A Gold Rush Daguerreotype

American River Placer Mining, 1852 — Daguerreotype by George H. Johnson

There are some fabulous images from the Gold Rush, and this is one of them. It’s so crowded with activity and life, even though the daguerreotypist must have told them to stand as still as possible.

Look at the variety of hats, the shirts, the beards, and all the wheelbarrows and the mining equipment that I can’t identify. There are even two females in this picture, rarely seen in any Gold Rush scenes.

Front and center stands a little girl, holding her father’s hand. It must be Take You Daughter to Work Day. She is wearing a short-skirted dress and little pantalettes and holding some kind of bag in her hand.

To the left, sitting on a rock, is another young girl, but it is less clear what the relationship is. She looks about 12 to me, but she could be older. She is looking down, away from the camera. Is she shy? Is the young man next to her, her brother, her boyfriend, or ??? We’ll never know.

This daguerreotype was taken by George H, Johnson in 1852. For a closer look at this image, you can find it (among other places) at the Wikipedia article on the California Gold Rush.

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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