« PrejšnjaNaprej »
INGATHERING OF NATIONALITIES–PECULIARITIES OF DRESS AND MANNERS
PHYSICAL AND MORAL FEATURES_LEVELLING OF RANK AND Position-
Society during the flush times of California presents several remarkable features besides the Babylonian confusion of tongues, and the medley of races and nationalities. It was a gathering without parallel in history, for modern means of communication alone made it possible. The inflowing argonauts of 1849 found San Francisco not only a tented city, like the rest of the interior towns and camps, but a community of men. The census of 1850 places the female population, by that time fast increasing, at less than eight per cent of the total inhabitants of the country, while in mining counties the proportion fell below two
Calaveras shows only 267 women in a total of 16,884; Yuba, 221 in a total of 9,673; Mariposa, 108 in 4,379, yet here only 80 were white women; Sacramento, 615 in 9,087. In the southern counties, chietly occupied by Mexicans, the proportion approaches the normal, Los Angeles having 1,519 women in a total of 3,530. U.S. Census, 1830, 969 et seq. The proportion in
be judged from the overland migration figures, which still in 1850 allows a percentage of only two for women, with a slightly larger fraction for children. Sac. Transcript, Sept. 30, 1850; S. F. Picayune, Sept. 6, 1850. Many writers on this period fall into the usual spirit of exaggeration by reducing the females even more. Burnett, Rec., MS., ii. 35–7, for instance,
( 221 )
It was, moreover, a community of young men. There was scarcely a gray head to be seen. From these conditions of race, sex, and age, exposed to strange environment, result phases of life and character which stamp the golden era of California as peculiar.
Of nationalities the flow from Europe alone equalled in variety that of the mediæval crusades, with notable prominence to the leading types, the self-complacent Briton, the methodic and reflective German, and the versatile Gaul. The other continents contributed to swell the list. Africa was represented, besides the orthodox negro, by swarthy Moors and straight-featured Abyssinians. Asia and Australasia provided their quota in pig-tailed, blue-garbed Mongols, with their squat, bow-legged cousins of Nipon, lithe and diminutive Malays, dark-skinned Hindoos enwrapped in oriental dreaminess, the well-formed Maoris and Kanakas, the stately turbaned Ottomans, and the ubiquitous Hebrews, ever to be found in the wake of movements offering trade profits. The American element preponderated, however, the men of the United States, side by side with the urbane and pic turesque Hispano-Americans, and the half-naked aborigines. The Yankee fancied himself over all, with his political and commercial supremacy, being full of great projects and happy devices for surmounting obstacles, even to the achieving of the seemingly impossible;* and fitted no less by indomitable energy, assumes only 15 per mille for San Francisco, which naturally had a larger proportion of women than the mining camps.
* Calaveras exhibits in its total of 16,884 only 69 persons over 60 years; Yuba only 21 in its total of 9,673. Ib.
3 Helper, Lanil of Gold, 53-4, states that the general dislike to their race induced many to trade under assumed names.' See also McDaniels' Early Days, MS., 4.
*Their selfishness, tempered by sagacious self-control, is generally of that broad class which best promotes the general weal. They realily combine for great undertakings, with due subordination, yet without fettering individual. ity, as manifested in the political movements for which they have been fitted from childhood by participation in local and general affairs. Lambertie extols the audacious enterprise qui confond un Francais,' and the courageous energy which yields to no reverses. Voy., 209–10. Auger, Voy., 105-6, also adınires the power to organize. See Californut Inter Pocula, this series.
shrewdness, and adaptability than by political and numerical rights to assume the mastery, and so lift into a progressive state a virgin field which under English domination might have sunk into a stagnant conservative colony, or remained under Mexican sway an outpost ever smouldering with revolution.
As compared with this foremost of Teutonic peoples, the French, as the Latin representatives, appeared to less advantage in the arts needful for building up a commonwealth. Depth of resource, practical sense, and force of character could not be replaced by effervescing brilliancy and unsustained dash. They show here rather in subordinate efforts conducive to creature comforts, while Spanish-Americans were conspicuous from their well-known lack of sustained energy.
The clannish tendencies of the Latin peoples, due partly to the overbearing conduct of the Anglo-Saxons, proved not alone an obstacle to the adoption of superior methods and habits, but fostered prejudices on both sides. This feeling developed into open hostility on the part of a thoughtless and less respectable portion of the northern element, whose jealousy was roused by the success achieved by the quicker eye and experience of the Spanish-American miners. The Chinese did not become numerous enough until 1851 to awaken the enmity which in their case was based on still wider grounds.
