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The Bullion Mine, Virginia City, Nevada

1875 - 1877

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Most of the miners in this rugged settlement took special care to dress for their portrait, appearing in their best white shirts and black jackets. Only the gentleman seated atop the trolley on the left looks as if he has just emerged from the mineshaft. The California Gold Rush peaked in 1852, yet pioneers like those pictured here continued to toil in the mines over twenty years later. While three young children appear in the picture, the women of the town are conspicuously absent. In this depiction of scattered homes carved into a barren mountainside, Carleton Watkins conveyed the isolation of the prospecting and pioneering western frontier.

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