Saturday, April 7, 2007

The World Rushed In

The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday is an eyewitness account of the California gold rush of 1849. Holliday based this account largely on the voluminous journals of William Swain and the many letters exchanged with his family. When available, he also used accounts of others to tell the stories of the '49ers. Holliday follows Swain from his start in Youngstown, NY, across the country to the gold mining camps of CA, his journey home by ship and through the Isthmus of Panama, and back to Youngstown. This is truly an eye witness account of history.

In The World Rushed In Holliday has arranged each chapter into 3 sections. He begins each chapter with an historical overview of that section of the journey along with a map of the section of the trip the chapter covers. The next section is Swain's journal entries. The final section is composed of the letters to Swain from home, mainly by his wife Sabrina and brother George.
This is an interesting way to document a historical account. The beauty of the way it is organized is that it allows the reader to either read the historical sections and follow the maps while skipping much of the journal entries and/or letters or choosing to read it all. It was originally published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster and is 559 pages long, although the account ends at page 463. The rest of the book consists of notes, sources, and an index.

Some interesting quotes:
From Swain's journal entry of May 29th when he did some self medicating, "[I] took a dose of cayenne pepper, got into a fine sweat, and slept nicely till morning."

"One would think that they [antelopes] were all females on account of their curiosity."

"There seems to be little disposition to maintain religious worship here. The thoughts of the people are entirely preoccupied with drinking, gambling, or getting gold out of the earth. Religion and religious services, like everything else in California, is singular and unnatural."

"The whole business of the inhabitants of this country is to make money, no matter by what means."

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