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  • Forging Community | What life was like in Gold Rush towns

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 29, 2015

    This is the only hotel in this vicinity, and as there is a really excellent bowling alley attached to it, and the barroom has a floor upon which the miners can dance, and, above all, a cook who can play the violin, it is very popular.
    —Louise Clappe, Indian Bar, California, October 7, 1851

    In California the richest diggings were isolated in the northern ranges of the Sierra Nevada. The gold camps were often temporary, as most gold seekers did not intend to stay in California after making their fortunes, and this in turn contributed to a rougher character overall. However, these communities were not without their luxuries. Most gold camps contained a sampling of shops and businesses, roadhouses, and drinking and gambling establishments. The camp at Rich Bar even had a bowling alley!

    San Francisco served as a hub of social and business activity for the thousands of people coming in to and going out of California during the gold rush. Many who made their fortunes, whether through mining for gold or “mining the miners,” settled in the city and became part of the city’s elite class.

     eliza jane steen johnson-for blog
     Untitled (Eliza Jane Steen-Johnson), ca. 1852
    Image courtesy of the Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of Barbara Smith; H96.44.1

    Eliza Steen-Johnson and her husband settled in San Francisco after emigrating from Ireland in 1850. They owned and operated a dry goods store and hat shop in the city.

    On Saturday May 30 at 2 p.m., join Gold! curator, Johanna Blume, for a gallery talk that explores what life was like in gold rush communities, with a special focus on the stories of women in the California, Black Hills, and Yukon-Klondike gold rushes.

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  • Gold Quartz Jewelry

    by James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg chief curatorial officer | May 13, 2015
    _MG_5865
    Brooch, 1860s

    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

    Fine jewelers, along with gold- and silversmiths, were among the citizens who made up the new populations of gold rush California. Many of those who found wealth showed it off with watch chains, brooches, and other jewelry made with sections of gold-rich quartz. A number of firms rose to prominence by making this unique form of jewelry in San Francisco. They included J. W. Tucker & Co.; George Shreve & Co.; Barrett & Sherwood; and Braverman & Levy. Supposedly, even President Abraham Lincoln had an example of gold quartz jewelry. An elegant purse made of panels of gold and gold quartz, remarkable boxes, and even a model of the Parthenon were created for the wealthiest of clients. Watch fobs and brooches were often designed to hold loved ones’ pictures or locks of hair.

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    Watch and Chain, 1860s
    Watch by American Waltham
    Gold quartz, gold, enameled face
    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

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  • On the Banks of the Yukon Far Away

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 11, 2015


    On my log cabin home beside the Yukon / Old aurora throws her bright and brilliant ray. / Thro’ her beams I see the snow clad mountains gleaming, / On the banks of the Yukon far away.

    —Lyrics from On the Banks of the Yukon Far Away, 1910, words and music by Martin T. Chester

    To Klondyke we’ve paid our fare / Our golden slippers we soon will wear / We’ll live on pig and polar bear /  And gather the nuggets we know are there.

    —Lyrics from To Klondyke We’ve Paid Our Fare, 1897, words and music by H. J. Dunham

    The allure of gold has captured the imagination of dreamers and adventurers throughout time. Gold rushes like the Klondike not only drew prospectors and speculators to the goldfields, they also inspired many creative works that influenced popular culture at the time, including novels, plays, songs, and even board games. Some of these works were created by people with firsthand knowledge of the gold rush, others by people who had never set foot in the Klondike region. The gold fields of the Far North figured prominently in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the 1909 World’s Fair held in Seattle, Washington. These creative endeavors allowed people from all over the world to vicariously experience the excitement and adventure of life in the Klondike.
    Klondike March of the Gold MinersThe Chilkoot March
     











    Sheet Music Covers
    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin.

    The Klondike Gold Rush inspired many composers. Alfred Roncovieri, who wrote The Chilkoot March, actually spent time in the Klondike gold camps.

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    _MG_6022

    The Klondike Game, 1896–1902
    Parker Bros.
    Loan courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

    The famous game company Parker Brothers created and marketed this board game during the peak years of the Yukon-Klondike gold rush. The game play mimicked the actual journey to and from Dawson City, and the player who collected the most gold nuggets by the end of the game won.

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  • Deadwood | Cooperation and Conflict

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 04, 2015

     P_38839- deadwood south dakota
    Deadwood, South Dakota, ca. 1876
    Photographer: Howard
    Image courtesy of Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; P.38839
     
    Chinamen had no rights in the Hills that the whites were bound to respect, but it is different now. The celestials receive the same protection in our courts of law that white men are favored with.
    Black Hills Daily Times, October 23, 1877

    The white man is in the Black Hills like maggots, and I want you to get them out as quick as you can. The chief of all thieves (General Custer) made a road into the Black Hills last summer, and I want the Great Father to pay the damages for what Custer has done.
    —Baptiste Good, 1875

    Like many gold rush communities, Deadwood was a hub of human activity. Its population was diverse, composed of immigrants drawn by the gold discovery from far and wide to a region that had already been home to the Lakota for generations.

    In some cases, people from different backgrounds found ways to cooperate with one another. For example, the Chinese population of Deadwood found an ally in Jewish businessman Solomon Star. During his twenty-two years as mayor, Star did much to protect the interests and traditions of the Chinese community. In other cases, people could not surmount their differences and conflict ensued. Deadwood was illegally located on Lakota land, and hostilities between the town’s new residents and the Lakota persisted for many years.02678u- the race

      The Race. The Great Hub-and-Hub Race at Deadwood, Dak., July 4, 1888, Between the Only Two Chinese Hose Teams in the United States, 1888
    Photgrapher: John C. H. Grabill
    Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division; LC-DIG-ppmsc-02678

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  • Eiteljorg Insider | Meet Curatorial Intern Lyndsey Blair

    by Lyndsey Blair, Eiteljorg curatorial intern | Apr 22, 2015

    Lyndsey Blair
    Howdy! My name is Lyndsey Blair, and I am a second-year graduate student in the Public History Master’s program at IUPUI.  For the past nine months, I have served as the Eiteljorg’s curatorial intern.  Much of this time has been spent researching information related to the museum’s latest exhibit, Gold! Riches and Ruin.

    For this exhibit, I read numerous articles and books by respected historians, examinedlyndsey blair - WP_20150225_003 first-hand accounts in newspapers, letters, and journals, and viewed thousands of historic photographs.  These resources have given me a greater understanding of the California, Black Hills, and Yukon-Klondike gold rushes.  The most important point I learned was that these rushes not only affected the miners (who were from a variety of backgrounds) but American society as a whole. Some of these changes were beneficial, while others were not.   For example, this phenomenon turned fledging western towns like San Francisco into bustling cities, led to advances in railroad transportation and mail delivery, and inspired new works of art, music, literature, and fashion.  But this event also exposed racial and ethnic tensions in mining camps and nearby cities with diverse populations and resulted in the genocide of thousands of Native Americans. 

    Lyndsey blair 2 - WP_20150225_007Beyond the academic knowledge I have gained from this internship, I have also learned a lot about the museum world.  Much of the work that occurs in museums is a collaborative process, and the same can be said for the Eiteljorg.  With this latest exhibit, staff members spent hundreds (and possibly thousands) of hours planning, researching, and installing the show.  Of course there are the curators, whose work has already been addressed.  But it is also important to recognize the contributions of the designers, the education department, the marketing team, and the maintenance and security staff.  All of these people played important roles in this exhibit.  In the end, I am very grateful to have been part of Gold! and hope visitors enjoy seeing all our hard work!

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