Although unsigned, these watercolors were apparently produced by Robert Hart (b. 1834), whose family owned and operated several gold mines in Spotsylvania and Louisa counties in Virginia in the 1840s. In the summer of 1849 Hart, along with his cousins Andrew Bronaugh and Henry Hart, went west to participate in the California Gold Rush. They went overland, and decided to travel by the Southern Route, also known as the Gila Trail, which took them through New Mexico and Arizona, and through the lands of the Pima and other Indian tribes. The Hart-Bronaugh party passed through southern Arizona in late July, 1849, and arrived at the California gold fields the next month. Robert Hart did not stay long in California, leaving in the fall of 1850. He soured on mining and on living conditions in the mines, and returned to the East Coast by boat and across the Isthmus of Panama.
These watercolors have remained in the family since they were re-discovered and are accompanied by typed excerpts from the diary of Robert Hart recording his overland journey.
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