Category Archives: Californiana

“Get me the Hell ‘Outta Here!” Or, a Typical Miner’s Thoughts on the California Gold Rush

The fact that a typical miner would probably be horrified to discuss his thoughts or feelings to anyone in close proximity to his person matters not to us, because, boy, did they ever write home about it. The California Gold Rush began on January 24th, 1848, when American carpenter and sawmill operator James W. Marshall found gold while working on John Sutter’s property in Coloma, California. Though neither Marshall nor Sutter ever profited from the finding of gold in California (can someone please explain this to me), their findings sparked a movement the likes of which America had never seen. From all over the world, some 300,000 people migrated to California to “strike it rich”. The question we’d like to ask here is: were they glad they made the trip?

An example image of miners in the California Gold Rush. An interesting image, especially as there is a young girl front and center!

An example image of miners in the California Gold Rush. An interesting image, especially as there is a young girl front and center!

Though complaining seems to come naturally to all members of the human race, perhaps the miners in the Gold Rush weren’t complaining, so much as explaining the horrible situations they found themselves in once they got to the extolled beautiful “California”. It is widely accepted that conditions in the mining camps around Northern California were somewhat, for lack of a better word, atrocious. Miners arrived at places with little shelter, a lack of sanitation systems (leading to quickly spreading diseases), and then proceeded to find prices for any and all items to purchase (from food to laundering services to panning materials) inflated to a ridiculous sum. Fledgling miners were indeed in for a rude awakening, one that more often than not led to hardship and difficulty. Many men suffered in cramped and filthy living quarters, surrounded by saloons for drinking and gambling, and prostitutes for loneliness.

"I dislike it most profoundly..."

“I dislike it most profoundly…”

So how did these awful conditions affect the “49ers’” view of the Golden State? One way for those of us in the 21st century to tell is to read their carefully preserved letters home. In 1854, towards the end of the Gold Rush, young William S. Patterson wrote a letter home to his “Dear Sister”, and described life in San Francisco during the Gold Rush years. Patterson dislikes much about San Francisco, especially the “Jews, Chinese and barbarians of all shades and varieties, for all these things I dislike it most profoundly, and would fwiw [for what it’s worth? Really? Was that already a thing?] give it a wide berth, caring little whether I ever saw it henceforth…” Of course, Patterson was also pretty hung up on a lady-friend living in the city whose mother refused to allow them to be together (like, 4 pages worth of bitter about it), so while that could be a part of his urge to leave the city, it sounds like the “fog & its chilling winds” were helping drive him away. Hundreds of thousands of men like Patterson arrived to an extremely rural environment, with very, very few of them taking any riches home from the goldfields. Internet resources claim that possibly only half of miners made a small profit in the Gold Rush, those arriving in the later years of the Rush mostly ending up losing money.

Our jacketed first book edition of "The Shirley Letters" by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, published in 1922.

Our jacketed first book edition of “The Shirley Letters” by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, published in 1922.

Another first-hand account from the California Gold Rush years is a title called The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851 -52 – written right at the height of the Gold Rush. They are a collection of letters from Dame Shirley (aka Mrs. Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe) to her sister in Massachusetts that were seen by a friend of the family’s and immediately noted for their accurate and detailed descriptions of pioneer life and printed, anonymously at the time, in the Pioneer Magazine. Arguably one of the most valuable views of the California Gold Rush, especially as it was told from the decidedly uncommon woman’s point of view, Clappe’s letters cover all manner of topics, from the roles of women and children in San Francisco, to the perils of mining and other everyday matters. “Dame Shirley’s” anecdotes became the inspiration for a number of Bret Harte’s stories, they were so well told and reported so thoroughly. One of her decisions on mining goes thus: “…in truth, the whole mining system in California is one great gambling or, better perhaps, lottery transaction. It is impossible to tell whether a claim will prove valuable or not. F. has invariably sunk money in every one that he has bought… A few weeks since, F. paid a thousand dollars for a claim which has proved utterly worthless. He might better have thrown his money into the river than to have bought it, and yet some of the most experienced miners on the Bar thought that it would pay” (Shirley Letters, p. 82). In this same letter, Clappe bemoans the obscene amount of profanity used in the mining towns and camps, “whether there is more profanity in the mines than elsewhere, I know not; but, during the short time that I have been at Rich Bar, I have heard more of it than in all my life before.”

