Robinson, like so many others who wrote guidebooks in response to the gold fever, rushed this book into print. He included, however, a fine grouping of reliable sources such as government reports and eyewitness accounts from newspapers. He enthusiastically wrote: "California is really a land of gold and pearls." The guide is particularly valuable for its large folding map published by J. H. Colton.
J. H. Colton
Map of the United States, the British Provinces, Mexico &c. Showing the Routes of the U.S. Mail Steam Packets to California, and a Plan of the Gold Region
Drawn and engraved by J. M. Atwood
New York: J. H. Colton, 1849
Lithograph. 15 x 21 in.
Colton's map accompanied Fayette Robinson's guidebook, California and its Gold Regions. In this map, the gold region is hand-colored in yellow. The overland routes to California and Oregon are marked by hand. Colton included inset maps entitled "Map of the Gold Region, California" and route around Cape Horn, and an illustration of Pyramid Lake. The publisher also sold this map separately.
Signed letter of John M. Kerr to Dick [Ellis]. Camp Montgomery on the Bluffs. "The Starting Place for California." [near St. Joseph],
[c. April 1849]. 2 p.
Kerr, in this letter, describes the personality difficulties that beset some California overland companies. He wrote: "The company I started with flared up and we sold everything out at auction and each of us joined other companies." Kerr noted that two of the company "were perfect scrubs" and caused the dissolution of the group. In a postscript he provides a warning about another hazard of the trail: "Coming in town from camp I passed the resting place of several poor fellows by the way side, who were cut off by the Cholera, there is considerable on the plains. The Dayton Ohio Company have lost twelve."
Signed letter of John M. Kerr to Mary Ellis Kerr.
St. Louis, April 8, 1849. 4 p.
California bound John Kerr, enthusiastically communicated to his mother the following: "I write to inform you of our arrival in this city [St. Louis] and to give you some account of the excitement that exists in this quarter. I thought it was great in Cincinnati but it is nothing in comparison to this place, every boat that comes up is completely loaded down with freight & passengers en route for the Gold diggings. It is really amusing to see what a variety of out fits etc. are strewed about upon the landing."
Overland Diary of John C. Thorniley
April 4, 1852 to August 24, 1852.
Thorniley left Marietta, Ohio, followed the California Trail, and via the Humboldt-Truckee route, entered California, and arrived in Downieville. The Argonaut concluded his detailed diary with the following: "We view it as a journey far better imagined than described. We are now fairly in the Gold Mines of California. So here our journey and little narrative of crossing the plains closes and will say such was the way we saw it crossing the plains. The year-of-Grace 1852." Like many others, Thorniley regrettably did not maintain his diary while in the diggings.
Section IV. Via the Isthmus
Narrative of a Voyage from New York to California via Chagres, Gorgon, & Panama. Journey across the Isthmus, etc. Residence in Panama by Craighead [pseud]. 1849. 95 p.
Crackbon arrived at Chagres on April 11, 1849, and paid $22.50 for passage across the Isthmus. His "narrative" is particularly valuable for describing the activities of Americans on the Isthmus, accounts from travels coming back from the California gold fields, and the arrival of ships and passengers. On May 27, he left for California, and by September 11, he was digging for gold at Mormon Island. The volume is open to a page with his drawings of Panama.
Signed letter of Matthew Scott to John M. Smith
Chagres, February 15, 1849. 4 p.
This wonderfully detailed letter, written during the first season of the eastern U.S. migration to California, tells of the challenges facing the gold seekers upon their arrival at Panama and the difficulty of crossing the Isthmus. Scott, who was on board the steamship Crescent, wrote, "We found that but few boats were unengaged & they could not be had but paying the most exorbitant prices say from $15. to 20. per passenger." He closed by saying: "not to advise any one to undertake to come to California this rout[e] with less than $500. & then with as little baggage as possible."
"The Derienni"; Or, Land Pirates of the Isthmus. Being a True and Graphic History of Robberies, Assassinations, and Horrid Deeds Perpetrated by Those Cool Blooded Miscreants Who Have Infested for Years the Great Highway to California, the El Dorado of the Pacific
New Orleans, Charleston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia: A. R. Orton, 1853
Wrappers. 44 p.
This is a fictionalized work based on fact and probably written by the publisher, A. R. Orton. The Derienni recounts how American "land pirates" preyed on travelers on the "great highway to California" robbing them of their gold dust and belongings. Five Derienni were shot at Panama [City] by the committee of public safety.
Vol. 1, No. 1
February 24, 1849
In his salutatory issue, publisher J. B. Biddleman wrote: "In order to relieve the tedium of our, perhaps protracted stay in this, to us strange land, surrounded by the people, institutions and language so dissimilar to our own - a few Americans have undertaken this publication." The paper included news on passenger and ship arrivals, an account of crossing the Isthmus, and a letter from Major General Persifor F. Smith concerning non U.S. citizens digging for gold in California and lands owned by the American government. General Smith was instrumental in instituting the Foreign Miners' Tax.
View of Culebra or the Summit, the Terminus of the Panama Railroad in Dec. 1854
Sketched from Nature by F[essendon] N[ott] Otis
Colored lithograph by Charles Parsons; Printed by Endicott & Co., N.Y., 1854
10 x 14 in.
The Panama Railroad ran from Aspinwall on the Gulf of Mexico to Panama City on the Pacific side, a distance of 49 miles. Despite the short distance, it took five years to build. Construction started in December 1850 and the terminus on the gulf side was changed from Chagres to Aspinwall. Once completed in January 1855, the railroad made crossing the Isthmus an effortless affair and significantly improved the journey to and from California. The artist, F. N. Otis, also wrote Isthmus of Panama: History of the Panama Railroad; and of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (New York, 1867).
Panama in 1855. An Account of the Panama Railroad, of the Cities of Panama and Aspinwall, with Sketches of Life and Character on the Isthmus
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855. 246 p.
