San Francisco, California: 1849. Envelope or Cover. This three-page, stampless folded letter—in English—is dated “San Francisco 3th July 1849 and addressed to Aristide Servan via “Charle Legaut, Employee des Postes, Paris” Sent "via Panama" from San Francisco, it arrived in Avers (Antwerp), Belgium on 6 September as indicated by a circular receiving stamp and was forwarded to Paris on 8 September as shown by a second Belgian postmark. An indistinct Paris arrival stamp is on the reverse. Two manuscript rate marks, applied in Europe, are on the front. In nice shape. Transcript included.
In this letter Havres assures Aristide that “I love you as tenderly as ever my dear friend & you know that I am so for life,” and continues on to relate the problems he has endured and the success he has achieved:
“I was back in California at the end of February & was completely ruined. the little money I had made in my passage from China to Calif. Went in expenses & payment of debts. I discharged all our old crew & had about 3.000 to pay. I then chartered the Pacifico to S. H. Williams . . . & now I am indebted . . . about $3.500, the vessel having been repaired completely & newly coppered’ ‘ ‘’ I was completely alone with very little money in a country where you must spend $10 a day to live. I entered their in business with an Americain of the name of G. Fourgeaud & established a store up in the mining country . . . & have been doing well. . .. we live under a tent with 95 degrees of heat . . . in short time I will be an old carcass. you cannot conceive how people become old here. I have seen men who in one month have become entirely grey. . .. You cannot conceive what has been life in California, now . . . every one is comfortable in comparison of how they were 4 months ago. I have passed also hard & disagreable days, & have now plenty grey hairs. . .. The Pacifico is arrived . . . 30th June . . . 55 days with Chinese Cargo [but] I am not in a state of health to go to Sea again. . .. I should like very much to sell her. . ..”
He further reveals that like other Forty-Niners, he had gone money-mad:
“I believe that I will remain some time in Calif. It is a making money country, & you know that I must make our both fortunes. . .. I am very well seen here as a merchant je rage entre deux eaux. . .. I have become very brute. . .. I must make money. . .. I do not beleive that I have open a book this six months. about politics. . .. I have heard that L. N. was president in France but I have not time to occupy myself about it. . .. Ask me the current price of all the Calif. Markets, then I am in my element. . ..”. Very good. Item #009412 A wonderful early Gold Rush letter touching upon mercantile opportunities, mining, ship repair, the China trade, living conditions, and same-sex love. A 2012 Behr “Certificat:” from Paris guarantees the letter as genuine in all respects.
30,000 Frenchmen eventually immigrated to California during the Gold Rush. However, Havres—in February of 1849—was surely one of the first, as the lingotiers did not arrive until much later after gold fever took France by storm following a series of lotteries offering transportation to California as prizes.
A wonderful early Gold Rush letter touching upon mercantile opportunities, mining, ship repair, the China trade, living conditions, and same-sex love. A 2012 Behr “Certificat:” from Paris guarantees the letter as genuine in all respects.