The California Gold Rush
In Their Own Words and Images
 
Excerpts of a letter from Hiram Dwight Pierce to his wife Sara Jane Pierce

San Francisco, California
Oct. 18, 1849

My dear and faraway wife Janey,

   … I will briefly describe the look of things around me. I am sitting in the tent a box covered with a cloth is our eating table on which I write. At the back end is piled our beds on either side is hardware of all descriptions from Steam Cylendor to a paper of Tacks. Outside are casks of Codfish Meal etc. … Our fireplace is close by with a small stove. … Just beyond is the beach, a little to the right they are building a Steam boat, and all round is the sound of hammer on boat house or iron. Clothing of all descriptions strews the ground all over. Left by those that have camped here and gone to the mines. Shirts never worn but once or twice are thrown away rather than pay for washing. 50 cts is the charge for washing a piece or $6 per dozen and no less — so collars boosoms (sic) etc. are thrown away indiscriminately. I have seen pants whole and sound and but little soiled thrown away.

San Francisco, 1850
Photo of San Francisco, 1850
attributed to William Shew.
Photo shows the bay clogged with deserted ships.
Courtesy the Bancroft Library

   In front at the distance of 1/3 of a mile the shipping begins and extends for 2 miles in a body of some mile and 1/2 in breadth. It is a swamp of Spars and Masts shutting out the vision as far as water extends from a point of rocks close by on my right to the point on the left. … there is some 4 or 500 ships in the harbour and almost every tide brings in others and multitudes of Emigrants are constantly arriving showing as I think that the Dupes are not all dead yet. I expect that the mines will be literally crowded but I need not anticipate. …

Excerpts of a letter from Hiram Dwight Pierce to his wife Sara Jane Pierce.
Courtesy California State Library


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