The Man in the Red Flannel Shirt


Who doesn’t love a picture of a miner, a gold prospector, a forty-niner? Here he is, on the cover of the Wasp for October 17, 1891, in his red flannel shirt, blue Levis, tall brown boots, and broad-brimmed hat. Those clothes, together with a beard, was how you knew the cartoon was depicting a miner. Plus he always had a shovel and/or a pickax. Probably a gold pan too.

Why is he perplexed? I’ll get to that in a moment. For now, let’s look at a few more images:


Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California

The “Lone Prospector” by Alburtus Del Orient Browere (what a name!), painted in 1853. Shovel? Check. Pickax? Check. Gold pan, pistol, mule? Check, check, check.


An advertisement for Coats thread, excellent for mending those blue jeans.


The cover sheet of a special supplement to the San Francisco Call, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. A forty-niner for sure, with his red flannel shirt.

And why is that first miner perplexed? It’s a matter of hydraulic mining versus farming. The Wasp was fully in support of hydraulic mining, which brought money into San Francisco, while the farmers in the valley strongly opposed it, on account of the massive amounts of “slickens” (silt and debris) that washed down onto the valley farms.

A little bit more about hydraulic mining next time. For now, just enjoy the sight of a handsome young miner in his red flannel shirt.

golden jubilee

Courtesy of the California State Library


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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2 Responses to The Man in the Red Flannel Shirt

  1. suzanne a. stone says:

    Thank you for collecting these great illustrations. I shared your post on my middle school alumni Facebook page. I was a 49er at John A. Sutter Middle school in Los Angeles (the suburb of Winnetka in the San Fernando Valley).

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