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36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

William Redmond Ryan, "Personal Adventures in Upper and Lower California (185)

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Englishman William Redmond Ryan (1791-1855) enlisted in an American regiment bound for California and sailed round the Horn in 1847. Personal Adventures in Upper and Lower California (1850), vol. 2, included chronicles of his daily life at the Stanislaus Mine, his career as a trader, his travels through Stockton, Monterey, and Sacramento, his life in San Francisco in 1849, the Constitutional Convention, and his return voyage via Panama in 1849. As you read this account, consider the role of Chinese laborers in the new mining communities of California. Consider also the effect of California becoming a territory of the United States.

A case was told me of a young man who, last fall, borrowed money to pay his passage from the Sandwich Islands to San Francisco, and who is now on his way home with $80,000 made in this manner. Three or four gentlemen, who came up in the Panama, have already made $20,000 by similar operations. A friend of mine, who shipped lumber from New York to the amount of $1000, sold it here for $14,000. Houses that cost $300, sell readily for $3000; and the demand is constantly increasing. At least 75 houses have been imported from Canton, and are put up by Chinese carpenters. Nearly all the chairs in private families are of Chinese manufacture; and there are two restaurants in the town kept by Kang-sung and Wang-tong, where every palatable chow-chow, curry, and tarts, are served up by the Celestials. Washing is still $8 a dozen; and the consequence is, large quantities of soiled linen are sent to our antipodes to be purified.
A vessel just in from Canton brought 250 dozen, which were sent out a few months ago; another, from the Sandwich Islands, brought 100 dozen; and the practice is now becoming general. San Francisco is, in fact, more metropolitan in its character than any port in the world. Its trade with all parts of the Pacific is rapidly increasing.

As to prices, all mining tools are high, as are also all articles upon which labour has been performed here. Picks, $5; pans, $5; cradles for washing gold, three feet long, worth $2 in the States, sell here for $40; flour, from $8 to $10 per hundred; pork, $50 per hundred; coffee, $18; board, $21 per week, or $1 50 cents per meal, with the privilege of sleeping under the nearest tree unoccupied. At the mines, sixty miles distant, the prices are doubled, and of some things trebled. Brandy, $2 per bottle. At the mines they are making, on an average, an ounce of gold per day. One man who arrived here this month, made in two weeks $25,000, and has gone to San Francisco to take passage for the States. Labour is in proportion to the produce of the mines, ranging from $8 to $18 per day.


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