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THE DIARY OF A FORTY-NINER edited...

THE DIARY OF A FORTY-NINER edited by Chauncey L. Canfield (Turtle Point Press: 12.95; 193 pp.). Originally published 1906 after being discovered in a decaying cabin, “Diary” offers a vivid picture of life in California during the Gold Rush. Alfred Jackson kept this journal from May, 1850, through June, 1852, while working a claim in Nevada County, Calif. As Jackson recorded the mundane details of the miner’s life--the labor, the monotonous food, the price of staples (in 1850, a sack of flour cost $14; a pick $2.50)--He wondered if anyone would stay in California after the gold was gone and offered his opinions on the debate over the rights of Mexican and Chinese miners. Under the influence of his partner, a respected lawyer (whom the editor coyly avoids identifying), Jackson shed his small-town outlook and became a more cultivated man in an intriguing, understated transformation.


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