New World Scottish Dancers


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The California Gold Rush of 1849

Charles Clear, Introduction to the "Pick and Shovel Reel"
"Charles Clear, Introduction to the "Pick and Shovel Reel"
Photograph taken by Lori Howard at Woodlands, 2003.

A Scottish immigrant, James Wilson Marshall, discovered gold in the mill race of John Sutter's sawmill on the South Fork of the American River in 1848.

That report, once circulated around the world, brought hordes of people into California, Scots among them. Most of them, traveling with only what they needed to make their fortunes in California's gold fields, brought with them their literary tastes, the music they loved and the dances they enjoyed.

"Christopher Berner, Charles Clear, Greg Reznick & Michael Howard, "Pick and Shovel Reel"
Photograph taken by Lori Howard at Monterey, 2003.
After a hard, back breaking day, the gold miner sought out whatever entertainment was available: cards, alcohol, tall tales, and traveling entertainers, among them dancers from the Edinburgh Opera ballet.
Bridget Sousa
Photograph taken by Sheila Sousa at Woodlands, 2002.

If women were a rarity on the frontier, children were even rarer. Child entertainers, Fairy Stars as these diminutive performers were called, were the darlings of gold rush miners, rewarded, as all entertainers who pleased were, with bags of gold dust and nuggets.

Zuriah Meacham & Catherine Berner, "Tulloch Gorm"
Photograph taken by Lori Howard at Pleasanton, 2003.