john-boessenecker-ca-gold-rushAnyone visiting Gold Rush Country should be sure to read these first:

The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience by J.S. Holliday (Simon & Schuster, 1981; University of Oklahoma Press reprint, 2002): It tells the story of the long overland journey to California in 1849, the trials and tribulations of those in the mines, and, for many, the triumphant return home to the East Coast. Thirty years in the making, this book, upon its release, became an instant classic.

The Robin Hood of El Dorado by Walter Noble Burns (Coward-McCann, 1932; University of New Mexico Press, 1999; Kindle Edition): This story of the bandit Joaquin Murrieta did for the Gold Rush what Burns’s Tombstone did for Arizona and what The Saga of Billy the Kid did for New Mexico. Like his other works, it has numerous fictional elements, but it contains more fact than fantasy.

Let Justice Be Done by Kevin J. Mullen (University of Nevada Press, 1989): This is the authoritative work on the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1851, and the events that led up to its formation at the height of the Gold Rush.  The San Francisco Committee was the first widely publicized vigilante group in the West, and it had a profound impact on American history as later pioneers emulated it.

They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush by JoAnn Levy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992): While the Gold Rush was overwhelmingly male, women nonetheless played a critical role. This is the first comprehensive account of their experiences and their impact on the mining frontier.

Gold Dust and Gunsmoke by John Boessenecker (Wiley, 1998; Kindle Edition): At the risk of sounding presumptuous, my book is the only survey of violence in the Gold Rush, dealing with everything from gunfighters to feuds and bandidos, even the miners’ violent sports. It traces the ethic of violence, which began in the Gold Rush and is still with us today.

As of press date, John Boessenecker was 75 percent done with his upcoming Frank Hamer biography. His most recent biography is When Law Was in the Holster: The Frontier Life of Bob Paul (University of Oklahoma Press).


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