January 23, 2015

1416 UNITED STATES (California) - Panning for Gold

Gold is usually found in two forms: in veins or lodes and in river beds or near them, where the metal is called alluvial gold. Gold is also found with other elements such as copper or iron, but usually with silver. The simplest form of gold mining is panning, which applies to alluvial gold. The miner shovels sand and gravel that have gold in them into a pan which he tilts slightly and works with a rotation motion. The particles of gold, being heaviest, sink to the bottom of the pan while the lighter materials are washed away. It is the oldest (but also the least productive) method of mining gold, the first recorded instances of placer mining being from ancient Rome. This method is still used today, sporadic and with minor results, but its peak period was in the 19th century, during the major gold rushes.

Probably the best known gold rush was the one in California (1848-1855), in the Sierra Nevada, which captured the popular imagination, leading directly to the settlement of California by Americans and the rapid entry of that state into the Union in 1850. It began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found at Sutter's Mill in Coloma. The news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. California's name became indelibly connected with the Gold Rush, and fast success in a new world became known as the "California Dream."

I don't know when was taken the photo, but anyway in the 20th century, even if can be seen in the background a jackass carrying the luggage of the two gold miners, and two rifles placed near them, ready to hand. The author of the photography is nobody else than Merle Porter (1907-1988), "the postcard king of the west." He produced and distributed his "photo-color" postcards under the name Royal Pictures of Colton, California. Porter traveled nine months out of the year for over fifty years, photographing the historic sites, monuments, architecture, highways, infrastructure, oil fields, and landscapes of the western United States in color using his Speed Graphic view camera. While traveling he distributed his postcards to motels, souvenir shops, and gas stations, circulating one million postcards per year at the height of his career. Porter wrote lengthy and descriptive captions full of historical facts and local lore to be printed on the back of each postcard.

About the stamps

The first stamp, which celebrates the beauty and grace of the hummingbird, was issued on February 7, 2014. The stamp art is a tinted, highly stylized, digital depiction of a hummingbird hovering near a plant. It features the art of illustrator Nancy Stahl. Carl T. Herrman was the art director.

The second stamp, dedicated to Janis Joplin (1943-1970), is part of the series Music Icons, about which I wrote here.

California Gold Rush - Wikipedia
Porter, Merle - Museum of Contemporary Photography

Sender: Michelle / Shelleh (postcrossing) US-3179517
Sent from Santa Barbara (California / United States), on 13.01.2015
Photo: Merle Porter

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