San Francisco News and Stories: 1800s


A man spake these words and said: I am a miner, who wandered "from down east and came to sojourn in a strange land and 'see the elephant'". And behold I saw him and bear witness, that from the key of his trunk to the end of his tail, his whole body has passed before me: and I followed him until his huge feet stood still before a clabboard shanty: then, with his trunk extended, he pointed to a candle-card tacked upon a shingle as though he would say read, and I read

The Miner's Ten Commandments (1887)

  • Thou shalt have no other claim than one.
  • Thou shall not make unto thyself any false claim, nor any likeness to a mean man by jumping one: whatever thou findest on the top above, or on the rock beneath, or in a crevice underneath the rock - for I am a jealous dog and will visit the miners round with my presence to invite them on my side: and when they decide against thee thou shalt have to take thy pick and thy pan, thy shovel and thy blankets with all thou hast and go "prospecting" both north and south to seek good diggings: and thou shalt find none. Then when thou has returned in sorrow thou shalt find that thine own claim is worked out, and no pile made thee, to hide it in the ground, or in an old boot beneath thy bunk, or in a buckskin or bottle underneath the cabin, but has paid all that was in thy purse away, worn out thy boots and thy garments so that there is nothing good about them but the pickets, and thy patience be likened unto the garments: and at last thou shalt hire thy body out to make thy board and save thy bacon.
  • Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Thou shalt not take thy money, nor thy gold dust, nor thy good name, to the gambling table in vain: for monte, twenty-one, roulette, faro, lansquenet and poker will prove to thee, that the more thou puttest down, the less thou shalt take up: and when thou thinkest of thy wife and children, thou shalt not hold thyself guiltless, but insane.
  • Thou shalt not remember what thy friends do at home on the Sabbath day, lest the rememberance may not compare favorably with what thou doest. Six days thou mayest dig or pick all that thy body can stand under; but the other day is Sunday, when thou shalt wash all the dirty shirts, darn all thy stockings, tap all thy boots, mend all thy clothing, chop the whole week's fire-wood, make up and bake thy bread and boil thy pork and beans, that thou wait not when thou returnest from thy long tour, weary. For in six days' labor only thou canst not work enough to wear out the body in two years; but if thou workest hard on Sunday also, thou canst do it in six months and thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy male friend and thy female friend, thy morals and thy conscience be none the better for it: but reproach thee shouldst thou ever return with thy worn-out body to thy mother's fireside, and thou strive to justify thyself, because the trader and the blacksmith, the carpenter and the merchant, the tailors, Jews, and buccaneers defy God and civilization, by keeping not the Sabbath day, and wish not for a day of rest, such as memory, youth and home made hallowed.
  • Think more of all thy gold and how canst make it fastest, than how thou wilt enjoy it, after thou hast ridden, rough-shod, over thy good old parents' precepts and examples, that thou mayest have something to reproach and sting thee, when thou art left alone in the land where thy father's blessing and thy mother's love sent thee.
  • Thou shalt not kill thine own body by working in the rain, even though thou shalt make enough to buy physic and attendance with - neither shalt thou kill thy neighbor's body by shooting him, except he give thee offence - then upon principle of honor; without principle; thou mayest, even though by "keeping cool" thou hadst saved his live and thy conscience.
  • Thou shalt not grow discouraged, and think of going home before thou hast made thy "pile", because thou hast not "struck a lead", or found a "rich crevice", nor sunk a hole upon a "pocket", lest in going home thou shalt leave four dollars a day, and go to work, ashamed, at fifty cents, and serve the right: for here, by staying, thou mightest strike a lead and fifty dollars a day, and thy manly self-respect and then go home with enough to make thyself and others happy.
  • Thou shalt not pick out specimens from the company pan, and put them into thy mouth or in thy purse. Neither shalt thou take from thy cabinmate his gold dust to add to thine, lest he find thee out, and straightaway call his fellow-miners together, and they hang thee, or give thee fifty lashes and two hours to leave the country, or brand thee like a horse thief with R upon thy cheek, to be "known and read of all men" Californians in particular. And if thou steal a shovel, or a pick, or a pan, from thy toiling fellow-miner, hanging will be too good for thee, and thou ask to be kicked and cow hided for thy pains: and forever hang down thy head.
  • Thou shalt not tell any false tales about "good diggings in the mountains" to thy neighbor, that thou mayest benefit a friend who hath mules, and provisions, and tools, and blankets he cannot sell -lest in deceiving thy neighbor, when he returneth through the snow, with aught save his rifle, he present thee with contents thereof, and like a dog, thou shalt fall down and die.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's gold nor his claim, nor undermine his bank in following a lead, nor move his stake, nor wash the tailings from his sluice's mouth, nor throw dirt upon his bank, And if thy neighbor have his family here, and thou love and covet his daughter's hand in marriage, thou shalt lose no time in seeking her affection; and when thou hast obtained it, thou shalt "pop the question" like a man, lest another more manly than thou art, should step in before thee, and thou covet her in vain, and in the anguish of disappointment, thou shalt quote the language of the great and say, "Let her rip!" and thy future be that of a poor, lonely, despised and comfortless bachelor.

A LITTLE ONE THROWN IN - Thou shalt not dig up a public road, unless thou canst afford to fix it again as good as before, otherwise thou injurest the teamster to benefit thyself, and he curse thee every time he passeth. Amen.

The Placerville Herald, June 4, 1853

James M. Hutchings came to California's gold fields from England in 1849. He was not successful at prospecting, but his Reprint of The Miners Pioneer Ten Commandments of 1849, first printed in "The Placerville Herald," was later reprinted as a letter sheet and sold nearly 100,000 copies. Miners and prospectors used it as stationary. His success with the commandments convinced him to continue writing and he soon founded Hutchings' California Magazine, which included fiction, poetry, etchings and descriptions of California life in the mid-nineteenth century.


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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.






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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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