Deadly Folly

Despite the discouraging news from California, hopeful prospectors continued to arrive from all over the world, inviting the ridicule of wags. Alonzo Delano traveled west with high hopes in 1849. He failed in the mines but found success as a humorist. In his serious work, Life on the Plains, Delano described his experiences and included one of the best ethnographic descriptions of the besieged California Indians. The government’s attempts to protect these small, scattered bands of hunters and gatherers came too late. Many perished from the destruction of their ecosystems inflicted by mining practices, the violence of miners, and their lack of immunity to alien diseases.

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Satirical depictions of the Gold Rush by J.A. and D[onald] F. Read in James Alexander Read, Journey to the Gold Diggins/ by Jeremiah Saddlebags. New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1849.

Gift of the Paul Mellon Estate (NC1429 .R4 1849)

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Alonzo Delano, Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings Auburn and Buffalo: Milner, Orton & Mulligan, 1854.

(F593 .D33 1854)

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“Cleaning Grass Seed” by Seth Eastman in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Vol. 5. 1855 Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1853-1857.

(E77 .S382 1853)

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Letter from Redick McKee, United States Indian Agent in California, Mariposa County, California, to Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart, Secretary of the Interior under President Millard Fillmore, Washington, D.C., 21 March 1851.

Gift of the Honorable George M. Cochran (MSS 228-a)