|Contemporary Comment on the Gold Rush Adventure|
A Topical Mid-19th Century Textile
Image Source Unknown
|Hispanic Miners Panning With a Batea|
and Digging With a Bar
Image Courtesy Library of Congress
My first Gold Rush post will explore the tools of the common Hispanic miner. For some unknown reason, this little tidbit of history has been ignored and neglected so I think it deserves a closer look. Some of the earliest miners to arrive in California after the discovery of gold on January 24, 1848, were Spanish speaking. Many of them were professional miners from regions like Sonora, Mexico. These Gambusinos knew their trade well and applied their skills using proven tools, some as ancient as Native America itself. There weren't all that many knowledgeable miners in the very begining of the Rush and many greenhorns learned the trade from watching these experts and even using their tools. According to John S. Hittell's "Mining in the Pacific States of North America" published in 1861, "They (Hispanics) seldom use any other tools except the small crow-bar, which is pointed at both ends, the batea and the horn spoon, with which they scrape and rake the soil, after first loosening it with the bar."
(note the tin patch over a crack)
Image Courtesy of the Oakland Museum
The first of these tools we will explore is the wooden Batea (bah-tay-yuh) or gold bowl. This style gold pan is pure native technology, found in South America and parts of Asia, (where it is called a Dulang). Bateas are large and can be used as winnowing trays for dry mining, wherein the miner tosses the rich, dry earth into the air or carefully shakes it over the edge of the bowl and lets the wind separate the waste dirt from the heavy gold. Jacques Antoine Moerenhout noticed Mexican miners dry washing the gulches above the American River and wrote about them in his letters to the French Authorities. His observations took place only a few months after the January discovery. Morenhout was the French consul in California and his detailed reports are an amazing account of the immediate riches that were harvested very early in the Gold Rush. He also gives an accounting of his personal attempt at using a Batea to pan for gold. Bateas are excellent for wet washing the dirt as well, as I can speak from personal experience although I'm still trying to master the dang thing.
|"Mexican Bowl" Illustration|
Hutchings' California Magazine
|Modern Ecuadoran Indian With His Batea|
an Ancient Tradition Continues
Image Source Unknown
Next thing I needed to add to my Hispanic miner's tool kit, was their short, iron digging bar. According to Hittell, it was a light, small crow bar, pointed at each end. This tool basically took the place of a pick. Luck would have it, my friend and fellow historian Nick Kane owns an original Mexican digging bar and was gracious enough to let me copy it. George Cantrell, my blacksmith / friend, did his usual awesome job on my replica. The round bar is 24 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. One end is tapered to a chisel wedge and the other end is shaped to a point with 4 tapered sides. This copied the original design to a T and you can see how it relates to a period pick in the way it's shaped.
|Horn Spoon Described as a "Scoop" in|
Hutchings' September 1860
|My Replica Batea, Digging Bar and Horn Spoon|
Muy oro aqui amigo?