Claims and Speculations
Mining and Writing in the Gilded Age
Publication Year: 2012
Mines have always been hard and dangerous places. They have also been as dependent upon imaginative writing as upon the extraction of precious materials. This study of a broad range of responses to gold and silver mining in the late nineteenth century sets the literary writings of figures such as Mark Twain, Mary Hallock Foote, Bret Harte, and Jack London within the context of writing and representation produced by people involved in the industry: miners and journalists, as well as writers of folklore and song.
Floyd begins by considering some of the grand narratives the industry has generated. She goes on to discuss particular places and the distinctive work they generated—the short fictions of the California Gold Rush, the Sagebrush journalism of Nevada’s Comstock Lode, Leadville romance, and the popular culture of the Klondike.
With excursions to Canada, South Africa, and Australia, Floyd looks at how the experience of a destructive and chaotic industry produced a global literature.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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This project began with my interest in the mining fictions of Mary Hallock Foote, and I would like to thank Paul and Marian Brewin for feeding that interest with questions and gifts of editions of Foote’s work. I am very glad that Marian was able, before she died, to listen to some of this outcome of her inquiring spirit...
Introduction: “Hard Places”
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I want to begin with an image of mining. Opposite is a photograph taken in 1899 during the Klondike Gold Rush, captioned “Overcome by gas, the recusitation [sic].” The place is remote and the landscape forbidding; it might be located anywhere in the western regions of North America or indeed in other isolated, mountainous regions...
1. Claims and Speculations
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The gold and silver strikes of the late nineteenth century generated a mass of claims and counterclaims about how the rushes could be positioned within grand narratives of human behavior and history. H. H. Bancroft (1888) wrote of an unstoppable natural force: the forty-niners were like “inland streams and ocean...
2. Mining and Writing
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Mining and writing have a special relationship. As David Goodman (2004) has pointed out, mining strikes were, in an important sense, “literary events” (15). Descriptions of mines and their prospects, accurate or otherwise, were always critically important to players in every dimension of the industry, for they drew in prospectors...
3. Knowing the Mines “Interiorly”
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This chapter takes as its focus the print culture of Nevada in the “silver age” and the journalism of writers such as Dan De Quille, James Gally, Fred H. Hart, Joe Goodman, James Townsend, and, most famously, Mark Twain. This is a body of work, usually gathered together under the name of Sagebrush writing, which responded with...
4. The Romance of Mining
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In this chapter, I am returning to some of the possibilities of representation raised in chapter one, and to the sweeping portraits that late nineteenth-century writers developed to try to understand the mining industry and to plot its position in time and space. I am not revisiting the paeans to human progress or the gloomy...
5. Sex Work
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Mining is gendered and sexualized, markedly and obviously so. Its cultures and traditions have been permeated by questions, problems, and arguments about gender and sexuality. This chapter looks at how gender and sexuality figure within the mining cultures of the late nineteenth century, and at the ways in which...
6. “Talking Klondike”
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I began this study with a photograph derived from the Klondike Gold Rush, and it is to the representation of that episode in writing that I want to return in drawing my discussion to its close. This was the last rush westward in North America, transposed now onto a snowy “Northland” first of the Yukon and Alaska. Even...
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I opened this study with a discussion about the fear that mining has long aroused and the painful difficulty of representing it. Outsiders to the industry may find it easiest to avert their gaze. Mines are, after all, characteristically remote and invisible to the center. Participants, meanwhile, may be deeply troubled by their...
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Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 4 halftones
Publication Year: 2012