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Lot 13

Eyewitness account of the discovery of gold in California
The Mormons found it

13. BROWN, James S[tephen]. California Gold An Authentic History of the First Find With the Names of Those Interested in the Discovery. Published by the Author James S. Brown Salt Lake City, Utah. Oakland: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1894. 20 pp., wood-engraved text illustration (frontispiece portrait of author). 12mo, original tan printed wrappers. Wraps slightly worn and with a bit of mild marginal browning, a few neat reinforcements with Japanese tissue to inside upper wrapper, generally a fine copy of a rare survival printed in exceedingly fragile format. Preserved in a brown cloth folding case with dark brown calf spine label.

     First edition. Byrd 2. California Printing II:6 (essay by Jennifer S. Larson): “Brown claims it was the presence of the Mormons that made possible the construction of the mill, which had been delayed for some months for want of skilled and reliable labor; and that within six months of the discovery, Mormons had found gold ‘in hundreds of places that Mr. Marshall had never seen, the most notable of which was Mormon Island, to where the first rush was made, and from where the news was spread to the uttermost bounds of the everlasting hills and to all the nations of the earth.’” Cowan I, p. 25. Cowan II, p. 77. Flake 899. Graff 425. Holliday 134: “The author, a member of the “Mormon Battalion” crossed the plains and reached California early in 1847.” Howell, California 50:328. Howes B848 (“aa”). Rocq 1809. Streeter Sale 3018. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 22n.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 85a:
Eberstadt notes: “Of vital historical importance being the only printed relation - aside from that of Marshall himself - by an eyewitness of and participant in the gold discovery.” Brown’s recollection described his employment by Sutter to work with Marshall on building the mill on the American River. His account features a lively dialogue between Marshall and himself concerning the discovery. On January 24, 1848, after Marshall gathered several flakes, Brown related: “I picked up the largest piece, worth about fifty cents, and tested it with my teeth; as it did not give, I held it aloft and exclaimed, `Gold, boys, gold!’“ Brown told how six Mormons found gold an hour later, how the news spread, and how various early techniques were used to find gold. With a tinge of bitterness, he recalled how Sutter never paid him for his work and how Sutter cursed Marshall and his discovery. Brown concluded with letters from John S. Hittell and Bancroft’s History Company “showing the relation of the writer to the gold discovery” and an affidavit by five fellow members of the Mormon Battalion.
      Brown’s story was published on the occasion of a visit to San Francisco’s Midwinter Fair in 1894. Only fifty-five copies were printed although the number of copies that continue to surface suggest a larger printing. Two copies examined have stamped on the verso of the front wrapper: “Compliments of the Society of California Pioneers.” His account was reprinted for William Abbatt’s The Magazine of History (Extra Number 191) in 1933 and in 1953 by descendants of the pioneer (Salt Lake City: Pyramid Press, 1953).
      Rodman Paul’s, The California Gold Discovery, p. 167, discussed and reproduced Brown’s account. On December 20, 1886, Brown dictated his recollections for Bancroft. Brown’s account has been superseded in importance by Erwin Gudde’s Bigler’s Chronicle of theWest (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962). Gudde provided an important comparison of the Bigler and Brown accounts and called into question the accuracy of Brown’s statements (pp. 94-98).


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