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Images of Californian gold fields

Date: c 1851
Overall: 393 x 277 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00003298
Place Manufactured:United States

User Terms

    This article is from Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion and depicts four images of miners in California including a view of a three workers prospecting for gold on a long tom. Gleason's was a Boston based weekly magazine that was modelled on the London Illustrated News. It often published articles on the American gold rush that were supplemented with large appealing illustrations.

    SignificanceThis article is indicative of the 19th-century public interest in the America and Australian gold rushes. The images highlight the living and working conditions of life on the gold fields.
    HistoryDuring the 1840s and 50s illustrated weekly magazines became increasingly popular in Europe and America. They contained numerous illustrations and articles on politics, war, travel, exploration, fine arts, science and literature. The first edition of Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion was published in 1851. This major American newspaper was modelled on the London Illustrated News and featured articles of interest to its American audiences, including stories from overseas. In 1855 it underwent a name change to Ballou's Pictorial after it was purchased by Maturin Ballou.

    The coverage of the Gold rush was a popular topic in America, Australia and England with many people interested in seeking their fortune on the gold diggings.
    Living and working conditions on the gold diggings were harsh. The landscape was quite barren with the trees being cut down for firewood, huts and mine shafts. The weather could be extreme being cold, wet and muddy in winter; hot, dry and dusty in summer. Sanitation was also a problem for the large number of people living and working together. Washing for gold added to the fouling of streams and rivers while holes in the ground held sewage and refuse. Infections and diseases spread readily under these conditions with influenza and pneumonia being common causes of death for miners of all ages and genders. Many children suffered from scarlet fever and diphtheria. If they did not die from the disease they were killed by the 'cures' - many of which were poisons.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Images of Californian gold fields

    Primary title: Four individual images of the Californian minefields on one sheet, featuring California miners working the 'long tom', head of a Californian emigrant, miners prospecting, or hunting for gold and a representation of a Californian chain gang.

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