The basic gear for a gold miner

The Lone Prospector by A.D.O. Browere

The early gold miner who traveled by foot required little more than a single suit of clothes consisting of a wool shirt, thick pants, heavy boots and a slouch hat. He carried a pistol, a knife, and a roll of blankets for his bed, a cooking pot, a gold pan, a shovel and maybe a pick, and a pack with salt pork, beans, sugar, flour, and coffee or tea. Often he slept on the ground or in a hastily built brush hut. Men with horses and mules could carry more and might have a tent. It was quickly learned that the gold was found in relatively small pockets spread over a large area of the Sierra foothills and it required a lot of work to mine. Early miners moved often.

Miner at the Coloma Festival by Sharon Baldwin

A gold pan, usually made of sheet metal or tin with sloped sides and twelve to eighteen inches in diameter, was the first and most basic piece of equipment the miner had. Loaded with a shovel full of ore bearing dirt, the pan would be held just under the water in a stream and rotated in a way that let the lighter sands wash away, leaving the heavier gold behind. Nuggets would be picked out by hand until only the finer grains, or gold dust, were left. Throughout the days of placer mining a claim would be rated by the amount of gold found per pan and panning was the first step in prospecting a new location for its potential. An ounce of gold per pan, or $16 then, might be considered good but there are reports of sites that yielded up to a $1000 per pan.


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