Here’s Cuffy in a cartoon from 1850, reading the news of California’s admission into the Union. The drawing comes from the Society of California Pioneers, but I don’t know anything else about the source of this picture. The SCP has a treasure trove of California items.
In September 1889 — 39 years after the event — John Bidwell wrote to his friend E. Nelson Blake:
Your memory is good — true, 39 years ago we brought the news of California’s admission into the Union. Where are those who were our fellow passengers? Except for yourself, I cannot recall the name of one living! We ought to be thankful that our lives have been spared to behold the wonderful march of events of this prolific age!
Unfortunately, Blake’s letter to Bidwell recalling the great day does not survive. Blake had a very good memory for his California days — I wish we had his recollections.
Bidwell and Blake were both passengers on the steamship Oregon, arriving on October 18, 1850 with the news that California had become the 31st state. Bidwell was traveling in a first class cabin, while Blake, a farm boy on his way to the goldfields, was in steerage.
Bidwell carried with him the statehood documents, but fearing their loss to unknown men who opposed the admission of California as a free state, he gave the document into the keeping of Mrs. Elisha Crosby and her daughter Helen. Miss Helen slept with the packet of papers under her pillow and hid them in her blue silk umbrella as the crossed the Isthmus of Panama.
You can celebrate Admission Day with the Bidwell Mansion Association at Bidwell Mansion on Sunday, September 8th at 4 p.m. and hear the whole story of how John Bidwell brought the news and the documents safely to San Francisco.