Gold Rush Money Vest, ca. 1849

Value (2013) | $2,000$3,000

In the 1840s, my great-great-great- grandfather Pembroke Showman went to the gold rush, California.

Mm-hmm, he was a '49er.

That's right.

Wow, an original!

Mm-hmm. He made a strike, and preparing to come back to Maryland where he was originally from, changed his gold in for coins, of course, or had it stamped into coins, whichever they did. I don't know that. And to guard against holdup men, he sewed this vest and sewed the coins into the vest, which you can see the circles...


...where they were sewed.

That's just amazing.

Brought a stagecoach then back. Came through Ohio to visit with some relatives in Van Buren, Ohio, and he stayed with them awhile and liked the area so he ended up buying 140 acres there with the gold coins, and that farm is still in the Showman name.

That's tremendous. I've never seen anything quite like this. I'm sure you know history of the '49 gold rush. It actually started with John Sutter, who built a mill out there. He was from Switzerland. When they were out in the San Francisco, Sacramento area, they had Sutter's mill. And his foreman, James Marshall, was helping to build the mill one day and they were scratching around and they saw these glints of gold. Well, of course, they couldn't keep a secret. The papers had gotten a hold of it. The next thing you knew, you had the gold rush. Of course, mostly men, mostly trying to find their fortunes. And there's a huge difference between the haves and the have-nots. Your great-great-great-great- great-grandfather was a have. There was a lot of violence. There were brothels, there was gambling. There were pleasure palaces, bars, you name it. And anyone coming cross-country, they didn't take railroads at that time; they took stagecoaches or horses, so they had to do this to protect themselves. A lot of the letters that have survived from that time, you'll see where it says things like, "I saw so-and-so get stabbed today for a few gold pieces," or someone getting shot. So trying to value something like that today-- very unusual piece, but probably somewhere in the vicinity of about $2,000 to $3,000.

Is that right?

Appraisal Details

Leila Dunbar Appraisals & Consulting, LLC
Washington, DC
Update (2013)
Appraised value (1999)
Columbus, OH (August 14, 1999)

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