Tomes, in this travel narrative describes the railroad, the Isthmus, and the goings and comings of Californians. Demonstrating how much the situation had changed from the frenetic days of 1849, he noted, "There were but few who were going now for the first time to California, although there were still some untried diggers, showing that the first passion for gold was yet burning in the heart of the people."
Section V. Gold Mania Satirized
Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California
New York: Kelloggs and Comstock; Buffalo: Ensign & Thayer,c. 1850
Hand-tinted lithograph. 12 x 8 in.
The gold mania of 1848 and 1849 inspired a number of satirical cartoons such as this comical print. The gold hunter is loaded down with every conceivable appliance much of which would be useless in California. The prospector wryly states: "I am sorry I did not follow the advice of Granny and go around the Horn, through the Straights, or by Chagres [Panama]." The Library possesses another version in black and white.
New York, c. 1849.
The caption for this humorous drawing reads: "An accurate drawing of the famous hill of gold, which has been put into a scow by the owner, and attached to a Sperm Whale who is now engaged in towing it around the Horn for New York." Nathan Currier, the famed American print maker, published this or a similar illustration as a lithograph in 1849.
Elton's Californian Comic All-My-Nack
New York: Elton, 1850
Wrappers. 36 p.
The subtitle of this humorous work reads: "Fun from the Hatlantic to the Specific Oceans." Elton's "All-My-Nack" is filled with words and scenes satirizing the gold mania in "Kaliforny."
Alfred Henry Forrester
A Good Natured Hint about California. By Alfred Crowquill
London: D. Bogue, 1849
Wrappers. 8 p.
This satirical English publication, through a series of cartoon-like scenes, chronicles the trip by "Mivins" to the gold fields, his inevitable trials and tribulations, and his joyous return home.
James A. and Donald F. Read
Journey to the Gold Diggings. By Jeremiah Saddlebags. Cincinnati: Stringer & Townsend, 1849. 64 p.
Noted Californiana collector, Thomas W. Norris wrote that the volume constitutes "the first record of, in typical American caricature, of the immense national effect produced by the great discovery of 1849." Saddlebags, in this amusing series of cartoons, came to California via the Isthmus of Panama and returned home overland, the opposite of most. Of course, he experiences wild adventures and barely escapes a variety of calamities.
Pen-Knife Sketches. Or Chips of the Old Block. A Series of Original Letters, Written by One of California's Pioneer Miners, and Dedicated to That Class of Her Citizens by the Author
Sacramento: Published at the Union Office, 1854. Second edition
Wrappers. 112 p.
According to historian Ezra Dane, Delano "was the first truly Californian man of letters, and no one has described or interpreted the human elements of the Gold Rush so sympathetically as he." The Union published 16,000 copies of the first edition of Delano's (Old Block) letters in 1853. Its success merited a second edition the following year. As with other Delano publications, the Union employed Thomas Armstrong to produce full-page wood engravings from drawings created by the great artist of the Gold Rush, Charles Nahl.
A Live Woman in the Mines; Or, Pike County Ahead! A Local Play in Two Acts. By "Old Block." To Which Are Added a Description of the Costume - Cast of Characters - Entrances and Exits - Relative Positions of the Performers on the Stage, and the Whole of the Stage Business.
New York: Samuel French, 1857
Wrappers. 36 p.
"Old Block," served as the nom-de-plume of Alonzo Delano. He based all the characters on people he had met in the mining country.
"Croquis Californiens, par Cham."
The French as much as the English and Americans poked fun at the gold mania. This page of two cartoons from the Parisian periodical Le Charivari depicts six miners and a giant crocodile hauling ingots of gold; the other scene shows a man preparing a box of women for export to California calling them an article in excessive demand.
"'A Few Days in the Diggins.' By a 'Free and Independent.'"
Punch, or, The London Charivari
Vol. XVI., 1849.
The English satirical periodical, Punch, published many wonderful cartoons and articles lampooning the gold fever. The main character "swopped my traps and blankets, a quarter cask of pickled port, and a demi-john of peach brandy for six pounds ginooine gold." A little later, and after much hard work, the trades his gold for a blanket, pickled pork, and brandy. Above this article is a cartoon depicting a large group of people hunting for gold in a variety of ridiculous positions. Also included is a full-page Punch cartoon entitled "A Regular Gold Dustman" that depicts an impoverished man with his children headed for "Kallifornier" where he plans to use a broom to sweep up the gold dust.
Album Californiano. Coleccion de Tipos Observados y Dibujudos por los Sres
[Augusto] Ferran y [José] Baturone
Habana, Cuba, c. 1849-1850
Ferran and Baturone produced what bibliographer R. W. G. Vail calls "the best representation of what the individual miners really looked like." The six illustrations on display form part of a series of twelve views originally issued in three parts. The prints more than likely depict Californians who had made their "pile" in the Gold Rush and stopped in Havana on their way home as the scenery is unlike anything found in California. Possibly, too, the artists imposed a stereotypical Hispanic setting on the miners. These "California types" drank, brawled, bought fine Havana cigars, road around in an elegant carriage, took their gold dust to an assay office, saw the sights, and had an all around good time.
Artist Augusto Ferran visited California from 1849-50, produced noteworthy paintings of California scenes, and then taught art in Havana. Baturone, unfortunately, remains an elusive figure.
Section VI. The Miners' Ten Commandments
The Miners' Pioneer Ten Commandments of 1849
Copyrighted 1887 by W. P. Bennett, Gold Hill Nevada
Kurz & Allison's Art Studio, Chicago, U. S. A.
Inspired by James Mason Hutchings' famous letter sheet, The Miners' Ten Commandments (1853), this beautifully colored 1887 print features 14 vignettes illustrating mining scenes, mining camps, seeing the elephant, a miner's dance, gamblers in a saloon, and crossing the plains. A version of Hutchings' text is included.
