A Forty-Niner Daguerreotype

The Society of California Pioneers Collection

I am always on the lookout for illustrations of life in Gold Rush California, and what I like best are authentic photographs or drawings from the period. Whenever I do a picture book set in California history, I have to find pictures for the illustrator (the wonderful Steve Ferchaud) — pictures that show life at that time. This daguerreotype is a great example.

The picture was posted on Facebook by The Society of California Pioneers. Probably taken in 1849, it shows a miner outside his makeshift cabin playing a flute. A closer look reveals some tools of his trade.

He has one foot up on a keg, but what the keg held is anyone’s guess. Everything was packed in barrels and kegs. It could have been brandy, it could have been pickles. Next to the keg is a log with an ax, and nearby are his mining tools — what looks like a pan and a shovel.

Look closer. To the right of the door, just in front of the little lean-to, is a dog, On top of the log chimney is a barrel for a smokestack.

Do you see anything else?

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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