Item #7704 California Gold Diggers. Mining Operations on the Western shore of the Sacramento River.

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California Gold Diggers. Mining Operations on the Western shore of the Sacramento River.

150 Fulton St., New York and 136 Main St., Hartford: Kelloggs & Comstock, ca. 1849–50]. Hand-colored lithograph, 8.5” x 12.5” plus margins. CONDITION: Very good, light wear to edges with one .25” tear in left side of upper margin (no effect to image), toning to edges of margins,a few light spots in margins.

A scarce print published at the height of the California gold rush showing the social and racial diversity of the mining scene, this example with especially well-preserved color.

This scarce print depicts a lively gold mining scene along the Sacramento River. In the foreground a diverse mix of men in varying attire, many equipped with picks and shovels, are busy panning, digging, dumping baskets from the river, and consulting with each other. Two men on the far left appear to be examining gold nuggets in their hands. On the far bank, men fill and haul baskets from the river, while on the far right a brawl has broken out involving some five or six men. The diversity of dress and race corresponds to the “mixed multitude of human being[s]” that one forty-niner recorded about a decade after this print was published: “The Americans take the lead, the Spanish next, then comes the poor degraded native Indian, the Chinese, the Chilean, the Mexican, and, in fact, some from every nation of the earth are to be found here. All in search of gold!” (Rawls). Two or three apparently African American men appear in the lower left corner of the scene as well. Many gold-seekers brought slaves with them, sometimes having to abandon them when unable to pay for their passage home.

In 1848, John C. Comstock joined Edmund (1809–1872) and Elijah Kellogg (1811–1881) to form the partnership Kellogg & Comstock, which lasted until 1850. 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.

As Harry Peters notes, the Kelloggs are “the only group of whom it is at all possible to say that they were near-rivals of Currier & Ives.” Peters classifies their western lithographs as “a small but important and rare group.” He cites just three other California prints published by them: The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California; The Gold Seeker; and Yosemite Falls.

OCLC records just one copy of this print, at AAS. A google search locates examples at the Bancroft and Beinecke.

An extremely engaging California gold rush lithograph.

REFERENCES: Finlay, Nancy. Picturing Victorian America (Hartford, 2009), p. 17; Peters, Harry. America on Stone (NY, 1931), pp. 246–47; Peters, Harry. California on Stone (NY, 1935), p. 140; Rawls, James. “Gold Diggers: Indian Miners in the California Gold Rush,” California Historical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1 (1976): pp. 28, 41.

Item #7704