Introduction | Discovery | The Journey | In the Diggings and Towns | Those Who Came
Those Who Stayed Behind | Gold Rush Women | Families | Framed Art

N. A. Chandler
Letter from Michigan Hill to J. M. Chandler.
July 4 and 11, 18--.

The illustrated letter sheet was sold to miners for their correspondence. This particular sample, called Miner's Life.--Illustrated, shows scenes from the gold fields. At the bottom of the right hand page is the quote that has become the title for our March exhibit. It remains unclear where Michigan Hill was located, although references to Marysville and Rough and Ready would indicate a location in the northern mines.

Britton & Rey
The Miners. Lithograph.
San Francisco, n.d.

The miners are pumping water into a flume. Moving water to particular sites was a major occupation of miners. Among the miners are two Native American workers. This lithograph was probably based on a daguerreotype similar to the one displayed below.

Hard Rock Miners in Rocky Gulch in Mother Lode.
Daguerreotype, photographer unknown, ca. 1849.

The physical labor associated with mining in California discouraged many would-be gold seekers. The five miners in this daguerreotype are using a block and tackle with a boom to move large boulders.

H. T. Smith
Map of the Gold Districts of New California.
Westminster: McCabe Litho., 1849.

This relief map of the California gold districts is hand colored. Carl Wheat, in his Maps of the California Gold Region,states that, "This interesting map is based almost wholly on Frémont. Gold districts are shown from the Feather River on the north to approximately the Kings River on the south."

Ben Bowen
Diary and notebook.

Ben Bowen began this diary on his nineteenth birthday, Sunday, September 3, 1854. He had come to California two years earlier with his father and brother. Their first mining activity took place at Volcano, but shortly thereafter they moved to the mining camp of Fort John. The diary contains a young man's view of the daily activities of the gold rush. The diary is opened to one of the pages where he tallies the gold recovered by their family mine operation. Also of interest is his account of an Indian burial which he attended in the vicinity of their mine.

George H. Johnson
Daguerreotype of mining operations near Grizzly Flat.

This daguerreotype shows the extensive construction already present in the mines of California in 1849. The day of picking gold up out of the streams was being replaced by the reality of the hard work and extensive capital needed to mine the gold. George Johnson had a studio located on J Street in Sacramento during 1849.

Justh & Quirot Lithographers
Donnieville at the Forks of the North Yuba River.
San Francisco: 1850.

Letter sheets were published by various firms in California and sold to the miners for their correspondence. This sheet depicts an early view of the mining town of Downieville, which later became the county seat of Sierra County. Named in the spring of 1850, by the next year it had over 5000 inhabitants. A. H. T. of San Francisco has added the location of a dam and the words "Titcomb & Co's" to this sheet, possibly indicating the location of a claim.

Justh & Co.
Placerville (Hangtown) El Dorado Co. Cal.
San Francisco: 1851.

Gudde refers to Placerville as the third of the important gold sites to be located. Gold was discovered on Weber's Creek (now Hangtown Creek) shortly after the original discovery at Sutter's Mill and the related discovery at Mormon Bar. Originally called Dry Diggings and later Hangtown, Placerville became the official name on April 4, 1850 with the establishment of a United States Post Office. It was in Placerville that J. M. Studebaker, a blacksmith, and Philip D. Armour, a butcher, acquired their initial capital.

Briton & Rey
Sundry Amusements in the Mines.
San Francisco: n.d.

One of the functions of the pictorial letter sheet was to allow the letter writer to inform the people back home of the conditions in California. Although many of these sheets illustrate a humorous attitude towards life in the mines, the difficulty and hard labor of the miner's life can be seen in the grim expressions pictured in these scenes.

Quirot & Co.
View of Agua Fria Town.
San Francisco: n.d.

Agua Fria, Mariposa County, was named after two springs on Agua Fria Creek, which flows into Mariposa Creek. Located west of the town of Mariposa, Agua Fria received a post office on October 7, 1851. It was one of the early gold towns established on the Mariposa Grant owned by John C. Frémont.

R. A. Eddy, Publisher
View from the North Side of the Plaza, Marysville.
Wood Engraving: Prior to August 30, 1851.

Marysville, Yuba County, became a major center of commerce in the Sacramento Valley. Never a gold mining town, although some unsuccessful attempts were made at dredging, Marysville played an important role in supporting the northern mines. During the rainy winter months Marysville served as a haven for the miners who left the mine towns in the hills and mountains.

C. Langdon, Del.
Ophir, Placer County and View of Auburn, Placer County. Lithograph: n. d.

Ophir was one of many towns named after the Biblical land of gold. Originally called Spanish Corral, the name was changed in 1850 to Ophir. With the establishment of the post office on March 24, 1852 the name was again changed, this time to Ophirville due to the fact that another Ophir, Mariposa County, already had the post office name. Discovery of gold on May 16, 1848 at the site of Auburn makes it one of the oldest gold rush towns in California. It was named after Auburn, New York in August of 1849.

