California gold from the wreck of the S. S. Central America.
By 1857 the California gold rush was in its mature era, the output of precious metal having peaked in 1853. Coins from the San Francisco Mint (which had opened in 1854) and from several private coiners, along with many gold bars, were shipped regularly from California to the East, particularly to New York City, from which point the gold went to banks, the United States Assay Office, and to the Philadelphia Mint, among other destinations, including transshipment to London, the center of the world gold market.
The typical itinerary for such gold was by sidewheel steamer from San Francisco, then southward via the Pacific Ocean to Panama, at which point the treasure was transferred to the 48-mile-long Panama Railroad for its journey across the isthmus. On the Atlantic side a connection was made with another steamer at the newly built town of Aspinwall (later renamed Colon) for transport to New York City or another port. By 1856 over $330 million in California gold had been exported via this route.
One such Atlantic-side steamer was the S. S. George Law, which had recently been renamed the S. S. Central America. Her fateful voyage in September 1857 was her 44th transit. She had picked up passengers and cargo from the S. S. Sonora, a ship plying the Pacific side from San Francisco down to Panama. She carried a $1.6-million time capsule of gold coins, ingots, nuggets, natural gold crystal specimens, and gold dust fresh from the gold fields of the Mother Lode in California. Consignors and consignees included Wells Fargo & Company, the American Exchange Bank, and the Duncan & Sherman Company; and there was also a substantial amount of "passenger gold" carried in trunks, satchels, packing crates and other containers.
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On her way from Panama to New York City the S. S. Central America encountered an unexpected hurricane. After being tossed by mountainous seas for several days, on the night of September 12 the 278-foot, 2,141-ton vessel slipped beneath the waves. Carried to their grave in 7,200 feet of cold water 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina were about 425 men. Only 153 people were rescued, among whom were all of the women and all but one of the children on the ship. (The exception was a boy who did not want to go into a lifeboat unless his adult brother could accompany him, and his request was denied.) It was the worst maritime disaster in peacetime in the history of the United States.
At the time there was a financial crisis already in progress (later to be known as the Panic of 1857), caused primarily by unfavorable foreign trade and bad banking practices. The crisis was exacerbated by news of the sinking of the S. S. Central America with its massive cargo of California gold. It was California gold that had been fueling the nation's economy. But the recent failure of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company had left massive banking debts in its wake, and nervous depositors were staging a run on the banks. With their gold reserves dwindling, the New York bankers had been looking forward to the fresh infusion being brought by the Central America. Fortunately the cargo was heavily insured, and the underwriters paid out the claims immediately to calm the fears of the financial community.
Fast-forward to 1986, when a group of daring modern-day scientists and adventurers, organized in Columbus, Ohio as the Columbus-America Discovery Group, mounted an academic study combined with a sea-floor search and located the long-lost "ship of gold." The discovery played out in a set of fascinating circumstances, culminating in 2000 with the first sale of gold coins, bars and mineral specimens recovered from the ship. Dwight Manley and his California Gold Marketing Group were instrumental in bringing the hoard to market and seeing it distributed to collectors and museums far and wide.
During the 15 years following the discovery of the ship and its fabulous treasure, a number of books have appeared on the subject. The first was Story of an American Tragedy; Survivors' Accounts of the Sinking of the Steamship Central America (Conrad, 1988). The came The Final Voyage of the Central America 1857 (Klare, 1992), a volume that can be considered definitive with regard to the ship itself. The third was Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (Kinder, 1998), which made the best-seller lists and concentrated upon the successful efforts of the Columbus-America Discovery Group in recovering the treasure from the sea bottom. The fourth, America's Lost Treasure: A Pictorial Chronicle of the Sinking and Recovery of the United States Mail Steamship Central America (Thompson, 1998) brought to print many photographs from the gold rush era and the early days of the ship, plus scenes of the recovery, accompanied by a fascinating narrative.
In 1999 the Columbus-America Discovery Group transferred much of its interest in the treasure to the California Gold Marketing Group headed by Dwight Manley. I was tapped to write a comprehensive book on the find, in the context of the Western era that produced it: A California Gold Rush History, featuring the Treasure from the S. S. Central America (Bowers, 2002), and my firm, Bowers and Merena Galleries, created much of the printed information used in the distribution of numismatic items and specimen material from the ship--a process that continues.
The discovery of coins, bars and crystalline gold from the wreck of the S. S. Central America was, and is, almost unbelievable. It was like traveling in a time machine back to 1857 and viewing (and being able to buy!) freshly minted gold coins, assayer-stamped gold bars and recently dug nuggets and crystal gold in white quartz--perhaps as much as $100 million dollars' worth in today's valuation. We are fortunate that the finding of the Central America treasure took place in our lifetime. I will always consider my slight involvement to be a highlight of my career.
GOLD IN CALIFORNIA
Gold had been found in California since early times, but the earliest Philadelphia Mint deposit of California gold appears to have been shipped in 1837 and received by the mint on January 30, 1838. This shipment is of great historical importance, and has not been recorded in other histories nor is it widely known among scholars even today. The shipment consisted of 851 ounces, noted on the Mint's bullion ledger simply as being "from California," in the form of "native grains," that is, placer gold.
In 1841 or 1842 there was a flurry of excitement at San Francisquito (also known as San Feliciano) Canyon about 35 miles northwest of the small pueblo of Los Angeles. Francisco Lopez had been digging wild onions and pulled up gold dust clinging to the roots. Before long the canyon was thronged with fortune-seekers, some of whom were successful in finding gold. By 1843 the Los Angeles placers were being worked over a distance of about 30 miles and had produced a total of about 2,000 ounces, but by 1844 the field had been exhausted and mostly abandoned.
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The key find which started the great gold rush of 1849 took place in January of 1848 along the Sacramento River, inland from San Francisco by a journey of several days. Sutter's Fort was a central depot for ranching, farming and trading in the area. In charge was John A. Sutter, A Swiss immigrant who had come to the district in 1839 and had named it Nueva Helvetia ("New Switzerland"). In time the city of Sacramento would be built nearby, but in the 1840's the land was grassy and open, with few inhabitants. The fort was constructed around 1841. Sutter eventually sent out exploration parties to locate sites along rivers where a sawmill might be constructed. The scouting party included James W. Marshall, a craftsman and carpenter from New Jersey. They settled upon a site on the American River about 50 miles from the fort by horse trail. Marshall entered into a partnership with Sutter, agreeing to construct the mill while Sutter provided provisions, teams, tools and part of the men's wages. They put up log houses and then dug the foundation for the mill, cutting some distance into the soft granite, and by mid-January 1848 the mill had been completed. On the morning of January 24, Marshall took his usual walk along the mill race after shutting off the water. In Marshall's own words:
My eye was caught with the glimpse of something shining in the bottom of the ditch. There was about a foot of water running then. I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold. The piece was about half the size, and of the shape of a pea. Then I saw another piece in the water. After taking it out I sat down and began to think right hard. I thought it was gold, and yet it did not seem to be of the right color. All the gold coin I had seen was of a reddish tinge; this looked more like brass. I recalled to mind all the metals I had ever seen or heard of, but I could find none that resembled this. Suddenly the idea flashed across my mind that it might be iron pyrites. This question could soon be determined. Putting one of the pieces on a hard river stone, I took another and commenced hammering it. It was soft and didn't break: it therefore must be gold, but largely mixed with some other metal, very likely silver; for pure gold, I thought, would certainly have a brighter color. While we were working in the race after this discovery we always kept a sharp lookout, and in the course of three or four days we had picked up about three ounces--our work [on the mill] still progressing as lively as ever, for none of us imagined at that time that the whole country was sowed with gold.
