Lot 26
  • 26

Anonymous American Photographer

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Anonymous American Photographer
  • daguerreotype
quarter-plate daguerreotype, with gilt-detail, cased, 1850s

Catalogue Note

The daguerreotype offered here is a quintessential portrait of an American gold miner, a 'Forty-Niner,' one of the many adventurous men who traveled to California in search of riches in the late 1840s and 1850s.  He is shown here with standard mining tools: a pickaxe and a pan, in which several nuggets of gilt-detailed gold can be seen.  The discovery of gold in California at John Sutter's timber mill in January of 1848 irrevocably changed the physical and cultural landscape of the United States.  The rumor of gold was enough to bring thousands to California, and many made fortunes simply by picking up the surface accumulation of gold from streambeds, crevices, and under boulders, using the simplest of tools, such as those held by the miner in this daguerreotype.  In December of 1848, President James K. Polk spoke officially of the riches to be found in California and legitimized the adventurous desires of many to go west.  His words unleashed a migration unlike anything the young nation had yet seen.  Towns and businesses grew up to serve this new population of miners.  San Francisco, Sacramento, and Benicia grew from sleepy trading settlements into cities overnight.  A handful of photographers had also made the journey west, and photographed in the towns and at 'the diggings.'