Harper’s Weekly, October 3, 1857, page 632 (Illustrated Article)
There seems scarcely a limit to the future production of gold in California. Despite the confident predictions of unsuccessful adventurers that the mines would soon be exhausted, the exact opposite seems to be the case; for deposits are now being reached by the new processes of exploration which stagger all calculations. There is no good reason why the gold region of California should not continue to produce its $50,000,000 per annum at least during the present century, and most probably for a much longer period. To make good such an assertion it would be necessary to go much more into detail, and explain the system of gold-washing and the inexhaustible field which the miners have settled upon for future operations, than could be given in this sketch. It should be understood, however, that, excepting the cases of the Chinese, who continue to use the old methods, rockers, cradles, and the like primitive machinery have been long since discarded, and a system adopted commensurate with the character and importance of the labor. This is known as "hydraulic mining," and is rapidly superseding all others—as, with the canals which supply the water for such operations, it gives employment to at least two-thirds of the mining population of the State…

Mining Life In California
October 3, 1857, page 632

…As the Chinese have become a feature in the towns where they have located, they are not less peculiar in their habits in the diggings. On their arrival at San Francisco they organize under the direction of a resident chief, whose orders are implicitly obeyed. This chief contracts with the steamboat proprietors to transport an entire ship-load at once to Sacramento or Stockton, whence they pass by squads into the mines. They generally take up abandoned claims, and form little villages sometimes of a hundred persons. They communicate but little with the towns, owing to the jealousy of American miners, who regard them as nuisances, and often drive them violently away from any rich diggings they may have happened upon. There is perhaps some grounds for this enmity. It is urged that the Chinese are of no benefit, either by industry or trade, to the community; jealously hoarding every ounce of gold, and returning to China with it. They buy no American clothing, generally bringing their own stock, and living mainly upon rice, which they also bring with them. An immigration tax, amounting almost to prohibition, was once imposed, but was so repugnant to the views of many conscientious persons that it was not rigidly enforced, and the prejudice against the Celestials and Mexicans is happily fast wearing away. The broad principle of universal toleration is the only one which can be consistently adopted in America; but in California particularly, whose progress is so greatly dependent on an increase of population to develop her resources, immigration of industrious people should be carefully encouraged.
Wherever the Chinese locate they are apt to make money; more owing to their plodding industry than to any tact or energy they may display. Their camps are wonderfully clean. Passing through one of the larger ones, you will find many of them at their toilets, getting their heads shaved, or plating each other’s pig-tails. At meals they squat in groups around queer little black dishes and pots, helping themselves with their fingers. Rice, which is their staff of life, they toss with such surprising quickness down their throats, that one hardly knows which most to admire, their dexterity in the use of the chopsticks, or the unaccountable manner in which the food disappears. They scarcely seem to chew at all, but keep up a continuous chain of rice from the dish into their mouths, somewhat as the lazaroni in Naples gulp down macaroni.
There has been from the first an inveterate hatred between the Chinese and the Indians. The latter soon found it useless to attempt any opposition to the whites, and tacitly admitted their supremacy; but the sight of a Celestial pig-tail set their bristles on end in a twinkling, and peaceable as the Chinese are represented, they meet their enemies more than half-way. Some of the funniest battles on record have taken place between them. In these the Celestials array themselves in cotton armor, and sport veritable wooden swords and basket shields. The Indians generally use spears and other simple weapons, though both sides have at times "sailed in" with knives and fire-arms. On several occasions there have been half a dozen of the belligerents left dead on the field. When one of these battles is about to take place, the news is circulated far and near, and the occasion is observed as a sort of holiday and general merry-making. The authorities never think of interfering, on the principle of the woman who witnessed the fight between her husband and the bear. It is a matter of little moment who gains the day, as a thinning-out of either party is considered a public benefit. When they get at close quarters weapons are dropped, and the martial display degenerates into a scuffle, in which tattooed faces, pig-tails, wooden shoes, gongs, dust, sticks, and the mellifluous exclamations of the combatants, mingle in splendid confusion. The Chinese, as a general thing, get the worst of it, and when they turn tail to run, no language can describe the laughter and hurrahs of the multitude. The reader, however, must not suppose from this that the miners are all of this rowdyish stamp. There are thousands who rule and give a tone to society in the interior who would do honor to any community. Indeed, so many have brought with them and retained the New England propriety of conduct, that their influence is recognized as powerful in every public matter…
Harper’s Weekly, October 3, 1857, page 632 (Illustrated Article)

This site is brought to you by…
Website and all Content 1998-1999 HarpWeek, LLC
Please report problems to