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Collection California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849 to 1900

Related Resources

Additional Resources in the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress's General Collections and Rare Book and Special Collections Division contain other first-person accounts, as well as many other resources, about early California history. After consulting works included in "California as I Saw It," readers who are able to come to the Library, or to other major research libraries, might wish to look at titles such as those on the list below. Some of these are first editions of works included in the collection, but which were not themselves included for technical reasons.

  • Bell, Horace. On the old west coast; being further reminiscences of a ranger, Major Horace Bell. Edited by Lanier Bartlett. New York, W. Morrow & co., 1930. LC CALL NUMBER: F867 .B435
  • Bigler, Henry William. Chronicle of the West; the conquest of California, discovery of gold, and Mormon settlement, as reflected in Henry William Bigler's diaries, by Erwin G. Gudde. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1962. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .B55 1962
  • Brown, James Stephens. California gold; an authentic history of the first find, with the names of those interested in the discovery. Published by the author, James S. Brown ... Oakland, Cal., Pacific press publishing company, 1894. LC CALL NUMBER: F865.B89 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • Bruff, Joseph Goldsborough. Gold rush; the journals, drawings, and other papers of J. Goldsborough Bruff, captain, Washington city and California mining association, April 2, 1849-July 20, 1851. Edited by Georgia Willis Read and Ruth Gaines. With a foreword by F.W. Hodge ... New York, Columbia university press, 1944. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .B9
  • Bryant, Edwin. What I saw in California: being the journal of a tour, by the emigrant route and South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, across the continent of North America, the great desert basin, and through California, in the years 1846, 1847 ... By Edwin Bryant ... New York, Philadelphia, D. Appleton & company; G.S. Appleton, 1848. LC CALL NUMBER: F864 .B8
  • Canfield, Chauncey de Leon. The diary of a forty-niner, edited by Chauncey L. Canfield. New York, San Francisco, M. Shepard company, 1906. LC CALL NUMBER: F865.C22 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • Dana, Richard Henry. Two years before the mast. A personal narrative, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Boston, New York, Houghton, Mifflin and company [pref. 1869] LC CALL NUMBER: G540.D2 1869a
  • Foss, Daniel. A journal of the shipwreck and sufferings of Daniel Foss, (a native of Elkton, Maryland). Who was the only person saved from on board the brig Negociator, of Philadelphia, which foundered in the Pacific Ocean, on the 26th Nov. 1809 -- and who lived five years on a small barren island -- during which time he subsisted on seals, and never saw the face of any human creature ... Boston--Printed for N. Coverly, jr.--1816. New York, Reprinted, W. Abbatt, 1914. LC CALL NUMBER: E173 .M24 no. 28
  • Gaer, Joseph. Index ... Personal adventures in Upper and Lower California in 1848-1849; with the author's experience at the mines ... By William Redmond Ryan ... London, William Shobert ... 1851. Joseph Gaer, editor. [n.p.,1935] LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .R962
  • Gay, Frederick A. Sketches of California. An account of the life, manners and customs of the inhabitants. Its history, climate, soil, productions, &c. By Frederick A Gay ... Also interesting information in relation to the canchalagua, a California plant of rare medicinal virtues. [New York, 1848] LC CALL NUMBER: F864 .G25 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • Grimshaw, William Robinson. Grimshaw's narrative, being the story of life and events in California during flush times, particularly the years 1848-1850. Including a biographical sketch. Written for the Bancroft Library in 1872. Edited, with pref. & notes, by J.R.K. Kantor. [Sacramento? Calif.] Sacramento Book Collectors Club, 1964. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .G75 1964
  • Hill, Jasper Smith. The letters of a young miner, covering the adventures of Jasper S. Hill during the California goldrush, 1849-1852. Edited, with an introd. and notes, by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. San Francisco, J. Howell-Books, 1964. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .H5
  • [Huntley, Henry Veel]. Adventures in California. Its gold fields, and its inhabitants. By the author of "Seven years on the slave coast of Africa," "Peregrine Scramble," &c ... [London] Dean and son [etc.,185-?] LC CALL NUMBER: F865.H95
  • [Le Conte, Joseph]. A journal of ramblings through the high Sierras of California by the "University excursion party." San Francisco, Francis & Valentine, 1875. LC CALL NUMBER: F868.S5L4 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • McGowan, Edward. Narrative of Edward McGowan, including a full account of the author's adventures and perils while persecuted by the San Francisco vigilance committee of 1856 ... San Francisco, The author, 1857. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .M162 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • Royce, Sarah Bayliss. A frontier lady; recollections of the gold rush and early California, by Sarah Royce; with a foreword by Katharine Royce; edited by Ralph Henry Gabriel ... New Haven, London, Yale university press; H. Milford, Oxford university press, 1932. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .R86
  • Steele, John. In camp and cabin. Mining life and adventure, in California during 1850 and later. By Rev. John Steele ... Lodi, Wis., J. Steele, c1901. LC CALL NUMBER: F865.S819 (Rare Bk Coll)
  • Weston, Silas. Four months in the mines of California: or, Life in the mountains. By S. Weston ... Providence, B.T. Albro, printer, 1854. LC CALL NUMBER: F865 .W53
  • Wilkey, Walter. Western emigration. Narrative of a tour to, & one year's residence in "Edensburgh," (Illinois,) by Major Walter Wilkey [pseud.] an honest yeoman of Mooseboro', state of Maine. A more humorsome and interesting "Traveller's guide to the West," was never before published, and by which it will be perceived that the famous "Maine-pine-swamp speculation" has been completely out-done! ... New-York, G. Claiborne, and others, 1839. New York, Reprinted, W. Abbatt, 1914. LC CALL NUMBER: E173 .M24 no. 28
  • Willcox, R. N. Reminiscences. Of California life. Being an abridged description of scenes which the author has passed through in California, and other lands. With quotations from other authors. A short lecture on psychic science. An article on church and state: written by his son; R.P. Willcox. By R.N. Willcox, Avery, Ohio. [Avery] Willcox print., 1897. LC CALL NUMBER: F864 .W64

