California Gold Rush Expansion

There were so many immigrants moving to California during the Gold Rush, from the East Coast and other countries, that the population of San Francisco grew from 1,000 to 20,000 in two years. Can you imagine the construction and the need for sanitation, food, and medical practitioners? Teachers?

The Harvard University Library Open Collections has photos you can study, quite closely, for your own research into the period, as well as digitized newspaper and magazine articles, passenger lists, maps, and more.

At the foot of the Big Tree, Grant National Park

For instance, Hunting for Gold, by William Downie, shares his personal recollections of hunting for gold from California to Alaska.

Sunset magazine, published by the Southern Pacific Railroad, published “Gold Mining in California,” by Chas. G. Yale, in August, 1899, describing California’s status as the leading gold mining state whose mines in 1899 were still “productive and profitable.” The photo below was published with this article.

Ten Dollars a Day

Ballad of Lucy WhippleMy book, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, is set in the heyday of the California Gold Rush, in Lucky Diggins, California. When Arvella Whipple moves to this gold mining town to become proprietress of the boarding house, she brings her three children with her. Her oldest, California Morning Whipple, who later renames herself “Lucy,” is the narrator of this story. She resents the move from Massachusetts and wants to return to civilized surroundings. An avid reader, there are few books in this rough-and-tumble town. Will she ever grow used to her new surroundings?

It’s Thanksgiving!

Happy ThanksgivingAh, Thanksgiving, a holiday all about family and food and being grateful. No wonder it’s my favorite of the holidays.

Except for Thanksgiving, 1952. We had recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and sunny and 80 degrees. My parents were thrilled and set up the picnic table in the backyard. We ate in our shorts and flip flops.

I was devastated—Thanksgiving meant frost on the pumpkins and long cold walks after dinner and “over the river and through the woods,” not picking oranges in the yard and sunglasses. Those of you who have read The Ballad of Lucy Whipple will have a clue to how I felt about the move.

Here in the Pacific Northwest I have the Thanksgiving I always wanted, except that we make heaps of turkey thighs instead of a whole bird because my loved ones and I are all dark-meat eaters. I hope your Thanksgiving is just the way you want, filled with light and love and gratitude.

Thank you for all your support. I couldn’t do it without you.


The Ballad of Lucy WhippleReading The Ballad of Lucy Whipple? There are a number of Gold Rush history museums throughout California that will give you a look at different aspects of that particular time in American history. Among them: the Maidu Museum, the Gold Country Museum in Auburn, and the Rocklin History Museum.

If you’re in California for the holidays, plan a visit. As always, double-check the library’s open dates and hours.