Through accounts such as Clappe’s letters, it is clear to see that mining towns and cities were not known for their moral stature and goodliness. The gambling, drinking and violence known in these somewhat remote (to the rest of the US, at least) areas clearly influenced views of mid 19th century California. After all, when the gold rush began, California had yet to become one of the United States and when miners first arrived it was still an isolated and lawless area. San Francisco in the 1840s was a small tent-town of only 200 people, and grew to almost 300,000 in less than ten years once gold was discovered on Sutter’s property. California had become a destination for emigrants from all over the world. The unfortunate state almost had to learn how to be a state in the midst of fury and unnatural excitement. For example, in the midst of the Gold Rush, towns and cities were chartered, a state constitutional convention met for the first time, a state constitution was written, elections held, and representatives were sent to Washington D.C. to negotiate the admission of California as a state, rather than a property owned by the US. Their negotiations proved successful, as California became the 31st state on September 9th, 1850.

In all, I guess you could say that conditions during the California Gold Rush were harsh at best and dreadful at worst. The fact that very few people who migrated to Gold Country ever saw a “return on their investment” goes to show how disappointing and fruitless many of their efforts were. However (since there is always a silver-lining, if you dig deep enough), due to the Gold Rush, California became one of the fastest-growing states in the US, and, due to the permanent settling in California of many of the 49ers, their families and like-civilians, the state’s accelerated development gave it a boost that many other states were not able to experience. It is therefore due in part (even if the miners would laugh to hear it) to the Gold Rush that the ideal of California – of the sunshine, the beaches, the gold, Hollywood, the business – has persevered to this day.

A humorous pun on the Bible’s Ten Commandments, for Miners! (Placerville, CA: 1853). “Thou shalt have no other claim than one”, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any false claim”, “Thou shalt not remember what they friends do at home on the Sabbath day, lest the remembrance may not compare favorably with what thou doest here”, “Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a shovel, or a pan, from thy fellow miner”, “Thou shalt not tell any false tales about ‘good diggings in the mountains’ to thy neighbor”.

 

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Tavistock Books’ Almost-Annual Reference Book Workshop

There is a significant difference between booksellers who advertise their wares with professional descriptions, a clear understanding of the item in question, an honest assessment with regard to the item’s condition… and your typical eBay/Amazon blasters: “FREE SHIPPING! May or may not have highlighting and/or missing pages.” The pride in being a Good (or VG+) bookseller comes from the ability to sell something about which you are knowledgeable and which is priced confidently and accurately.

Oftentimes, as booksellers, we hear the question “Why?” Why is this book worth $495? Why would I pay that much for a book which Joe Shmoe, Bookseller offers for $29.99? There is no shame in asking these questions. Even booksellers can look at their colleagues’ wares and stare confusedly at the screen while waiting for the computer to sprout tiny-computer legs and giggle, while simultaneously erasing that last 0 or two. All that being said, however…. what can give booksellers the ability to price confidently and describe accurately? Two words.

Reference Books.Reference Books

If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you have looked at listings of antiquarian books before and have noticed some crazy notations in our write-ups. What is a BAL11092? Or a Gabler G2390? An average person has a good chance of not particularly understanding what the numbers mean. Heck, another bookseller might not even have a clue to what you are referring. A good bookseller will know, however, that the inclusion of those small jumbles of letters and numbers beyond their edition statements represent the dedication and honesty of the person offering the item. They have gone to the trouble of understanding what they hold in their hands, so that their customer can have the guarantee and peace-of-mind that they are buying a 1st/1st, a 1st edition thus, or a reprint. What allows a reference book to (sometimes) up the price or (often) lower the price? Well… I guess you’ll just have to take the Tavistock Books’ Reference Book Workshop to find out!

This year’s course took place this past Saturday, the 23rd of August. The day-long course consists of an intense look at different genres of reference books, their scope, and their usefulness to the book-selling, book-collecting and book-cataloguing trades. Sections covered include Literature (do the acronyms NUC or NCBEL mean anything to you? Here’s where you will find them explained!), Americana (with an emphasis on Western Americana & California… can you say Kurutz three times fast?), Children’s Books, Early Printed Books, and Online Reference Tools. This course is a fast-paced survey, useful for any bookseller, collector, or librarian interested in understanding the tools booksellers use to identify and price their books.