Riverbed Mining Site, ca. 1850s.

The long wooden flumes shown in this picture were used to separate the gold from the gravel. Water flowing through the flumes washed the gravel away, while the heavy gold settled to the bottom. At regular intervals the flow of water would be diverted and the gold removed from the flume.

A. Coquardon, Del.
A Correct View of Weaverville, Trinity Co., Cal.
San Francisco: Britton & Rey Litho., n.d.

Rich finds on Weaver Creek in the Spring of 1850 led to the founding of Weaverville. In the foreground, open pits and trenches for the removal of the gold bearing gravel can be seen.

Britton & Rey
Scenes in a Miners [sic] Life. Lithograph.
San Francisco, n.d.

This pictorial letter sheet portrays the ongoing cycle of boom and bust in the California gold rush camps. Played out hundreds of times during the period of 1848 to 1860, a new strike would empty out the existing camps where most miners had not been successful. Camps and towns with populations of hundreds and sometimes thousands would become ghost towns overnight.

Britton & Rey
A Prospecting Party. Lithograph.
San Francisco: issued prior to April 8, 1855.

Taking a humorous look at the trials of prospecting, this pictorial letter sheet begins with the well supplied and vigorous party starting out on their search for gold. It ends with the returning party missing large and revealing pieces of their clothes and without their valuable equipment.

Britton & Rey
[Miner's Life]. Lithograph.
San Francisco: n. d.

This rather serious look at the miner's life portrays four scenes of life in the mines. In the upper left corner, one miner uses a pan to wash the gold from the gravel. In the upper right corner, one miner lowers another into a pit where the gravel is dug. In the lower left corner, a miner pours water into what appears to be a rocker. In the lower right corner, two miners prepare their meal.

James M. Hutchings
Hutchings' California Scenes--Methods of Mining.
Wood engraving. San Francisco, 1855.

One of a series of pictorial letter sheets published by James M. Hutchings, Methods of Mining illustrates all of the major types of gold mining being done in California by 1855. Four of the illustrations on this sheet were done by one of the most prominent artists working in California during the gold rush, Charles Christian Nahl.

Paul Emmert
Settlement in the Mines.
Drawing, wash, ca. 1850.

Paul Emmert was born in Switzerland in 1826 and was living in New York by 1845. He joined the rush to California in 1849, and by early the next year he had enough art work to mount an exhibition in Brooklyn. After returning to California for a time, Emmert left for Hawaii, where he is said to have produced his most famous work. He died in Hawaii in 1867.

Thomas Anderson
Letter to his parents from the California mines.
February 17, 1850.

In writing home to his parents, Thomas Anderson covered many of the topics seen over and over in correspondence from the gold fields. He worries about not hearing from them. He complains about the high price of goods in California. He comments about the vagaries of where the gold is found. On the second page he relates a story that illustrates the conflict between the indigenous population and the miners: to the California Native Americans a mule was just another large edible animal grazing on their lands, but to the miners it was private property.

Henry Box Brown
Entrance to Quartz Mine at Gold Hill, Grass Valley.
Pencil sketch, Grass Valley, ca. 1852.

Henry Box Brown was hired by U. S.-Mexico Boundary Commissioner John Bartlett to sketch scenes on the Sacramento River and its tributaries for his report. Brown produced a large number of drawings of the rivers, the mines, and the Native Americans. Gold Hill in Grass Valley, Nevada County, was a very rich quartz mining area that produced well into the late nineteenth century.

John M. Letts
California Illustrated: Including a Description of the Panama and Nicaragua Routes by a Returned California.
New York: William Holdredge, Publisher, 1852.

On January 27, 1849, John Letts sailed from New York City on board the bark Marietta for Chagres, Panama. Crossing the Ithmus of Panama, Lett embarked on the Pacific side for San Francisco. He arrived on July 5, 1849. Accompaning Letts was an artist, G. V. Cooper, whose profuse drawings illustrate the book. The book is open to a drawing of the artist and the author in a mining camp. Letts left California for period of time to explore Nicaragua, returned to San Francisco and then returned to the east coast by way of Panama.

George W. Edelman
Guide to the Value of California Gold.
New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1850.

George Edelman was an accountant with the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Edelman published this booklet in response to "the frequent inquiries made at the Mint" as to the nature and value of the California gold. The first deposits were made at the Mint on December 18, 1848 and the total at the time of publication amounted to $11,420,000. Edelman declares that the "mines of California are considered almost inexhaustible" and that the amounts deposited will increase as more people venture to California.

Jacob R. Eckfeldt & William E. Du Bois
New Varieties of Gold and Silver Coins, Counterfeit Coins, and Bullion; with Mint Values.
Philadelphia: By the Authors, 1850.

The authors of this booklet were assayers of the United States Mint at Philadelphia. Privately printed, the authors published this update of their 1842 publication due to changes in tariffs at the Mint, the apparently large number of counterfeit coins that had appeared, and the discovery of gold in California. It covers the coinage of the world in some detail, including the new Mormon coins which had just arrived in Philadelphia. The booklet is open to a page which contains a sample of gold.

