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

Aretas J. Blackman
Journal of Overland Journey to California.
March 18, 1849 - January 7, 1851.

Blackman's Traveling Chest and
Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Blackman.

Blackman's detailed account of his journey to California, his life in the diggings, and his return to New York by ship, via the Isthmus route, is accompanied by the traveling chest in which it was kept throughout his California experience.

Words by C. W. Patten; Music by Wm. Martin
Father! I'm Hungered, Give Me Bread, or the Last Words of the Emigrant's Dying Child.
Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1853.

The hardship of the overland journey did not necessarily end when the party arrived in California. This song relates the story of an emigrant family who arrived at the San Joaquin River after the heavy rains had begun. The mother died on the plains; the father is left with two children. Their supplies are used up and the swollen river prevents their crossing to obtain food.

George H. Baker
Hutchings' Panoramic Scenes.-- Crossing the Plains.
Wood engraving, issued before January 1, 1855.

Baker drew these scenes "from Nature in 1853" and J. M. Hutchings of Placerville published them as a letter sheet. The trip across the plains proved to be no small undertaking as many an argonaut's diary would attest. Only two scenes on this sheet depict the perils, the rest depict scenes that would be familiar to the forty-niners. The letter on this sheet was written by William G. Gibbs, who with two partners and three hired men, was working two separate claims near French Gulch.

Henry I. Simpson
The Emigrant's Guide: Three Weeks in the Gold Mines, or, Adventures with the Gold Diggers of California in August, 1848....
New York : Joyce and Co., 1848.

The confirmation of gold in California left people on the east coast of the United States eager for any directions or guides that they could find. Henry Simpson published one of the first, purporting to be an eyewitness account but thought by most to be fictional. It is, however, particularly notable for its sketch of Native Americans panning for gold on Weber's Creek, a feeder for the American River. In 1848 Col. Mason estimated in his report to President Polk that well over half of the miners were Native Americans.

[E. Uhlenhuth]
Rathgeber für Auswanderer Nach Californien Über Clima, Ankauf und Ergiebigkeit des Bodens.
Bremen: Verlag von A. D. Geisler, 1849.

Considered one of the best of the German guides to the gold fields of California, the author puts the gold discovery in context for his German readers. He includes a letter from Friedrich Heyermann who served as the doctor at Sutter's Fort.

Oliver G. Steele
Steele's Western Guide Book and Emigrant's Directory.
Buffalo: O.G. Steele, 1849.

Many people took particular advantage of the lack of information available to the public. Oliver Steele, who had already published this thin volume, added a five page appendix covering the directions for getting to California. As can be seen in the open pages, the actual directions contained in the five pages consist of one long paragraph beginning on page 58. The text itself reads more like a vacation brochure than a guide to the long, dangerous trail that lay between Independence, Missouri and Sutter's Fort, California.

Henry Sheldon Anable
Journal Kept by H. S. Anable While Crossing the Plains.
April 28, 1852 to September 11, 1852.

Henry Anable left Sheyboygan, Wisconsin to join his brother William in St. Joseph, Missouri, so that they could begin the journey across the plains to the California mines. The entry for August 26, 1852 conveys some of the hardship facing the overland travelers, "Weather hot & as usual the road awfully dirty, people in the states can have no idea of the amount of dust on this road." The brothers stayed in California for two years.

View of the Anable Placer Mine, Auburn, California.
Photograph of a daguerreotype taken ca. 1853.

Brothers Henry and William Anable came to California in 1852 searching for the golden strike that would make them rich. Although they held joint claim to this mine, William ran the mine while his brother Henry ran a merchantile operation. They returned east in 1854 because Henry's fiancée refused to join him in California. The original daguerreotype in the Bancroft collection is on loan to the Oakland Museum.

Samuel Augustus Mitchell
Description of Oregon and California, Embracing an Account of the Gold Regions...
Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1849.