Workshop 2014

This year’s workshop was attended by 4 booksellers (some new, some slightly seasoned), two librarians, and a lover of all things book-related. Intelligent questions were asked, anecdotes shared, and quite a bit of knowledge imparted on these smiling (though, by the end of the day, slightly haggard) faces. Due to the limited amount of space in the shop (where the workshop is held), we cap the number of “pupils” at 7 per year. Should you be interested in attending, please email msp@tavbooks.com and ask to be included on our mailing list, so that when the reminder comes about next spring to sign up, you can be first on the list!

The workshop truly is helpful to those dealing with the book-trade, and the Tavistock Books Reference Collection of over 3,000 reference volumes alone are worth the trip to see! And, as per tradition, lunch is on us at a great sushi place on our charming island of Alameda, CA. Interested in attending a workshop one day? Let us know!

 

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Why California Isn’t Called “Nova Albion”

On June 17, 1579, Francis Drake claimed California for England. He anchored his ship, the Golden Hind, just north of present-day San Francisco and named the new territory “Nova Albion.” But despite Drake’s claim in the name of Queen Elizabeth I, he was not the first European to explore California.

Drake Lays Claim to California

Drake set out from England on December 13, 1577 with five ships. His mission was to raid Spanish holdings along the Pacific coast in the New World. Drake was forced to abandon two ships during the Atlantic crossing. Then the expedition encountered a series of storms in the Strait of Magellan. One ship was destroyed, and the other returned to England. Only the Golden Hind reached the Pacific. Drake raided Spanish settlements and captured a heavy-laden Spanish treasure ship.

Drake continued up the West Coast of North America in search of the fabled Northwest passage. He got as far north as present-day Washington, stopping near the San Francisco Bay in June 1579. In July, Drake’s expedition set off across the Pacific, eventually rounding the Cape of Good Hope and returning to England. Drake returned to Plymouth, England on September 26, 1580. Queen Elizabeth I knighted him the following year on a visit to his ship.

A Portuguese Explorer for the Spanish Crown

California gets its name from a mythical island populated by Amazon women who use golden tools and weapons. It appeared in a popular romance novel called Las Sergas de Esplandian by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo. The book went through several editions, though the earliest extant copy dates from 1510. When Spanish settlers explored what’s now Baja California, they believed that they’d discovered the mythical island.

It was Portuguese adventurer Joao Rodruigues Cabrilho, better known as Jose Rodriguez Cabrillo, who disabused the Spaniards of the notion that California was an island. Little is known of Cabrillo’s life before 1519, when his name first appears in the ranks of those serving conquistador Hernan Cortes. Cabrillo participated in the conquests of both Mexico and Guatemala. He was also involved in military expeditions to southern Mexico, Guatemala, and San Salvador.

Cabrillo eventually settled in Guatemala and by 1530 had established himself as a leader of Santiago, Guatemala. He returned to Spain briefly to find a wife, marrying Beatriz Sanchez de Ortega. The couple would have two sons. Then in 1540, a major earthquake destroyed Santiago. Cabrillo’s report to Spain on the devastation is considered the first piece of secular journalism published in the New World.

Soon Spain was looking to expand northward. Francisco de Ulloa had recently explored the Gulf of California and proven that California was not an island after all (though the misconception persisted back in Spain). Now, Guatemala governor Pedro de Alvarado commissioned Cabrillo to lead a mission up the coast. He believed that Cabrillo and his men would find the fabled wealthy cities of Cibola, which were thought to be somewhere along the Pacific coast north of New Spain. The explorers also held out hope of discovering the “Straits of Arain,” rumored to connect the North Pacific and the North Atlantic.

Cabrillo Travels up the California Coast

On June 24, 1542, Cabrillo sailed out of the port of Navidad (modern-day Manzanillo). He took with him a crew of soldiers and sailors, along with merchants, a priest, slaves, livestock, and enough provisions to last two years. By September 28, 1542, Cabrillo had reached a “very good enclosed port,” now known as San Diego Bay. He and his crew stayed there for several days before heading up the coast. They visited a number of islands before turning around due to adverse weather conditions.

