Download e-book for iPad: American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class by Brian Roberts

By Brian Roberts

ISBN-10: 0807825433

ISBN-13: 9780807825433

ISBN-10: 0807848565

ISBN-13: 9780807848562

California in the course of the gold rush was once a spot of disputed claims, shoot-outs, playing halls, and prostitution; a spot populated by means of that tough and rebellious determine, the forty-niner; in brief, a spot that turns out totally unconnected to middle-class tradition. In American Alchemy, although, Brian Roberts deals a stunning problem to this assumption.

Roberts issues to a long-neglected fact of the gold rush: a few of the northeastern forty-niners who ventured westward have been in truth 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 street to California, they didn't easily flip their backs on middle-class culture.

Ultimately, Roberts argues, the tale advised right here unearths an missed bankruptcy within the heritage of the formation of the center category. whereas the purchase of respectability displays one degree during this background, he says, the gold rush constitutes a moment stage--a uprising opposed to criteria of respectability.

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Extra resources for American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture

Sample text

Factories sprang up along this water and steel network, ‘‘magically,’’ or practically overnight according to many observers. Communities like Utica, Troy, and Rochester in New York and Lowell, Worcester, and Lawrence in Massachusetts became mill towns, small but bustling and growing urban centers of trade. Prior to this great transformation, much of the American economy was dominated by household production. A typical model for the earlier period’s business establishment might be a two-story building.

Respectability and desires for wealth meet in hostile suspension; the Brendalls need money to confirm their status as a middle-class couple, yet neither their domestic security nor Susan’s femininity, we are led to conclude, will survive the vicissitudes of frontier life. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, a resolution of these tensions comes with a contrived plot twist: an unknown uncle dies, leaving George $20,000. ’’∞∏ At the time, the proverbial rich uncle was a common device in middle-class short fiction, a convenient deus ex machina for quick and happy endings.

Six others were students, either in college or freshly graduated and in search of whitecollar positions. ’’ Three of the five, on closer inspection, appear to have been at best part-time farmers. One was looking for a clerking position at the outset of the rush. 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.

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American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture by Brian Roberts


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