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Prospecting - Miners Working a Long Tom

Gold mining is nature's lottery scheme. A man may work in a claim for many months, and be poorer at the end; or he may 'take out' thousands in a few hours. It is a mere matter of chance. - Louise Clapp

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Long Tom

Long TomThese miners are working a long tom. It allowed them to work together in a larger mining operation.

Kanaka Miners
A native Hawaiian, called a Kanaka, is working the long tom. Native Hawaiians were already present in California before 1848. Many of these Kanakas were employed by John Sutter, and were in the right place at the right time when gold was discovered. Word of the discovery of gold traveled quickly to the islands, on ships carrying out regular trade operations with San Francisco. Hundreds of Kanakas joined the rush to the gold fields.

I saw a lawyer who was last year attorney general of the King of the Sandwich Islands, digging and washing out his ounce and a half per day. -Thomas Larkin

Many white miners exploited their labor, and considered them expendable. Thomas Larkin boasted: Come to California, bring 100 Kanakas, 100 spades, shovels and picks with 100 wooden dishes and bowls. (Come), dig, delve and wash, fill your barrels, bury half your Kanakas, go back and make your homage to John Jacob Astor.

Women's Work
Men greatly out-numbered women in the mines, but there were many women finding creative ways of making a living. Many women worked as miners, but others saw opportunities that did not include the backbreaking labor of mining-they decided to mine the miners. What did miners need? Number one was food. This woman is a businesswoman, negotiating the price of her meat pies with a hungry miner.

I have made about $18,000 worth of pies. $11,000 I baked in one little iron skillet, a considerable portion by a campfire. -anon.

Another woman summarized the situation very well: A smart woman can do very well in this country-true there are not many comforts and one must work all the time and work hard, but there is plenty to do and good pay. It is the only country that I ever was in where a woman received anything like a just compensation for work.

Top: Long Tom, Photo by Christopher Richard

Chinese Camp | Arrastra | Miwok Mining Site | Coyote Hole | Long Tom


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