Edward N. Kent
Instructions for Collecting, Testing, Melting and Assaying Gold...Illustrated with 30 Wood Engravings, and Arranged for the Use of Persons Who Are About to Visit The Gold Regions of California.
New York: Edward N. Kent, 1849.

Edward Kent, Practical Chemist, wrote this pamphlet in response to the great number of requests that he had received for information on how to distinguish real gold from worthless ores. Chapter Two contains a list of materials that are needed for testing, along with a description of the testing methods.

Joseph W. Booth
Diary recording his life as a miner on the Feather River.
February 29, 1852 to December 13, 1853.

Joseph Booth operated a mining claim on the Feather River near the town of Ophir, Butte County. Ophir, the Biblical land of gold, proved to be a popular name for gold rush camps. The name was changed to Oroville on May 3, 1854 since an Ophir post office already existed in the state. Booth's diary is open to an entry (February 29,1852) commenting on the large number of quartz mills that are being erected. As Booth states, "These mills give employment to a large number of men." The day of the independent miners, with their pans, rockers, and shovels, was quickly giving way to the need for large capital investment.

Edward Wilson
The Golden Land; A Narrative of Early Travels in California.
Boston: J. E. Farwell & Co., 1852

A View of The [Elephant].
Letter sheet. Published and Sold by W. B. Cooke & Co., San Francisco, ca 1850s.

Edward Wilson arrived in San Francisco in January of 1850. Taking a quick working tour of the California mines, Wilson claims to have made a profit of $17,500. He is not adverse to making brand recommendations for what to take, many of which are included in the advertising section at the end of the book. Oak Hall clothes are one of his recommended brands. "Seeing the elephant" refered to a person actually having been in California. Alongside Wilson's book is a letter sheet portraying incidents that might occur when "seeing the elephant."

Geo. F. Nesbitt, Lithographer
San Francisco, Letter sheet with letter by unknown author.
San Francisco: issued before December 9, 1850.

This letter by an unknown author to his family back home illustrates the very common situation of failure in the gold rush. His first sentence ends with, "I have left the mines, to which I shall never return." Most miners did not make enough to accumulate any riches to take home. Life in California was very expensive. Miners came to California with very little appreciation of the realities of the mining life and the extremely hard labor that it entailed.

C. Nahl
Winter in the Mines.
Wood engraving. San Francisco: Hutchings & Rosenfield, n.d.

This letter sheet illustrates the discomforts and dangers of the California winters. The cold, damp weather in the mining regions caused many miners to head for the cities once the rains began.

San Francisco, 1854.
Lithograph. San Francisco: Britton & Rey, n.d.

This letter sheet has been annotated by an anonymous writer. Looking east from the vicinity of Nob Hill, the view includes Telegraph Hill (1), Yerba Buena Island (2), City Hall (8), and the author's house (11).

John Hunicker (Heinricker?)
Gold Scales and Weights.

These scales were made of brass and steel by John Hunicker for use in the California and Arizona gold fields.

California Gold Pan

The gold pan was used to separate the gold flakes from the dirt and gravel. Since gold is heavier than the other materials, it sank to the bottom where it stayed while the other material was washed out by the action of the water.

Miners at Diggings.
Daguerreotype, photographer unknown, ca. 1850.

The six miners in this early daguerreotype show off their equipment for the benefit of the photographer. In the foreground is a rocker. The bucket yoke allowed the miners to carry water buckets to the rocker. Not all of the mining claims had direct access to the rivers and streams.

George H. Johnson
Grizzly Flats.
Daguerreotype, ca. 1850.

Grizzly Flats, located on Grizzly Creek, a tributary of the Cosumnes River, was an early mining settlement in El Dorado county. The machinery in the foreground can be seen closer up, in the daguerreotype on the shelf to your left. George Johnson worked out of his studio in Sacramento.

J. L. Akerman
Journal of his voyage to San Francisco and his life in the mines of California.
September 23, 1849 to February 1, 1854.

J. L. Akerman left Boston on the Bark Daniel Webster. The voyage was not pleasant. He arrived in San Francisco on April 29, 1850 and on May 3, 1850 started a three day voyage up the Sacramento River. His journal covers the daily life of the miners, providing sketches of various incidents, including on the open pages, a look at the California Native Americans on the Yuba River, an account of the 4th of July, 1850, and a pen and ink drawing illustrating camp life.

G. H. Goddard, del.
Southern Approach to Jamestown.
Lithograph, San Francisco: Britton and Rey, 1853.

Jamestown, located in Tuolumne County, was one of the early mining towns in the "Southern Mines." Col. Geo. James, whose name the town honors, operated a hotel and store until the late spring of 1849 when he went bankrupt due to his mining speculations.
Introduction | Discovery | The Journey | In the Diggings and Towns | Those Who Came
Those Who Stayed Behind | Gold Rush Women | Families | Framed Art


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