By Brian Roberts
California throughout the gold rush was once a spot of disputed claims, shoot-outs, playing halls, and prostitution; a spot populated by way of that tough and rebellious determine, the forty-niner; in brief, a spot that turns out totally unconnected to middle-class tradition. In American Alchemy, notwithstanding, Brian Roberts bargains a stunning problem to this assumption.
Roberts issues to a long-neglected fact of the gold rush: a few of the northeastern forty-niners who ventured westward have been in truth middle-class in beginning, prestige, and values. Tracing the reviews and adventures either one of those males and of the "unseen" forty-niners--women who stayed again East whereas their husbands went out West--he indicates that, no matter what else the gold seekers deserted at the highway to California, they didn't easily flip their backs on middle-class culture.
Ultimately, Roberts argues, the tale informed the following unearths an neglected bankruptcy within the heritage of the formation of the center classification. whereas the purchase of respectability displays one degree during this heritage, he says, the gold rush constitutes a moment stage--a uprising opposed to criteria of respectability.
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Extra info for American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture
California’s gold, it claimed, lay in plain sight: ‘‘sparkling in the sun,’’ it ‘‘glittered’’ from the bottom of the region’s streams and ‘‘glowed’’ from the summits of its mountains. The rumor of California’s riches, once ‘‘indeﬁnite and vague,’’ had now burst forth ‘‘like the sun . . through obscuring mists . . ’’∞≠ Many northeastern readers were already dazzled. During the ﬁrst few months of 1849, references to California’s riches began appearing everywhere along the eastern seaboard. Advertisements headed by shouts of gold, meanwhile, were used for pills, cure-alls, sarsaparilla, just about anything.
Thirty-three of the ﬁftynine members of the Salem Company were over twenty-seven years old. These older men frequently had economic ties through marriage. ≥∂ A closer look at the formation of one of these companies provides more details concerning their prohibitive high costs along with the respectable origins of many gold hunting expeditions. In early January 1849, an article in the New York Herald noted that a company was forming in the town of New Brunswick, New Jersey. ’’≥∑ Its president, Augustus Fitz Randolph Taylor, was a college graduate and a town doctor.
But only, she avers, if she can go along with her husband. Here Rodman’s tale arrives at the climactic meeting point of opposite forces: George refuses to take his bride with him; Susan proclaims her intention of going anyway, as a missionary for the redemption of California’s immorality. Respectability and desires for wealth meet in hostile suspension; the Brendalls need money to conﬁrm their status as a middle-class couple, yet neither their domestic security nor Susan’s femininity, we are led to conclude, will survive the vicissitudes of frontier life.
American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture by Brian Roberts