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A lynching in California

Date: 23 October 1858
Dimensions:
Overall: 399 x 264 mm
Medium: Wood, Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00009343
Place Manufactured:New York

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    Description
    Frank Leslie's Illustrirte Zeitung was the German language edition of Frank Leslie's Ilustrated Newspaper, and was published between 1857 and 1894 in New York.

    The engraving illustrating this front page article decpicts a group of Californian emigrants holding firearms watching and waiting for a man to be lynched.
    SignificanceThis article represents the darker side of the American gold rush and highlights the dangerous nature of life on the competitive gold fields. In 1851 the discovery of gold in Australia raised public apprehension about lawlessness.
    HistoryIllustrated weekly magazines became increasingly popular in Europe and America during the mid 19th century. They used large eye catching illustrations to accompany articles on politics, war, travel, exploration, fine arts, science and literature. The coverage of the Gold rush was a popular story in America, Australia and England as many people were keen to discover their fortune on the gold fields too.

    A diverse mix of miners from Britain, Europe, America and China lived in harsh conditions on the American and Australian gold diggings. This instigated challenges to people’s beliefs, politics, economics and technology. It also caused tension. Newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and the wider world carried sensational reports of lynchings on the Californian diggings and many feared a repetition of these events in Australia. In America groups of private citizens had banded together to form Vigilance committees for self governance. This often resulted in the public lynching of suspected criminals.

    As droves of diggers descended on San Francisco - over 10,000 Australians by the end of May 1849 - citizens became alarmed at the escalating crime. Members of two street gangs, the Australian Hounds and the Sydney Ducks, were notorious villains. While not always Australian, they were branded as ex-convicts from Sydney and Tasmania. Their looting and killing prompted irate locals to form The Committee of Vigilance in 1851, which experienced a revival in 1856. The Committee enacted its own form of justice, capturing and lynching some of these men before they could be tried legally. The Committee also attempted to monitor and control the migration between Australia and San Francisco.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: UNTITLED (A LYNCHING)

    Web title: A lynching in California

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