"Sporty Parisian dandies of the 1830s." Larger.
California's diverse population is one of the state's greatest assets, but diversity here has always been as much a matter of style as anything else.
In 1848, when James H. Carson exchanged military life for the life of an Argonaut, he had no idea of the variety of company he'd keep.
In the tide of emigration which set into the mines in the latter part of 1848 and during '49, were to be found every species of the human family; and amongst the other animals, a full sized live dandy could be seen once in a while, with a very delicate pick, a wash pan made to order in the States, and a fine Bowie knife, perambulating through the diggings in search of "ah very rich hole, whah a gentleman could procure an agreeable shade to work under." Of such cases as these, the old diggers generally made play-actors, and gave them the whole diggings for a stage on which to perform. The dandy has always been known to go dressed in the finest and most fashionable apparel—kid gloves that covered lily white hands, small walking stick, hair usually long, and soaped down until his head shines like a junk bottle, feet encased in patent leather boots, speaking a sweet little language of his own, which is faintly tinged in places with the English tongue, was never known to have done an hour's work in his life, and the oldest inhabitants never knew one of them to have a "dem cent." Such a thing as that, of course, was never made for a digger in the gold mines, although the old 'uns used to make them try it hard.
James Carson's newspaper articles about his California experiences were collected in Early Recollections of the Mines
From Early Recollections of the Mines and a Description of the Great Tulare Valley, 1852. Read Online
||Reader: Kevin Hearle
Golden mask, c. 1000, Columbia. Larger.
Money can make people do crazy things, and nuggets of gold—well, those can make a person go right off the deep end.
Author James H. Carson took his own plunge into the deep end. Here he recounts the frenzy he felt after seeing the rich spoils of a friend's claim.
Out the metal tumbled; not in dust or scales, but in pieces ranging in size from that of a pea to hen's eggs; and, says he, "this is only what i picked out with a knife." There was before me proof positive that I had held too long to the wrong side of the question. I looked on for a moment; a frenzy seized my soul; unbidden my legs performed some entirely new movements of Polka steps—I took several—houses were too small for me to stay in; I was soon in the street in search of necessary outfits; piles of gold rose up before me at every step; castles of marble, dazzling the eye with the rich appliances; thousands of slaves, bowing to my beck and call; myriads of fair virgins contending with each other for my love, were among the fancies of my fevered imagination. The Rothschilds, Girards and Astors appeared to me but poor people; in short, I had a very violent attack of the Gold Fever.
Carson's collection of mining anecdotes, Early Recollections of the Mines
, was originally published as an addition to the newspaper, The San Joaquin Republic
Gold in Quartz, Eagle's Nest Mine, Placer County, CA. Larger.
Gold Fever brought thousands to California, some looking for richess, some looking for adventure, and some--no doubt few--who were just looking to do a good turn for their folks.
Camped near a party of men from Oregon, argonaut James H. Carson was particularly struck by the family loyalty of one of their number who worked only to "make happy his aged parents."
When he reached the diggings, hope and doubt could be seen struggling within his soul. But a short time elapsed before his muscular arms were swinging the pick, (success must attend a cause like his,) and soon his heart was made glad by finding several large pieces; his countenance beamed with delight—he had struck what miners term a rich "pocket," and as one chunk after another rolled out, his feelings would give way in half-maniac expressions; such as "that's mam's," "that's dad's," "that's for dad's winter coat," &c., as he worked without cessation. Those who knew him said that he had made no other calculation than for the comfort of his aged parents, if success attended his exertions. In a few days he had taken out nearly five thousand dollars, and then bid us farewell for awhile; in his adieu to his companions, a tear could be seen starting in his eyes, while his soul seemed to burst out in one loud laugh, when he told them that he would go back and make his parents rich and happy and then return again and work for himself; and with him went the blessings of all around. Few men with a heart like his have ever come to California without finding a rich "pocket."
James H. Carson's observations on his California experiences were collected in Early Recollections of the Mines
in 1852, said to be the first book published in Stockton
From Bright Gem of the Western Seas: California, 1846-1852 : Early Recollections of the Mines, Tulare Plains, Life in California : A Report of the Tulare,  1991.
||Reader: Kevin Hearle
Chaparral community in the Middle Fork Tule Canyon. Larger.
Over the decades, human beings have markedly changed California's landscape, so much so that pioneer descriptions of some familiar regions might sound almost fanciful to us today.
In 1848 James H. Carson
left military service and struck out for the gold fields. He later began to publish sketches describing the California he experienced. Here, Carson describes the southern San Joaquin Valley, before it became the fertile agricultural region we know today.
The oaks, in their majesty, thickly cover the plain for miles around, and stretch away to the shore of the Tulare Lake. . . . To the right, at a distance of 25 miles, runs the belt of timber marking the course of the Kings River to the lake. On the left is seen, at the distance of 20 miles, the broad body of timber that marks the course of Tule River. The body of land, thus bounded, is the best in the valley—well timbered and watered, and covered with the finest grass in California. Stretching beyond this to the west lie the placid blue waters of the Tulare Lake, whose ripples wash the foot of the low hills of the coast range—the blue tops of which sit a boundary to the scene.
Even in his own time, Carson believed that Tulare Lake
was receding. Victim of reclamation and the desire for fertile agricultural land, the lake that was once the largest freshwater body west of the Mississippi is now a distant memory.