Personal papers of Alexander Van Valen documenting his participation in the California Gold Rush, 1849-1850.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists mostly of the personal papers of Alexander Van Valen during his journey and subsequent stay in San Francisco, California, to participate in the Gold Rush,1849-1850. Of particular interest are the founding documents of the mining company, his 85 page journal, and his many letters, mostly to and from his wife Susan. Also included are portraits and daguerreotypes of his family. This collection is especially valuable to researchers who are interested in the California Gold Rush, nineteenth century maritime travel, business history, and migration.
The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1, Personal Papers, 1849-1850
Series 2, Other Materials, 1849-1850
Biographical / Historical:
Alexander Van Valen was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on June 25, 1819. He married Susan Maria Talmage, and the couple had twin daughters, Catharine Eliza and Sarah Maria, born June 2, 1845. Van Valen served as treasurer of the California Gold Mining Company, one of many companies formed to participate in the 1849 California Gold Rush. Funded by two wealthy New York merchants, Henry A. Kerr and B. S. Clark, the company consisted of Van Valen and four men other men. Van Valen and his business partners agreed to spend two summers in California and pay Kerr and Clark one quarter of any profits made. Van Valen sailed aboard the San Francisco-bound Hersilia on January 22, 1849. Once in California, he and his company decided to try to strike it rich, first along the Mokelumne River and then up the San Joaquin River to Stockton. The trip proved unsuccessful, and Van Valen returned to New York less than two years later. He died on November 24, 1869.
Purchased by the National Museum of American History from Cowan's Historic Americana Auctions in 2006.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Reports of explorations and surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean / made under the direction of the secretary of war, in 1853- ..
Pacific railroad surveys
Pacific railroad reports
Explorations and surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean