The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52 (Paperback)
Dame Shirley's insightful narrative of life in new mining communities at the height of the California Gold Rush are lively and poignant, shedding light on the social life that accompanied this famous chapter in history.
Collected and republished, these letters are mainly taken from a publication named The Pioneer, where many of Dame Shirley's humorous and interesting correspondences were published. Many detail the bars, hotels, stores and other establishments springing up in the vicinity of the mining operations, as formerly quiet and unsettled country districts became hives of activity in the space of mere months.
Shirley details the culture springing up around the valleys and hills of California, as thousands of new miners and prospectors arrive with their families, all hoping to strike it rich. Many hailed not simply from the United States, but elsewhere too: suddenly, the California of the 1850s was home to a multicultural and even exotic atmosphere, which the sophisticated observations of Dame Shirley bring out.
Although most of the miners did not become rich, many found the convivial atmosphere appealing. In the years following The Pioneer magazine's publication, many stayed in California and - as the fury of the gold rush subsided - settled down permanently in other vocations. Dame Shirley's letters remain a fascinating slice of California history, giving readers a genuine and spirited account of the era from a woman who saw it with her own eyes.