By Brian Roberts
California through the gold rush used to be a spot of disputed claims, shoot-outs, playing halls, and prostitution; a spot populated via that tough and rebellious determine, the forty-niner; in brief, a spot that turns out completely unconnected to middle-class tradition. In American Alchemy, despite the fact that, Brian Roberts bargains a shocking problem to this assumption.
Roberts issues to a long-neglected fact of the gold rush: the various northeastern forty-niners who ventured westward have been in reality middle-class in foundation, prestige, and values. Tracing the reviews and adventures either one of those males and of the "unseen" forty-niners--women who stayed again East whereas their husbands went out West--he exhibits that, no matter what else the gold seekers deserted at the highway to California, they didn't easily flip their backs on middle-class culture.
Ultimately, Roberts argues, the tale advised the following finds an ignored bankruptcy within the background of the formation of the center classification. whereas the purchase of respectability displays one degree during this heritage, he says, the gold rush constitutes a moment stage--a uprising opposed to criteria of respectability.
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Additional info for American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture
New types of employment, for clerks and managers, were located in business districts to which white-collared workers walked from homes several blocks away. ≤≠ By the time of Rodman’s story, these social and economic distinctions had done much to establish class boundaries. Still, having separated themselves geographically from physical laborers, many middle-class writers and thinkers worked to create distinctions between middle-class and laboring-class values as well. The result was a mass proliferation of prescriptive literature for proper behavior, the rise of a genteel ‘‘polite culture’’ centered on reform, respectability, and self-control.
Forty years old in 1849, he was also the town’s mayor. James Spader, a clerk and the company’s agent, sold stock in the association. These bonds conferred membership and reserved a place for the voyage to California, at $600 per share. A later surcharge of $100 for those making the trip brought the initial cost of the venture to $700 per man. By February, the company’s capital stock totaled over $30,000. ≥∏ In its membership and high costs, the New Brunswick Company shared characteristics with other eastern expeditions.
Two others had been raised in farming families and preferred to think of themselves as farmers, but by the time of the rush both had broken with this family tradition: one had become a doctor, the other had opened a printing shop and was pursuing a career as a songwriter. Thirty of these men—again, about one-third of the whole—were deﬁnitely married prior to the rush. All had solid social, economic, and family moorings in the East. Statistics revealing that a high percentage of gold seekers had ﬁrm economic ties, that many were married or came from white-collar or skilled occupations, may not be true indicators that they were members of a solid middle class.
American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture by Brian Roberts