[N.p., near San Francisco. ca. 1851]. Original pencil drawing, 5 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches. Backed on thicker stock to an overall size of 6 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches. Signed in the lower right, "J. D. Borthwick." Light foxing in the image, minor toning around the edges. Near fine. Item #WRCAM49029
J. D. Borthwick was a Scottish artist and journalist, leaving his native land in 1847 to see North America. After traveling from Canada, down to New Orleans, then back up to New York, like most young men of his generation, Borthwick caught gold fever, moving to San Francisco in 1851. He spent the next three years traveling throughout the California gold country, eagerly observing and sketching the people and places he encountered, with a special regard for the ethnic peoples he met. He ventured to other parts of the world and then returned to Scotland in 1856. The next year, he published a memoir about his time in gold country called THREE YEARS IN CALIFORNIA, including his experiences in various gold camps near Sacramento, Coloma, Nevada City, San Andreas, Sonora, Jacksonville, Downieville, and Placerville. The book is generally regarded as one of the most entertaining first-person accounts of the early Gold Rush period. His illustrations for the gold rush period were also published in various periodicals, including HUTCHING'S CALIFORNIA MAGAZINE, HARPER'S WEEKLY, and ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS.
Borthwick's drawing here depicts what must have been a fairly standard gold camp, with makeshift tents, and numerous men in western gear milling about. One of the tents is labeled, "Adams & Co. Express," a courier company founded in San Francisco in 1849 to send gold dust to the east coast. An amazing primary source of the mad rush for gold in California in the mid-1800s by an accomplished artist, and author, of the period.