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Daniel Gano Gold Rush Scrapbook

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Gano, Daniel, 1794-1873

Daniel Gano was the clerk of the county court at Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1818 till 1856.

The collection consists of a scrapbook (old barrister book) compiled by Daniel Gano, documenting the California Gold Rush (1849-1850), including his son Stephen's journey to the gold fields of California and his subsequent experiences in "the diggings" there. It holds 17 contemporary letters--eleven sent home by Stephen, two by his cousin Samuel Jones who followed a different route west, and four by friends interested in Stephen's fate--as well as 87 pages of pasted-in contemporary news clippings, a hand-colored print depicting "California Gold Diggers" at work in a Sacramento gold field, a broadside addressed "To California Emigrants," and a photographic portrait labeled on verso "Stephen Gano, My Grandfather." In addition, the book contains approx. 51 pages of listings of court cases for 1846, arranged by docket number, presumably relating to Daniel"s position as county clerk.

The loose items in the scrapbook, particularly the letters, have been foldered separately.

Purchased from R & A Petrilla Booksellers in February 2011 (AM 2011-75).

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This collection was processed by John Delaney on March 18, 2011. Finding aid written by John Delaney on March 21, 2011, using descriptions provided by the dealer.

No appraisal information is available.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
John Delaney
Finding Aid Date
2011
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Gano, Stephen, 1849-1850. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of eleven letters by Stephen to family members regarding his experiences overland to California and in the gold mine fields there:

1) The earliest letter is dated May 9, 1849, addressed to his mother, and here Stephen Gano describes the first leg of the journey by schooner--a trip where the commanding officer, Lt. Schenck, dies of cholera. Gano (SG) also writes about the relative prices for mules in St. Louis and in Indiana.

2) The next letter from SG describes his fellow-passengers on the boat, their safe arrival in St. Louis, their state of general grunginess, and the prices of mules at Louisville and St. Louis.

3) In his next letter, written a few days later to his sister ("22 Miles westerly from Fort Leavenworth"), SG describes what it's like to travel in company with a military group of 30 wagons (e.g., the officers are "perfect gentlemen," the men "mischievously annoying but generally courteous"); the general grubbiness of all the travellers ("we wear only shirts and leggings"); the fact that one of his comrades is in "delicate health," so it's up to him and his second Cincinnati friend to do all the hard labor; their travails crossing the Cam River; the sighting of Indian settlements (log houses which resemble "farms owned by the poorer, lazier class of Farmers"); and the problems of traveling in various types of violent weather.

4) SG's next letter, dated June 7, 1849, from Council Grove, "167 miles from Fort Leavenworth," contains long passages about the "Kansas or Kaw Indians," including descriptions of their dress, hairstyle (in great detail), smoking habits, jewelry, and general demeanor (e.g., despite their general willlingness to steal "mules, horses, and anything they can lay their hands on," SG notes that "if you will talk with them and smoke with them and show any interest or kindness...they will spend a week or two with you as willingly as not" and "in fact it is then difficult to get rid of them.") He also describes the next leg of the journey west under the direction of Capt. Kerr, who is standing in for the deceased Gen. Worth and for his replacement, Gen. Brooke, who has been ordered elsewhere. SG favorably compares his group's own 4-mule wagon with the heavier, 6-mule government wagons in the train, and describes how he was grievously kicked in the leg by "the black pony," tangled in a rope and dragged along by an "astonished" mule, etc. He also comments that he is worried about his cousin Samuel Jones, who is with a party headed west by the South Pass Route, which he believes to be much more dangerous and already overcrowded for the amount of available water and grass. This letter was printed in the newspaper and a clipping of it is on p.1 in the barrister book.

