San Francisco: 28 February 1850. Quarto bifolium (ca. 24,5x20 cm). 3 pp. Brown ink on blueish wove paper. Written in a legible hand, addressed, stamped and docketed on verso of the second leaf (San Francisco postal stamp). Fold marks, a couple of minor splits on folds, two minor holes on the second leaf after opening, but all words are readable; overall a very good letter.
Historically significant original letter with interesting details on the lumber business, gold mining and the urban development of San Francisco in the early years of the California Gold Rush. Melvin Borden, was an associate of the “Cook Borden & Co.” – a prospering lumber company from Fall River, Massachussetts, founded by one of the town’s most prominent businessmen Cook Borden (1810-1880), likely Melvin’s relative. The letter, written with numerous spelling mistakes, talks about the prices of lumber and carpenters’ wages in San Francisco, difficulty and high expense of hauling lumber through the city’s “allmost impasable” muddy streets after the winter rains, records the arrival of cargo ships, the results of gold mining in winter season, details on what quantities of cheese California miners tend to buy and San Francisco’s quick growth where “the population is probably about 30 thousand at this time, and one third live in tents owing to the high price that is asked for houses…” Overall an interesting content-rich letter from San Francisco during the California Gold Rush with a focus on the lumber business in the city.
Cook Burden was a prominent lumber dealer from Fall River, founding his company ca. in the 1840s. and supplying major mills and transportation companies in the region. He was also “president of the Union National Bank and a member of the Board of Investment of the Union Savings Bank and a Director in the Chace, Richard Borden and Tecumseh mills.” (Fenner, H.M. History of Fall River. New York, 1906, p. 187). The account books of “Cook Borden & Co.” for 1863-1914 are now deposited in the Special Collections of the Amherst Libraries, University of Massachusetts (http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/borden-cook-fall-river-mass/).
Excerpts from the letter (original spelling):
“Dear Sirs, I received your letter of the 10 of January, with a bill of lading enclosed in it, of lumber shipped in the Brigg Triumph and consigned to me wishing me to attend to the sail of said lumber and remit the proceeds to the sail forthwith to you, I will attend to that business as soon as the Brigg arrives here. Business is very dull here at present and has been for the most part of the winter owing to the bad state of the wether [sic!], the rainy season commenced soon after I arrived, and has continued nearly ever since. We are in hopes know [sic!] that it is nearly over. We have had very fine weather for about two weeks with a little rain occasionally only, the streets have been allmost impasable [sic!] which made it very difficult to hall [sic!] lumber or even get about. The price for hawling [sic!] lumber has been from 30 to 40 dollars per thousand this winter and sometimes we could not get it hawled [sic!] at all by teams, but we have adopted a new plan in some instances where there has [sic!] been men placed at convenient distances to pass boards from one to the other, by so doing have been able to continue what little work was going on. When the streets are good the regular price is about 10 dollars per m.
We have done but little more than pay our expenses here this winter. The Town is full of carpenters and wages is a getting down some what carpenters can be had at this time say from 6 to 12 dollars per day. Money is worth 10 percent per month and scarce at that but it is thought will be plentyer [sic!] as soon as the miners begin to come down, and they have continued comeing [sic!] with their piles, some are going home in the next steamer, others will leave their gold here and return to the mines. From the best information I can get the miners have done very well this winter. I meen [sic!] those that have actually worked, not those that have been idling their time away prospecting and gambling <…> The workers have everaged [sic!] this winter on the dry digings [sic!] about one ounce per day. There is a great rush at this time for the mines, and we think of going as soon as the Mary Mitchel arrives and we shall have made sail [sic!] of our lumber.
The Chesapeake Capt. Marvell has arrived, her pasage [sic!] from home was 146 days, sailing days 130. She has lost 2 of her pasengers [sic!] George Benet and Benjamin Marble, George Benet died 3 days out, Benjamin Marble died 2 days before the schoner [sic!] arrived and was brought in and buried on shore and I was present at the funeral. <…> They have made sail [sic!] of their lumber at 65 dollars per thousand, landed on the shore and have sold their chees [sic!] one cast at 60 cts. <…> The chees [sic!] was the hansomest [sic!] that has been in market and in first rate order, but the packages to [sic!] large. For the mines chees should be put up in boxes weighing from 15 to 20 lbs, that being about the quantity that miners wish to perchase [sic!]. Lumber is worth from 75 to 125 dollars per thousand and a large quantity in the market and daily arivings [sic!] <…>
California is a great Country and Sanfrancisco [sic!] is geting [sic!] to be a great citty [sic!], the population is probably about 30 thousand at this time, and one third live in tents owing to the high price that is asked for houses, provisions are plenty and comparatively low, goods of all kinds are plenty and comeing [sic!] daily.”.
Price: $1,250.00 USD