VII. The World Rushed In: Part II

“Thousands of all nations are here.”

Jared Brown, Blacksmith, Coloma

The San Francisco Quadrilles

Respectfully Dedicated to the Ladies of California by Their Admirer, George Peck

George Peck

San Francisco: Atwill & Co., 1852.

Lithographed by B. F. Butler.

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

Attributed to J. B. Starkweather.

Quarter plate daguerreotype.

The daguerreian 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

Maker unknown.

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

Maker unknown

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, in addition to lodging, provisions, and food.

Gum Shan Meets El Dorado

J. B. Starkweather

Head of Auburn Ravine.

c. 1852.

Quarter plate daguerreotype.

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

c. 1850.

13 × 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.

Signed bill of sale: J. B. Gilman [master] and Thomas Gilman [slave]

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

James Williams

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

Attributed to J. B. Starkweather

Quarter plate daguerreotype.

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.

Letters from the Mines

Louise Clappe (Dame Shirley)

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.

Receipt [Recipe] Book

Kezia Darwin Benton Curtis


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:

Floating Island

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.

Diary of the voyage on the ship Washington Irving with her husband, Bradner Curtis from New York to California

Kezia Darwin Benton Curtis


32 p.

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

S. Babcock

New Haven.

8 p.

This toy book, a mere 2 ¾ by 1 ½ inches, was owned by Dame Shirley. The inside wrapper of this devotional is signed "Louise A. Clapp."