Among the less desirable elements were the ungainly, illiterate crowds from the border states, such as, Indiana Hoosiers and Missourians, or ‘Pike County' people, and the pretentious, fire-eating chivalry from the south. While less obnoxious at first, the last named proved more persistently objectionable, for the angularities of the others soon wore off in the contact with their varied neighbors, partly with the educated youths from New England. Low's Stat., MS., 7; Findla's Stat., MS., 9; Fay's Facts, MS., 19.
In catering for others, or making the most of their own moderate means. 'Les plus pauvres,' exclaims Saint Amant, Cal., 487, on comparing their backward condition with that of the adaptive Americans.
7 They were slow to take lessons from their inventive neighbors. A warning letter against the Chilians came from South American. Unbound Doc., 327–8. Revere, Keel and Saldle, 160-1, commends their quickness for pros. pecting, and their patience as diggers. Bosthwick's Cal., 311; Barry anel Pat. ten's Men and Mem., 287 et seq.; Fisher's Cals., 42–9; Alta Cal., June 29, 1851.
8 As will be seen later.
Certain distinctiveness of dress and manner assisted the physical type in marking nationalties; but idiosyncrasies were less conspicuous here than in conventional circles, owing to the prevalence of the miner's garb checked or woollen shirts, with a predominance of red and blue, open at the bosom, which could boast of shaggy robustness, or loosely secured by a kerchief; pantaloons half tucked into high and wrinkled boots, and belted at the waist, where bristled an arsenal of knife and pistols. Beard and hair, emancipated from thraldom, revelled in long and bushy tufts, which rather harmonized with the slouched and dingy hat. Later, a species of foppery broke out in the flourishing towns; on Sundays particularly gay colors predominated. The gamblers, taking the lead, affected the Mexican style of dress: white shirt with diamond studs, or breastpin of native gold, chain of native golden specimens, broad-brimmed hat with sometimes a feather or squirrel's tail under the band, top-boots, and a rich scarlet sash or silk handkerchiet thrown over the shoulder or wound round the waist. San Francisco · took early a step further. Traders and clerks drew forth their creased suits of civilization, till the shooting-jacket of the Briton, the universal black of the Yankee, the tapering cut of the Parisian, the stovepipe hat and stand-up collar of the professional, appeared upon the street to rival or eclipse the prostitute and cognate fraternity which at first monopolized elegance in drapery.10
Miners, however, made a resolute stand against any approach to dandyism, as they termed the concomitants of shaven face and white shirt, as antagonistic to their own foppery of rags and undress which attended deified labor. Clean, white, soft hands were an abomination, for such were the gambler's and the preacher's, not to speak of worshipful femininity. But horny were the honest miner's hands, whose one only
10 Fay's Facts, MS., 10. Placer T'imes, Oct. 27, 1849, and contemporaries, warn their readers against such imitation of foppery.
WHIRL OF EXCITEMENT.
soft touch was the revolver's trigger. A store-keeper in the mines was a necessary evil, a cross between a cattle-thief and a constable; if a fair trader, free to give credit, and popular, he was quite respectable, more so than the saloon-keeper or the loafer, but let him not aspire to the dignity of digger.
Nor was the conceit illusive; for the finest specimens of manhood unfolded in these rugged forins, some stanch and broad-shouldered, some gaunt and wiry; their bronzed, hairy features weather bleached and furrowed, their deep rolling voices laden with oaths, though each ejaculation was tempered by the frankness and humor of the twinkling eye. All this dissolution of old conventionalities and adoption of new forms, which was really the creation of an original type, was merely a part of the overflowing sarcasm and fun started by the dissolution of prejudice and the liberation of
A marked trait of the Californians was exuberance in work and play, in enterprise or pastime—an exuberance full of vigor. To reach this country was in itself a task which implied energy, self-reliance, self-denial, and similar qualities; but moderation was not a virtue consonant with the new environment. The climate was stimulating. Man breathed quicker and moved faster; the very windmills whirled here with a velocity that would make a Hollander's head swim. And so like boys escaped from school, from supervision, the adventurer yielded to the impulse, and allowed the spirit within him to run riot. The excitement, moreover, brought out the latent strength hitherto confined by lack of opportunity and conventional rules. Chances presented themselves in different directions to vaulting ambition. Thrown upon his own resources midst
1 The supposed well-filled pockets of the miner and his ever-present loaded revolver made him an object of respect. Their most allowable ap. proach to gay display was in the Mexican muleteer or caballero attire, not omitting the gay sash and jingling spurs. Kip's Sketches, 18-19; S. F. Dir., 1852, 12-13; Overland, Sept. 1871, 221 Bosthwick's Cal., 56,
Hist. Cal, VOL. VL 15