Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Gold rush letters, 1852-1853.
Collection Overview


Gold rush letters, 1852-1853
E. C. Roberts gold rush letters, 1852-1853


Roberts, E. C. (Edward C.), creator


Montague, Frederic, Dr


Six letters from Edward Clyatt(?) Roberts in San Francisco to his father, Edward John Roberts in London, dated Aug. 14, 1852 - July 10, 1853, with an enclosure in the Aug. 14 letter from E.C.'s doctor, F. Montague. On the upper right-hand corner of the letter of Dec. 15, 1852 is a small oval engraving of ships at sea with the words 'E.C. Roberts' at the top and 'Engraver' at the bottom. Also in the collection is a 4 1/2-by-6-inch print of the engraving Roberts used in the advertisement for his business that appeared in the San Francisco directory of 1852/1853. It is a view of San Francisco dated 1853, showing prominent hills overlooking islands in the bay.
The first two letters written from San Francisco on Aug. 14 and Sept. 15, 1852 contain much discussion of the state of Roberts' health which has evidently been of much concern. In the latter letter Roberts discusses his treatment which includes the medicinal use of a concoction known as steel wine. "The above wine is calculated to infuse into the blood the proper amount of iron. This tonic I manufacture - here are the directions if you or Emily like to try a little. Get 3 oz. of steel filings, 3 pints of light wine. Spread the filings on a dish and keep them damp with a little of the wine for three days that they may get rusty at the end of that time, put the filings into a bottle with the remainder of the wine. Cork it and shake the same every day for ten days. It will then be ready for use. Take about half a wine glass full twice a day."
There is also an ongoing debate as to the advisability of Roberts returning to England. In a letter dated Dec. 15th he suggests that his father and sister might wish to join him in San Francisco instead and presents a list of pros and cons for this move. He concludes with the advice "a but if you feel inclined to come to me, donot let your things keep you for they will not improve by keeping but do the business in the American fashion 'rightoff'". He also discusses his current financial affairs "I now work at engraving only, and when I have work, can make 5 dollars a day without much labour" and commenting further "I wish you to understand that I have no more love for this place than Mr. Pena. It is the opportunity a man has to make money that I admire and what you say about gold absorbing the dearest ties may in some cases be true, but the want of it makes the man a slave and worse than a savage."
By April 15th, however, Roberts is about to leave San Francisco. This is in part a business decision: "Great numbers of the Americans have left here for Australia since I last wrote you for business has been very bad all round caused by the floods at Sacramento. For my own part I have been rather disappointed about work that was promised me, and should have done very well only just after I wrote you two fresh engravers arrived here, and they rather put my light out, for like all new comers they cut down the prices the first thing."
Roberts discusses as some length the relative merits of Australia/California: "It is my opinion that Australia will be a very great country from the fact that her agricultural resources are of the first order, consequently a great number of the emigrants will be permanent citizens. The people of California are sure to return to the states this being understood all wish to get rich wright off as the saying is, therefore everything is in a very unsettled state. I am inclined to think that labour is better paid for in this country than any other in the world. I notice that men for unloading ships only get 10/ a day in Australia. Here they never get less than 20. I could mention many other thing equally well paid for, nevertheless Australia is the best country for settlers. I should like it better if it were a republic -- "
The last two letters are written from New Orleans (May 9, 1853) and Nashville (July 10, 1853) as Roberts travels homeward to London. In Nashville he stays with his uncle, presumably his father's brother, and his letter from there discusses a failed business transaction involving engravings his father had sent to be used in a local publication.


1852 (issued)


Roberts, E. C. (Edward C.) -- Correspondence
Engravers -- California -- San Francisco -- Correspondence
San Francisco (Calif.) -- Pictorial works
Wine -- Therapeutic use


Edward Clyatt (?) Roberts was born in England where his father, Edward John Roberts, was a well-respected engraver, located in London. In the 1850s, the younger Roberts came to California to make his fortune; he may also have come in hopes of improving poor health. While resident in San Francisco in 1852/1853, E. C. Roberts followed in his father's footsteps and set up as a "draughtsman and engraver on wood" as designated in the advertisement he placed in the San Francisco directory of 1852-53. By the spring of 1853, however, Roberts had elected to return to England at the urging of his father. His future plans included a trip to Australia with the possibility of emigrating.
E. C. Roberts gold rush letters, 1852-1853
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



Physical Description:

8 items : ill.







Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.