James Mason Hutchings
The Miners' Ten Commandments
Hutchings' letter sheet became a veritable best seller yielding sales of close to 100,000 copies. The Library also has variant copies and the companion letter sheet, Commandments to California Wives. The letter sheet included such pearls of wisdom as: "Thou shalt have no other claim than one"; "Thou shalt not remember what thy friends do at home on the Sabbath Day"; "Thou shalt not grow discouraged, nor think of going home before thou hast made thy 'pile'"; "Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a shovel, or a pan from thy fellow miner"; and "Thou shalt not tell any false tales about 'good diggings in the mountains.'" Vignettes surrounding the text illustrate each commandment. The center illustration is an elephant with its trunk pointing at the commandments.
Miners' Ten Commandments. A New Verse-Ion, Including a Preamble
San Francisco: Lithograph by Britton & Rey
Cadez Orion rewrote Hutchings' commandments with an expanded text and by-laws. Its central illustation consists of a Moses-like figure standing on top of an elephant holding the tablets. The other two illustrations depict a miner cooking and another washing in a stream with a shirt hanging from a tree.
Section VII. The World Rushed In: Part I
La Californie – Quadrille Brillant.
Paris: J. Meissonier fils, Editeurs, c. 1850.
Gold fever gripped much of Paris as documented by this colorful and satirical sheet music cover. A rather portly woman clutches bags of gold ingots to her breast while in the background a group of destitute-looking people are entering and exiting a California mine. The cover and music no doubt satirize the Parisian lotteries that awarded gold ingots in order to sell stock in French gold mining companies headed for California.
Travail en Californie.
Hand-colored lithograph, c. 1850. 8 x 11 in.
"Work in California" is one of a series of three beautifully colored French prints in the collection concerning the Gold Rush. The caption reads: "landing on this ground, all the workers seize their tools and search the soil in all directions; here, the rocks raised by the pickaxe, yield ingots of gold." The French may have been somewhat confused by the Sierra's vegetation as demonstrated by the tropical plants and trees in the print.
A. C. de la Carrières
Voyage aux Pays Aurifères Afrique, Mexique, Californie, Pérou, Chile, Nouvelle-Calédonies, Australie, Russie.
Paris: Libraire de A. Courcier, . 328 p.
The French author toured Northern California cities, towns, and mines. He described the various ethnic groups, told of the high prices, and when in San Francisco, commented on the hotels and the general violence that beset the Gold Rush port. The beautiful gold-stamped front cover depicts a Chinese and American miner in the diggings.
Guide Pratique des Émigrants en Californie et des Voyageurs dans L'Amerique Espagnole.
Paris: Adolphe René, 1849. 208 p.
Professor Rossignon, in this early French guidebook to the gold fields, gave advice on the long sea voyage as well as information on hygiene, food, luggage, and equipment. He also included information on gold washing and assaying.
La Californie Dévoilée.
Paris: Chez tous les Libraires, 1850.
Wrappers. 64 p.
Trény produced this pamphlet on behalf of the Paris-organized California Mining Company. The publication featured translations from English and American newspapers about the diggings, letters from French observers in California, and statutes of the mining company.
Jean Baptiste Joseph Champagnac
Le Jeune Voyageur en Californie. Récits Instructifs et Moraux Offrant des Détails Curieux sur Cette Région de L'Amérique et Sur les Coûtumes, Usages et Mours de Ses Habitants
Paris: Librairie de l'Enfance et de la Jeunesse, . 248 p.
Champagnac, in writing this novel with a California setting, included descriptions of the terrain, gold mining, and the region's diverse inhabitants. The novel is illustrated with several exquisite hand-tinted plates.
Patrick J. Stirling
De la Découerte des Mines D'or en Australie et en Californie.
Paris: Librairie de Guillaumin et Cie, 1853.
Wrappers. 269 p.
Stirling's discourse on the history gold and the impact of the gold discovery on California and Australia was translated into French from the English language edition.
Signed letter of William B. Peter to Mademoiselle Emile Holland
San Francisco, January 1, 1851.
Included with this pictorial letter sheet view of San Francisco is this fascinating French letter describing gambling. A translation of one paragraph reads as follows:
A sailor came back from the mines just a while ago with $6,000 piasters in gold. He ran to a gambling hall, threw his bag of gold on a Monte table shouting "Here's for Panama or back to the mines!", thus gambling on one card the fruit of his labor for the year-fortunately, luck smiled on him. He returned to N. York with $12,000.
Voyage en Californie. Description de Son Sol, de Son Climat, de Ses Mines D'or.
Brussels, 1849. 210 p.
Spurred by the gold discovery, Bryant's text was translated into several languages and published in several countries including Belgium, France, Sweden, and Australia. His What I Saw in California received praise as one of the best authorities on California. The author wrote his text prior to the gold discovery; later editions included information on the diggings culled from other sources.
Dr. Pierre Garnier
Voyage Médical en Californie.
Paris: Chez l'Auteur, 1854.
Wrappers. 43 p.
Dr. Garnier left for California from France on October 3, 1850, sailed around Cape Horn, and arrived at Monterey on April 7, 1851. The physician then went to San Francisco and toured the mines not to seek gold but to observe the health of the miners. He wrote of medical conditions and services in the cities, towns, and mining camps.
Californien's Gold – Reichthum.
Leipzig, Verlag von Gustav Thenau, 1849. 32 p.
Gustav Thenau began this effusive guidebook with these optimistic words: "Weg zum reichthum!" or, "Paths to riches!" He provided a detailed description of the country and the little-worked gold fields. Inexhaustible treasures, he contended, awaited the hands of man in California.
Kaliforniens Gold- U. Quecksilber-District.
Leipzig: Verlag v. Wilhelm Jurany, 1849. 32 p.
