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Forty-Niners 'round the Horn

Charles R. Schultz

How gold seekers survived the perilous enterprise of reaching California's coast by sea

Forty-Niners 'round the Horn recounts the thrilling—and at times harrowing—maritime adventure of fortune hunters who sailed from the east coast around Cape Horn to California during the gold rush of 1849. In the first book devoted to the onboard life of thousands of gold seekers, Charles R. Schultz paints a vivid picture of the eighteen-thousand-mile odyssey through several climatic zones and around the vicissitudes of Cape Horn. Drawing upon more than one hundred unpublished diaries, Schultz profiles the individuals who embarked on such journeys and demonstrates how markedly the gold rush voyages differed from general commercial trading and whaling ventures.

Incorporating generous excerpts from logbooks and journals, Schultz allows seamen and passengers to recount much of the experience in their own words. Of particular interest, he includes passages about their hopes upon embarkment, perceptions of such ports as Rio de Janeiro and Lima, and impressions of California.

Schultz finds that the gold seekers, most of whom were men in their twenties, had never been away from home, much less on a lengthy voyage. They traveled in vessels of all sizes, with the number of passengers ranging from as few as ten to as many as two hundred. The voyages lasted between four and eight months, with most vessels making one or two stops for fresh provisions but a handful making no stops.

Schultz describes the preparations made for the trip, onboard provisions, and activities for the passengers such as types, quantity, and quality of food and drink; forms of entertainment; religious observances and the marking of national and state holidays and special occasions. He also records the challenges and discomforts inflicted by alternating hot and cold temperatures and frequent storms; disputes among passengers, crew members, and members of joint stock companies; and problems with vermin, theft, drunkenness, sickness, and death.

Charles R. Schultz is a professor and the Clements Archivist at Texas A&M University in College Station where he has served on the faculty since 1971.

"Schultz gives the feel of shipboard life: the cramped quarters, the food, the many ways in which the men passed the time, how they coped with such unfamiliar tasks as washing their own laundry aboard ship."—Sea History

"A well-written, informative book …Schultz lays out a feast of important, amusing, and occasionally bizarre facts that will intrigue scholars and popular writers alike."—New England Quarterly

"The book is very successful. No book rivals its descriptive depth about the experiences of the forty-niners at sea."—Mariner's Museum

"A remarkable social history of the forty-niners who braved the Horn in their quest for gold …This is an important study of a significant maritime enterprise, meticulously and carefully presented, that well repays careful reading."—International Journal of Maritime History

"An absolutely essential source on the day-by-day lives of California's maritime gold-seekers …Virtually every aspect of the passengers' lives on the long voyage around Cape Horn is thoroughly examined here."—California History

"Will stand as the definitive scholarship on the Cape Horn voyages of the forty-niners for many years to come."—American Neptune



book jacket for Forty-Niners 'round the Horn


6 x 9
352 pages
35 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-329-2
cloth, $45.00s
Studies in Maritime History

John Lyman book award for the best book in United States Maritime and Naval History, The North American Society of Oceanic Historians


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