The Pacific Typographical Society and the California Gold Rush of 1849

by Douglas C. McMurtrie

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The California Gold Rush really was a bonanza for more than miners. Between 1849 and 1855 more than $400 million dollars was gathered by the miners; once adjusted, it is a sum today reaching into the trillions. But those who provided for the miners shared and in some cases did better than the gold seekers. It was a social phenomenon marked by the carnivalesque. In Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872), the protagonist remarks as his brother heads West,

“Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, an antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all about it, and be a hero…And by and by he would become very rich, and return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and ocean, and ‘the isthmus’ as if it was nothing of any consequence to have seen those marvels face to face.”

Go they did to the Land of Golden Dreams, in the largest internal migration in American history, and the adventures and tragedies have created a large and memorable literature, of which this volume is an unusual example.

 

Narrative of Samuel Hancock: Adventure, Escape, and Massacre During the California Gold Rush

by Samuel Hancock, Introduction by Arthur D. Howden Smith

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This work is an unusual autobiography, chronicling the experiences of Samuel Hancock between 1845-60. It details his journey to Oregon, his frustrating attempts to mine for gold in California, and his dramatic time as a captive under Native Americans. Hancock would go on to become a trader with the Native Americans, having used his time while under captivity to study the ceremonial rituals, building styles, medical practices, and other facets of Native American culture. Perhaps somewhat sensational, it offers interesting insights on the mindset of colonizers like Hancock.

 

A Frenchman in the Gold Rush: The Journal of Ernest De Massey, Argonaut of 1849

by Ernest De Massey, Translated by Marguerite Eyer Wilbur

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Ernest De Massey arrived in the United States in 1849. He went to San Francisco, and became a retailer, since he had the capital and came from some wealth. However, the lure of the Gold Rush was too much for him, so he decided to close his shop and follow many of his customers into the mountains in hopes of striking it rich. He tried prospecting in multiple areas, including Klamath River. Like many, he left with empty pockets and dashed dreams, though he was very fortunate to have kept his health. Prospecting was very arduous, and frequently dangerous. De Massey only lasted five months before giving up, after falling seriously ill. He decided to return to San Francisco and the somewhat more stable life of an entrepreneur. But in 1857 he returned to Europe. De Massey’s fascinating first hand account illustrates how the Gold Rush mesmerized so many.

 

Illustrated Sketches of Death Valley: and Other Borax Deserts of the Pacific Coast

by John R. Spears

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John R. Spears was born in 1850 in Van Wert, Ohio. Though an inveterate traveler, particularly out west, he ended up residing in Little Falls, New York. He wrote a great deal, particularly for the
New York Sun, and his books include The Port of Missing Ships and Other Stories of the Sea (1896), The Story of Nee England Whalers (1908), and The Story of the American Merchant Marine (1910). A great deal had been written about life in gold and silver mining camps, as well as the terrain surrounding them. However, Spears felt less attention had been paid to the desert, and wanted to depict the life in Death Valley, which he described as, “a gruesome story of a rugged  country…a story, too, of apparent paradoxes and of wonders.” Spears’ photographs offer a useful historical record of Death Valley, its people and animals, as they were in the 1890s.

 

 

The Old Spanish Missions of California: A Historical and Descriptive Sketch

by Paul Elder

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There were twenty one Spanish missions in California, established between 1769 and 1833 by Catholic priests to spread Christianity. Paul Elder collected various snippets of California history and compiled it in this work with quotes from various primary sources and photographs of numerous missions across the state, which presents a romanticized view of their founding. This work only portrays a partial and sanitized tale of the Spanish missions in California and their impact. The missions relied on agriculture to fund themselves, and sought to convert and colonize the Native people and their land. Multiple rebellions against the missions occurred since the missionaries sought to destroy native culture, and in the process, they transmitted communicable diseases which killed thousands. Missions did not just exist in California, but also Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida.

 

Frontier Law: A Story of Vigilante Days

by William J. Connell

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Gold and blood, Indians and pioneers, criminals and vigilantes! These are terms that have captivated the imagination of America for generations. Nevertheless, authentic, first-hand accounts of the vigilantes have been few indeed. The reason is plain: no one who helped to dispense the rough and salutary justice of the frontier thought it discreet to tell what they knew. But after the passing of the years, when time healed many wounds, William J. McConnell, once Governor of Idaho and also United States Senator, came forth with a story that makes the blood leap. In matter-of-fact fashion, and as vividly as if he were relating events of the day before yesterday, he tells of the overland journey to the Coast, of placer mining in California shortly after the wild days of ‘49, of homesteading in Oregon, and of farming and prospecting in Idaho. Most unusual and interesting of all, he relates the inside story of the secret Vigilantes, who restored control of territorial affairs for the people of Idaho when criminals and their satellites in office had made a mockery of the processes of justice and government.   This edition is dedicated to John Cooper, bibliophile and ever curious scholar-enthusiast for American history and the story of Westward Movement.

Old Chinatown: Turn of the Century Photographs of San Francisco’s Chinatown

by Arnold Genthe and Will Irwin

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This volume is one of a number of Westphalia titles significant in the story of the not always happy and often controversial Chinese contact with Western society. In the American case, despite appreciation by scholars for Chinese civilization, cries against Chinese immigration began in response to the development of the transcontinental railroad that saw the arrival of immigrants exploited as cheap labor. The first restrictive Act passed on May 6, 1882, and was the start of a series of increasingly more restrictive laws against Chinese, such as the Act to Prohibit the Coming of Chinese Persons into the United States, known more popularly as the Geary Act of May 1892. It wasn’t until the Immigration Act of October 1965 when the exclusionary practices were lifted, despite President Truman’s signing of the Act to Repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to Establish Quotas and for Other Purposes in December of 1943.