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    Earliest Known Photograph of the Mining Camp At Randsburg, California

    [California Gold Mining] Earliest Known Image of Randsburg-Rand Camp 1896 Still Predominately a Tent City. 7" x 4.75". Randsburg was described in a letter to the San Francisco Call newspaper in January of 1897 as follows: "NEWS FROM RANDSBURG. The following letter from Randsburg gives the latest news of the mining camp in a concise and interesting style: Randsburg, Dec. 29, 1896. This is a wild camp, composed of 242 tents, mostly small ones, and 112 "shacks" and "shanties" ranging from 6x6 feet to 20x60 feet. The largest are the dance houses, groceries, hotels and lodging-houses. It is hard to get a bed in a comfortable place at any price. Every kind of trade is amply represented on a small scale except the gambling houses and saloons, which are represented on a scale out of proportion to the number of inhabitants. More "shanties" are erected every day, and it takes about two days' work of two men to build one of them without plastering, ceilings, and with few windows. As there are only about seventy-five men employed in the mines out of about 1500 people the money to support the camp comes mostly from outsiders coming and going. There are three stages from Mohave and two from Kramer every day, besides many teams hauling lumber, supplies and water. Very little development work has been done yet on claims and mines, but of the amount done there is an excellent showing of rich, high-grade ore. No miner or anyone else who must have immediate work to live should come here, as the camp is overstocked now. Every foot of the surrounding country is taken up by claims, some two and three deep. There is a prospect of lively times settling up these claims. There is a rival camp over the hill east of Randsburg named Johannesburg, an immense, high-sounding name for a very small camp of a few scattered tents, in fact living here is about like camping out on a vacant lot in San Francisco surrounded by old tin cans and without the comforts of nice pavements, etc." An historic image with a small vertical scratch at the lower edge, some minor wear at the edges, and trivial soiling; else in very good 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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    30th-1st Wednesday-Thursday
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