Gerstäcker's slender guide is open to a beautiful untitled map of Northern California showing the gold district. The German traveler gave information on recommended routes and what to expect upon arriving in San Francisco and the mines.
Mining & Miners, and Diggers & Priggers, by a Shareholder
London, 1854. 28 p.
This satirical piece is based on the experiences of the English who invested in California and Australian mines. "The Great Doo and Diddle, Gold, Silver, Copper, and Brass, Smash, Dash, & Crash Company" is the featured subject. It is embellished with 13 plates which presented a rather humorous view of gold mania.
Section VII. The World Rushed In: Part II
The San Francisco Quadrilles. Respectfully Dedicated to the Ladies of California by Their Admirer, George Peck
Lithographed by B. F. Butler
San Francisco: Atwill & Co., 1852
Shown on the front cover are the following scenes: Minerva and a California grizzly, gold seekers and their equipment, and ships rounding Cape Horn. Peck also wrote the first novel of the Gold Rush, Aurifodina. Several examples of Gold Rush sheet music are found in the Library's collection including The California Polka, Gold is King!, and Gold-Fever Gallop.
Auburn Ravine, c. 1852
Quarter plate daguerreotype
Attributed to J. B. Starkweather
The daguerrian made this view near the junction of the north and middle forks of the American River. It not only depicts a team of three men posing next to their long tom but also a rare woman in the mines. She is holding what looks like a basket of food. Miner's tools are strewn about the foreground.
Matilda Heron, Actress
Half plate daguerreotype
Heron achieved a measure of fame for her theatrical abilities. She first performed in San Francisco on December 26, 1853, and entertained audiences in Sacramento, Marysville, and Stockton. She married Henry Byrne, a prominent San Francisco attorney at Mission Dolores and retired from the theater. However, Matilda longed for the footlights and returned to acting, an action that so horrified Byrne that they separated.
Levi and Mary Hite Sanford
Quarter plate daguerreotype
Gold fever caused Levi Sanford to abandon his livelihood as a daguerreotypist and head to California via the Isthmus of Panama. He settled in Grass Valley in 1853. Mary Hite Sanford crossed the plains to California in 1853.
Articles of Agreement
Signed by Jacob P. Leese and Affon and witnessed by A. Shue, C. H. Brinley, and Henry Anthon, Jr., acting Vice Consul United States of America, Victoria, Hong Kong
July 28, 1849
With the gold discovery, laborers of all kinds deserted their jobs and headed for the diggings. Jacob P. Leese, a prominent pioneer living in Monterey, needed a cook, and because of the scarcity of labor in California, entered into an agreement to bring over a cook all the way from Hong Kong. Affon, the cook, agreed to work for Leese for three years. As compensation for his services, Affon received a wage of $15.00 per month, and lodging, provisions, and food.
Gum Shan Meets El Dorado
Head of Auburn Ravine, c. 1852
Quarter plate daguerreotype by J. B. Starkweather
This quarter plate captures a moment of international cooperation whereby a team of three Caucasians are working a sluicing operation alongside a team of four Chinese. The image is one of the earliest photographs to show Chinese miners. By the end of 1848, only seven Chinese were known to be in California. By the mid 1850s, over 20,000 made a living in the gold country which they called Gum Shan (gold mountain).
St. Louis, [Sierra County], c. 1855
Artist unknown. 13 x 19 in
Created by a skilled but unknown draftsman, this drawing depicts two Chinese men on a road with the town in the background. In the foreground is a flume. The hills have been cleared of timber. St. Louis was on the road between La Porte and Howland Flat and flourished in the early 1850s.
J. B. Gilman [master] and Thomas Gilman [slave]
Signed bill of sale
August 2, 1852
As recorded by this remarkable document, the slave Thomas purchased his freedom from J. B. Gilman of Tennessee. For $1,000, Gilman "liberated and released the said slave from further servitude or bondage." Thomas Gilman then lived and farmed at Shaw's Flat, Tuolumne County until 1911. Southerners brought approximately 200 to 300 slaves to work the mines, but California's admission as a free state helped terminate the practice.
Life and Adventures of James Williams, a Fugitive Slave
San Francisco: Women's Union Print, 1874. Third edition. 124 p.
Williams published one of the most extraordinary recollections of the Gold Rush. He headed for California from New York on March 31, 1851, abandoned ship at the Isthmus of Panama, and made it to Sacramento on May 15. After working several jobs, he operated a restaurant and "kept it for the entertainment of the whites." After suffering an attack by whites on a Sacramento River boat, he left California and then came back. Williams' recollections were self-published and the author made a living in part by selling copies of his book. He produced five editions.
African American Miner Working a Long Tom, c. 1852
Quarter plate daguerreotype
Attributed to J. B. Starkweather
By 1852, when Starkweather probably made this mirror image, African Americans who worked in the mines either purchased or were given their freedom. Notice the canvas hose supplying water to his long tom. Starkweather probably made this image in the Auburn Ravine area.
Louise Clappe (Dame Shirley)
"Letters from the Mines."
The Pioneer, January 1854
Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, known as Dame Shirley, wrote 23 letters to her sister in Massachusetts from the California mines. Collectively, they rank as perhaps the most important and famous eyewitness account of life in the diggings. Ferdinand C. Ewer, the editor of California's first magazine, The Pioneer, published one Dame Shirley letter in each number of his magazine from January 1854 to December 1855. T. C. Russell, in 1922, published her letters in book form. Dame Shirley, Eliza Farnham, Dolly Bates, Margaret Ann Frink, and Luzena Wilson produced some of the most colorful and vivid accounts of a society dominated by men.
View of George H. Goddard Claim in Gulch near Columbia, Tuolumne County
c. 1850 By George H. Goddard.
8 x 14 in.
This sketch by Goddard delineates his mining claim and shows a sluicing operation with three miners and a rocker. It illustrates the back breaking teamwork needed to dig and wash gold. A tent and two cabins are in the background.
