Life of the Miner
Forty-niners rushed to California with visions of gilded promise, but they discovered a harsh reality. Life in the gold fields exposed the miner to loneliness and homesickness, isolation and physical danger, bad food and illness, and even death. More than anything, mining was hard work. Fortune might be right around the corner, but so too was failure. The promises and commitments to remain faithful in body and spirit to families left behind were constantly tested by the struggles and temptations of the moment.
Miners responded to these challenges with humor, resiliency, and sometimes despair. "Escape" from the realities of their conditions might be found in correspondence with home, in community with fellow miners, at a gambling table, or in a bottle of whiskey. The temptations of Saturday night were inevitably followed by the chores and rituals of Sunday morning, as miners contrived to create a semblance of community out of life in the mines.
Top: Sunday Morning in the Mines, by Charles
Nahl, Collection of Crocker Art Museum
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