Monday, January 23, 2012

An Interesting Description of Gold Rush California

From J.D. Borthwick, "Three Years in Calafornia [sic]," Hutchings Illustrated California Magazine, 2:171-2:
There were several very good American theatres, a French theatre, and an Italian opera, besides concerts, masquerades, a circus, and other public amusements. The most curious were certainly the masquerades. They were generally given in one of the large gambling saloons, and in the placards announcing that they were to come off, appeared conspicuously also the intimation of "No weapons admitted;" " A strong police will be in attendance." The company was just such as might be seen in any gambling-room; and, beyond the presence of half-a-dozen masks in female attire, there was nothing to carry out the idea of a ball or a masquerade at all; but it was worth while to go, if only to watch the company arrive, and to see the practical enforcement of the weapon clause in the announcements. Several doorkeepers were in attendance, to whom each man as he entered delivered up his knife or his pistol, receiving a check for it, just as one does for his cane or umbrella at the door of a picture-gallery. Most men draw a pistol from behind their back, and very often a knife along with it; some carried their bowie-knife down the back of their neck, or in their breast; demure, pious looking men, in white neckcloths, lifted up the bottom of their waistcoat, and revealed the butt of a revolver; others, after having already disgorged a pistol, pulled up the leg of their trousers, and abstracted a huge bowie-knife from their boot; and there were men, terrible fellows, no doubt, but who were more likely to frighten themselves than any one else, who produced a revolver from each trouser pocket, and a bowie knife from their belt. If any man declared that he had no weapon, the statement was so incredible that he had to submit to be searched ; an operation which was performed by the doorkeepers, who, I observed, were occasionally rewarded for their diligence by the discovery of a pistol secreted in some unusual part of the dress.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting combination of rough men, violent circumstances and a desire for high culture.