Placer Mining

William F Chadwick1854

Crocker Art Museum

Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento, United States

Reproduced in Life magazine in 1939 and 1949, Placer Mining is an iconic scene of the California Gold Rush. These prospectors are using water to separate gold from soil in a Long Tom, an early type of wooden sluice box that was typically eight to twelve feet long. At least two men shoveled dirt into the top of the Long Tom; heavier gold and sand would drift to the bottom and get caught on riffles where it could be panned and collected.

Though the details of Chadwick’s life are scant, the date of the painting and its meticulous attention to the actual process of gold mining suggest the artist experienced the scene firsthand. Chadwick’s skilled use of composition—with active, well-handled figures balanced throughout—is reminiscent of the work of Charles Christian Nahl and indicates a mature artist with a strong academic foundation.


  • Title: Placer Mining
  • Creator: William F Chadwick
  • Date Created: 1854
  • Physical Dimensions: 25 1/4 x 30 in. (64.14 cm x 76.2 cm)
  • Provenance: Crocker Art Museum, gift of Laurie and Bruce Maclin
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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