Kezia Darwin Benton Curtis Receipt [Recipe] Book
1851. 60 p.
The Gold Rush presented many opportunities for women, and Kezia did a lucrative business selling pies and pastries to the miners. She also managed a store at Tuttletown. Her recipe book reveals a versatile pioneer woman prepared to serve as cook, pharmacist, brewer, and even cleaning supply or cosmetic manufacturer as the occasion demanded. Interspersed with recipes for cake frosting and grape jam are recipes to treat small pox and diphtheria and recipes to relieve rheumatism and "putrid sore throat." The resourceful Mrs. Curtis recorded formulas, as well, for making hair dye, cleaning black silk, and mixing up cologne water. Everything was made from scratch including this custard dish:
Let a quart of milk to boil, then stir it into the beaten yolk of six eggs; flavor with lemon of rose, and sweeten to taste; whip whites of the eggs to a strong froth. When the custard is thick, put it into a deep dish, and heap the frothed eggs upon it. Serve Cold.
Mrs. Curtis of New York penned this slender record of an eight-month trip to California via Cape Horn in 1850. Kezia married Bradner Curtis on September 23, 1849. Touched with gold fever, the newlyweds embarked for California in December 1850. Two days after reaching San Francisco in July 1851, the couple located at Mormon Gulch near Tuttletown, Tuolumne County. Kezia lived to the age of 101 years, 6 months and 28 days.
The Life of Our Savior
New Haven. 8 p.
This toy book, a mere 2 3/4 by 1 ½ inches, was owned by Dame Shirley. The inside wrapper of this devotional is signed "Louise A. Clapp."
Section VIII. An Instant City: Sacramento
Ville de Sacramento, Californie
Paris, Auguste Bry
12 x 19 in.
A French publisher put out his own version of George V. Cooper's birds-eye view of Sacramento. Represented in this exquisite print is the embarcadero of Sacramento just one year after the founding of the city. Four sailing vessels, the steamship Senator, row boats, and scows dramatically portray the hustle and bustle of the Gold Rush port. On shore, the view depicts wagons, people, and animals hauling goods. The streets are lined with many new buildings including saloons, gambling houses, stores, hotels, and a theater. Over 50 versions of Cooper's view exist.
Vol. I, No. 4
For the fortnight ending August 30, 1851
"Sacramento has been the theatre of scenes which we hope will never again be repeated," wrote William Godwin, editor of the Sacramento News-Letter. Godwin devoted this issue to the hanging of three criminals, Robinson, Thompson, and Gibson vigilante style by the local citizenry. The paper also included the confessions of the doomed men. Robinson, a notorious scamp and self-confessed murderer and robber, expressed regret that he would be executed for a small infraction and not one of his big crimes.
Proclamation to the People of Sacramento City by Order of President and City Council
Sacramento City, October 1, 1849.
Sacramento City experienced some difficulties in establishing its municipal government. The gambling houses, preferring a government-less town, banded together and defeated the first proposed charter on September 13, 1849. The next month, the city council issued this broadside asking the people for a charter and direction. Otherwise, the council would continue to enforce Mexican law. Finally, the people of Sacramento voted for a charter and city government became established. The State Legislature officially granted Sacramento its charter on February 27, 1850.
Laying of Cornerstone, [First Church of Christ]. Hymn of Rev. Benton
September 4, 1850. 2 p.
The First Church of Christ, owing to Rev. Joseph A. Benton's powerful leadership and the lack of denominationalism on the part of his faith, emerged as the city's leading Protestant church. The introduction of such solid symbols of stability as a church brought a civilizing influence to a community known for its devotion to gambling and consumption of spirits. On the verso of this document are notes for a sermon he preached at the laying of the cornerstone. In a different building, his church continues today as Pioneer Congregational Church, standing across from the gates of Sutter's Fort.
J. Horace Culver
The Sacramento City Directory
Sacramento City: Transcript Press, 1851
Printed wrappers. 96 p.
Horace Culver published Sacramento's first general directory, and it came into print just two years after the city's founding and lists such key names as Huntington and Hopkins. Sacramento, at the time, boasted a population of about 7,000 with 3,000 transients. Culver wrote: "In a City like Sacramento, where whole blocks of buildings are erected in the course of a single week, and where Merchants change their location monthly, it cannot be expected that the same degree of accuracy will prevail as marks works of a like character in old and established cities."
Specification of the Manner of Constructing the Levee around Sacramento City
Autographed and filled in by hand
August 26, 1851. 4 p.
Situated on low land and surrounded by rivers, flooding ravaged Sacramento on a frequent basis and "The Great Inundation" of January 1850 destroyed much of the city. In order to hold back the rivers, city voters approved a general assessment to construct a levee. The document on display records the bid of a group of individuals to satisfy this crying need. Floods in 1852 and 1853, however, proved that early efforts failed miserably turning the city into "an aquatic carnival."
J Street, Sacramento, on New Year's Day, 1853
Autographed letter of Dr. John F. Morse to His Mother
Sacramento, January 28, 1853. 4 p.
Dr. Morse, Sacramento's first historian, used this letter sheet to show the flooding that besieged his city that year. He wrote: "You will perceive that on the first page of this sheet is a view of our city just after the fire and at the time that our streets were submerged. We have been dreadfully afflicted both by fire and water and yet our citizens seem as gay, as elastic and bold in enterprise as ever." The letter sheet is based on a daguerreotype by R. H. Vance.
Sacramento's First Historian: Dr. John F. Morse
Sixth plate daguerreotype by George H. Johnson
Dr. Morse produced the first narrative history of the Gold Rush city for publication in Samuel Colville's The Sacramento Directory for the Year 1853-54. The physician observed: "Miners came to town freighted with bags of gold, which they stored away as indifferently as they did their hats and boots." Johnson was a pioneer Sacramento photographer.
