Room Three

In the Diggings and Towns

Letter sheets were published by various firms in California and sold to the miners for their correspondence. This particular sample, called Miner's Life — Illustrated, shows scenes from the gold fields. At the bottom of the second page is the quote that has become the title for this exhibit, "I am bound to stick awhile longer." It remains unclear where Michigan Hill was located, although references to Marysville would indicate a location in the northern mines.

Miner's Life - Illustrated
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Miner's life illustrated: the honest miner's songs
BANC PIC 1963.002:0091--B
Calisphere Image Source

This letter 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.

Downieville At The Forks Of The North Yuba River
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Downieville at the forks of the North Yuba River
BANC PIC 19xx.097.13--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Ophir, Placer County
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Ophir, Placer Co[unty]/View of Auburn, Placer Co[unty, California]
BANC PIC 1963.002:0104--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

View of Agua Fria town
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View of Agua Fria town [Mariposa County, California]
BANC PIC 1963.002:0156--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Marysville
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View from the north side of the plaza, Marysville [California]
BANC PIC 1963.002:0155--B
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Weaverville
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A correct view of Weaverville, Trinity Co[unt]y, Cal[ifornia]
BANC PIC 1963.002:0020--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Sundry amusements in the mines
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Sundry amusements in the mines
BANC PIC 1963.002:0148--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Scenes in a miner's life
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Scenes in a miner's life
BANC PIC 1963.002:0138--B
Calisphere Image Source

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.

A prospecting party
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A prospecting party
BANC PIC 1963.002:0113--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Miner's Life
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Miner's life
BANC PIC 1963.002:0090--B
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Hutchings' California scenes
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Hutchings' California scenes, methods of mining
BANC PIC 1963.002:0054--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

The miners
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The miners
BANC PIC 1963.002:0083--A
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Five riverbed miners in a rocky gulch in the Motherlode
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Five riverbed miners in a rocky gulch in the Motherlode
BANC PIC 1905.16242:079--CASE
Calisphere Image Source

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.

Six miners
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Six miners with rocker, wheel barrows, ...
BANC PIC 1905.16242:061--DIG
Calisphere Image Source

This daguerreotype shows the extensive construction already present in the mines of California in the early 1850s. 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.

Riverbed mining, Grizzly Flats
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Riverbed mining, Grizzly Flats, El Dorado Co., showing mining apparatus
BANC PIC 1905.16242:049--CASE
Calisphere Image Source

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. 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.

California illustrated
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California illustrated; including a description of the Panama and Nicaragua routes
x F865.L65
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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.

Instructions for collecting, testing, melting and assaying gold
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Instructions for collecting, testing, melting and assaying gold
TN580.G6 K45 1848
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