Description

    From Gold Miners to Merchants

    [Post Gold Rush California Gold-Mining and Business.] Original Manuscript Account Book of Henry Smith, Allen & Smith Co. Nevada City, California, 1860-1871. Folio. Approximately 12 x 7.5 inches. 360 numbered pages, with manuscript on almost all pages. Contemporary marbled paper boards (once with brown morocco tips, now worn off), rebacked in paper. Binding worn, some soiling or minor fading in text. Very good and rare. An excellent look at gold speculation in California just a few years after the end of the Gold Rush.

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    An excellent look at gold speculation in California just a few years after the end of the Gold Rush. This fascinating account book charts the rising fortunes of the Nevada City, California mining firm of Allen & Smith, formed by Henry Smith and Thomas Allen in April 1860. Nevada City was one of the original 1849 Gold Rush sites. The accounts begin on page 3 with a detailed statement of "The work done on the clames" on Deer Creek. Expenses are broken down by man, at a rate of $3 per day, as well as equipment, such as quicksilver (mercury), a gold scoop, prospecting pans, nails, etc. The ledger documents the high startup costs of mining, as Smith and Allen bring in outside help to put in place the necessary infrastructure, but later the two men work largely alone. After months of preparation, Smith and Allen found gold in May 1861. Results are reported on page 17 with "The amount of gold dust taken out of the clames commencing April 25th 1861." The men extract several ounces of gold from the diggings each day, sometimes reaching banner days of 8 ounces. Pages 32-33 report the amount of gold sold, with an initial sale of $850 (50 oz. at $17) in June 1860. Late in 1862 the firm expanded its business and opened a store. The stocking of the store begins on page 27 and quickly includes a wide range of groceries, fresh food, dry goods, and mining equipment. The firm continued to engage in gold mining and periodically traded in mining claims (p 100), but it appears that the store was far more profitable than the claim, and soon the men seem to have devoted most of their time to it. The account book provides a wealth of details including dates, prices, names of vendors and buyers, and specifics on a wide variety of goods and services. Daily statements of "cash on hand" report the firm's sales. At page 154 the ledger's blank pages begin to be reused, perhaps by Smith, for a wide variety of plans, recipes and cures (To Build a Shed, To Cure Fresh beef, To Make Sausage, to Cure Warts on Cows, etc), and at p. 170 begin a section of daily journal entries incorporating details on sales and expenses. This section is followed by more accounts by name, interrupted on page 250 with an essay on the rights women should enjoy and on page 269 with a discussion of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The volume concludes with the texts of a number of quit claim deeds, contracts, and indentures relating to the gold mines and their transfers. Mounted at the front is Locating and Describing Mining Claims, a useful broadside from the Mining Scientific Press, and mounted at the back is a broadside issued by E. M. Preston, Nevada City agent for the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Co., detailing the services and capital of the company. This splendid and rare account book provides a unique view of early California gold mining and business.



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    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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