San Francisco: 1 February 1850. Folio (ca. 32x20 cm or 12 ½ x 7 ¾ in). Brown ink on writing paper, 4 pp. Addressed and with several ink postal stamps on the last page. Fold marks, worn and splitting on the folds, minor holes on the last pages after opening just slightly affecting the text, but overall a very good letter.
Interesting content-rich letter written by an Irish immigrant who had come to San Francisco with his wife and two daughters in the last months of 1849, with a big wave of gold-seekers. Originally from Armagh (Northern Ireland), the family of William Eno first immigrated to Sydney, Australia, and only later moved to San Francisco where they settled in a house on the corner of Dupont & Green Streets on the Telegraph Hill which quickly became a popular Irish neighbourhood. Writing to his brother James, William gives an interesting description of San Francisco shortly before Califonia joined the Union as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. He complains about “scarcity and enormous price of everything,” lists prices for groceries and services, labourers’ wages, and tries to convince James to move to California. William describes “a piece of Gold 23 lb weight found by one person who was only 3 days at work altogether,” promises “to dig from 3 to 6 oz a day” if they work together, praises the local climate and reassures that there is virtually no crime in the country: “I have lived without door to my house for months…” William notes how easy it was for him to learn Spanish just in a few months and suggests that his brother should travel via New York, New Orleans, Brownsville in Texas, and Mexico which will cost £30 per person; “many comes by Cape Horn, but it is a long & cold passage, others come by Chagres & Panama, but it costs 300 dollars.” Overall a fascinating letter from the early times of the California Gold Rush presenting San Francisco as a prosperous and civilized place without “the slightest injustice.”
Excerpts from the letter: “When I left Syd. I fetched every thing I thought I might require having don [sic!] so I have been able to sustain myself till now, for I have only earned but 3 dollars since. I came here having employed myself in putting up my own house, therefore I have no rent to pay & own not a cent…”
The mighty tide that is now rushing hither carries with it a vast amount of money & property, also still is nothing to what will yet be discovered, for vast tracts of land the soil of which is mixed with particles of Gold more than 10 feet deep in many places. I have seen pieces as large nearly as my fist, I have also had letters from the diggers who were finding from ½ an oz to 1 ½ a day. The dust sells now for 15 ½ $ an oz, in England it is worth 20. At present there is no digging, but at the dry where they do not find much. This being the rainy season, most of the diggers are here, in another month they will be leaving as the rain will then have ceased. There has been dreadful torrents this year, in any of the streets you sink to your middle in mud & goods of every kind lyeing [sic!] in it. I have seen sacks of flower & trunks of close [sic!] sunk in it, yet no person […?] lift them out though flour was at the time £10 a barrel.
Now my dear Brother, I have often encouraged you to leave the degraded & unfortunate country, I now implore you perhaps for the last time, were you with me we could dig from 3 to 6 oz a day & perhaps a fortune. In one week I have seen a piece of Gold 23 lb weight found by one person who was only 3 days at work altogether. I am now compeled [sic!] to go with strangers who may cheat me. One cannot well work by himself as in many cases one must carry water a long way to wash the clay from the Gold while the other stays behind to dig & sift. Sickness may occur & if one have no friend he may perish. This is a healthy climate with a people gathered from all ends of the earth, yet there is no crime. Whatever all the languages of group is spoken round me, particularly the Spanish & though I am here only 4 ½ months I can speak that language on any subject. <…>
I will go in a few days to the mines on the Stanislaus River, they are so extensive every where that all the people that are coming & may come won’t exhaust them for many years. Do no be afraid to come, there is no sickness peculiar to the climate, neither is there the slightest injustice, I have lived without door to my house for months.”.
Price: $1,750.00 USD