Marshall eventually showed the gold to Sutter, and workers at the mill site soon spread the word. By May there were 2,000 men panning gold in the area. The California newspaper in San Francisco had to shut down publication because all of its employees had left for the gold fields. Hundreds of ounces of gold were regularly being brought into San Francisco, and new discoveries were being made constantly over a large area of land along the rivers. By June of 1848 San Francisco was the city of gold. The few who remained did little but talk about gold and trade in it. Business was expanding rapidly, and an unprecedented quantity of goods was arriving by ships from the East and elsewhere. Gold dust, flakes and nuggets were everywhere--and were traded actively--but the rules of the U.S. Treasury Department did not provide for customs duties to be paid in anything but government-issued coins, and there were not enough coins in circulation to support the transactions. The Collector of the Port had to establish a new policy of taking gold dust on deposit at $10 an ounce, which could be redeemed for coin within 60 days. Most of this gold collected for duties was not redeemed and had to be sold at auction for $6 to $10 an ounce, the price being so low because no one had coins with which to pay for it. Some merchants shipped their gold dust all the way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, where it was valued at $18 to $20 an ounce and was rendered into coins (although this involved over two months of waiting and the expenses of shipping and insurance). Some of the Mormon miners took their gold back to Salt Lake City where it was privately coined beginning in December 1848. Gold Spanish-American doubloons were among the available coinage in San Francisco. By 1849 thousands of Easterners were arriving regularly in San Francisco and heading for the gold fields, and raw gold was accumulating in alarming quantities.
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CALIFORNIA ASSAYERS AND COINERS
Assayers performed a vital function during the gold rush, not just testing gold for purity but also melting it down from the dust, nuggets and crystals they were given and casting it into clearly marked, conveniently transportable shapes that could be used like money--primarily in the gambling parlors. The ingots, once cast, would have a small corner or two removed which was carefully weighed, refined to pure gold, and then weighed again. This established the purity of that particular bar, measured in fineness (parts of gold per thousand). The purity was stamped on the bar, along with its precise weight, and these two numbers multiplied together were then multiplied by the price of pure gold to establish a dollar value, which was then also stamped on the bar. Oddly enough, the arithmetic was not always correct. Then the assayer stamped his own company name on the bar as his personal guarantee of accuracy. Assayers who produced unreliable analyses found that their ingots traded at a discount or were refused outright as payments and bank deposits. A good assay office promised to turn dust and nuggets into bars within 24 hours, and some, such as Blake & Company, claimed to produce bars within six hours (as opposed to the nearly 14 days required by the U.S. Mint's assaying office).
Among the contenders for the first California coiner is the partnership of Norris, Gregg & Norris, New York City plumbing contractors who left their business and sailed for California, presumably bringing ready-made dies and coin presses with them. In May they began striking $5 coins at Benicia City, a port on San Francisco Bay. Several hundred survive today, most showing slight wear from use in the gambling halls. Another early coiner was Joseph Haskins Bowie of Washington, D.C., who is believed to have produced at least a few 1849-dated $5 gold coins marked "CAL. GOLD" and "J. H. BOWIE."
Of the various private mints established in the gold rush country, none surpassed the scope of Moffat & Company, who produced coins and bars from 1849 through 1853. John Little Moffat had operated a gold mine in North Carolina, so the lure of the precious metal was in his blood. He and his partners arrived in San Francisco in 1849 and were a success from the start; their $16 ingot was the most popular, but surviving ingots with their stamp range from $9.43 to $264. They soon began producing a $10 eagle and a $5 half-eagle coin as well. The charge for converting an ounce of gold dust or nuggets into a coin or bar that could pass as legal tender (except for the payment of customs duties) was typically 50 cents to one dollar.
Another coiner of 1849 was the "Pacific Company," almost certainly the assaying company formed by David C. Broderick and Frederick D. Kohler. They produced $1, $5 and $10 coins and $50 ingot "slugs." Yet another was the firm of Wright & Company, bankers and exchange brokers, who opened the Miner's Bank in San Francisco in 1849. They produced not only gold coins but for a short time issued their own paper currency as well. And a Pennsylvanian named Dr. J. S. Ormsby settled in Sacramento in 1849 and opened an assaying, refining and coining business that minted $5 and $10 coins. Numerous other individuals and companies made plans to open mints as well, some producing only a few test coins or "patterns."
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The gold coins and bars of the 49ers occupy a special place in the annals of the gold rush. These are the incunabula of Western numismatics, the coins of the beginning, made from hard-won gold nuggets, dust and, yes, crystals pried from the white quartz veins of the Mother Lode. Each has its own story, in most cases a still mysterious one. The early gold coins and smaller bars were spent primarily in the gambling halls, bordellos, and stores--where they served well in the absence of federal coins in quantity. The heavier ingots weighing several ounces or more were mostly used in large transactions or for shipping to distant places.
In 1850 nearly 400 citizens sent a petition to the California State Legislature, asking for the creation of the office of state assayer, such facility to refine gold dust and nuggets and issue ingots with appropriate stamps indicating fineness, weight and value. A few days later another petition was sent to the governor, asking that Frederick D. Kohler (a highly regarded private assayer) be appointed state assayer. Their petitions were granted and a state assay office was opened in San Francisco; it was an immediate success, receiving nearly 5,000 ounces on the first day, and increasing amounts daily thereafter. Although this was a boon to miners it was a thorn in the side of local bankers, who were active in the gold dust trade, and who wanted to keep the value of raw gold lower and thus their profit margin higher. By refusing to accept the state assayer's bars they forced the state assay office to close.
In 1850 California gold coins in $5 and $10 denominations were being produced by Theodore Dubosq, a jeweler from Philadelphia, and by Baldwin & Company, the successor to Kohler. And in 1851 the United States Assay Office of Gold in San Francisco, under Augustus Humbert, began issuing octagonal $50 slugs from gold assayed by Moffat & Company. The recently formed Wass, Molitor Company also began producing ingots, and Schultz & Company produced their own coins. In 1852 Moffat & Company issued $10 coins, Augustus Humbert issued $10, $20 and $50 coins, and Wass, Molitor & Company issued $5 and $10 denominations.
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In 1853 the Crystal Palace was built in New York City for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. It was patterned after the wildly successful 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, which had attracted international attention and garnered much new business for exhibitors. The new Crystal Palace enclosed 206,000 square feet in what looked like a giant greenhouse. Exhibitors from the United States and about two dozen countries set up about 4,800 cases and displays. Some of these were devoted to minerals, including many gold specimens from California displayed by private individuals and companies such as Julius May of San Francisco, Adams & Company of New York, Mrs. Butler of Brooklyn, John Perry of San Francisco, L. M. Arnold of Poughkeepsie, Stearns & Jackson of New York City and F. Bekhart, also of New York. The Adams & Company exhibit must have been particularly spectacular, including crystallized gold, nuggets from California and Australia, specimens of gold from 200 different diggings, plus gold ingots from the major assayers and "California coins" from the private mints.
