Amador Whitney Museum - Women in the Gold Rush in Amador City
Photo © Karrie Lindsay
The Fleehart Building is probably Amador City's oldest building, circa 1860s or earlier. William Fleehart was a mine owner, merchant and Wells Fargo Agent. This building was the only store to survive the big fire of 1878.
As the oldest intact building in this fine Gold Rush town, what an appropriate location for a museum focusing on the role of women in the Gold Rush.
Fast forward to 1983. Merchant Jerrold Whitney and artist Clayton Pinkerton purchased the building and made it their home, business and art studio. Whitney operated an emporium of eclecticism and Pinkerton's paintings ranged from high color abstracts to Viet Nam Era social commentaries. When their estates were settled, Clayton Pinkerton left the building to Amador City with the stipulation that it be used as a museum.
The Amador Whitney Museum, a nonprofit organization, relies exclusively on support from private donations, sales of Clayton Pinkerton paintings and funding from the Amador City Council.
FOCUS - WOMEN IN THE GOLD RUSH ERA
Early migrations to the gold fields were mostly men. With more and more gold being mined, and fortunes being made and lost, the men began to think about bringing their families across the mountains. The women were the unsung heros of their day. The trips were arduous at best, tragic at worst. A better dress, a pair of button up shoes, a little lace, a little girl's fancy dress, a small boy's better pair of pants were often tucked into a corner of the wagon in anticipation of a better life. Some women, made widows by the traumatic trip or frequent mine deaths, remarried and began families.
The romanticism of the Western movement and gold mining activities are mostly myths. Many miners did find gold and made a little money. A very few made fortunes. Liquor, gambling, continually betting on new gold finds and the allure of the saloons cleared the gold out of many a miner's pocket.
AMADOR CITY BEGINS TO GROW.
The wild, rough-and-tumble gold mining way of living gradually gave way to family life. Schools were established. Teachers were always women. Girls and boys could now enroll in school and were nurtured at home. The post office was built, making communication with the relatives back home easier. Homes were constructed. The basic fabric of an established town was woven by the women, while the men mined the gold.
Fraternal organizations were being founded to support members. There is a fine photograph of the members of The Knights of Pythias by the safe in the Museum.
In fact, there are homes in Amador City today called "Pay day homes." When a miner earned more that the subsistence income and did not gamble it away, families would add on to the original one room house. If they were fortunate enough, another room was added.
These stories and many more are told in the Amador Whitney Museum. They could be told all over Amador County and the various Gold Rush towns of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Professional displays consist of diaries reproduced in large type, a wagon, sample miners' lodging, school house and other vignettes.
PERFECT CLASSROOM FIELD TRIP
This is a friendly place for seeing artifacts from the Gold Rush era. The exhibits are accessible and most appropriate for middle school learning. Please arrange tours ahead of time.
PINKERTON ART WORK
Also on display is a sample of the vast collection of original art left as a legacy to the Museum and for its continued existence. So, right in this fantastic display of early California history is Clayton Pinkerton's contemporary work, to be enjoyed and purchased. From smaller works to major oil paintings, what a fantastic way to support the mission of the Amador Whitney Museum, its focus on Women in the Gold Rush Era and have a fine abstract painting for your home or office collection!
ONLINE TOUR The Museum is located on the Golden Chain Highway.The Museum is happy to give you a 17 frame photographic tour of this fine collection. But, seeing the authentic artifacts really makes this important chapter in California history come alive.
Seasons Open: All, staffed by a fine volunteer staff.
Hours Open: Open throughout the year, Friday through Sunday 11 - 3. Special openings for groups of 5 or more can be arranged on Monday - Tuesday by calling 209 267 5250
Fees: The Amador Whitney Museum is FREE. We rely on donations and the sale of Clayton Pinkerton abstract paintings. Credit card purchases of the art work are welcomed.
Family pets on leashes are welcomed.