Edmund L. Barber & George H. Baker
Sacramento: Barber & Baker, 1855
Wrappers. 36 p.
Thirty-three wood engravings of Sacramento and its environs embellish this work. It ranks as one of the earliest pictorial histories of any Western American city and represents the only systematic view of the river city during the golden 1850s. All the major buildings and streets are featured as well as panoramic views of the embarcadero area. The publishers used several of the same illustrations for letter sheets. Barber and Baker originally sold their book for one dollar per copy.
George Holbrook Baker
Sacramento City, July 1849
Baker, with this sketch, produced one of the earliest known views of the new city and its embarcadero. Benjamin T. Martin, one of Sacramento City's first residents and owner of two stores, commissioned the work. He instructed the artist: "Come Baker, row off into the stream [the Sacramento River] and make a sketch of the city." Baker reproduced this sketch for a letter sheet and his great book, Sacramento Illustrated (1855). Years later, New England artist George Frost transformed his sketch into an oil on canvas painting which now hangs in the California State Librarian's office.
Receipt for sale of lots to John Bidwell from Captain John A. Sutter
Suttersville. July 7, 1848. 1 p.
The beginnings of Sutter's plan to found a new town southwest of his fort and south of his embarcadero is recorded with this sales receipt of lots sold to Bidwell for one dollar. However, with the influx of gold seekers and the cunning of Sam Brannan, the founding of nearby Sacramento City doomed Sutter's dream. This remarkable documents includes the signatures of Sutter, pioneer George McKinstry, guidebook writer Lansford Hastings, and pioneer newspaperman, Edward C. Kemble.
Section IX. The Northern Mines
A Complete Map of the Feather & Yuba Rivers with Towns, Ranches, Diggings, Roads, Distances
Compiled from the Recent Surveys of M. Milleson & R. Adams C. Engineers
Marysville: R. A. Eddy Book & Stationer, 1851
Lithograph. 16 x 21 in.
Carl Wheat, in his monumental Maps of the California Gold Region wrote the following concerning this rare map: "For the first time the rapidly expanding 'northern diggins' were accorded adequate cartographical expression, and numerous place names made their first appearance upon Eddy's well constructed map." Note the vignette of Eddy's Marysville book store.
Transportation of passengers and supplies to the mines by river developed rapidly as demonstrated by this rare broadside. The steamer Linda included the town of Eliza on her route. Named for Captain Sutter's daughter, Anna Eliza, the town was founded on the Feather River near Sutter's Hock Farm. Its developers hoped to displace Marysville and Yuba City as the head of navigation for the northern mines. Eliza, however, quickly failed.
THE FOUNDING OF MARYSVILLE
Numbers of the Lots which the Undersigned Have Unanimously Agreed to Take for Themselves in the New City of Jubaville
c. October 1849. 1 p.
The sale of lots as recorded in this manuscript, documents the beginnings of the most prominent town north of Sacramento. Charles Covillaud, a Frenchman, with Jose M. Ramirez, John Sampson, and Theodore Sicard formed a partnership known as Covillaud & Co. to purchase the original land grant of Theodore Cordua. Located at the head of steamboat navigation at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers, the town rivaled its neighbor, Yuba City. Its founders originally called the town Jubaville and then Yubaville but in January 1850, changed its name to the less confusing Marysville, named in honor of Covillaud's wife, Mary Murphy Covillaud. She was also a survivor of the Donner Party.
Section X. Scenes in the Life of the California Miner
The Miner's Progress; or, Scenes in the Life of a California Miner. Being a Series of Humorous Illustrations of the "Ups and Downs" of a Gold Digger in Pursuit of His "Pile." Pictorial Union
Sacramento. July 4, 1853
The Sacramento Union published this same series of eleven wood engravings in 1853 as a pamphlet. Alonzo Delano, California's pioneer humorist, produced the satirical verse and noted artist Charles Nahl supplied the illustrations.
LETTERS OF GOLD
--THE PICTORIAL LETTER SHEET--
A phenomenon that grew out of the run for gold was the creation of a unique California stationery. The letter sheet consisted of a light-weight blue, gray, or white writing paper embellished with a woodcut or lithograph. Produced primarily in the 1850s, California artists and publishers produced nearly 350 examples. Because of this union of pictures with stationery, historians call the letter sheet the forerunner of the postcard. Common subjects included mining scenes, mining camps and towns, cities, natural wonders, and events such as fires, and the workings of the vigilance committees. Ironically, few letter sheets were used for their intended purpose: letter writing, as most were saved as mementoes.
Sundry Amusements in the Mines
Lithographed & Published by Quirot & Co., San Francisco
Four scenes are depicted on this letter sheet: "A Sundays Amusement" (two miners washing and another soaking his feet), "A Daily Pleasure" (miners cooking in their cabin), "Occupation for Rainy Days" (miners in a tent repairing boots and sewing clothes), and "A Pleasant Surprise" (two men discover a bear warming himself in their tent).
Sunday Morning [top]; Log Cabin [Bottom]
Lithographed and Published by Britton & Rey, San Francisco
The upper view shows one miner in a tent and another lying on the grass reading a book or letter. The lower view depicts two miners standing in front of a cabin with enormous logs.
Scenes in a Miner's Life
Lithographed & Published by Britton & Rey, San Francisco
Six semi-humorous scenes are delineated: "Night in the log Cabin," "Camping out," "Going to Work," "Hole gives out," "New diggings Struck," and "Next day." The last two scenes show a beehive of activity and then a miner surveying an empty scene.
Section XI. Making a Pile
Map of the Mining District
William A. Jackson
New York: Lambert & Lane, 1851
Hand colored lithograph. 16 x 20 in.
