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Lot 89

“First official information on the gold strike”—Kurutz

89. KING, Thomas Butler. T. Butler King’s Report on California. Message from the President of the United States, Transmitting the Report of T. Butler King, Esq. Heretofore Appointed Bearer of Dispatches and Special Agent to California. [Washington, D.C.]: 31st Congress. 1st Session. House of Representatives Executive Document 59, Serial 577, [1850]. 32 pp. 8vo, disbound but with new sympathetic paper spine and stitching. Light uniform foxing, otherwise very good.

     First edition. Cf. Cowan I, p. 130. Cowan II, p. 330. Howell, California 50:135. Howes K153. Cf. Sabin 37840. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 19. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 118: “This outstanding report...was reprinted in numerous editions and formats. It was widely read.” Sometimes epochal reports appear in common dress, as here. Although King is impressed with the prospects of California for the production of such things as beef, grain, and even turnips, he comments towards the end of his report extensively on the California Gold Region, how gold is mined, the quality of it, and what legislation is needed to ensure the proper disbursement of it to miners, investors, and the public.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 377a:

King arrived in California on June 4, 1849, by way of the Isthmus of Panama. In this government report, laid on the table March 27, 1850, King reported on the conditions of California and its potential, and gave Washington its first official information on the gold strike. While in California, he served as the U. S. Collector of Customs at San Francisco. King argued for the exclusion of foreigners from the mines, writing: “During the mining season of 1849, more than fifteen thousand foreigners, mostly Mexicans and Chileans, came in armed bands into the mining district, bidding defiance to all opposition, and finally carrying out of the country some twenty millions of dollars’ worth of gold dust, which belonged by purchase to the people of the United States.” King also recognized the serious plight of the miner: “Those who purchase and ship gold to the Atlantic States make large profits: but those who dig lose what others make.” On April 11, 1850, 10,000 extra copies of his report were printed. The unauthorized New York edition included a more ornate title, but used a smaller typeface. King’s text was appended to or translated for inclusion in several Gold Rush publications, including Bayard Taylor’s Eldora do and Carl L. Fleischmann’s Neueste Officielle Berichte.



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