Gold Rush treasures discovered in 1857 shipwreck of SS Central America to go up for auction

Since the recovery of sunken treasure began decades ago from an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina, tens of millions of dollars worth of gold has been sold.

But scientists, historians and collectors say the real fortunes will start to hit the auction block on Saturday. For the first time, Hundreds of Gold Rush-era artifacts entombed in the wreck of the SS Central America They will go on public sale.

known as the «Ship of Gold», the steamer sank on September 12, 1857, in a hurricane on its way from Panama to New York City. Most of the passengers boarded the SS Central America in Panama after traveling from San Francisco on another ship and taking the train across the isthmus.

Some 425 lives were lost and 153 people were rescued. For more than a century, many of his possessions, some still sealed in safes and passenger trunks, were kept in the cold, oxygen-starved tomb 7,200 feet (2,195 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bob Evans, the chief scientist for each underwater recovery mission, said the items may seem ordinary, but they offer extraordinary insight into the daily lives of the passengers and crew, from gold field workers to highlanders. San Francisco Society.

Some pieces Described as priceless rarities could reach up to 1 million dollars at Saturday’s public auction in Reno, like the lid of Wells Fargo’s oldest known treasure shipping box or a gold rush-era heavy-duty miner’s work pants, perhaps one of the first of its kind made for or by Levi Strauss.

“Some collectors have been waiting for these extraordinary items to hit the market since the legendary sunken ship was located in 1988 and Life magazine proclaimed it America’s greatest treasure ever found,” said Fred Holabird, president of Holabird Western Americana Collections in Reindeer. Originally, deep-sea hunters who began searching for the pre-Civil War steamship in the 1980s had their eye on the same prize usually found in pirate chests.

“The goal here was gold”Holabird said in an interview last week. “The target was not the artifacts”.

Historic loot includes an 1849 Colt pocket pistol and 1850s paper money recovered from the purser’s safe; an illustrated edition of 1849 of the novel «The Count of Monte Cristo»; and a metal plate daguerreotype image of an unidentified woman who became known as the «Mona Lisa of the deep.»

There are gold nugget pins, luggage tags, passenger tickets, pocket watches, brooches, bloomersBrooks Brothers shirts, a chastity belt, and even a crate of bottles still full of beer.

Evans described first-class cabins that included fine china, liquor cabinets with crystal decanters, hair creams in ceramic jars from Paris, solid gold glasses, and Wild West clothing.

“Truly refined society and blue-collar miners mixed,” he said in an email to the agency. PA.

Neil Dobsen, a deep-sea marine archaeologist from St. Andrews, Scotland, who has excavated 17th-century remains, said the SS Central America is his «favorite shipwreck of all time … a window into the past.»

He said it was incredible to think that gold nuggets scooped up from streams in the Sierra foothills ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic.

At a warehouse in Reno, Holabird paused when asked if he compared anything in his 50-year career as an American geologist, mine owner, historian and pundit.

«Nothing,» he said. “And I have worked on the best of the best. This is more special, because each piece has a story”.

The discovery of the wreck and its treasures is not without drama: There has been a lengthy legal battle in Florida, Virginia and Ohio involving the treasure hunter who first located the wreck. He was charged with defrauding investors and has been in a federal prison in Michigan since 2015.

The first gold coins and bullion from salvage dives in the 1980s were sold in 2000, with more items from a subsequent salvage sold in 2017. The ship’s bell was donated earlier this year to the Naval Academy. from United States.

“The recovery trips of the 1980s and 2014s had all the personal effects and cultural treasures and we acquired them en masse three years ago”said Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group, which owns the assets.

Several of the items in better condition were inside a pair of first-class passenger trunks recovered in 1990 and 1991 with an underwater robot equipped with the first-of-its-kind 3D cameras. The trunks belonged to Ansel and Adeline Mills Eastons, a wealthy newlywed couple from San Francisco, and John Daniel Dement, an Oregon man who had served in the Mexican-American War.

Auction promoters say the miner pants with a five-button fly on Dement’s trunk were likely made by or for Levi Strauss.

Tracey Panek, historian and director of the archives at Levi Strauss & Co., said in an email to PA on Wednesday that the artifacts from the ship are of interest to the San Francisco-based company «but the stories about pants in the trunk of the Dement made by the company are speculation.»

Holabird, who has done extensive research into the company’s early history, is convinced that they were most likely made by a Levi Strauss subcontractor.

“The buttons are exactly the same, almost identical,” Holabird said. “The pattern is the same. thick cloth There were no other pants like them.»

And while the pants might turn out to be the most expensive, the contents of the Eastons’ trunk have fascinated researchers at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. The blend of cotton, linen, silk and wool featured a self-contained laboratory to study the effects of long-term exposure without typical bacterial and biological degradation.

Manley called the wreck a time capsule of the California Gold Rush.

“These are all first-time deals,” he said, “with no reservations and will surely never be duplicated as there is no shortage of gold rush ships.”

(with information from AP)

Keep reading: