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    [California Gold Mining] C. W. Tucker On a Trail to an Unknown Mine February 10, 1897. 7" x 5". This photo graphically illustrates the terrain and condition under which the prospecting in the Rand District was taking place. This was aptly described in the January 18, 1897 edition of the Salt Lake Herald as follows: "As a mining camp Randsburg seems to have an unusually good supply of romance connected with its origin. Almost every prospect hole has its thrilling history. It will not do to doubt them for the men who are responsible for the stories are on the ground. Randsburg is so new that its history is reckoned by months and not by years. In September of last year three prospectors named Mooers, Burcham, and Singleton were dry washing the placer dirt in the hills and one night after having been away from the camp they got lost and went to sleep in a gulch to wait for daylight. In the morning Burcham idly struck his hammer on a projecting quartz vein and the free gold almost dazzled him. The three men are now the owners of one of the richest mines in the district and are reckoned as prospective millionaires. Then there is the story of how Cy Drouillard located the St. Elmo. He had been grub staked by the sheriff's office at Bakersfield. He went out into the blistering desert and suffered untold agonies from drought and heat. One Sunday when he had sunk half exhausted by a rock he struck the boulder in a halfhearted fashion and was driven half mad by the glint of good red gold. That boulder is one of the attractions in Randsburg's principal saloons today and hundreds of prospectors do homage at its shrine. Drouillard and his partners would not take millions for the St. Elmo although their shaft is not yet down 100 feet. Then there is Rainy who owns the wonderful Butte mine just across Fiddler gulch from Randsburg. He had just found that there was not another drop of water in his canteen and that he must turn back when a sudden glimmer in the broken rock gave him strength to hammer away like a maniac. In an hour he had pounded out some worth of gold in a common mortar. Ramy [sic] and his partner have already taken out a small fortune from the gopher holes and pockets and are getting ready to unlock enormous wealth which they are sure likes below." The photograph is annotated by hand in blue ink on the lower left margin "2-10-97". The photograph has an imperfection original to the negative running vertically along the right center and the lower right corner of the backing board is chipped, else it is in fine condition.

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    Clarence W. Tucker Photograph Collection

    Randsburg, California - Mojave Desert, Circa 1896 - 1898


    Simply spectacular! This collection consists of twenty-seven studio-mounted photographs and ten glass plate negatives taken by pioneer California photographer Clarence W. Tucker (1874-1964). The archive represents the most important and rare grouping of mining camp images to come to market in many years. The photos were found at the bottom of a mine in the Mojave Desert in the 1950s by amateur prospector William Young  as documented by a series of articles in Westways Magazine in 1971 and 1972. Not a great deal is known about C. W. Tucker's early days in photography. He was born in Indiana on September 22, 1874 and in 1893 he became a photographer's apprentice in Warsaw, Indiana. In 1895 he came to San Jose, California to visit a cousin and ended up staying in California and working as a photographer until his death in 1964. Tucker settled in the rough mining camp of Randsburg around 1896 and remained there until about 1898. During that time he met and married Grace Doughty and she worked as his assistant from thereafter. In the early 1900s the Tuckers moved to Covina, California where they ran a photography studio until 1950. Tucker could not have avoided being affected by the raw energy of the mining camp at Randsburg and his keen photographer's eye fortunately chronicled its rise from a tent city to a small but booming mining town. His images are possibly the only photographic record extant of Randsburg's glory days as an Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) search shows no images by Tucker taken during his time in Randsburg in institutional holdings.


    Randsburg's decade-long boom began in 1895 with the discovery of rich gold and mineral deposits in the El Paso mountains in the northwestern Mojave Desert. John Singleton, a hard-rock miner, in a last attempt at striking it rich, got lucky with the discovery of rich gold deposits which would become the famous Yellow Aster mine. The claim was named the "Rand" giving a nod to the rich mines of South Africa and the early mining camp was called "Rand Camp". The discovery touched off the inevitable flood of prospectors and a crude tent camp was hastily established. By the end of 1895 there were thirteen buildings, most of them canvas but by the next year the population had swollen to 1,500 and more permanent wooden structures began to appear. The town suffered a series of devastating fires and as mining played out in the area, the town effectively reverted to ghost town status.

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