[Two California gold rush letters]. Peter Later.
[Two California gold rush letters].
[Two California gold rush letters].

[Two California gold rush letters].

St. Louis, California, 1857. Blue bifolium (21.5 cm), 4 pp. of manuscript; white bifolium (25 cm), 4 pp. of manuscript.

A pair of letters written during the winter and spring seasons in gold rush era California, commenting on the steep costs of living and relating various forms of labor the writer has undertaken for modest pay.

These letters span a period of three months, January–March, 1857; each is addressed to the writer’s brother and contains—along with inquiries about events back home in Maine—evocative details of the miner’s life. Later's Maine upbringing has doubtless prepared him for the alpine winter; in the January letter, he relates without complaint that “the snow is about nine feet deep heare know.” It is raining the day he writes, and he hopes he will go to work in the mines within the next few days. In the meantime, he explains, he “has been chopping wood this winter we cut abought 200 cords.” With the money he has made from cutting wood he thinks he can pay for his gruel; however, he doubts the fruitfulness of his efforts out west, stating he hopes “this winter and nixt summer [to] make a fortune but I dought it terably in this country know for theare is more men heare know then can get work.”

By March, Later has found employment: “I works nights and the rest of the company works days we have fore dollars pur day we get our pay every Sunday I can clear[?] about 18 dollars pur week that is a littel better then I could do back home.” He calls the work “worse than driving the river”—labor he apparently did back in Maine. By the end of the winter, he writes, he has cut "abought three hundred chord it is worth tow dollars four chord"; but explains: "we have to wate till nixt fowl before sell it for the people hare bys wood anuff in the fowl to last them a yeare." Later laments the expensive costs of living in these parts: "This winter it costs abought one dollar pur day for board" and "cheap gum coats” cost “12 dollars a peace gum boots 10 dollars pur pare." He then directly addresses his brother: "George I tell you that this is a prity hard country for a man to live," advising him, in case his brother considers venturing out to California, "I think you better stay on your farm and be content." As if to underscore the difficulty of life in California, he adds the following postscript: “Oh George theare was a man shot heare yesterday I think he will die he was shot rite through his breast the have got the murderer I think that they will hang him.”

An evocative pair of gold rush era letters written to a brother back in Maine.

CONDITION: Very good, old folds, one letter with a few small separations at folds.

Item #2826

Price: $575.00

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