5) SG's next letter, dated November 12, 1849, and 11 pages in length, was sent home from San Francisco, and presents "the history of our expedition from Santa Fe," which he couldn't write about previously on orders from Col. Collier, who feared that if his departure date were made public, too many emigrants would try to join his party. (This problem was settled by Capt. Thomas, SG reports, who permitted the civilians to follow the train, "keeping out of the way of the pack mules and herding their stock apart" from the army's.) After remaining "30 odd days" in Santa Fe, the group departed with Hatcher as guide, a replacement for Kit Carson, who had withdrawn for "personal reasons." SG goes into detail on the "immense expense" of Collier's expedition ("$30,000 won't cover it..."), lists the going prices paid to the men and charged for board and lodging, and comments that the Isthmus route would have been cheaper. He describes the trip over the Rockies, especially a 4,000 foot mountain where some horses "even tumbled over the precipice and were lost cargo and all," and comments on the beauty of the local flora. He says that they were fired on for three days by Apache riflemen (one dragoon being shot in the arm), and describes a fracas between Col. Collier and "a young man from Cleaveland," which was broken up by the "universal favorite" Capt. Thorn, who subsequently drowns, along with one dragoon and two Mexicans, during the crossing of the Colorado River at its junction with the Gila. A long description of the hardships of desert travel follows. When the party finally reaches the "settlements," they prove a disappointing oasis, with "only a few nasty dirty Inidan bush huts, stunted corn, a few watermelons, an no cattle." A stop at the lush and lovely "Mission" church follows, and they arrive in San Diego on 27 October, "just six months to the day from the time we left Cincinnati." He goes on to tell of meeting members of other groups travelling west, hearing about the death of an old friend, and his feeling of "uneasiness" over the price of mules in San Diego, since the sale of his brought only $25 a head. This is barely enough "mule money" to fund their passage to San Francisco on the "Malahkadil," a former slave ship captured by the late Lt. Schenck. He writes of a fight between Col. Weller and the guide, who promptly shot the colonel in the thigh; reports that his friend Charley Johnson "was left at San Diego" to come up on the next steamer; and describes the crowded boatride and the landing in San Francisco. He also offers news of his cousin Samuel Jones, who is now up in the Sacramento area, and describes his group's efforts to "winterize" themselves in their own mining region, and incidentally lists the exorbitant prices of goods such as pork and flour. "Father," he warns, "don't come here for anything no matter what you hear." SG asserts that he would rather "have money to buy real estate in this place than work at the mines," since many people mine gold only in order to make enough cash to "start a lot speculation and get property worth $20,000, $40,000, $60,000," and he's been advised to go back into his "old examining and conveying business." He says he won't. He asks about his Vine Ranch and his house and lot on Freeman Street back home, sends love, begs for letters and local gossip, etc. This letter was published back home and a clipping of it appears on p.22 of the barrister book.

6) His next letter (November 16, 1849) is brief, addressed to his friend William Miller who stayed behind in San Francisco, and reporting that all is well. He discusses freight carrying charges, lists prices for various supplies available, and tells how to contact him when Miller arrives.

7) SG's letter of January 8, 1850, is sent to his parents from the Calaveras Mines and offers long descriptions of tent life, including his recipe for "dry" pancakes (i.e., ones he makes without pricey butter, sugar of molasses on them), the high prices of various goods, reports on clothes and laundry-doing, and on the general tenor of camp life. "You have doubtless heard much about the wickedness of the present occupants of California, but that is all exaggerated or maliciously fabricated." Miners are "scrupulous" about each other's rights, he has found. He also presents the true story of a report he's sure his parents will read about, concerning 30 or 40 Chileans who try to "oust" some Americans from their claim, are fined by the local judge, take revenge by murdering 2 Americans, wounding one and taking prisoners off toward Stockton, then are taken prisoner themselves by a group of "Irish Americans" who try their case unofficially, shoot the 3 leaders, and cut the ears off and whip the remaining 14 Chileans. He adds that his folks shouldn't worry about him, and notes the "I have not been, am not now, nor shall I be discouraged until next fall, when my California fever will have a crisis." He still hopes to get rich, has had no word from Uncle Wash, and reports on his health in general. Since this letter was also published (twice: see pp. 32 and 48 of the barrister book), we know that the missing half of the final page reports on Charley Johnson's being left behind in San Diego and William Miller's being left at San Francico to await the arrival of his "stock of liquor." SG says he is now teamed with Dr. V. R. Gillette. He also notes that Californians voted for a constitution that prohibits slavery.

* [A January 11, 1850, letter from SG to his friend is not present, but is represented here in published form on p.31 of the scrapbook. It is facetious in tone at first, then reports the death of Lt. Schenck, describes the trip across the plains, their sojourn in Santa Fe, the prevence of quarreling among the Col Collier group, and encloses a specimen of gold dust.]

8,9) Two April letters both written from Angell's Camp, one to SG's aunt and grandmother (April 6), the other to his father (April 8), rejoice in SG's having finally received letters from home, and describe in some detail the daily tasks involved in gold mining. These include efforts to turn a river, create dams, and work the Quick Silver Machine, which can collect the gold and wash 3000 bushels of dust a day. He describes the machine's workings in detail and also writes about the layers of clay and trap rock that must be dug through. He tells about the efforts of outsiders to buy "shares" in his small group's business--or to try to jump their claim. He offers a picture of life in their 12' x 15' cabin, which houses 11 men, including the cook, and ends by asking both recipients for news of his cousin Sam and Uncle Wash, mentioning his separation from both Bill Miller and Charley Johnson, and asking about his own land at home.

10) A letter dated May 11, 1850, sent from Angell's Camp to his "dear Companero" John [Gano?], says that John would laugh to see SG now, in his "linsey dirty grey breeches, hickory shirt and great wide shoes without socks, beard long...hands hard...as brown as a berry and ...my old hat needs an artist to describe it." He provides many details about the hard work of digging, along with laments over the high prices of staple goods, and notes the "astonishing amount of liquor drunk here." He says that they all have a good laugh at the duded-up newcomers to the diggings, and reports plans for spending the summer digging in the Sierra Nevadas. He and several others (9 at first, now 11) have formed a "Company" and in addition to working the Quick Silver Machine all day (a task he describes in great detail), he serves as Company Treasurer, keeping the books, paying the "hands," etc. Though they made $2,150 in three weeks, they were left with $548 after paying the men, and that had to be divided among the members.

