N.A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters

Image from Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters

The Ella Strong Denison Library and Honnold/Mudd Special Collections are pleased to announce a new collection in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library: the N.A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters.

The N. A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters collection consists of fifty-six handwritten letters from 1855 to 1872. Newton Amos Chandler (1818?-1880) wrote these letters from San Francisco and California mining camps, and Nevada silver and gold rush locations. These letters offer insights on life in San Francisco, Virginia City, Civil War opinions in California and Nevada, and the opportunities and discouragements of a prospector. In addition, Chandler’s letters provide some information on the settling of Nevada, Native American interactions, and the mining history of Northern California and Nevada.

A gift from John I. Perkins to the Ella Strong Denison Library at Scripps College in 1942, the Chandler letters were purchased by Perkins from a rare manuscripts dealer in Los Angeles in 1932. Previous to that, these letters may have been owned by N.A. Chandler’s surviving daughter, who died in 1948.

For a school project, Jacob High (CGU) was charged with reading any primary source gold rush letters and was referred to a collection of “California Pioneer Letters” at Denison Library that were written by a Northern California prospector to his wife. Jacob immediately recognized one of the letters written on a picture sheet featuring “The Miners’ Lamentations” as a picture sheet that was recently reproduced in Susan Lee Johnson's well respected Gold Rush book “Roaring Camp,” though the source of her picture was the Huntington Archives. Of more interest to Jacob were small references to events in early Nevada Territory and statehood, including the Paiute Indian War of 1860. This battle was described by Hubert Howe Bancroft in his history of Nevada and was widely considered the most important engagement with American Indians in the history of Nevada. After reading these letters, Jacob recommended that these letters be digitized; volunteering to create an item-level finding aid for the Online Archive of California and to create the descriptive metadata for a CCDL collection. To further his research into these letters, Jacob made a trip to Eureka, Nevada where Chandler wrote the last two letters in this collection and visited several courthouses stretching from San Francisco to North Eastern Nevada to find mining claims and legal deeds or other references to Chandler and the contents of the letters. The information he obtained will be compiled and, with this new online digitized collection, form part of his graduate portfolio and aid in the writing of his Master’s thesis.

We would like to thank Jacob High for providing all of the descriptive metadata and Alannah Haddad for digitization of the letters. We would also like to thank Special Collections at the University of Nevada-Reno Library and The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley for allowing a digital copy of an original N.A. Chandler letter from each of their collections to appear as part of this collection.

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