The Rush for Gold

The January 1848 chance discovery of gold in northern California rapidly altered the course of America. On this day, August 19, in 1848, word finally reached the East Coast, when the New York Herald published a report of the discovery. By 1849, the rush was on in earnest, leading to the well-known term for gold seekers: ’49ers. Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the American West, looking to strike it rich. Scenes like the one seen below became commonplace, as able-bodied people sought their fortune:

Gold miners, El Dorado, California. Photo, between circa 1848 and 1853. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.04487

Gold miners, El Dorado, California. Photo, between circa 1848 and 1853. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.04487

A unique view of the journey west was captured by Rhode Island native Daniel Jenks. A decade after the initial rush, Jenks set out to cross the country in February 1859 to find gold in Pike’s Peak, Colorado. (Upon hearing reports along the way, he changed course and went to California instead.) He documented his six month journey full of mountain passes, water crossings, snowstorms and desert heat through diaries and drawings. Imagine the arduous trip through a few of his drawings below:

Chavis Creek, Camp 14th. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04807

Chavis Creek, Camp 14th. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04807

Cache la Poudre Creek. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04814

Cache la Poudre Creek. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04814

Cherokee Pass, Rocky Mountains. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04813

Cherokee Pass, Rocky Mountains. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04813

 

The dessert [i.e., desert]. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04817

The dessert [i.e., desert]. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04817

After making it to California, Jenks later bought a mining claim in Long Gulch. In this view of the mine and cabins, you can see Jenks’ cabin in the lower right corner.

View of the mine at Long Gulch. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1860. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04825

View of the mine at Long Gulch. Drawing by Daniel Jenks, 1860. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04825

[Unidentified man with gold mining equipment and wearing a U.S. beltplate]. Tintype, circa 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.34503

[Unidentified man with gold mining equipment and wearing a U.S. beltplate]. Tintype, circa 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.34503

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3 Comments

  1. Tom Liljenquist
    August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

    This 1/4 plate tintype is of a Union veteran who still proudly wears his U S belt plate. Notice the nuggets in the bottom of his mining pan which the photographer has tinted gold.

  2. Tom Liljenquist
    August 21, 2015 at 7:06 am

    How did Jenks fare? Did he strike it rich?

  3. Sara W. Duke, Curator, Prints & Photographs Division
    August 21, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Alas, Daniel Jenks did not strike it rich. He worked as a grocer and drover before returning home to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he died in 1869 at the age of 42. (Both of his parents survived him.) What Kristi did not know, is that a couple of years ago we acquired two of his diaries, including the one that he wrote for his 1859 journey west to Yreka, California via Pueblo, Colorado, as well as a Civil War-era diary recording his work as a drover between Yreka and Idaho territory, //lccn.loc.gov/mm2012085772. The diaries and a few letters are housed in the Manuscript Division.

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