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One of the most well known historical events in American history is the California Gold Rush. The primary source I am writing about today, much like my last one, is a fictional retelling of the time period. The story is called “The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte, published during late 1868. The story begins with Cherokee Sal, the only woman of the town, giving birth to Tommy Luck in a gold prospecting camp that is beginning to dry up. They believe his birth, and by extension the death of Sal during the childbirth, is a sign of good luck for the camp, thus the name. For a while, the belief that the boy’s birth created luck for them is true; many parts of the town got fixed, people’s personalities change for the better and more gold is found. The men in town start talking about the future and advancements for the boom town, yet the unforgiving winter has different plans. It took the lives of many of the men and eventually, Tommy as well.
As the author was not a miner and lived in the east, there are a few differences between reality and his writing. During this time period, the gold rush miners were primarily male but the main way that towns grew were surprisingly female prostitutes Since Sal was the only woman in town, and died quite early on, the men were given the job of both mining and keeping the town straight. Although it can’t fully be said if the story was a truthful take on the experience, it was interesting to people at the time because it reinforced the belief that anything is possible in the western half of the continent. Since the miners only mentioned god when Timmy was born, it could also be taken that god was the driving force for both the gold rush and the survival skills that it would take to be in this new land.
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