Lot 50 of 517:
California Gold Rush Diary 1852  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$5,100
$3,000 - $5,000

Manuscript journal kept by James M. Goss during a trip to California via the Isthmus of Panama, with experiences in San Francisco and at the mines

Goss, James M.





32 pp. Handwritten in ink on lined paper. 24x19 cm (9½x7½”), modern buckram lettered in gilt, original marbled wrappers laid in loose. 

Original diary recording in great detail the uncomfortable and treacherous journey by steamer from New York to the Isthmus of Panama; the crossing of Panama by train, foot and mule; the trip up the coast to San Francisco; the chaotic wonder of the bustling city; the hardships and opportunities of labor in the mines; and more. A splendid glimpse at the formative American experience prior to the Civil War.

Click here for a complete transcript of the journal.


James Goss embarked at New York on April 26th, 1852, aboard the “Fine Double Engine Steam Ship Ilenois… The boat was crowded to over flowing as it was ascertain after we left that the Ilenois of 2500 tons burden had on bord 1103 pasengers and a crew of 112 including all Oficers Crue and waters we left the peir in high glee as we glided down the river for the Ocean…” The ship was not a luxury liner, and as to the food, “Potatoes all roten and mackrell so bad cold not Eat them… hot enough to rost Eggs but good wether and the Paseng grumble at the water…”
At the Isthmus, they boarded the train, “…some of the cars were maid like our Pasenger Cars with cane seats, three train of cars to cary us all, two ingines to a train one before and one behind… the scenery was butiful and romantic, the Coconut ahanging in clusters and the Sugar cain with all the Wild Birds singing Pall Pariots, Mocking Bird and all sorts of Birds their Plumige very hansoma and Pasuns Monkeys in fact the wood ar full of animals…” 
After many adventures in Panama City, Goss and his companions board the steamer “golden gate” and head north to Acapulco and on to San Francisco, “May 22 at 8 Oclock stept out on the warf at Sanfrancisco at long warfe wich was so crowded that it was hard to gat some thing to Eat, went to Pacific Warf got some Breckfasts and I think that I eat my moneys worth.”
After a short time in San Francisco Goss headed for the mines “in the Steemer H.T. Clay for Stockton… Bernita (Benecia?) is quite a pretty plase, part of the way up the river… Game abound here… and now and then a Ciota. These animals are they say part Dog and part Woolf how that is I cant say. They look like a dog and like Woolf but a void man and run very fast…” Later they “went through the Chines Digins a mining Camp, now occupied by Americans and some Feringers, from there through Montsomer Flats a levell tract of mining Destrickt neere to Table Mountain. On the south side of this mountain is Woods Crick a rich mining Crick…” The journalist writes about his mining activities, building flumes, etc., and intermittent success, “Oct. 20 took out gold it appeared to be plenty for after we had gat of some 4 ft of the ground I took out a pocket or a halow in the ledge in my hand from a dolar to five at a hand full…  a few days after I was looking on a pile of rocks that had hove out of a tom and found a piece of Gold worth 2 dollars. This was when I was Sicck and could not work…”

Lot Amendments

First and last leaves with fore-edges strengthened affecting some letters; very good.

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