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A federal mint for California had been proposed as early as 1848. On July 3, 1852, after many false starts and dashed hopes, Congress finally approved the idea of establishing a branch mint in San Francisco. A tiny facility just 40 X 60 feet was set up in the renovated Moffat & Company building. Meanwhile yet another private coinage company opened its doors, Kellogg & Company, owned by John Glover Kellogg; Kellogg was also then a partner with Augustus Humbert in the assaying firm of Kellogg & Humbert. Finally the San Francisco Mint also opened for business in the spring of 1854. It was said to be capable of coining $100 million dollars per year. The first gold coins produced included $1, $2.50, $5, $10 and $20 denominations. Nearly all depositors preferred the larger values, because there was no paper money in circulation to support large transactions, so the mintages of eagles and double eagles predominated. Private assay offices continued to produce ingots during 1854, including the companies of Curtis & Perry, Augustus Humbert, Kellogg & Company, Kellogg & Hewston, Kellogg & Richter, Kellogg & Ringel, James J. Ott, Wass, Molitor & Company, and Dr. A. S. Wright's Miners' Exchange and Savings Bank and Assay Office. Some of these were very small operations.
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In the following year, Wass, Molitor produced a round $50 coin, the only round-format slug to circulate in gold rush commerce; a fine example was recovered from the wreck of the S. S. Central America. Assayers in 1855 included Blake & Company of Sacramento, Blake & Agrell, E. Ford of San Francisco, Harris & Marchand Company of Sacramento & Marysville, Justh & Hunter of San Francisco, Kellogg & Company, Kellogg & Hewston, Kellogg & Humbert, Kellogg & Ringel, James J. Ott's assay office in Nevada City, California, F. Schotte in Nevada City, Dr. A. S. Wright's Miners' Exchange, and the Wass, Molitor Company in San Francisco (not all necessarily operating simultaneously, but simply shifting partnerships with time). Blake & Agrell and its successor, Blake & Company, were founded by Gorham Blake, at first with his partner Johan Agrell. They processed several hundred thousand ounces of gold, the finest of which came from the Michigan Bluff district (which has been productive of fine crystal specimens in recent decades). The firm was one of the principal assayers in that area, and shipped many bars of gold to San Francisco where they were transshipped to the East. A large number of Blake & Company bars were loaded aboard the S. S. Sonora for transport to Panama and transfer to the Central America. The Henry Hentsch Company also produced many of the ingots recovered from the Central America.
In 1856 the California Metallurgical Works was established in San Francisco, Henry Hentsch opened his office there in February, and the firm of Wass, Uznay & Company (operators of the California Metallurgical Works at a different location) also opened for business. It was at this time, up until August of 1857, that most of the many gold bars and coins recovered from the Central America were made.
As near as can be determined, the following is a comprehensive inventory of the gold recovered from the S. S. Central America:
$20 ("double eagle") gold U.S. coins: 7,490 $10 ("gold eagle") gold U.S. coins: 115 $5 ("half eagle") gold U.S. coins: 88 $3 gold U.S. coins: 3 $2.50 ("quarter eagle") gold U.S. coins: 30 $1 gold U.S. coins: 1 $50 privately minted gold coins ("slugs"): 16 $20 privately minted gold coins: 9 $10 privately minted gold coins: 320 $5 privately minted gold coins: 1 Gold ingots, assayer-stamped, various weights: 485 Natural gold dust, nuggets and crystals: 251 ounces [Sotheby's catalog 7415]
The gold coins recovered from the Central America are dominated by the most popular of all gold denominations, the $20 gold piece or "double eagle." About two-thirds of the double eagles are of the 1857-S variety, produced by the San Francisco Mint, no doubt representing transfers of funds by various banks, express companies and merchants. Most of the gold coins in other denominations were probably part of the passengers' personal property and private parcels placed with the ship's purser. Smaller denominations are probably somewhat underrepresented because they were more difficult to find amid the sediment of the sea floor. The most extraordinary aspect of most of these coins is their incredibly fine condition, looking virtually fresh from the mint, as indeed they were when they were plunged into the cold and quiet environment of the deep sea bottom in 1857.
Among the privately minted gold coins recovered there is, oddly enough, a predominance of $10 gold pieces. The $20 denomination, produced in San Francisco by the U.S. Assay Office, was in far greater circulation at the time but none at all were found with the wreck. Perhaps a cache of $10 coins was being shipped east to be melted down, or as part of an effort to recall them from circulation. The octagonal $50 coins of Augustus Humbert and the U.S. Assay Office were still in active circulation in California in 1857, but were not nearly as plentiful as they had been a few years earlier. Historical records suggest that such pieces were often included in deposits sent to the Philadelphia Mint for re-coining, perhaps the intention of the shippers in this case. However, some were no doubt also part of the "passenger gold" on board, as such pieces were staples in California coinage of the time.
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Perhaps the most historically significant and unique aspect of the treasure is the large number of assayer-stamped gold bars. Although the assayers' names had been known before this find, based on their old advertisements and other historical documents, in many cases not a single ingot stamped with their names had been known to survive. Gold bars were normally a rather short-lived transitional form between the raw gold dust and nuggets melted down by the assayer, and the finished gold coins produced by the mints. Consequently relatively few assayer bars have survived to the present day, and the remaining examples are nearly all of small size, a few ounces or less in weight. The dollar values stamped on the bars recovered from the S. S. Central America are based on a mint value for pure gold at $20.67 per ounce. An overview of the research potential of the ingots has been published by Gilkes (2000):
The 485 assay bars in the California Gold Marketing Group's holdings range in size from 4.95 ounces to 933.94 ounces, with 19 bars by Blake & Company of Sacramento; 27 from the Swiss banker and San Francisco assayer Henry Hentsch; 32 produced by Harris Marchand & Company of Sacrament and Marysvale; 77 produced by Justh & Hunter in San Francisco and Marysville; and 330 ingots from the dominant assaying firm of the day, Kellogg & Humbert of San Francisco, including the largest bar, dubbed the "Eureka."
Regardless of the size or shape of the bars, each is stamped with the same five pieces of information (albeit not always in the same location): the maker/assayer, the serial number, the weight in fine troy ounces, the purity in parts per thousand, and the dollar value. The bars range in fineness from .580 to .973 (1.000 being pure gold). The deeper the golden color of the bar, the higher the purity; the lower the fineness, the paler yellow the color. Because the fineness of the gold varied from mining camp to mining camp, it is possible to link the bars to their most likely source.
