December 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

A Perfect Sodom, at Auction

On Friday of this week, Christie's NY will hold an auction filled with countless rarities--it is impossible to pull a few highlights and do it any justice. For that, you can read the press release. Instead, my attention was drawn to two lots of manuscript diaries that surprised me with their insightful comments and whimsical drawings.

Lot31.pngLot 31 is a California Gold Rush diary written by Daniel A. Jenks, who chronicles his eight-month journey from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to San Francisco, CA and then another year and a half in the rough-and-tumble mining camps. The first two journals--fair copies made as a gift for his sister--were written between 1849 and 1852, the third written from 1857-1859. Upon arriving in San Francisco, Jenks finds, "Murders, robberies and thefts are every day affairs. Dead men are picked up in the streets nearly every morning. Bowie knives, revolvers and pistols of all kinds are part of a man's daily apparel. Men die in their tents unknown and uncared for, friendless and alone ...This is truly a perfect Sodom." The estimate for this lot is $60,000-80,000, the final proceeds benefitting the Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center.

Lot32.pngThe second lot, 32, contains another set of Jenks diaries, written between 1859-1863. These are also fair copies made for his sister Maria. One is entitled "Trip from Yreka to Idaho, Overland 1863." On this trip Jenks encountered Indians, Mormons, and "Pikes Peakers." The color illustrations drawn by Jenks are quite lovely, folk-artsy landscapes. The estimate here is $20,000-30,000.
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