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California Gold Rush Mining Towns Photographed by Alma Lavenson, 1930-1968
BANC PIC 1987.021--PIC  
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The California Gold Rush Mining Towns collection contains 373 photographs taken between 1930 and 1968 by Alma Lavenson. The collection consists of views of several of the towns and camps of the Mother Lode region --the area located roughly between Georgetown and Mariposa --which was heavily mined for its great quantities of gold-bearing quartz. Approximately 60 communities which originally developed during the Gold Rush period following 1848 are represented in the collection. Many of these communities were apparently nearly-abandoned by the time of Lavenson's visits. The towns range from more well-known areas such as Nevada City, Grass Valley, Columbia, North San Juan and Coloma, to smaller, more obscure areas such as Rough and Ready, Copperopolis, Goodyear's Bar, Fiddletown and Timbuctoo. Especially featured in the collection are Gold-Rush-era structures such as hotels, residences, stores, restaurants, banks, churches, post offices, and jails, as well as cemeteries, farms and mining developments. Many street scenes feature storefront architecture remaining from the Gold Rush period.
Alma Lavenson was born in San Francisco in 1897, the daughter of a successful dry-goods businessman. After the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906, the Lavenson family moved across the Bay to Oakland. At some point before she entered the University of California at Berkeley, where she would study psychology, Alma Lavenson began to practice photography with a small, folding Kodak camera, which she initially used for snapshots of family and friends. After several years of self-directed study in the pictorialist tradition, her Zion Canyon photograph "The Light Beyond" --the first she had ever submitted for publication --was chosen to appear on the cover of the December 1927 issue of Photo-Era magazine. Similar successes were soon to follow, all acknowledging her formalist approach to landscapes and occasional genre portraits and architectural subjects. Around 1929 Lavenson began to incorporate industrial and urban subjects into her work, exploring the abstract shapes and patterns suggested in their surfaces.
373 photographic prints, 21 x 26 cm. or smaller. 367 digital objects
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Collection stored off-site. Advance notice required for use.