, Contra Costa County, California, USA. View is to the south-southeast from Concord, California, approximatley [sic] 14 miles (22 km) distant," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library, date unknown. Larger.
One of California's most important industries is tourism, which is helped not only by our state's varied and beautiful natural settings but also by squads of talented travel writers who continue a long tradition.
An early pioneer of California travel writing was Englishman James M. Hutchings
, an unsuccessful forty-niner
turned writer and promoter. He opened the first hotel in Yosemite Valley
and in 1860 published Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California
, which includes this enticing description of the view atop Mount Diablo
The Pacific Ocean; the city, and part of the bay of San Francisco; Fort Point; the Golden Gate; San Pablo and Suisun Bays; the government works at Mare Island; Vallejo; Benicia; the valleys of Santa Clara, Petaluma, Sonoma, Napa, Sacramento, and San Joaquin, with their rivers, creeks, and sloughs, in all their tortuous windings; the cities of Stockton and Sacramento; and the great line of the snow-covered Sierras; with numerous villages dotting the pine forests on the lower mountain range—are all spread before you. . . .
Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California
In the fall season, when the wild oats and dead bushes are perfectly dry, the Indians sometimes set large portions of the surface of the mountains on fire; and when the breeze is fresh, and the night is dark, and the lurid flames leap, and curl, and sway, now to this side and now to that, the spectacle presented is magnificent beyond the power of language to express.
included sketches of the New Almaden mines
and Mount Shasta
. But Hutchings the Yosemite innkeeper was also shrewd enough to focus on the famous valley
and lay out directions for getting there.
"The Miner's Ten Commandments," Placerville Herald, 1853. Larger.
During the Gold Rush Era
, the colorful phrase "going to see the elephant" came to signify the dashed hopes of forty-niners who yearned after an extraordinary—and lucrative—experience.
In 1853, James M. Hutchings
published "The Miners' Ten Commandments,"
which were, he claimed, revealed by an elephant, who "with trunk extended," pointed to a card tacked to a shingle. The final commandment allegedly scrawled upon that card sums up the spirit of these sage proscriptions for finding comfort within disappointment.
A new Commandment give I unto thee—if thou hast a wife and little ones, that thou lovest dearer than they life,—that thou keep them continually before thee, to cheer and urge thee onward until thou canst say, "I have enough—God bless them—I will return." Then as thou journiest towards thy much loved home, with open arms shall they come forth to welcome thee, and falling upon they neck weep tears of unutterable joy that thou art come; then in the fullness of thy heart's gratitude, thou shalt kneel together before thy Heavenly Father, to thank Him for thy safe return. AMEN—so mote it be.
Hutchings is said to have circulated 100,000 copies of the "Miners' Ten Commandments," so popular was the work. He later became one of Yosemite Valley's most ardent promoters.
"A forty-niner peers into the slit of California's American River," photographed by L. C. McClure, 1850, from Brinkley, Douglas: History of the United States
, Viking Penguin, New York, 1998. Page 151. Larger.
Hutchings' California Magazine
, cover illustration, 1857. Larger.
Life in the California gold mines could be a dull and wearying affair. What better way to spice up the day than by sharing a bit of humor.
In 1853 James M. Hutchings
appealed to the forty-niners' funny bone with his own version of the Ten Commandments. Hutchings' third commandmant was an especially sage one.
Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Neither shalt thou take thy money, nor thy gold dust, nor they good name, to the gaming table in vain; for monte, twenty-one, roulette, faro, lansquenet and poker, will prove to thee that the more thou puttest down the less thou shalt take up; and when though thinkest of thy wife and children, thou shalt not hold thyself guiltless—but insane.
It is said that James M. Hutchings circulated 100,000 copies of "The Miners' Ten Commandments,"
which helped fund the publication of Hutchings' California Magazine