Taylor_First_Voyage_California_CabrilloCabrillo died of complications from a broken leg on January 3, 1543. His exploration helped to dispel geographical misconceptions and to expand the Spanish empire. Over three centuries later, Alex S Taylor, a resident of Monterey, California, wrote the history of Cabrillo’s expedition. First published separately in 1853, The First Voyage to the Coasts of California is considered an important work, indeed; it was the first work of California history actually published within California.

Other Works of Californiana

The Pony Express Courier 
Pony_Express_CourierIn 1860, countless men responded to advertisements for riders in the new Pony Express. At any one time, only about eighty men would actually be riders, though another 400 employees supported the operation. The Pony Express was a truly ambitious project, connecting the East coast with California. Mark Twain was lucky enough to witness the Pony Express in action, observing that the rider was “usually a little bit of a man.” The Pony Express Courier, published in Placerville, first appeared in 1934. It’s a wonderful resource for students of Western America, full of interviews, reminiscences, and more. This set includes 16 of 18 total issues, bound in eight books. They are custom bound in blue “marbled” cloth with gilt stamped lettering to the spine and front board. Details>>

Wi-Ne-Ma (The Woman Chief) and Her People
Meacham_Wi_Ne_Ma_PeopleAlso known as the Lava Beds War, the Modoc War began in 1872, making it the last of the Indian Wars to occur in California and Oregon. Wi-Ne-Man acted as interpreted for the peace commission during the conflict. Her efforts saved the life of Alfred Benjamin Meachum, Indian Superintendent of Oregon, Meachum would go on to write an account of the chieftainess called Wi-Ne-Man (The Woman Chief) and Her People. The first edition was published in 1876. APBC shows this title at auction last in 1997, with only one prior occurrence in 1991. Details>>

Documents in Relation to Charges Preferred by Stephen J Field and Others…
Field_Turner_Documents_Charges_PreferredThe Field-Turner feud is renowned in the annals of California history. Judge William R Turner had Field, an attorney, disbarred; Field ultimately got his revenge by, on election to the California Assembly, arranging Turner’s banishment, via judicial reorganization, to a remote “region in the northern part of the state.” [DAB]. This second edition includes testimonial and affidavits in Judge Turner’s defense from a host of local officials as well as a few national notables, including Andrew Jackson & Henry Clay. Furthermore, this copy contains rare associated ephemera: a handbill reprinting a contemporaneous review of the book entitled, “Judge Turner’s Book,” as published in the San Francisco Herald of Dec. 30, 1856; as well as a legal circular containing a statement by Judge Turner relating to his candidacy for re-election to the office of District Judge for the 8th District, dated Arcata, July 14, 1863. Additionally, contained within the circular are reprinted two letters with respect to Turner’s case before the Supreme Court, the latter advising Judge Turner “of the favorable and final decision of the Supreme Court in your case.” Details>>

All About California and the Inducements to Settle There
All_About_CaliforniaAttributed to JS Hittel, All About California includes the drop title “For Gratuitous Circulation.” The propaganda piece was designed to encourage settlement in California, and it’s full of pertinent data and factoids of the era. This, the second edition, was issued in 1870 just like the first. It includes a folding map of the railroad route for the “Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific RR Line,” along with a two-page map of California, a full-page wood engraving of the Grand Hotel, and a two-page map of “JT Little’s San Joaquin Valley.” This copy bears the stamp of the California Immigrant Union in the upper right corner of the front wrapper. There’s a small bit of bio-predation on the top pages of the last eight pages, but no text is affected. Details>>

An Historical Sketch of Los Angeles County, California
Historical_Sketch_Los_Angeles_CountyThis account of California history stretches from the Spanish Occupancy, by the founding of the Mission San Gabriel Archangel, September 8, 1771, to July 4, 1876. This copy is a first edition, second issue, published in 1876. The volume is in its original printed paper wrappers. The wrapper edges chipped, with the upper corner lacking from front wrapper. A Japanese paper repair has been made to the spine. There’s occasional pencil marginalia. Overall, this is an about very good copy. Details>>