Cartographic historians regard this as one of the most important maps of the mining districts. This hand-tinted map updates Jackson's 1850 publication and not only includes ornate borders but also much more detail especially for the Southern Mines. Interestingly, Jackson extends the Sierra as far west as Marysville. Jackson supplemented his map with an appendix describing new towns, delineations of county boundaries, and descriptions of placer and "vein mines."
Letter of George McKinstry to C. L. Ross
New Helvetia, July 1, 48.
McKinstry, an employee of John Sutter and associate of John Bidwell, returning from the mountains after an eight day expedition, describes in this early letter his unsuccessful efforts to find gold on the Yuba River and the South Fork of the Feather River in sufficient quantity for "working machines" and Indian laborers. He went on to say "if a suitable place could be found, Mr. Bidwell and myself could probably bring two hundred Indians in the field." McKinstry concluded that "mining is too severe for my constitution" and that "it requires the strength of an Irish canal digger." He thought he could make much more money selling goods to the miners. Bidwell himself found gold on the Middle Fork of the Feather River that same month.
The Gold District [of] California. Mining Operations on the Western Shore of the Sacramento River
New York: Kelloggs & Comstock, c. 1850
12 x 17 in.
This cartoon-like print illustrates early mining techniques when gold hunters used such simple devices as picks, shovels, pans, and baskets to find placer (surface) gold. During the first year of the Gold Rush, many pioneers including James Marshall, John Sutter, and P. B. Reading employed California Indians in the mines as a cheap labor force. Several Indian miners are shown in this print. In 1849 and 1850, thousands of gold seekers poured in from the eastern United States and these more numerous newcomers objected to the practice of using Indian labor as unfair and as a threat to their safety. Consequently, they forced the Indians out of the mines.
Painted and Drawn on Stone by Charles Nahl and A. Wenderoth
Lithograph of B. F. Butler, San Francisco
Copyrighted by C. A. Shelton, 1852.
Riding horseback with a wash pan hanging from the saddle, wearing a pistol and knife, carrying a rifle, and pulling a provision-laden mule, this well-equipped miner appears to be on his way to the diggings. The print is based on a drawing by Nahl and Wenderoth and must be regarded as one of the finest depictions of a California gold seeker.
Miners [sic] Coat of Arms
Lithographed & Published by Britton & Rey, San Francisco
Shown on this thin writing paper are an assortment of implements and objects common to a miner's life: wash pan, pick, shovel, rocker, axe, rifle, pistol, scales, cooking utensils, playing cards, cigar, worn boots, and hats. In the middle, however, is that ubiquitous companion, the flea. The lower portion of this letter sheet depicts four miners in a cabin playing cards.
Lithographed & Published by Quirot & Co., San Francisco
This spectacular letter sheet depicts a group of miners working a windlass with buckets into an opening in the ground probably for a coyoting operation. In the background of this rocky terrain are more miners engaged in a similar operation with one carrying a bucket of water.
Miners at Work with Long Toms
San Francisco: Justh & Quirot, c. 1851
The top image of this pictorial letter sheet depicts miners shoveling earth and gravel into long toms with their cabins in the background. The middle image is a classic of the miner with his tools. The bottom image, however, shows a stereotypical Indian chief from the Great Plains rather than California.
Instructions for Collecting, Testing, Melting and Assaying Gold
New-York: Edward N. Kent, 1848
Wrappers. 40 p.
Kent produced one of the earliest how-to books "for the use of persons who are about to visit the gold region of California." In the preface, he wrote: "During the present intense excitement relative to the immense amount of gold found in California, I have had frequent and anxious inquiries for the necessary apparatus and instructions desirable, to ensure success in searching for gold, platina and mercury." The title page carries the date of 1848 and the wrapper title the date of 1849.
Journal of Joseph Pike
April 1, 1850 to December 29, 1851. 130 p.
Joseph Pike of Lake County, Illinois left for the diggings on April 15, 1850, and arrived in Georgetown, California on August 19, 1850. His journal details an arduous life in the mines. Frequently, he mentioned how many buckets of dirt he washed per day. A religious man, Pike decried the lack of morals in the land of gold. In the following entry for September 19, 1851, Pike reflects on one year in the diggings:
Today worked back near the race got $22.50. Today I have been here one year in the mines[.] have enjoyed life in various forms been a great deal of hard times as well as considerable prosperity and good times if a life in this dreary region can be called good.
On the Sabbath (the 21st), he noted:
A windy day otherwise pleasant[.] Spent it alone and as usual in reading and thinking when will I enjoy the privileges of my family and society in a Christian land.
Life in the Mountains: Or Four Months in the Mines of California
Providence: E. P. Weston, 1854
Wrappers. 36 p.
Weston produced one of the better accounts of a gold hunter. He began his narrative on April 10, 1853 in Sacramento. He then proceeded to Kelly's Bar, where he described a dreadful, one-sided battle against the local Indians. He later joined a mining company on the South Fork of the Feather River for the purpose of turning the river but met with little success.
El Dorado or Adventures in the Path of Empire
New York: George P. Putnam;
London: Richard Bentley, 1850
2 vols. xii, 251; 248 p.
Both volumes are open to the title pages and frontispiece illustrations to demonstrate the remarkable growth of San Francisco in just one year. The color plate for volume one is entitled: "San Francisco in November, 1848"; the second volume is entitled "San Francisco in November, 1849." Taylor's work, arguably the most important Gold Rush book, sold thousands of copies and went through many reprintings including several foreign language and pirated (stolen) editions.
According to Erwin G. Gudde, California Gold Camps, "The place is so named because counterfeiters operated here." No gold was found. These "daguerreotypes on glass" illustrate the gullibility of the miners as they rushed off to new claims in response to rumors of rich strikes.
View of Coloma, The Place Where the First Gold Was Discovered
Published by Forrest & Borden
Letter of Jared Comstock Brown to his father, Charles Brown
Coloma, August 11, 1851. 4 p.