This typical guide printed most of the standard information on the gold rush. Mitchell's advice on routes included five different paths through Central America. In the back is a helpful section dealing with how to tell the difference between real gold and the many other ores.

Fayette Robinson
California and its Gold Regions; With a Geographical and Topographical View of the Country, its Mineral and Agricultural Resources...
New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1850.

Robinson's soft cover guide to California contains many of the early reports, both governmental and private, that provided information to the potential gold seeker. Gary Kurutz, in his gold rush bibliography, calls it a "fine anthology." This guide also contains a very good map of the routes to the gold fields.

Isaac W. Baker
Journal: Covering his voyage to San Francisco, his life in the mines and his return trip across Panama.
August 15, 1849 to November 8, 1850.

Isaac Baker's journal provides an interesting glimpse into the life of one of the forty-niners, complete with sketches to illustrate the text. He later produced large paintings of some of these sketches, which are also in the Bancroft collection.

Isaac W. Baker
Journal of some of the Sayings & Doings on board the Ship John Q. Adams.
May 8 - October 20, 1852.

In May of 1852 Isaac Baker returned to California. As in his first voyage, Baker sketched life aboard ship. The open page illustrates the sailors' life. Later, after arriving back in California, Baker added further text and sketches to the journal.

William Penn Abrams
Number of Passengers on board the Brig Copiapo bound to San Francisco. Manuscript.

William Abrams kept detailed records on his voyage to California in 1849 and in the mines following his arrival. This passenger list complements his diary. He lists not only the name of the passengers, along with their occupations, but on the obverse he lists the crew with their residence.

William H. Dougal
Topgallant Forecastle, Brig Galindo.
Pencil and watercolor, 1849.

This sketch depicts life at sea for the miners who chose to sail around the Cape Horn. Dougal, along with a group of friends, owned the Galindo and it was on this ship that Dougal lived when he arrived in San Francisco to set up shop as a merchant. Besides carrying a load of supplies to be sold in San Francisco, the partners were able to sell a number of passages to men heading for the goldfields. The voyage of the Galindo took seven months.

William H. Dougal
Chagres, Dec. 1850. Pencil sketch.

The port at the mouth of the Chagres River, sketched by William Dougal on his return trip to Washington, D.C., served as a main way point on the trip to the California mines. Here miners awaited transportation up the Chagres River as first step in crossing the Isthmus of Panama. Until the completion of the Isthmus railroad line in 1855, the trip across Panama was an arduous adventure for the miners who chose this route.

James H. Bennett
Letter written at sea.
July 21, 1849.

While many of the argonauts kept journals or diaries detailing their adventures in the gold rush, others wrote long letters to the people left at home. James Bennett started this letter while sailing up the Pacific coast during the last few days of his "long disagreable and tedious voyage, made much worse by our bad living and the ungentlemanly treatment of Capt. Mauran." Getting to California was seldom a pleasant task. He added to the letter on August 22, after his arrival at San Francisco, and on August 24, the day before he headed to the mines.

Ticket issued to John Masterson for passage aboard the "Charleston" from Panama to San Francisco.
December 20, 1849.

Three Clipper Cards for: Sea Serpent, Winged Arrow, and Golden Fleece.

Clipper cards served as advertisements for the ships plying the California trade. The three cards displayed all advertise ships that arrived in San Francisco during the period of June 17, 1852 to January 6, 1853. The Sea Serpent made the fastest passage of the season in 112 days from New York. The Winged Arrow made its passage in 113 days from Boston and lost an eighteen year old sailor off Cape Horn. The Golden Fleece took longer, 140 days, in sailing from Boston. The clippers did carry passengers, but their primary concern was cargo.

Jethro C. Brock
A List of Persons From Nantucket Now in California, or on Their Way Thither.
Nantucket: Jethro C. Block, January 1, 1850.