Further Reading About California's Early Years

Basic General Reference Works

Two reference books essential to the new student of California history may be useful to readers of this collection. James D. Hart's A Companion of California: New Edition, Revised and Expanded (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987) and A Guide to the History of California edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., and Gloria Ricci Lothrop (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989). Hart's Companion is a superb one-volume encyclopedia of California history. The brief but informative entries, generously cross-referenced, are supplemented by maps and a "Chronological Index". With this book at their sides, users of this collection can quickly find necessary background information for a memoir. Anyone who wishes to read further in California history should first turn to the Nunis and Lothrop Guide, which contains nineteen well-written essays on the historical literature and source materials for California. "Historical Literature" is treated with both chronological surveys and discussions of literature focusing on special groups in California: women, African Americans, Asians, Chicanos, and city dwellers. The second section, on "Archives and Sources," includes discussions of resources in specific geographical areas as well as specific kinds of materials such as oral history that are of special value for a study of California. Anyone who consults this Guide will receive clear and well-written guidance to the next stage in learning about any topic in California history.

There are several fine one-volume introductions to California history. Among available textbooks, readers might consult James J. Rawls and Walton Bean's California: An Interpretive History (New York: McGraw Hill, 1993); The Elusive Eden: A New History of California, by a trio of faculty members at the California State University, Hayward: Richard B. Rice, William A. Bullough, and Richard J. Orsi (New York: Knopf, 1988); or Andrew Rolle's California: A History (Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1987). As textbooks, each is, of course, well illustrated, with maps, diagrams, and the other apparatus of good teaching volumes. For the reader who prefers a non-textbook format, we recommend David Lavender's lively and readable California: Land of Beginnings (Lincoln, Neb.: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1987).

For the reader interested in going beyond these general introductions, the following are useful works of more specialized interest:

California under Spain and Mexico

  • Chapman, Charles E. A History of California: The Spanish Period. New York, 1921.
  • DeNevi, Don and Noel F. Moholy. Junipero Serra. San Francisco, 1985. (A popular treatment based on Maynard Geiger's scholarly work.)
  • Geary, Gerald J. The Secularization of the California Missions (1810-1846). Washington, 1934.
  • Geiger, Maynard. The Life and Times of Fray Junipero Serra. 2 vols. Washington, 1959. (A scholarly treatment.)
  • Hague, Harlan. The Road to California: The Search for a Southern Overland Route, 1540-1848. Glendale, 1978.
  • Rawls, James J. Indians and California: The Changing Image. Norman, 1984.
  • Watson, Douglas S., ed. The Spanish Occupation of California. San Francisco, 1963. (Volume of extracts from journals and diaries.)

The United States Annexation of California

  • Fremont, John C. Memoirs of My Life. Ed. Allan Nevins. New York, 1956.
  • Harlow, Neal. California Conquered: War and Peace on the Pacific, 1846-1850. Berkeley, 1982.
  • Nevins, Allan. Fremont, Pathmaker of the West. 2 vols. New York, 1955.
  • Stewart, George R. The California Trail. New York, 1962.

The Gold Rush

  • Caughey, John W. Gold Is the Cornerstone. Berkeley, 1948.
  • Holliday, J.S. The World Rushed In. New York, 1981.
  • Lewis, Oscar. Sea Routes to the Goldfields. New York, 1949.
  • Myers, Sandra L., ed. Ho for California! Women's Overland Diaries from the Huntington Library. San Marino, Calif., 1980.
  • Paul, Rodman W. California Gold. Lincoln, Neb., 1947 [reprint].
  • Stewart, George R. The California Trail: An Epic of Many Heroes. New York, 1962.
  • Unruh, John D., Jr. The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-1860. Urbana, 1979.

California Joins the Union

  • Ellison, William H. A Self-Governing Dominion: California, 1849-1860. Berkeley, 1950.

Law and Order

  • Bean, Walton. Boss Ruef's San Francisco. Berkeley, 1952.
  • Sankewicz, Robert M. Vigilantes in Gold Rush San Francisco. Stanford, 1985.

Railroads, Irrigation, and Economic Development

  • Galloway, John D. The First Transcontinental Railroad. New York, 1950.
  • Issel, William and Robert W. Cherny. San Francisco, 1865-1932: Politics, Power, and Urban Development. Berkeley, 1986.
  • McWilliams, Carey. California Country: An Island on the Land. New York, 1946.
  • Olin, Spencer C. California Politics, 1846-1920: The Emerging Corporate State. San Francisco, 1981.
  • Pisani, Donald J. From Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931. Berkeley, 1984.
  • Selvin, David F. Sky full of Storm: A Brief History of California Labor. San Francisco, 1981.
  • Starr, Kevin. Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915. New York, 1973.
  • Wilson, Neill C. and Frank J. Taylor. The Roaring Story of a Fighting Railroad. New York, 1952.
  • Worster, Donald. Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. New York, 1985.


  • Fox, Stephen R. John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement. Boston and Toronto, 1981.
  • Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. 3d ed. New Haven, 1982.

Ethnic, Cultural, and Gender Groups

  • Fischer, Christiane. Let Them Speak for Themselves: Women in the American West, 1849-1900. Hamden, Conn., 1977. (Not limited to California but a valuable source.)
  • Goode, Kenneth. California's Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Survey. Santa Barbara, 1973.
  • Heizer, Robert F. The Destruction of California Indians: A Collection of Documents from the Period 1847 to 1865 in which are Described Some of the Things that Happened to Some of the Indians of California. Lincoln, Neb., 1993.
  • Heizer, Robert F., and Allan F. Almquist. The other Californians: Prejudice and Discrimination under Spain, Mexico, and the United States to 1920. Berkeley, 1971.
  • Heizer, Robert F., and M. A. Whipple. The California Indians: A Source Book. Berkeley, 1951.
  • Lapp, Rudolph M. Afro-Americans in California. San Francisco, 1979. A pamphlet in the "Golden State Series."
  • Lapp, Rudolph M. Blacks in Gold Rush California. New Haven, 1977.
  • Weber, David J. Foreigners in their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexican Americans. Albuquerque, 1973. (Not limited to California but a valuable source.)