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Even on a county-wide basis there were significant differences in the range of fineness of the gold being recovered. Bancroft's History of California cites the following parameters by county:
THE MINERAL SPECIMENS
Because of the enormous numismatic value of the coins and the unprecedented value of the gold bars to collectors of Western memorabilia, very little attention has been paid thus far to the comparatively few examples of specimen gold recovered from the wreck. A fair amount of the specimen gold is in the form of gold nuggets and gold dust, probably as part of the personal cache of various passengers, most likely the miners on board. It seems highly unlikely that non-miners would purposely acquire raw, unassayed, unprocessed gold to carry with them on the long trip home when they could more conveniently carry coins and bars that could be easily spent if necessary. And, since the opening of the San Francisco Mint, there was no longer any financial advantage to shipping raw gold to the Philadelphia Mint. Only someone who had personally mined it would be likely to carry it with him on such a trip.
This is particularly true of the small number of specimens of crystalline gold in white quartz. These amounted to first-class mining souvenirs, rather than specimens for the mineral collector. Chances are that they were acquired at the mine, in the course of mining by the owners, and were kept as treasured mementos of their gold rush success. And the person would certainly have had to be successful simply to be able to afford to keep such an intrinsically valuable specimen rather than selling it for bullion. Therefore the best guess (and it is only that) is that the best specimen golds were probably owned by a miner traveling in first cabin accommodations, perhaps John Fell or James Foster (see below). This is the conclusion arrived at by Wendell Wilson (personal communication), and it seems reasonable to me as well.
The premier crystal specimen recovered from the wreck is a 9.4-cm chunk of white, vuggy vein quartz with minor iron staining, thoroughly shot through with attractive, coarsely crystalline pocket gold showing good crystal forms. It weighs 17.41 ounces, including the quartz. The locality is, as yet, undetermined (as is currently the case with all of the gold specimens) but it might very well be possible to deduce the probable locality on the basis of a few chemical tests. If this can be done, a comparison with the gold districts known to have been worked by the various miner passengers might then suggest a connection. The specimen sold at the original Sotheby's auction for $122,000, then was later reconsigned and sold for $66,000.
Another fine example is a large (7.9-cm) waterworn nugget containing white quartz. Although not a good crystal specimen it is attractive for what it is: a superb historical specimen weighing in at 20.31 ounces (almost all of which is gold).
A substantial number of smaller nuggets were recovered in the 1 to 3-cm range. Many of these show crystal forms, and are barely waterworn, constituting attractive thumbnails. There were also substantial quantities of particulate gold ranging from fine dust to nuggets 5-10 mm in size.
Several gold amalgam balls were also discovered, which are the artifacts of the crude process used in the field for extracting and concentrating fine gold dust through the admixture of liquid mercury.
A number of interesting specimens were found that amount to cemented masses of gold dust, perhaps bonded together by the deposition of organic calcium carbonate during the many years on the sea floor. Some of these concretions reach 7 or 8 cm across, and some contain relict fragments of the wooden boxes in which they had been packed. One 10.5-cm specimen contains a fairly large piece of wooden board. Another 8.9-cm mass consists of gold dust cemented together with ocean sediment. The largest example measures 18.4 cm and contains a mixture of various types of placer gold including flour gold, gold dust, gold nuggets (the largest exceeding 2 ounces), grains, flakes and even a gold amalgam ball, all cemented together with some sea sediment and a deteriorated panel of wood on the bottom side; it weighs 79.43 ounces, most of which is probably gold (it sold at auction for $27,500). Sotheby's auction catalog 7415 depicts the 8% of the total find which was successfully claimed by the insurers. It lists primarily coins and ingots; but it also depicts 43 lots of gold dust, grains and nuggets containing over 200 ounces, plus the 17.41-ounce crystal gold and the big 20.31-ounce nugget.
A fairly complete list of the passengers and crew has been compiled, and it is an interesting exercise to speculate upon who might have been the owner of the superb crystallized gold specimens. There were people of all occupations, including the postmaster of a gold rush town called Hell-Out-For-Noon, a star stage performer in the San Francisco Minstrels, the owner of the Croton Hotel in New York, a former associate editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, physicians, merchants, attorneys, judges, gamblers, diplomats, booksellers, bakers and machinists, along with their wives and children. Although it could have been anyone, the odds are that it was a miner who had perhaps saved the gold specimens from his own workings, as beautiful souvenirs of his success in the Mother Lode country. Examining the list of passengers offers the following possibilities:
John Fell, originally from Iowa, had mined gold at McAdam's Bar in Siskiyou County, California and was traveling with his family. He is said to have saved $6,000 from his mining activities, perhaps including the crystalline gold specimens. He perished in the sinking but his wife and two children were saved.
James A. Forster
James A. Forster, age 35, was originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He had been mining for gold at Murphy's Bar in Calaveras County, and was carrying about $9,000 in gold (including the specimens?) with which he planned to purchase stock in the East. He was rescued by the bark Ellen.
The above two are the leading candidates, not only because of being miners but because they were traveling in first cabin accommodations, the most expensive ($300), and were financially the most successful. However, there was also the following man traveling in second cabin, and another 13 miners traveling in steerage ($150) who must be considered among the possibilities. At $150 for a ticket, even the steerage passengers had to be fairly well funded.
John O. Stevens
John Stevens, age 32, was originally from New Jersey. He had worked in California for eight years as a miner, trader, vintner and orchardist. He had traveled with the artist and naturalist John Woodhouse Audubon (son of the famous ornithologist and artist John James Audubon), and was bringing 200 of his sketches to New York. He and the drawings were lost in the sinking.
Daniel Beaver, age 56, was originally from Hamilton, Ohio. He had been among the original 49ers, engaged in gold mining in California since 1849. At one time he had been active at Mameluke Hill in El Dorado County. By 1857 he had made enough money to go home to his wife and 12 children in Ohio. He perished in the sinking.
Joseph Capello and friends
Joseph Capello, Gaitano Festu, Thomas Ravenna and Domecio Casta, all from a town about 25 miles from Genoa, Italy, had engaged in mining together and were on their way back to Italy.
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William Chase, originally from Washtenaw County, Michigan, had been a gold miner in Nevada County, California since 1852. Chase survived the sinking and later reported that he could have picked up tens of thousands of dollars in gold which had been thrown away and lay strewn about the decks, but he did not think his chances of surviving to use it were sufficient to make it worth the trouble. Heavy gold was a distinct liability to anyone who hoped to stay afloat in the water!
Jacob Brown Clark
Maj. Jacob Clark, age 46, came originally from Missouri. At one time he had served as sheriff of Sutter County, and was later a gold miner in Colusa County. He was rescued by the bark Ellen, and lived to be 87.
Ede Williams, age 30 or 31, had been born in Sussex, England and worked as a gold miner at Howland Flat in Sierra County, in 1850. He was traveling to Wisconsin to get married, having brought $1500 in gold with him which went down with the ship. He, however, was among the 49 men rescued by the bark Ellen.
Oliver Perry Manlove
Oliver Manlove, age 25 or 26, was from Grant County, Wisconsin. He had come to the gold rush rather late, in 1854, taking the overland route; this was his first trip by sea. For some time he had worked in sluicing and hydraulic mining at Gopher Hill in Plumas County. He was among those rescued by the bark Ellen.
Barney M. Lee
Barney Lee, age 27 or 28, had been a miner since 1852 and had worked with his uncle in Nevada City. He clung to a floating plank for several hours, suffering immensely from the cold, until being picked up by the bark Ellen.
