One of the most common themes in Gold Rush correspondence is loneliness, often expressed as a plea for more letters—or any letters—from home. Sometimes forlorn, sometimes passive aggressive, sometimes jocular, the tone of these letters varies, but the undercurrent of desperation remains the same. In this way, the genres of Gold Rush and prison literature overlap.
The letter below, written by John Tabor Alsap to his cousin, is a classic and very funny specimen of the “why hasn’t anyone sent me a letter” genre. Recently cataloged, its introductory paragraph made me laugh out loud. (The rest of the letter is pretty good, too.)
My Dear Cousin,
|J. T. Alsap letter: Brownsville, Calif., to his cousin, 1857 May 19, MS 45, California Historical Society|
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian