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Gold Fever 

Art of the Gold Rush 

Silver and Gold 

Natives & Immigrants

Silver and Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush
Lola Montez (?), Actress, Dancer and Courtesan 
Unknown make, Lola Montez (?), Actress, Dancer and Courtesan, Sixth plate ambrotype. Collection of The Bancroft Library

Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush presents the first major world event to be documented through photography. One hundred and fifty stunning daguerreotypes and ambrotypes made between 1848 and 1860 will be assembled in a rare exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California, opening January 24, 1998 and remaining on view through July 26, 1998. 

Photography was barely ten years old when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill on January 24, 1848. The rush of fortune seekers that descended onto California brought with it many daguerrotype practitioners, making this remarkable world event the first to be documented photographically. This assemblage of photographs bears silent witness to the lives of all the people of diverse races and backgrounds who found their way to California during the turbulent period known as the Gold Rush. The daguerreotypes and ambrotypes—called "cased images" because they were set in ornate cases of leather, velvet and brass—portray an unparalleled visual legacy that offers crucial and often intensely personal and touching details about the people and the places of the California Gold Rush.  

The Oakland Museum of California's extensive collection includes the finest known cased images of the era. Private and institutional collections across the country contributed additional invaluable pieces for this exhibit, many of which have never been previously exhibited or published. 

Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush includes works by Frederick Coombs, W. H. Rulofson, Seth Louis Shaw, William Shew, Isaac Wallace Baker and Robert H. Vance. Through their eyes, and the eyes of their cameras, we see history in the making—images of California as it was before, during and after "the world rushed in." 

The exhibition begins with images of Native Californians and continues with portraits of those who shared the land with them—the Spanish and Mexican Californios, like Andreas Pico and Mariano Vallejo, whose forbears first arrived in the 18th century. Other daguerreotypes portray the Boston seaport, a point of departure for the months-long sea route to California, and the bustling port of San Francisco. 

Images from the gold fields reflect the miners' rough houses, sunburned faces and makeshift clothes, and often capture a sense of the loneliness, isolation and determination of men working under difficult conditions far from home. Behind them, one can sometimes see the gouged and eroded hillsides that were the sad byproduct of new technologies and hydraulic mining techniques. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 200-page book published by the University of Iowa Press. The book includes essays by John Wood, author, poet and founding president of the Daguerreian Society; Peter Palmquist, author, independent scholar and curator in the field of photography; and co-curators of the exhibit: Marcia Eymann, Oakland Museum History Department Curator of Photography and Drew Johnson, Oakland Museum Art Department Curator of Photography.  

Silver & Gold will be on view through July 26, 1998 and will then travel to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. (October 30, 1998 - March 7, 1999) and to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento (August 13 - October 10, 1999.) 

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