Henry W. Rummell
Henry Rummell was a German, born in Hesse Darmstadt, who had mined gold at Irish Flat for three years. He was en route to Illinois to visit his brother.
Samuel B. Swan
Samuel Swan, age 35, was a Pennsylvanian who had worked as a miner in Rough and Ready, California. He was traveling with his wife and infant daughter, both of whom were saved, but he was lost.
Richard Wilton, age 31, was from Quincy, Illinois and had worked as a miner in El Dorado County since 1852.
THE RECOVERY PROJECT
The story of the recovery of the S. S. Central America treasure begins with Tommy Thompson. Thompson studied ocean engineering at Ohio State University where, in 1977, he began to research historic deep ocean wrecks, first investigating the methods and technologies used in finding ships lost in shallow water and then studying the record of ships lost in the deep ocean. He learned that in the deep ocean no currents exist to disturb shipwreck sites; the ships and their cargoes could be intact, though perhaps deteriorated or oxidized. Thompson continued his study of shipwrecks after graduation, while working as a research engineer in the ocean engineering section of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. As he compiled a list of ocean shipwrecks that might be recoverable, one well-documented deep-water shipwreck stood out, though its exact location was unknown: the S. S. Central America. In 1981 he resolved to attempt to locate and recover its cargo of gold.
In 1983 Thompson was joined by a geologist, Bob Evans, and during the next three years they worked together at compiling computer analyses of historical records to map out probable sites for the wreck. In 1984 Thompson took a leave of absence from the Battelle Institute to develop the needed systems and technologies. Evans and Thompson compiled the known passenger and crew information from historical accounts, including 33 stories taken mainly from 1857 newspaper accounts, with reports by survivors and eye-witnesses to the sinking. The resulting "data correlation matrix" provided clues to the location of the ship. The matrix also included data on the weather, the progress of the hurricane, and the physical deterioration of the steamship.
They took this compilation of information to Lawrence D. Stone, a leading expert in search theory (a method using probability and statistical analysis to locate objects, particularly in the ocean). No one had ever applied search theory to a historical database. Stone was able to generate thousands of computerized models of possible sinking scenarios based on variables including the ship's last known position, the probable wind speed, the direction of the hurricane, and the ocean currents prevailing at that place and time. From these models and the data matrix Stone and his associates were able to construct a probability map covering 1,400 square miles of sea floor, a rectangular area less than 40 miles on a side.
Thompson shared the details of his project with his mentor and former professor at Ohio State University, Donald Glower, Dean of the College of Engineering. Glower put Thompson in touch with leaders of the Columbus business community who in time became the primary financial backers of the project. The Columbus-America Discovery Group was formed, growing to a total of 161 partners and providing $12.7 million to fund the search and recovery operation.
In 1986 the partnership hired a crew and chartered an old Louisiana mud boat, the Pine River, for a 40-day sonar search covering the target area. During this stage they used a new technology, Sea MARC side-scanning sonar, which they modified to sweep the search grid in 3-mile-wide strips. The Sea MARC was towed behind the ship while sending out strong pulses of sound waves that would reflect off of objects on the ocean floor. A computer aboard the ship processed the signals and painted an image of the sea bed. After one sweep the vessel would change course 180 degrees and scan another 3-mile-wide strip slightly overlapping the previous one. (The deep-ocean explorers called the process "mowing the lawn."). After locating several promising sites they left the area, planning to return during the next window of good weather and calm seas beginning in June.
During the winter of 1986-1987 the group worked in Columbus, analyzing the sonar images and developing the technology that they had envisioned: a submersible, remotely-piloted robot that could do complex work in the depths of the ocean. What was needed was a device that could excavate historic shipwrecks under the crushing deep-ocean pressure of 4,000 pounds per square inch. Thompson was a purist, wanting to recover delicate items of historical value without damaging them. After assembling a team of scientists and engineers, some from the Battelle Institute, they succeeded in building the world's first undersea robot capable of working in the deep ocean. Technically it was a computer-guided modular remotely operated vehicle, but since the acronym of that long name wasn't especially memorable they decided to name it Nemo, after the explorer hero of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Nemo weighed 4 tons and measured about 8 X 15 feet, with an open-frame construction and spider-like arms carrying prosthetic modules, lights, cameras and manipulators. It could be lowered into the water by an on-board winch system on the deck of the recovery ship and remain on the ocean floor for up to 100 hours at a time. Using a joy-stick, the operators could maneuver the robot with dexterity and surgical precision, lifting delicate objects like small coins and also moving 1000-pound loads.
In 1987 Thompson returned to the search area with Nemo on a retrofitted work boat, the Nicor Navigator. Early in the season Nemo's cameras discovered an array of mid-19th century objects resting on the ocean floor about 160 miles off the South Carolina coast, at a depth of 7,200 feet. China, pitchers, washbowls and children's toys were arrayed about a rotting wooden hull. Now they needed to physically retrieve some item from the wreck site to prove that they had been present on, and were legally in control of, the shipwreck. In order to avoid disturbing artifacts they brought up a piece of anthracite coal. Competitors were closing in, so time was critical. Heavy seas made it impossible for the Columbus-America seaplane to land, so they taped the lump of coal to a rope strung from the ship's mast, and the seaplane swooped over and snatched the line and package with a grappling hook. The specimen was flown to Norfolk, Virginia in under four hours and was presented in Federal District Court. It was the first time that a salvage claim had been made on a shipwreck touched only by robotic hands; but sending a human to that depth was technologically impossible. A few days later the historic decision was handed down, granting Columbus-America permanent recovery rights to the site. The ruling set a precedent in international maritime law because the injunction was granted on the basis of a new legal concept called telepresence, the real-time imaging and mechanical manipulating of objects on the site; the court deemed this as good as an actual human presence at the site.
This was just the beginning of Columbus-America's struggle to establish title to the wreck site and its treasure. The legal battle took more than a decade and was appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court before being decided more or less in Columbus-America's favor. And, as it happened, the original insurance companies and their successors (American and British) were still around 130 years later to assert their valid claims on a portion of the recovered cargo.
During the winter of 1987-1988 Thompson and his associates purchased a 30-year-old Canadian icebreaker built with armor plate left over from World War II. The sturdy vessel was known as the Arctic Discoverer, and was retrofitted with state-of-the-art navigational, GPS (global positioning system), communications and electronics systems. Nemo could be spooled out on 14,000 feet of cable while being controlled from the operations center, a tiny room under the main deck fitted with 18 computers and 12 monitors. One monitor even provided the controllers with stereoscopic images visible using special glasses. In August the ship with its crew of 25 steamed out of Wilmington Harbor in North Carolina and made its way to the recovery site. Bob Evans had been giving further study to the detailed sonar records and had identified one other interesting site that he planned to investigate; he reasoned that a closer look at this second site would be good experience and would provide an opportunity to further test Nemo as well as the new equipment installed in the Arctic Discoverer.
On September 11, 1988 they lowered the robot over the second site and began exploring while carefully watching the monitors. Suddenly an image came into view, a rusting sidewheel distinctive to ships like the Central America. This evidence was only circumstantial, and it was not until the ship's bell was found (clearly marked "MORGAN IRON WORKS--NEW YORK--1853") that definitive proof was obtained. The Central America's engine and iron works had been installed at the Morgan Iron Works in 1853.
