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Item 20. Colton’s Three Years in California, with humorous Gold Rush illustrations—“An essential work documenting the transition of California from a remote Mexican province to a pulsating, gold-driven American state” (Kurutz).
20. COLTON, Walter (1797-1851). Three Years in California.... New York: A. S. Barnes
& Co.; Cincinnati: H. W. Derby & Co., 1850. 456 pp., engraved
frontispiece portrait of Sutter by Burt, 12 engraved plates on tinted
grounds (6 portraits by Burt, 6 views and comical mining scenes by J.
W. Orr), large folding facsimile (“Declaration of Rights in the Constitution
of California...”), engraved map (Valley of the Sacramento and San
Joaquin, J. W. Orr, N.Y., 14.5 x 8.5 cm; 5-3/4 x 3-3/8 inches),
text illustrations, ads on front endpapers. 8vo, original brown blindstamped
cloth with gilt vignette of the Great Seal of California on upper cover,
spine gilt-lettered. A bit of trivial binding wear and a few small
expert repairs at spinal extremities, mild to moderate foxing to interior,
a few short clean tears to folding facsimile, generally a fine, bright,
Walter Colton, the former editor of the North American in
Philadelphia and first American alcalde at Monterey, wrote one of the
most colorful, breezy, and fact-filled accounts of the conquest of
California and the early days of the gold discovery. It is an essential
work documenting the transition of California from a remote Mexican
province to a pulsating, gold-driven American state. The majority of
the book is written in journal form and opens with the raising of the
American flag at Monterey on July 10, 1846. Colton, in the first chapters,
covers the Mexican-American War in Alta California and news of the
campaign in Mexico. In addition, he provides engaging and often humorous
and satirical descriptions of life in the old capital. Along with Robert
Semple, Colton achieved a historic first in California history, the
founding of a newspaper appropriately called the Californian on
August 15, 1846. His account of printing the first number is a monument
to resourcefulness. He modestly stated: “Though small in dimensions,
our first number is as full of news as a black-walnut is of meat.”
——Gary F. Kurutz
Item 20. Map accompanying Colton’s Three Years in California.