By Brian Roberts

ISBN-10: 0807825433

ISBN-13: 9780807825433

ISBN-10: 0807848565

ISBN-13: 9780807848562

California throughout the gold rush was once a spot of disputed claims, shoot-outs, playing halls, and prostitution; a spot populated by means of that tough and rebellious determine, the forty-niner; in brief, a spot that turns out completely unconnected to middle-class tradition. In American Alchemy, in spite of the fact that, Brian Roberts deals a stunning problem to this assumption.

Roberts issues to a long-neglected fact of the gold rush: some of the northeastern forty-niners who ventured westward have been in reality middle-class in starting place, prestige, and values. Tracing the stories and adventures either one of those males and of the "unseen" forty-niners--women who stayed again East whereas their husbands went out West--he exhibits that, no matter what else the gold seekers deserted at the street to California, they didn't easily flip their backs on middle-class culture.

Ultimately, Roberts argues, the tale advised right here finds an ignored bankruptcy within the heritage of the formation of the center category. whereas the purchase of respectability displays one degree during this heritage, he says, the gold rush constitutes a moment stage--a uprising opposed to criteria of respectability.

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Extra resources for American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture

Example text

By the time of Rodman’s story, these social and economic distinctions had done much to establish class boundaries. Still, having separated themselves geographically from physical laborers, many middle-class writers and thinkers worked to create distinctions between middle-class and laboring-class values as well. The result was a mass proliferation of prescriptive literature for proper behavior, the rise of a genteel ‘‘polite culture’’ centered on reform, respectability, and self-control. Culturally as well as physically, merchants, skilled artisans, and laborers went their separate ways.

He also planned to take more than $1,000 to invest in land and goods. Forty-niners of more moderate means included men like Cornelius La Tourette, Eri Hulbert, and Samuel Adams. Frequently, men like these were reluctant gold seekers, respectable individuals whose positions within a new market economy of wildly fluctuating fortunes left them little choice but to grasp the economic opportunities presented by the reports from California. La Tourette was a farmer from Bound Brook, New Jersey. Following a series of setbacks that included the death of his brother and the destruction of the family barn during a lightning storm, he faced a di≈cult decision: he could accept a clerking position at a New York City bank or go to California.

La Tourette was a farmer from Bound Brook, New Jersey. Following a series of setbacks that included the death of his brother and the destruction of the family barn during a lightning storm, he faced a di≈cult decision: he could accept a clerking position at a New York City bank or go to California. ∂≤ Hulbert, who su√ered serious reverses in Chicago and in Oswego County, New York, made his plans for similar reasons. A building contractor, he had lost a large investment of time and money when the state of New York refused to pay him for the work he had done on the construction of the Erie Canal.

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American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture by Brian Roberts


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