By this time the October weather was closing in, and it was nearly time to leave the site until the following season. With just days to go, Nemo made a spectacular discovery. A series of automated photographs had revealed an unusual yellowish color at one location on the wreck site, and so the robot was directed there again for a closer look. The camera revealed an odd scene, with what appeared to be bricks strewn across the ocean floor. Lighting was adjusted and it became clear that the bricks were actually gold ingots!
The gold was stacked on the ocean floor like brownies and loaves of bread--spectacular gold bridges of gold ingots piled on top of timbers. Further along they found thousands of gold coins spread amid the wreckage, heaped in piles and neat stacks and spilling into what looked like a frozen waterfall. The camera saw one towering stack of 300 "double eagle" $20 gold pieces. The treasure looked otherworldly in its splendor, a "Garden of Gold," as they later called it. The sheer quantity of gold was amazing, and the condition of the coins and bars was astonishing. When the camera moved in for a close-up it was even possible to read the dates off the coins, looking as clear and bright as if they had just been minted.
Several methods were used to recover objects. A small sea-vac sucked up gold dust and other small, loose material. The robot also had padded fingers at the end of a flexible arm, and could pick up objects as small as a tiny gold dollar. Some of the coin stacks had become bonded together, so they were covered in silicone foam which hardened around them and allowed them to be raised as a block. One block retrieved a neat group of coins that had been packed in a now-rotted-away box: 15 stacks of 30 double eagles, three stacks wide and five long. More than 6,000 ounces of ingots were recovered. It was the largest treasure in American history.
Nemo also located and retrieved thousands of artifacts including personal effects as varied as miners' tools, pottery and cuff links. The debris field surrounding the wreck was the size of a football stadium, and intriguing items were found all about. In one instance a steamer trunk was found resting on the ocean floor as if it had just settled there. It was retrieved and proved to contain a man's shirts and a woman's petticoats, a man's socks and a woman's stockings, nightshirts and nightgowns, long johns and bloomers, dueling pistols, jewelry, a readable issue of the New York News, and, finally, a dress shirt embroidered with the name "A. Ives Easton," identifying the owners of the trunk as passengers Ansel and Addie Easton. Another trunk recovered proved to contain the property of John Dement. These and other historical artifacts have provided a fascinating complement to the many gold objects that were the primary focus of the search and recovery operation.
DISPOSITION OF THE TREASURE
The insurers of the Central America and its cargo were awarded approximately 8% of the total treasure, including all of the raw gold dust, nuggets and crystal specimens. These were sold at auction by Sotheby's in June 2000 [Catalog 7415], December 2000 [Catalog 7578] and (for much of the gold dust) via Sothebys' online auctions (www.sothebys.com). Dwight Manley's group obtained the other 92%, of which they have by now sold all of the coins and 95% of the bars they acquired, with about 25 bars remaining in their stock. In total the Central America treasure has brought in over $100 million.
An impressive selection of items was also donated by Dwight Manley's group to institutions including the California Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, the Byron Reed Western Heritage Museum in Omaha, the American Numismatic Association (Colorado Springs) and the American Numismatic Society (New York), among others. In addition, a traveling exhibit, "The Ship of Gold," was presented in several venues across the country, and Bob Evans and the author gave several theater-style presentations on the treasure.
In total, the thousands of items recovered from the S. S. Central America constitute an enormous historical archive that will be studied and treasured by historians and collectors for decades to come. We can optimistically hope that the new technologies developed for the recovery operation will, in due time, yield further historical treasures and information from other formerly inaccessible wreck sites on the deep ocean floor. In fact, the recent discovery of a British treasure ship called the Sussex, which sank in deep water off the North African coast in 1694, taking 3 million pounds sterling in silver and 6 tons of gold with it, will probably provide the next opportunity. No mineral specimens will be found in that one, however; the Central America will forever remain unique as to the size and extent of its Gold Rush treasure, since no other American ship with similar contents was ever lost at sea during that seminal era in history.
The treasure of the S. S. Central America is a time capsule, providing a colorful window on the California gold rush. The extraordinarily well preserved coins, the rare and unique assayers' ingots, and the natural gold nuggets and crystal specimens each appeal to a different segment of the collector community, but I think most collectors of any specialty feel the fascination and lure that all of these items provide. All are evocative of an exciting and pivotal time in American history, a time when the frantically intense search by thousands of determined men for a single mineral species dominated world attention and fed the American dream.
Butte .900 - .990 [highest in the State] Calaveras .850 - .960 Del Norte .875 - .950 Fresno .760 Humboldt .726 - .940 Kern .600 - .660 [lowest in the State] Mariposa .800+ Mokelumne .900- Placer .784 - .960 Plumas .846 - .936 Shasta .885 Siskiyou .749 - .950 Stanislaus .920 Trinity .875 - .927 Tuolumne .900 - .950 Yuba .900 - .950
I am indebted to David E. Tripp (author of Sotheby's catalog 7415 offering certain of the recovered items from the Central America treasure), to Dwight Manley and other members of the California Gold Marketing Group, to treasure finders Bob Evans and Tommy Thompson, and to photographer Milt Butterworth for their kind cooperation.
SELECTED ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
ADAMS, E. H. (1913) Private Gold Coinage of California, 1849-1855. Series of earlier monographs reprinted in one volume. Brooklyn, NY. Reprinting as one volume Adams' articles, which had appeared earlier in the American Journal of Numismatics, American Numismatic Society, New York. One of the most important studies ever made of the title subject, the foundation for nearly all later research.
ALLEN, W. W., and AVERY, R. B. (1883) California Gold Book. The First Nugget. San Francisco and Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry. A scrapbook of information, tales, anecdotes, etc., including an effort to substantiate the claim that gold was discovered by Marshall on January 19, 1848 (instead of the accepted data of January 24).
ANONYMOUS (1853) Official Catalogue of the New-York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. New York City, Published for the Association by G. P. Putnam & Co. Catalogue of items displayed at the Crystal Palace including California gold coins and ingots.
ANONYMOUS (1886) Collection of Minerals of A. Dohrmann, Esq. Philadelphia, PA: Auction sale catalog for December 13-15, 1886, containing many California gold specimens.
ANONYMOUS (1911) Collection des Mineraux de L'Or reunie par Georges de La Bouglise. Catalogue of the sale of gold mineral specimens, including from California, held at the Hotel Drouot, Paris, December 14, 1911.
ATKINS, J. D. (1933) "A History of the Steamship Passenger Trade on the Pacific Coast 1849-1889," Typescript thesis. Los Angeles, CA: Department of History, University of Southern California. Copy now at the Doheny Library, USC.
BAILEY, H. C. (1907) California's early coinages. The Numismatist, May 1907.
BANCROFT, H. H. (1888) History of California, Vol. VI. 1848-1859. San Francisco, The History Co. This is the primary source for comprehensive coverage of the California Gold Rush, drawing almost entirely on documents and attributed interviews. While Bancroft has been criticized, and some have suggested that the Hittell account of San Francisco is better researched, the majority of historians no doubt agree with this assessment by Erwin G. Gudde (1962): "Bancroft's History of California .... published in 1888, after three-fourths of a century could be still considered as definitive and unsurpassed, except for one flaw: Bancroft treats the fabrication of an English writer, J. Tyrwhitt Brooks (Henry Vicetelly), Four Months among the Gold-Niners, as another important and authentic source."
