Item #6173 The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California. I Neither Borrow Nor Lend.

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The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California. I Neither Borrow Nor Lend.

New York and Hartford: Kellogg & Comstock; Buffalo, NY: Ensign & Thayer, 12 Exchange St., [c. 1849]. Hand-colored lithograph, 12.5 x 8.5 inches plus margins.

An iconic satire of a gold-hunter, published at the height of the California Gold Rush.

This scarce print depicts a prospective gold miner as an inappropriately well-dressed man in a knee-length coat, absurdly laden with mining tools, cookware, knives, and food as he walks overland to California along a body of water, perhaps meant to represent the Platte River. He wears a tin pot for a hat, and also carries a suitcase, teapot, shovel, pick-axe, scales, sausage links, a string of rather meager fish, and a preposterously oversized miner’s scale. If things get ugly on his march west or all else fails in his quest for gold, apparently he can resort to the flask or bottle tucked into the top pocket of his coat. Other trademarks of the gold-hunter featured on his person include a colt navy pistol and a pocketful of knives, including a bowie knife. In the background, a signpost indicates how far along he has gotten and how far he has to go: “To St Louis 350 miles. To California 1700 miles.”

Both Currier & Ives and Kellogg & Comstock published versions of this print, the latter almost certainly copying the former, as was their habit. Harry Peters notes that the Kelloggs’ western lithographs are “a small but important and rare group.” He describes The Independent Gold Hunter as “extremely interesting” and cites just three other California prints published by the Kelloggs: California Gold Diggers. Mining Operations on the Western Shore of the Sacramento River; The Gold Seeker; and Yosemite Falls.

Edward and Timothy Ensign were engaged in a variety of lithography and publishing partnerships from the 1840s to the 1850s. Working closely with the Kelloggs of Hartford, Connecticut, Ensign, Thayer & Co. operated from 1849 to 1851, and was located at 12 Exchange St. in Buffalo from 1849 to 1850 only.

In 1848, John C. Comstock joined Edmund (1809–1872) and Elijah Kellogg (1811–1881) to form the partnership, Kellogg & Comstock, which lasted until 1850. The Kelloggs were involved in a number of partnerships for three decades, specializing in hand-colored lithographs very much in the mold of Currier & Ives and often copying them.

OCLC records only one copy of this print, at AAS, with a variant imprint reading “D. Needham 12 Exchange Street, Buffalo.” Additional copies are held by Beinecke Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, St. Louis Mercantile Library, and California State Library.

A delightful California gold rush lithograph.

REFERENCES: Finlay, Nancy. Picturing Victorian America (Hartford, 2009), #434; Peters, Harry. America on Stone (NY, 1931), pp. 246–47; Peters, Harry. California on Stone (NY, 1935), p. 140, plate 69.

CONDITION: Good, light wear and soiling.

Item #6173

Price: $4,750.00

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