 

Related Posts:
The California Gold Rush, Slavery, and the Civil War
L Frank Baum’s Forgotten Foray into Theatre
Elias Samuel Cooper: Renowned and Controversial Surgeon

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Californiana: A List for April

The 1848 California Gold Rush represented one of the largest migrations in the history of the Americas. Over 300,000 people flocked to the state, both from elsewhere in North America and from overseas. The population swelled; San Francisco, for example, went from a sleepy town of 200 in 1846, to a bustling port city of over 30,000 in 1852. Meanwhile California would not officially become a state until September 9, 1850, following much heated debate from Congress.

Given the state’s rich history, it’s no wonder that California invites so much fascination from book collectors. The Book Club of California, founded in 1912, published over 100 works, most with some collection to the state. Its first publication was indeed California-centric: Robert Cowan’s A Bibliography of the History of California and the Pacific West (1914, with a second edition in 1933). Robert Greenwood was integral to the publication of two other bibliographies, California Imprints, 1833-1862 and An Annotated Bibliography of California Fictions, 1664-1970, published in 1961 and 1971 respectively. Numerous others come to mind, but we’d be remiss not to mention Gary Kurutz’ The California Gold Rush: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1848-1953. Published in 1997, this is a work of truly enviable scholarship. No other state seems to have garnered so much bibliographic attention.

With this in mind, Tavistock Books presents a list of Californiana, with 100 items related to this state anchoring the “left coast.” While the list has many titles that will cite the bibliographies noted above, this isn’t the list focus. Rather, the list offers printed and visual evidence that California is indeed a state that has long fascinated not only book collectors, but the American populace in general.

Items on the list range from the eighteenth to the 21st century. While many are historical in nature, you’ll also find original art, promotional travel pieces, the first California-published miniature, California fiction, and even on of the first California cookbooks. Prices range from $15 to $3,250.

We invite you to browse the entire list! Should you have queries regarding any of the listings, or other offerings you may find on our site, please contact us.

Selected Californiana

Discovery of California and Northwest America
Cabrillo_First_Voyage_Coasts_CaliforniaJuan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his pilot, Bartolome Ferrelo reached what is now San Diego in September, 1540. Cabrillo explored the entire outer coast of the peninsula before heading north to the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and Point Reyes. Published in San Francisco in 1853, Discovery of California and Northwest America was the first true work of California history to be published in California. This volume has early marbled paper wrappers (recently added) with a printed title label affixed to the front wrapper. It’s chemised and housed in a custom quarter-leather slipcase. Details>>

A Trans-Continental Newspaper
Trans-Continental_PullmanTranscontinental was “Published Daily in the Pullman Hotel Express between Boston and San Francisco.” The twelve issues of Volume I were printed over six weeks, from May 24 to July 4, 1870, while the Boston Board of Trade made the 3,000-mile trek to meet with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. They were printed on a Gordon Press in the baggage car, while the newspaper office was in the second car. The paper reported the normal business of the train, along with tidbits such as the Philadelphia Athletics’ victory over the Harvard Baseball Club. The Trans-Continental is generally regarded as the first newspaper printed on a moving train. Details>>

Business Directory of Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley
Directory_Oakland_Alameda_BerkeleyPublished in Oakland in 1877, Business Directory of Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley is not listed in either Norris or Welsh. Extremely rare, this California miniature has the distinction of being the “only known California directory in this format, the first East Bay directory, and the first Berkeley directory of any kind,” according to Quebedeaux, who calls this volume the “first California volume of any kind.” Bradbury refutes this claim, pointing out that Diamond History was also published in 1877 and comprises the latter portion of this volume. OCLC records only three institutional holdings, and there is only one sale record for this item, from PBA earlier this year, of an imperfect copy missing its title page. Details>>

California Recipe Book by Ladies of California
California_Recipe_BookThe first edition thus and the fourth edition overall, this copy of California Recipe Book was published in San Francisco in 1879. It was first issued in 1872. The fourth edition bears a note that the “compiler has added largely to the original edition, and our patrons will find many new and choice recipes.” Indeed, the fourth edition includes sixty recipes not found in the first. OCLC records only three institutional holdings, making this a very scarce edition of a seminal California cookery book. California Recipe Book is regarded as the second cookbook written by Californians and published in the state, vying for the title with How to Keep a Husband; Or, Culinary Tactics, also published in San Francisco in 1872. Details>>