BANCROFT, H. H. (1888) History of California, Vol. VII. 1860-1890. San Francisco, The History Co., 1888.
BANCROFT, H. H. (1888) California Pastoral 1769-1848. Vol. XXXIV, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. San Francisco, The History Co., Publishers, 1888.
BANCROFT, H. H. (1888) California Inter Pocula. San Francisco, CA: The History Co. Collection of various anecdotes and fillers apparently omitted from the History of California suite as well as rumors and statements that Bancroft considered less than reliable; often with the author's views of morality, characteristics of ethnic groups, etc.
BARROWS, H. D. (1897) The Foundering of the Steamship Central America. Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer Register. Barrows had talked with John D. Dement of Oregon City, who had survived the S. S. Central America tragedy and related his experiences.
BENEMANN, W. (ed.) (1999) A Year of Mud and Gold: San Francisco in Letters and Diaries, 1849-1850. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
BORTHWICK, J. D. (1917) The Gold Hunters. A First-Hand Picture of Life in California Mining Camps in the Early Fifties. Edited by Horace Kephart. Cleveland and New York: International Fiction Library, Macmillan Co., 1917. Reprint with corrections of Borthwick's narrative, originally published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1857.
BOSBYSHELL, O. C. (1891) An Index to the Coins and Medals of the Cabinet of the Mint of the United States at Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Avil Printing and Lithograph Co.
BOWERS, Q. D. (1979) The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection. Los Angeles, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries; later printings by Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., Wolfeboro, NH.
BOWERS, Q. D. (1997) American Coin Treasures and Hoards. Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1997.
BOWERS, Q. D. (1998) Coins of the "Ship of Gold." COINage, September.
BOWERS, Q. D. (1979-2000) Various auction sale catalogues including the collections of the T. Harrison Garrett and John Work Garrett (sold for The Johns Hopkins University, Sales I to IV 1979-1981; especially Sale II, 1980, with California gold coins), Henry H. Clifford (1982), Eliasberg Collection of U.S. Gold Coins (1982), the Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (1987-1988), Virgil M. Brand Collection (1983-1984), Louis Eliasberg, Sr., Collection (1986), Harry W. Bass, Jr., Collection (1999-2000), among many others.
BREEN, W. (1988) Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. New York: Doubleday, Inc. Breen's ultimate work, this volume is exceedingly valuable in all regards, including privately minted California gold coins and die shipment dates for federal coins.
BREEN, W. (1988) "The S. S. Central America: Tragedy and Treasure." The Numismatist, July 1990.
BREEN, W., and Gillio, R. J. (1983) California Pioneer Fractional Gold. Santa Barbara, CA: Pacific Auction Galleries, Standard reference on 19th century California gold quarters, half dollars, and dollars.
CAMP, C. I. (1932) (translator and editor of the German text). Sutter writes of the gold discovery. California Historical Society Quarterly, March.
CARSON, J. H. (1852) Recollections of the California Mines. Oakland, CA: Biobooks, 1950. Reprint of 1852 work with new foreword by Joseph A. Sullivan. Extensive coverage of the southern mines. Many anti-Semitic comments.
CHAPMAN, S. H., and CHAPMAN, H. (1902) Auction sale of the estate coins of Augustus Humbert, May 1-2, 1902.
CLARK, W. B. (1970) Gold Districts of California. Bulletin No. 193, California Division of Mines and Geology, San Francisco.
COLE, C. (1914) To California Via Panama in 1852. Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California.
COLUMBUS-AMERICA DISCOVERY GROUP, Inc. Plaintiff, vs. Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co., et al., and related cases. Transcripts from court proceedings, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit; U.S. District Court, Eastern District, Virginia, Norfolk; and related records. Mostly useful for modern litigation details, although some historical information is included.
COLUMBUS-AMERICA DISCOVERY GROUP, Inc. (1989) "Passenger/Crew Survival Statistics." Compiled records of names and information connected with them. Version of June 28, updated.
COMPARETTE, T. L. (1914) Catalogue of Coins, Tokens, and Medals in the Numismatic Collection of the Mint of the United States at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "Prepared under the direction of the Director of the Bureau of the Mint." 3rd Edition. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
CONRAD, J. (ed.) (1988) Story of an American Tragedy. Survivors' Accounts of the Sinking of the Steamship CENTRAL AMERICA. Columbus, OH: Columbus-America Discovery Group, Inc. An excellently researched and highly readable account arranged chronologically with interleaved accounts of those who lived to tell their tales.
CONRAD, J. (1991) Final Voyage [in:] American History Illustrated. 26 (1), March-April. Overview of the S. S. Central America tragedy.
COULTER, E. M. (1970) The loss of the steamship Central America in 1857. The Georgia Historical Quarterly, 54 (Winter).
CROSS, I. B. (1927) Financing an Empire: History of Banking in California. Vol. I. Chicago and other cities. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. An important non-numismatic source for information about banking in the state, in the present context especially relating to money in circulation in the 1850s.
DANA, J. (1919) The Sacramento: River of Gold. New York and Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart.
DANA, J. D. (1849) Manual of Mineralogy. New Haven, Durrie & Peck. Also, later editions of Dana--it was the standard work on the subject during the gold rush.
DEACON, J. H. (ca. 1952) The "Ingots" and "Assay Office Pieces" of South Australia. Melbourne, The Hawthorn Press. Study of gold bars, etc., produced in connection with discoveries in Australia in the early 1850's.
DELAVAN, J. (1956) Notes on California and the Placers. Oakland, CA: Biobooks. Reprint of 1850 text with new foreword by Jos. A. Sullivan.
DIRECTOR OF THE MINT (1849-1857) Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, Various years, especially 1848-1857. Also related Treasury Department reports covering production of precious metals.
DUBOIS, W. E. (1851) Pledges of History: A Brief Account of the Collection of Coins Belonging to the Mint of the United States, More Particularly of the Antique Specimens. Philadelphia, C. Sherman, Printer, (1st Edition) 1846; New York City, George P. Putnam, 2nd Edition, 1851. The 2nd edition contains much information about privately-minted California gold coins.
EVANS, G. G. (1883, 1885, 1889, 1893) Illustrated History of the United States Mint. Philadelphia: published by the author.
GARDINER, H. C. (1970) In Pursuit of the Golden Dream: Reminiscences of San Francisco and the Northern and Southern Mines, 1849-1857. Edited by Dale L. Morgan. Stoughton, MA: Western Hemisphere, Inc. Morgan's introduction describes the field of Gold Rush literature and gives much valuable information. One of the more comprehensive studies of the era.
GIFFEN, G. J. (1948) California Gold. Quarterly, Historical Society of Southern California. March.
GIFFEN, H. S. (1954) California Mining Town Newspapers, 1850-1880. Van Nuys, CA. Composed and printed at the Westernlore Press for J. E. Reynolds, Bookseller.