11) SG's final letter, sent in July, 1850, from "Carson's New Diggings," tells his father about the many kinds of people who are working at the mines, reassures him about his own temperance, extols the virtues of sleeping on the ground, and describes the losses experienced by two miners (one a "little English boy," the other a "little drunken Irishman") who both struck it rich and lost their fortunes within a day to "Monte sharpers" who cheated them at cards. He describes the land he is mining himself-- "the richest mine in all California" in the past--and tells of money problems. He writes that he is reading Macaulay's History of England (which he recommends for "Frank") as well as Shakespeare's plays. [The final page is lacking.]

Physical Description

1 folder

"Mr. Chittenden", 1849 December 10. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A two-page missive from a "Mr. Chittenden" in New York addressed to "Dear Father" and expressing concern about an article in the newspaper that reported a fever striking some of the California emigrants, including a "Mr. Gano . . . of Indiana." He writes that he will contact friends in the area and ask them to look for SG and ensure that he's in good health.

Physical Description

1 folder

Dailey [?], Frederick, 1849 August 15. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A letter [bound in the scrapbook] from a friend in Cincinnati telling SG's father that he has received a letter from SG's comrade Charley Johnson dated June 30, saying that "Stephen is enjoying himself . . . driving a four-mule team" and that they are all doing well.

Physical Description

1 folder

Dewey, Samuel L, 1850 June 27. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A letter, dated from San Francisco, June, 1850, by SG's friend Samuel L. Dewey, tells Daniel Gano that he has received his letter and is making inquiries about Stephen's whereabouts and will forward any news he hears.

Physical Description

1 folder

Jones, Samuel, 1849. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

There are also two letters from SG's cousin, Samuel Jones. The first, dated June 1, 1849, from Fort Laramie, tells "Uncle Gano" (SG's father, Daniel Gano) that yesterday "we dissolved as a Company," although the former members are still travelling togethr. Although they've fought no Indians yet, they have seen large numbers of Sioux in Pawnee Country, and he notes that run-ins with both tribes are "fatal to whites in small parties, not in murdering them, but robbing them of all, mules, clothing, guns, and provisions, leaving them naked on the plains which is worse than murder." He describes roads strewed with "provisions of all kinds, wagons, dead mules, oxen...." belonging to those who have turned back, and says that his group sold three of their wagon (very cheaply) and "cut up" the remaining wagons to make them smaller. He says that he will write again "if we go through the Mormon settlement." His second, longer letter [this is bound in the scrapbook], dated in Sacramento City in September 27, 1849, describes his trek west earlier via the South Pass, a journey on which he became very ill and was eventually left behind at Fort Hall "to die"--on his 21st birthday. After almost two weeks at the Fort, he travels with a changing cast of characters, finally arriving at Sacramento City . He is now preparing to leave for the mines with three other Cincinnati boys and plans to spend the winter "in the diggings" where he plans to remain "two years at least," "make a small fortune," and then return home with "thrilling yarns" to tell.

Physical Description

1 folder

Piatt, Donn, 1849 December 24. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A short letter from a friend in "Mac-a-Cheek" saying he's read SG's letter from Council Grove in the newspaper and he wishes SG much success.

Physical Description

1 folder

Notes, undated. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

"Notes from English History": a handwritten leaf (by Stephen Gano?) noting important dates in English history. A curious item [pasted in the scrapbook] appears to be a passage copied (by Daniel Gano?) from "D. I. Journal" offering the writer's reports on the health and good spirits of Col. Collier"s company as it approaches Santa Fe as well as details on the desert scenery, including "lizards, serpents and scorpions" and the news that he himself had killed several buffalo on the plains.

Physical Description

1 folder

Photograph, undated. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photograph of a much older Stephen Gano, inscribed on verso "Stephen Gano, my grandfather."

Physical Description

1 folder

Printed Items, 1849-1850. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A broadside of the Arkansas Intelligencer for January 1850: "To California Emigrants," which offers an explanation of the "superiority" of the "Arkansas Route" west, a route which started at Van Buren, Arkansas. And "Constitution and By-Laws of the California Mining and Trading Company: Of Cincinnati" (1849), 11 pp., stitched in plain yellow wrapper.

Physical Description

1 folder

Scrapbook, 1846-1850. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A "barrister book" which was converted into a scrapbook. Loose letters and other material have been removed and foldered. It now contains a pasted-in hand-colored illustration depicting "California Gold Diggers" (7" x 12") at work in the Sacramento gold fields; the two previously mentioned letters; approximately 51 pages of listings of court cases (1846), arranged by docket number, in addition to the many similar pages pasted over by numerous newspaper clippings about California and gold mining there. Marbled boards, worn leather spine.

Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest