Tag Archives: California Gold Rush

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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The California Gold Rush, Slavery, and the Civil War


On January 24, 1848, Swiss immigrant John Sutter’s employee James Wilson Marshall found gold at the Sutter Mill. The result was the largest migration in American history, along with bitter debate over the issue of slavery. California would eventually enter the Union as a free state, but not because its delegates thought slavery an abomination. Figures like Hinton R Helper, himself a failed prospector, only exacerbated strained relations between the North and South.

Territory of Untold Value

When the US and Mexico went to war over California in 1846, the region’s population included about 6,500 Californios of Mexican or Spanish descent; 700 mostly American foreigners; and about 150,000 native Americans (whose population had been cut in half since the arrival of Spanish conquistadors). The war


Published pseudonymously, “The Miner’s Ten Commandments” reminds miners to respect the Sabbath–a rule that had fallen out of practice in many a mining town.

was ended in favor of America on February 2, 1848, with the ratification of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hildago. Neither side was aware of Sutter’s discovery, so the incredible value of the territory was not yet completely clear.

Indeed, people as close as San Francisco were quite skeptical until entrepreneur Sam Brannen marched through the city waving around a vial of gold. By the middle of June, San Francisco was a ghost town; most men had gone south to the mines. Military governor Colonel Richard B Mason took a tour of the gold fields shortly thereafter. IN his report, he noted that two miners had found $17,000 in gold in three days at Weber Creek. A team of six miners and fifty Native Americans had mined 273 pounds of gold. Sales at Sam Brannen’s mercantile exceeded $36,000 in May, June, and early July combined. Mason sent the report to Washington, DC with a tin of gold as additional proof. It wouldn’t arrive for months.

Word arrived sooner in places that were accessible by ship from San Francisco. Immigrants immediately began arriving in droves from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Peru, Chile, China, and Mexico. Europeans followed. When the first accounts of newfound wealth appeared in East Coast newspapers in the summer of 1848, they invited much incredulity. It wasn’t until December 5, 1848, when President James K Polk announced Mason’s report in his State of the Union address, that Easterners began to take the Gold Rush seriously. The exodus began almost immediately. Men headed West in record numbers, hoping to escape the wage labor economy and strike it rich. Women were mostly left at home to raise families, tend farms, and run businesses on their own. Countless families took out loans or spent their life savings in pursuit of their dream.

The Gold Rush Undoes Many a Prospector

By 1849, the non-native population of California had reached almost 100,000. Prospectors soon learned that mining was grueling, dangerous work. It wasn’t uncommon for them to die of disease, accident, or even malnutrition. Hiram Pierce held a funeral for one young man who died of gangrene after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. Despite these conditions, miners continued pouring into California. And how could they resist? In 1849, mined gold was valued at $10 million. The following year, that figure was $41 million. In 1852, $81 million worth of gold was mined in California. (Not everyone was convinced that this westward migration was worth the risk; in 1849 Edgar Allan Poe even undertook a bizarre hoax to dissuade people from going.)


‘Das Goldland Californien’ (1850) includes the sad tale of one German emigrant who lost his fortune in his quest to strike it rich.

Competition grew increasingly fierce, and soon Anglo-American miners were growing territorial. They often resorted to violence, forcing others of different nationalities from their land. As the surface gold disappeared, miners found themselves with no option but to work for larger mining corporations with the technology to mine gold deeper underground. A wage labor economy had again emerged, and after 1852, revenue from gold fell steadily until 1857, when it held at about $45 million per year.

Helper_Land_GoldThe vast majority of men who went in search of gold failed to strike it rich. One such failed prospector was Hinton Rowan Helper. Born on December 27, 1829 outside Mockville, North Carolina, Helper was apprenticed to a printer. He went to the gold fields in 1850 and returned after only a matter of months. Helper said that after working the same claim for three months, he’d made less than 94 cents Though Helper didn’t find gold, the experience did give him material for Land of Gold: Reality vs Fiction (1855).

Helper’s account was hardly reality; he garbled and fabricated statistics to support his argument. Gary F Kurutz, Director of the Special Collections Branch at the California State Library and author of a descriptive bibliography on the Gold Rush, calls Land of Gold “one of the most famous, oft-quoted, and entertaining books of the Gold Rush.”

California Slavery Divides Congress

Helper also took up another hot-button national issue: slavery. He advocated the expansion of slavery to California, scolding the “meddling abolitionists” who interfered with whites’ ability to exploit blacks to work the mines. Racism ran deep in California, and one would think that Helper was not alone in his pro-slavery sentiment. Such was not the case; the issue was much more complicated. White southerners had first brought slaves to California mines in 1849, but that practice wasn’t popular. However, no laws banned slavery in the early days of the Gold Rush.

After the US won California, a bitter dispute ensued over whether the state should be a free or slave state. There were fifteen states in each category, and California would tip the scales. By September 1849,


Details of the 1849 Monterey convention are among of the most important documents in California history. This is a Spanish translation.

California delegates were tired of waiting. They gathered in Monterey and voted to enter the Union as a free state. This wasn’t because they supported the abolition of slavery. On the contrary, many delegates were miners who hailed from the South. The majority felt that slaves actually had an unfair advantage in mining work because they were more accustomed to heavy labor. Thus, they voted against slavery for their own financial gain.

However, in Washington, DC, the North and South were deadlocked. Debate raged on for six months, and in one instance one senator even pulled a pistol on another. Finally Congress reached the Compromise of 1850: California would enter the Union under the state delegates’ terms, as a free state; New Mexico and Utah would become territories, and the legality of slavery there was undecided; the slave trade was banned in Washington, DC; and the Fugitive Slave Law was strengthened. California would ratify its own version of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1852.

A Racist Abolitionist

By this time, Hinton Helper had moved to New York. The issue of slavery remained at the forefront of US politics, and Helper didn’t help matters when he published The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It in 1857. Helper’s thesis was that slavery impeded the economic development of the South because it Helper_Hinton_Rowanhelped to concentrate wealth in the landed class. He wrote in defense of non-slave owning Whites, whom he saw as economically disadvantaged, and who comprised about 75% of the white population of the South. But Helper’s publication had unintended consequences; it was adopted as an abolitionist work and helped to get Abraham Lincoln elected in 1860. Some experts even place The Impending Crisis of the South alongside Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in terms of its influence as abolitionist literature.

The Impending Crisis of the South includes about 150 pages of statistics from the 1850 census, which Helper had hoped would illustrate the economic disadvantage of the slave states. These had little influence. But what did stick with readers was Helper’s branding Southern slaveholders as “robbers, thieves, ruffians, and murderers” and his exhortations that slaves should escape from their owners by violence if necessary. The summer after the book was published, New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett gave President Buchanan a copy and warned him that “There is gunpowder enough in that book to blow the Union to the devil.”

A Help for the Republican and Abolitionist Cause

Conflict over slavery again reached a fever pitch, as it had when California entered the Union. Then Republican party leaders moved to print a compendium of The Impending Conflict of the South to distribute in the 1860 presidential campaign. The “Speakership Fight” in the House of Representatives resulted, lasting from December 5, 1859 to February 1, 1860. The battle gave Helper’s book far more national attention than it really deserved, as did the resulting endorsement from the Republican party.

Lincoln won the election, even though he wasn’t necessarily the most popular candidate. For example, California citizens increasingly sympathized with the South as farming overtook gold mining. Yet Lincoln won in California because Democratic votes were divided between Northern candidate Steven Douglas and Southern candidate John Breckenridge, while Republicans were unified in their vote for Lincoln.

In January 1861, the Herald declared that Lincoln’s victory had been due to “this very work of Mr. Helper, and kindred speeches and documents.” Much later, historian James Ford Rhodes would note that the book “proved a potent Republican document, especially in the doubtful states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois, where it was easier to arouse sympathy for the degraded white than for the oppressed Negro.” Helper’s screed had had unintended consequences. The author found himself suspect in the South and scorned in the North. He couldn’t find employment, faced public ridicule, and feared physical violence. Helper turned to Abraham Lincoln for a consular appointment, which Lincoln granted. In November 1861, Helper went to Buenos Aires as the consul to Argentina. While there, he married Maria Louisa Rodriguez.

When Helper returned from Argentina, he settled in Asheville, North Carolina. He would later live in New York and St. Louis. He wrote five other books, three of which were extremely racist. By 1890, Helper’s grip on reality had all but evaporated. His wife had gone blind and returned to South America with the couple’s only son. Alone, Helper grew more and more unstable. He committed suicide and was buried in a donated, unmarked grave. The Authors Society of New York paid his funeral expenses.

Hinton Rowan Helper made a mark on history that he never could have predicted. His own history shows how inextricably the events of regional and national history are so often intertwined. Helper’s work proved a malignantly divisive one, exacerbating the conflicts that pushed the nation to the brink of Civil War.

Related Reading: 
The Six Hoaxes of Edgar Allan Poe
Louisa May Alcott: Abolitionist, Suffragette, and Mercenary 
Charles Dickens the Copyright Confederate
A Collection of Confederate Literature
Clara Barton: Heroine of Civil War Nursing and Record Keeping

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