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    [1849 California Gold Rush]. Group of Three Letters from C.A. and W.R. Swift. The news of the discovery of gold near Coloma, California, on January 24, 1848, ignited an exodus of some 300,000 people to the area, all in hopes of striking it rich. Among them were brothers C.A. and W.R. Swift.

    Writing on March 11, 1849, from Boston, C.A. tells his sister, Frances, that they "expect to sail now the 18th and I think now that we shall get away by that time . . . I have seen about all the company . . . the [sic] is four shipmasters in the company . . . Capt Hall our President has resided at the Sandwich Islands [Hawaiian Islands] some years . . . We have a crew of twelve who work the ship out there and stay there and return with us and have half a share."

    Having finally arrived in California, the brothers wrote home to a third brother on September 21, 1849: "I arrived here sunday the 16th of this month after a passage of 168 days. . . . With regard to the place, probably you have heard more than I can tell you, however this much I can say it surpasses anything that I ever imagined. The sickness of the mines, are full equal to any reports . . . There are about 200 Vessels in the harbors and others coming in every day. . . . It is quite sickly at the mines . . . None but the most robust can endure the fatigue, and such persons can average . . . two ounces a day. The companies I am told break up in a short time after they get to the mines, in consequence of some falling sick or not being so fortunate in finding gold." They then describe the physical layout of the city of San Francisco as well as the omnipresence of gambling: "Every shop is gambling hall . . . I have seen piled up in these shops gold and silver . . . If a man is caught stealing they cut his ears off. And for the second offence it is hanging." Signed "C.A Swift / W.R. Swift."

    Unfortunately for the Swifts, striking it rich did not appear to be in the cards as illustrated several months later when C.A. wrote to their mother (dated January 29, 1850) saying, "I suppose you are anxious to hear from me and how I get along in this land of Gold I can only say that I am well, but as to the gold I have not handled much of it." He continues by describing the equipment used to uncover the elusive metal: "The machines used are like a common cradle a small box with a coarse sieve for the bottom sits on one end the dirt is put into this box and one man rocks it . . . another one pours water on to the dirt the motion of the rocker shakes the dirt through the sieve and leaves the gravel stones in the box . . . the gold being heavy stops there whilst the dirt passes off with the water." Swift is obviously disgruntled, believing that "some infernal lies have been told about them [the mines] it is all luck and chance about getting gold . . . If you hear of any one that is anxious to come out here you gust [sic] tell them to stay where they are."

    Condition: The letters show the expect folds and toning. One partial page of an additional letter is included, but the top half, which is separated along the upper horizontal fold, is missing. The folds are weak on all the letters with some separation present. The lower right corner of the letter dated September 21 is torn off, but included.


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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