The gold rush drew people to California in unprecedented numbers. This small booklet lists 650 names of people from Natucket alone who were in, had returned from, or were on their way to California by January 1, 1850. It also contains the names of eight individuals who lost their lives in California or during their passage.

S.C. Peppergrass, F.A. Hot-korn, & Geo. W. Baggs, eds.
Bound Home, or the Gold Hunters' Manual: A Newspaper.
New York: Geo. E. Leefe, 1852.

Originally created as a newspaper to pass the time on board the Pacific Mail steamer Northerner on its voyage from San Francisco to Panama in March of 1852, this book was printed after the editors return to New York. The humorous items give insight to the gold rush experience. It consists of fourteen issues, from March 4, 1852 to March 17, 1852.

San Francisco.
Daguerreotype, prior to May 4, 1851.

This view by an unknown photographer is said to be the earliest taken of San Francisco. It is one half of an original panoramic view of San Francisco and was taken from the corner of Kearny and Clay Streets. Note the great number of ships laying at rest in what now is the financial district of San Francisco. The dating is possible since the storeship Niantic is visible. The ship was destroyed by the May 4 fire that swept through San Francisco. The three story brick buildings add to the image of the growing economic importance of the city. Of particular interest is the sign atop the building at the extreme right edge of the plate, "DAGUERREAN," possibly marking the studio of the photographer.

William H. Dougal
Panorama of San Francisco. Pencil sketch in three panels.

While William Dougal did not leave contemporary scholars much written information on the gold rush, he did leave his very fine sketches of San Francisco and the Bay Area during 1849-50. Frank Stanger, a Dougal biographer, says of this sketch, "a panoramic view of San Francisco drawn from the top of Nob Hill, near the site of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, which takes in all the city from Rincon Point to North Beach. Here, with the a true engraver's passion for detail, Mr. Dougal set down the outlines of each individual building in the city."

Bayard Taylor
Eldorado: or, Adventures in the Path of Empire...
New York: G. P. Putnam, 1850

Bayard Taylor came to California to report on the gold rush for the New York Tribune. Considered by many scholars to be the best of the books to be written about the early stages of the gold rush, Eldorado became a best seller in both the United States and England. The two copies on exhibit are open to the Frontispiece. Volume I displays a J. C. Ward sketch of San Francisco in November, 1848, and Volume II displays a Bayard Taylor sketch of San Francisco in November, 1849. The tremendous growth due to the arriving gold seekers is readily evident.

The San Francisco Letter Sheet Price Current, and Review of the Market, November 30, 1849.
San Francisco: William W. Gallaer, Editor and Proprietor.

This letter sheet provided the current prices for goods in San Francisco on a twice-a-month basis. It also provided a review of the market. If the sender chose not to add a handwritten message the sheet could be sent at the newspaper rate through the mails. On the obverse side of this sheet the sender chose to add a note stating that, "Cottons are high and much wanted."

James M. Parker
The San Francisco Directory for the Year 1852/53...
San Francisco: James M. Parker, 1852.

As cities grew, directories became a necessity for listing the citizens and businesses. This San Francisco directory contains a street map along with other standard information needed by the citizens. It also includes an almanac and many advertisements for local businesses.

Harrison Eastman
Sketchbook of Scenes from California and Panama.
ca. 1848 - ca. 1868

Harrison Eastman ranks as one of the important artists of gold rush California. He arrived in San Francisco by ship in February of 1849 and secured a position as a clerk in the post office. During 1849 he painted a portrait of James Marshall. He also worked with William Keith and the Nahl brothers. The sketchbook is open to a drawing entitled, "Steamer Day, Calif. Post Office."

Joseph W. Gregory
Pocket Letter Book
San Francisco: Thompson & Hitchcock, 1851.

Joseph Gregory intended this little book, also known as a "Gregory's Express Book," to serve the miners as a means of writing home. Gregory ran the Gregory United States and California Express out of San Francisco. One writer has suggested that the very rarity of these books is an indication that the miners ignored the intended use.
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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