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    Early California: An Important 1856-Dated Gold and Gold Quartz Topped Presentation Walking Stick. This superb walking stick was presented to John F. McCauley by John Simms, the named partners in McCauley, Simms & Co., which took over management of San Quentin prison in 1857. Based on numerous newspaper mentions during this period, it seems clear that McCauley was the more important and prominent partner, and one might speculate that this elegant gift, presented a year earlier, might have been intended by Simms in order to curry favor.

    San Quentin was the state's first real prison facility. It opened in 1852 under private administration and was quickly under fire for poor management practices and inadequate security. McCauley operated the institution from 1857 through 1860, however his administration was also widely criticized, and control of the prison eventually passed to state commissioners.

    We cannot resist quoting a delightful editorial which appeared in the Sacramento Daily Union on October 15, 1860. McCauley had just been relieved of his role at the prison and addressed a "quasi-political" meeting: "My children, I am delighted to see you so happy at my departure; believe me, if I give up the prison, it is to minister to your pleasure; it is now your turn to do something for me. Send my friend John Simms to the (California State) Assembly. This can make no difference to you, and to me it would be a great favor. It is true that Simms is a little stupid, and that he can't write his name; but a member for the Assembly never has occasion for sense, and need not know how to write. "The editorial writer provided this interpretation: "To render this more clear, you must know that McCauley wishes to elect to the assembly a man devoted thoroughly to the bulkheaders; and then, McCauley, who has drank so deep at the public treasury, would you not like to taste at that generous fount once again? Be this as it may, Monsieur John Simms will not be elected from this county."

    Simms' name would surface again in a December 4, 1862 article in the same newspaper which charges him with the regular dealings regarding San Quentin and surrounding lands.

    The walking stick is of the highest quality, topped with a beautiful and deeply veined octagonal piece of polished gold quartz measuring 1.125" in diameter. The substantial eight-sided golden head is engraved on three plain panels "J. T. McCauley/from/John Simms/1856." Each of the other four panels is decorated with elaborate hand engraving showing buildings, vines, flowers, etc. The gold quartz specimen is in perfect condition, while for accuracy we note a few utterly trivial tiny dents in the gold top. Overall in splendid display condition, length 35".

    The lot is accompanied by extensive research into Simms, McCauley, and San Quentin from newspapers of the day, assembled by the consignor. A very special relic of San Francisco's early days.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    21st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,739

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