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Precious Dust: The Saga of the Western Gold…
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Precious Dust: The Saga of the Western Gold Rushes

by Paula Mitchell Marks

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Precious Dust: The Saga of the Western Gold Rushes by Paula Mitchell Marks was originally published in 1994. My paperback copy is 448 pages, including the notes, bibliography, and index. In the opening of her book, Marks tells us that: "In tracing the impact of this experience on the seekers, the book also traces some of the broader implications of the gold rushes that galvanized western communities, whole regions, and the nation itself for over half a century....In addition, this narrative shows how the rushes both contributed to a distinctive frontier culture and exposed some of the tensions and paradoxes in American culture." pg. 14

There is also a special note about how Marks has chosen to organize her book:
"The first chapter provides a chronological overview of the rush decades. Then, because the journeys to the goldfields loomed large in many stampeders' experience, the next four chapters focus on the arduous 'getting there'; for clarity's sake in describing the various trails taken, I have made those chapter chronological as well."
"...in Chapter six...the general approach shifts from the chronological to the thematic in order better to explore the gold rushes as a whole in relationship to specific topics: The challenge of gleaning the gold and of life in the diggings; the growth of the gold rush urban areas; the problems of building communities...;the distinct treatment of and experiences of minorities; the complex home ties....and the presence, effect, and experiences of women in the rushes." pg. 16

The way in which the book is organized actually makes it much more interesting to the causal reader, although she has done a fine job writing material for the more scholarly readers as well, with the inclusion of notes and a bibliography. If you are interested in any of the gold rushes and their larger social implications, this book is highly recommended with a rating of 5. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
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  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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Precious Dust traces the experience of the hundreds of thousands of goldseekers who converged upon the American and Canadian West during America's great gold-rush era, 1848-1900. Beginning with the initial stampedes to California's "mother lode" country and continuing on to the zealous pursuit of gold mixed with sand on the beaches of Nome, Alaska, author Paula Mitchell Marks explores the various facets of the goldseekers' adventures: what propelled them westward, how they lived, how they met the myriad challenges of the journey and search, what kept them going or caused them to turn back, what sense they made of the whole enterprise. As the book shows, the rushes provided the major impetus for the initial development of western regions in the mid- to late nineteenth century, as well as a safety valve for restless dreamers and a laboratory for the American democratic experiment. Marks clearly reveals the tensions inherent in nineteenth-century American culture - the differences between pre-industrial ideas of success and later ones, between the American myth of abundance for all and the reality, between virulent racism and a democratic sense of fair play, between romantic appreciation of the land and exploitation of it, and between the American celebration of individualism and freedom and two quite different challenges to it: the need for community commitment and the demands of a changing economic and social order.… (more)

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