The history of Altaville is closely identified with that of Angels Camp. Altaville has been the foundry town of Calaveras County since D.D. Demerest established a foundry there in 1854. Most of the stamp mills and a large part of the mining machinery erected in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties were built at the Altaville Foundry. A brick schoolhouse was built at Altaville in 1858 and the townsite was established in 1873. In addition to the foundry and schoolhouse, by the 1880s, a hotel, fairgrounds, livery stable, wagon making shop, blacksmith, dance hall, stores, and saloons had been established. Several quartz mines, mills, and churches were also constructed during this time.
Previously known as The Altaville Foundry & Machine works, the Calaveras Iron & Steel Company, and the California Electric Steel Company, it is the oldest continually operating foundry west of the Mississippi. In 1995, Princess Parlor No. 84 erected a marker for the foundry.
In 1912, Altaville was annexed to Angles Camp.The Prince-Garibardi Building and the Altaville Grammar School are also located in Altaville.
Altaville was known as the site of an archeological hoax in 1886. The Calaveras Skull, a human skull was reportedly evidence of an early-man descendant from the Pliocene Era that was determined to be a modern-human skull. Famous Calaveras County author Bret Harte even wrote a poem about the hoax in 1899 titled "To the Pliocene Skull."
The marker is located at the intersection of State Highways 4 and 49 in Angels Camp.
Along with Mark Twain’s famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.
Calaveras is a Spanish word meaning "skull." The name was first given to the river because of the great quantities of human skulls found along the lower reaches of the river.
Calaveras County is famous for its lode and placer mines, and the largest gold nugget from the United States was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in 1854, weighing 214 pounds. For many years it was the principal copper-producing county in California. Cement deposits from its vast limestone deposits has become one of the county's major industries in recent years.