Guide to the Alden H. Kingman Gold Rush Letters MC315
University of California, Davis Library, Dept. of Special Collections
1st Floor, Shields Library, University of California
100 North West Quad
Davis, CA 95616-5292
Language of Material: English
Contributing Institution: University of California, Davis Library, Dept. of Special Collections
Title: Alden H. Kingman Gold Rush Letters
Creator: Kingman, Alden H.
Identifier/Call Number: MC315
Physical Description: 6 items
Date (inclusive): circa 1852-1866
Abstract: Manuscript letters by prospector and gold miner Alden H. Kingman, detailing his experiences in Tuolumne County, California, and later in San Francisco.
Physical Location: Researchers should contact Archives and Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
Alden H. Kingman was born in Maine and came to California from Waltham, Massachusetts, 1854. He was a prospector and gold miner in Tuolumne County, California and later a watchmaker and jeweler in San Francisco.
Manuscript letters by prospector and gold miner Alden Kingman, detailing his experiences in Tuolumne County, California, and later in San Francisco during the mid- to late 1850s and early 1860s. Kingman, who was born in Maine and came to California from Waltham, Massachusetts, arrived in Springfield, California, in 1854, and his first letter from there, dated June 4 and addressed to his brother, discusses his arrival, initial work, and the fortunes of mutual acquaintances:
"I am not so fat as in the winter, but I still feel well as any body and I have to work vary hard now, but I get paid vary well for it, so I don't care much. I have the best week's work last week that I ever done in my life. I arnt [i.e., earned] half as much as I could at home in a summer, [or] very near, but don't let this flatter you, for I may not do so well the next, but we have a pretty good show for a summer's work I think. Yes, for two or three, if it pays as well as it has, but perhaps it won't. The boys are all well and doing pretty well, I believe. Elliot & Salomon lost thair last week's work $140 that came hard. It was stole from them thay say out of thair cabbin...."
In February 1858, Kingman was still working the "tunnels" in Springfield, but employment was only intermittent, likely due to the Panic of 1857, and "it is the hardest times here for money that I have ever seen." By August 1859, writing to his father, Kingman was working steadily, but still demoralized over his returns on his years in California:
"You wished to know how the Virginia tunnel was paying. We get vary good prospects in it, but they are so far apart that it hasn't paid us any thing to speak of yet, but thare has ben heaps of the shining ore passed through it. Some day & if we can get whare they bed rock ain't so steep, we shall be likely to get good pay. I think the Boston tunnel is paying first rate now. I have an interest in that yet, so I am in hopes that I shall come out better than I expected a while ago, for it looked very dark; come to prospect over four years & and pay out over four thousand Dollars & not be likely to receive one cent.... I would like to go home & see my folks & friends, but I am situated so I can't at present. I suppose you think I have got plenty of the shining Ore by this time, but you are mistaken. I have had some of it since I came here, but you see whare some of it is gone & I have not spent but nary little foolishly, but money will go here if a man is lucky enough to have any."
Kingman saw another difficult period in late 1860, which led him to lament to his father that, "The time has past when every man can make a pile here in a few days. I have done vary well since I ben here, but have paid the most of it for prospecting far more, so I have to wait until I can make another raise.... I still continue to work in the Boston tunnel & expect to as long as I mine for a living & that won't be a great while, I hope, if I have my health." Nevertheless, he is still at it in May 1864, when he endured days of seasickness to join a silver rush on Catalina Island:
"Thare has been great excitement about lead & silver are being found on the island, so of course, I had to go -- not, however, til I let one of my old friends from Ellsworth have two hundred dollars to return with, for he had been thare & was very much excited about the mines & wanted to go back, but couldn't for want of money. So I let him have it. I started also. Well, I got there. You ask did you find your pile. I did & was very glad to come back. A pile of hills was all I found. There is some lead & silver in the island, but not enough to pay -- that is, as far as prospected & I don't think ever will. I have gone to work in the old tunnel again quite contented. This is the first excitement that I have chased after & I think the last for a while that is since I came to Cal...."
Perhaps this was one of the final straws for Kingman's mining career, for in his last letter, to his brother and dated March 1866, he reported that he had been working for some time as a watchmaker in San Francisco:
"I am repairing clocks & watches. I have been at it about a year & a half & can do most any work thare is to be done. I like it first rate. It is nice pritty work & pays vary well, the best of any thing that I know of at present. If I had plenty to do all the time, I could make a fortune in a little while. I put pivots in watches & put teeth in wheels, put main springs in & have springs & all the fine work. It is a natural gift, I know, for I love it.... Well, I must say that I enjoy meyself the best I ever did in my life since I left school."
He must have indeed had found his calling, since the San Francisco directories list Kingman as a "watchmaker and jeweler" at various addresses in the city for more than a decade after this final letter, until 1877. One additional letter present here, discussing family business and news, dates to 1852, when Kingman was still in Massachusetts.
[Description provided by McBride Rare Books]
Collection is open for research.
Liz Phillips created this finding aid with information supplied by McBride Rare Books.
Purchased from McBride Rare Books, 2021.
[Identification of item], Alden H. Kingman Gold Rush Letters, MC319, Archives and Special Collections, UC Davis Library, University of California, Davis.
All applicable copyrights for the collection are protected under chapter 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code. Requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Regents of the University of California as the owner of the physical items. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Gold mines and mining -- California
Pioneers -- California -- History -- 19th century.
Michael and Margaret B. Harrison Western Research Center
Kingman, Alden H. -- Archives