Many new arrivals to California made money by providing services to the miners. Jared Brown, for example, never found time to look for gold as he made his "pile" by plying his trade as a blacksmith. He told his father that he sometimes made $70 a day, a healthy wage even in those inflationary times. In this detailed letter, he writes:
I send you this plate of Coloma[.] You will find the mill down on the river to the right hand where gold was first discovered and on the left hand on the hill is the jail I have done over. 8 hundred dollars worth of work on it. . . . My shop is in the centre of the town [.] This small place has created all the excitement through the world for gold[.] Thousands of all nations are here[,] thousands of Chinese.
Letter of J. Norris to Miss E. Norris
Sacramento City, Cal. June 23, 1852. 4 p.
Norris, in writing to his sister, evidently was short of paper as he wrote over his letter in another direction. A letter such as this must have both delighted and frightened his sister. On one hand, he tells her of the beauty of California and that "California has already made some noise in [the] world." In contrast, he gave a detailed list of the "disasters, duels, murders, suicides, lynchings etc. that has come under my notice within the past two or three weeks. Sixteen men hung; four for stealing oxen; four for horses; two for money; two for shooting their wives . . . a man was shot in placer for stealing a horse, a doctor cut his head off immediately and carried it off in a bag for dissection."
California Diggings - Mormon Island
By Hiram Dwight Pierce
Pierce, according to his diary, reached Mormon Island on the South Fork of the American River on September 4, 1849. He wrote, "The scenery at the river is wild to the extreme." The drawing shows Pierce and five others digging, panning, and working a rocker. According to Pierce, about 100 men were at work at the diggings making about $10 per day. The Library possesses a fine collection of his Gold Rush letters. He wrote most of them to his wife from Washington Flat and Long Canyon, Mariposa County.
Section XII. Mining Companies
Mining Claim, Snow Point, Nevada County
October 15, 1853
[autographed bill of sales] 4 p.
For the sum of $1,000 John Mulcahy obtained partial interest in a mining claim owned by J. E. Lorrer & Company. The purchase also included the right to one sixth of all the water owned by Lorrer's company. This legal document further recorded conditions of payment. In April 1854, Mulcahy sold his claim to two others for $1,500, and they in turn, sold their interest in the claim to three other partners the following month for $2,000! These other two transactions are recorded on this same document.
Articles of Incorporation: Yreka Water Company, Siskiyou County
October 28, 1853. 4 p.
A gold strike at Yreka Flats in 1851 brought miners by the thousands to the area. It became one of the leading hydraulic mining centers, and supplying water to the miners was a vital business. According to this manuscript the object of the company "shall be to construct a race, or flume, or both, for the purpose of conducting water from the Shasta River, or from any of its branches, through Shasta Valley, in Siskiyou County, by the most elligible [sic] route, to the mines along said route, and to those above and below Yreka City."
This volume documents the beginnings of legal authority in Chinese Camp in Tuolumne County. At the first meeting held on September 17, 1850, the miners elected Isaac Caps as alcalde and Samuel G. Chamberlain as sheriff and adopted seven rules and regulations governing mining claims.
Prospectus for the Sonora Gold Mining Company
April 28, 1852. 4 p.
This printed circular serves as an excellent example of the heavy Wall Street capitalization needed to support the mines as they became highly mechanized. The principal operations of the mines centered on the celebrated Cliff Vein, situated in the city of Sonora. The company stated: "The real treasures of Gold Deposits are yet to be found in the Quartz formations." The prospectus states that fifty horse-power steam engines had already been installed and that an ore stamper of the "most improved and durable construction" was being shipped.
American Quicksilver Company of California
New-York: Pudney & Russell, Printers, 1849
Wrappers. 28 p.
This document is regarded as the first promotional publication of a California mining company. The company's prospectus begins by extolling the richness of the California mines and the importance of quicksilver to the Gold Rush. The company was located near the New Almaden Mine in Santa Clara County.
Anglo-American Gold Mining Company. Report of Capt. Sir Henry Vere Huntley, R.N. Chief Superintendent
Wrappers. 8 p.
Sir Henry Vere Huntley, an Englishman and chief superintendent of the mining company, wrote this report which focused on the stamp mills of the Mariposa and Agua Fria mines and the quartz veins claimed by John C. Frémont.
Constitution of the Young America Mining Company. Town of White Rock, Butte County
New York, 1854
Plain wrappers. 8 p.
The shareholders formed the company for the purposes of mining by means of flumes on the Feather River and raised capital stock in the amount of $40,000. Typical of many mining company constitutions, this publication consisted of 15 sections and was incorporated on October 24, 1854. The Library's copy is signed "French Paige Esq. Bidwell, Nov 1, 1854."
Charter of the Grass Valley Gold Mining Company, Organized July 25, 1851, under the General Incorporation Act of California. Together with Extracts from the Law, and Various Documents Illustrating the Business of Quartz Mining
New York, 1852
Wrappers. 50 p.
Formed for the business of quartz mining, this charter well illustrates the transition from solitary gold seeking to the need for capitalization in order to purchase the equipment and labor needed to extract gold. A notice of the press from the New York Herald brought up another important advantage of these companies: "Many of those who contemplate going to California would, probably, realize more gold, and immensely less suffering and mortification, by investing the money it will cost them to go and return, in some well managed company." The first quartz mine in California went into operation in Grass Valley in 1851.
- Gary Kurutz, Curator of Special Collections, California State Library
- Vickie Lockhart, Visual Resource Librarian, California History, CSL
- Lois Shumaker, Imaging Service for Northern California Libraries
- Anthony Martinez, Student Researcher, ISNCL
- John Jewell, California Research Bureau, CSL
- Jennifer Fields, CRB Student Researcher, CSL
- Mike Wong, CRB Programmer, CSL
- Hau Ngo, Asst. CRB Programmer, CSL
- Tung Vu, Asst. CRB Programmer, CSL