Annual Report of the Inspectors of the State Prison
San_Quentin_Annual_Report_Inspectors_State_PrisonMade to the legislature of California on February 15, 1855, this report offers an interesting look at the early days of San Quentin, when the prison was not quite impregnable. It includes sections entitled “Register and Descriptive List of Convicts Under Sentence” and “Transcript of Received, Escaped, and Returned Prisoners Since the Inspection of State Prison Books.” The previous year, 75 of the 250 prisoners in San Quentin had escaped without recapture. The statistic alarmed Governor John Bigler, to write in a letter to the prison staff, “These escapes, permit me to remark, give great force to allegations, daily and publicly made, that the prison building is insecure, and that its management is not such as to fully accomplish the object of its erection, in prevention and punishment of crime.” This work is rare, not being listed in Cowan, Greenwood, or the Library of Congress online catalogue. OCLC and Melvyl record only one copy, and no copies have come to auction in at least 25 years. Details>>

Twelve Years in the Mines of California
Patterson_Twelve_Years_Mines_CaliforniaLawson B Patterson arrived in California in 1849 during the Gold Rush and was one of the few who stuck around after the rush ended. Patterson stayed to work the mines for a total of twelve years. Kurutz tells us that in addition to recounting Patterson’s own experiences, “much of this book is devoted to the discovery of gold, the gold region, its geology, advice to new miners, and the weather in 1853. Wheat goes a step further, saying that Patterson’s book contains “observations of permanent import.” This volume’s previous owners include JR Knowland of Oakland Tribune fame, and the ffep bears his PO signature. The book itself is square and tight, with bright gilt. Details>>

Banquet in Honor of the Hotel Men’s Mutual Benefit Association
Banquet_HMMBAThis 1910 West Coast journey of HMMBA members was well documented by George Wharton James in his commissioned work, “The 1910 TRIP Of The H.M.M.B.A. To CALIFORNIA And The PACIFIC COAST.” Herein, he remarks this dinner at the Palace was “the most unique and costly dinner ever devised for the HMMBA.” The hotel’s banquet room was presented as a “Mandarin garden decorated with a wealth of Chinese articles of art [loaned by the Sing Chow Co. the menu informs us], and enlivened with … the only Chinese actress in America .. a Chinese theatre and thirty pretty Chinese children with their mothers, a full Chinese orchestra, and a bill of fare as distinctively Chinese as the rest of the function, all aided and abetted by the wealthy Chinese merchants of San Francisco.” As to this souvenir menu, James praises it as “the most elaborate affair ever devised fro the association.” No copy of this item is listed in OCLC; it’s certainly rare. Details>>

Album of Hotel Del Monte
Hotel_Del_MonteHotel Del Monte was part of a luxury 20,000-acre resort established by railroad magnate Charles Crocker. The first hotel was completed in 1880, with the entire resort including the hotel, polo grounds, race track, tennis courts, parkland and golf course. Immediately popular, the hotel had to deny 3,000 potential guests its first six weeks of operation. Falling on hard times after WWI, the grounds were eventually sold to Samuel Morse, who eventually led to the development of the present day Pebble Beach facility, among others. The hotel itself now serves as an administration building for the Naval Postgraduate School. This album offers a rare photo-view book depicting the original hotel structure (destroyed by fire in 1887) and diverse associated resort grounds and buildings. Details>>

Browny the Golden Beaver
Browny_Golden_BeaverA rare WPA production, Browny the Golden Beaver was published in San Diego in 1938. Belle Baranceanu, who created the cover art, was to achieve some fame as an artist; she painted murals in the La Jolla Post Office and Roosevelt Jr. High School as part of the Public Works of Art Project during the Depression. Baranceanu’s work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Denver Art Musuem, among other locations. The book was illustrated with drawings by Beatrice Buckley. Details>>

 

Related Posts:
The California Gold Rush, Slavery, and the Civil War
Elias Samuel Cooper: Renowned and Controversial Surgeon

 

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