GUINN, J. M. (1911) The Gold Placers of Los Angeles. Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California.
HEATON, A. G. (1893) A Treatise on the Coinage of the United States Branch Mints. Advertised and familiarly known as Mint Marks. Washington, D. C.: published by the author. The first comprehensive study of branch mint coinage including San Francisco.
HERDENDORF, C. E. (1995) Science on a deep-ocean Shipwreck. Special issue of The Ohio Journal of Science, Volume 95, Number 1. Includes much information about the S. S. Central America, its construction, final voyage, passengers, and other historical information as a background to a detailed study of flora, fauna, and artifacts studied in connection with the finding of the wreck.
HERDENDORE, C. E., and CONRAD, J. (1992) The Steamship Central America and her era. Sea History, No. 64, Winter.
HERDENDORE, C. E., and CONRAD, J. (1991) Hurricane Gold. Two-part article in Mariners Weather Log, Summer. Washington, DC: National Oceanographic Data Center. Description of the S.S. Central America tragedy of September 1857, and the recovery of undersea treasure beginning in the late 1980s by the Columbus-America Discovery Group.
HERDENDORF, C. E., and BERRA, T. M. (1995) A Greenland Shark from the Wreck of the S. S. Central America at 2,200 Meters. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 124, 950-953.
HODDER, M. (1999) Western American gold and unparted bars: A review of the evidence. American Journal of Numismatics Second Series 11. New York City. American Numismatic Society. Technical information on gold bars (however, S. S. Central America ingots were not part of the study) including modern metallic composition analyses compared to fineness stamped on the bars and much other data never before gathered in a single place. "The substance of this article was presented in the author's Groves Forum Lecture given at the American Numismatic Society on April 10, 1999."
KAGIN, D. H. (1981) Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. New York City, Arco. First comprehensive work on the series since Edgar H. Adams' 1913 text.
KINDER, G. (1998) Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. New York City, Atlantic Monthly Press. Includes much information about the Columbus-America Discovery Group. This book made the best-seller list and was enthusiastically acclaimed and widely distributed.
KLARE, N. E. (1992) The Final Voyage of the Central America 1857. Spokane, Arthur H. Clark Co. A superbly and thoroughly researched and presented study with much historical information not hitherto available in any other single source, a tour de force.
LEE, E. M. (1931) Background of California Private Gold Coins. The Numismatist, June.
LEE, K. W. (1932) The first discovery of gold in California. The Numismatist, November. Discussed were finds in California prior to the famous gold rush, including metal taken from the earth near Los Angeles in 1842 and 1843.
MARSHALL, J. (1891) Marshall's Narrative. Century magazine, February and May 1891, reprinted as Chapter 1 in The Discovery of Gold in California. Palo Alto, CA, Lewis Osborne, 1968.
MAURY, M. F. (1857) Report to the Secretary of the Navy on the sinking of the Steamship Central America. Washington, D.C.: Naval Observatory, October 19, 1857. Lt. Maury, well known in oceanographic science, was Central America Capt. Herndon's brother-in-law. The report was created voluntarily and primarily was a tribute to the bravery of Herndon and the excellent performance of the crew. Maury's sources were probably contemporary newspaper accounts, as no official investigation had been conducted by that time. In 1884 President Chester A. Arthur, Herndon's son-in-law, caused this report to be printed in a special edition published in Washington.
MOORE, W. C. (1911) A review of the money conditions from the discovery of gold in California in 1849 [sic] to 1870. The Numismatist, May.
NEASHAM, V. A. (1947) Sutter's Sawmill. California Historical Society Quarterly, June.
OWENS, D. (2000) California Coiners and Assayers. Bowers and Merena Galleries, Wolfeboro, NH, and Stack's, New York City, jointly published.
PICKFORD, N. (1994) The Atlas of Ship Wrecks & Treasure, The History, Location, and Treasures of Ships Lost at Sea.
PRUDHOMME, C. J. (1922) Gold Discovery in California: Who Was the first real discoverer of gold in this state? Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California.
RASMUSSEN, L. J. (1965) San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists, Vol. 1. Baltimore, MD; Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978. Reprint of 1965 work published in Colma, CA.
RAYMOND, W. (1931) Private Gold Coins Struck in the United States 1830-1861. New York City.
RAYMOND, W.(1934-1957) Standard Catalogue of United States Coins and Paper Money (titles vary). Scott Stamp & Coin Co. (and others): New York, annual editions.
RIDGELY-NEVITT, C. (1950) The United States Mail Steamer George Law." The American Neptune, Volume X. Includes much excellent information about the ship's construction and is illustrated with the author's concept of the plan for each of three decks.
TRIPP, D. E. (1999) Treasures from the S. S. Central America: Glories of the California Gold Rush. Sotheby's Auction catalog 7415 offering dated December 8-9, 1999, postponed until June 2000, of coins and bars recovered from the ship and awarded by court to successors of the original insurers; 206 p.
SOULE, F., GIHON, J. H., and NISBET, J. (1855) The Annals of San Francisco. This is the foundation book on the history of the city, extensively quoted by nearly all later historians, including Bancroft, Hittell, et al. The volume has been the source for many anecdotes repeated in later accounts, sometimes verbatim, often without credit to the authors.
STAUDEMAYER, L. R. (1857) The Loss of the Central America; or, The Voice of God Upon the Waters. A Sermon Preached at the Church of the Annunciation, New York ... October 4, 1857. New York City, Daniel Dana, Jr. Published as a monograph. "The proceeds of this pamphlet will be applied towards the erection of a School House for the education of youth in Church principles, in the City of Atchison, K. T. [Kansas Territory]."
STORM, C. (1968) Catalogue of the Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana. Chicago, Published for the Newberry Library by the University of Chicago Press. With separate "Index to Maps ..." compiled by Brenda Berkman, edited by Robert W. Karrow, Jr., Newberry Library, 1972.
SUTTER, J. A. (1939) New Helvetia Diary: A Record of Events Kept by John A. Sutter and His Clerks at New Helvetia, California, from September 9, 1845, to May 25, 1848. San Francisco, The Grabhorn Press in Arrangement with the Society of California Pioneers.
THOMPSON, T. (1998) America's Lost Treasure A Pictorial Chronicle of the Sinking and Recovery of the United States Mail Steamship Central America. New York City, NY: The Atlantic Monthly Press. An excellent study of the subject; with magnificent illustrations.
TUCKER, A. (2000) A treasure freed: dramatic developments bring back the Central America gold." COINage, April. Cover story.
UNITED STATES MINT, Bureau of the Mint, et al. (1848-1858) Annual Report of the Director of the Mint. Philadelphia (later, Washington). Reports were on a calendar year basis through 1856, then in 1857 they went to a fiscal year (July 1 through June 30 of the following year) basis. The 1857 report is transitional and covers only January 1 through June 30, 1857, a period of six months.
YEOMAN, R. S. (1944) The emergency coinage of the California gold rush." The Numismatist, September.
YOUNG, J. P. (1912) San Francisco: A History of the West Coast Metropolis. Vol. I and II. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., San Francisco.
Q. David Bowers
P. O. Box 539
Wolfeboro Falls, New Hampshire 03896
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|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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