Artifacts from the SS Central America Gold Rush era at the World Silver Fair


Historic artifacts from the legendary ‘Ship of Gold’ which sank in 1857 include remains of Wells Fargo treasure shipping boxes, gold miner’s jeans and a mysterious ‘Mona Lisa of the Deep’ photograph

By Holabird Western Americana ……
After a century and a half at the bottom of the ocean, then decades in secure storage, dozens of California Gold Rushsunken treasures from the time of the sinking in 1857 of the legendary “golden ship”, SS central Americawill be displayed at Chicago World Money Fair. The exhibition is jointly organized by California Gold Marketing Group and Holabird Western Americana Collections at booth #1926.

Visitors will also see the first public display of the remote-controlled vehicle dubbed “Nemowhich was used by scientists and engineers to locate and recover the SS central America treasures at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean seabed four decades ago. The six-tonne submersible was stored in a Ohio warehouse since 1991 and will be transported to the convention.

“Among the notable items recovered that will be on display is a unique lid over the remains of the oldest known Wells Fargo treasure expedition box; a pair of the oldest known San Francisco Gold Rush canvas jeans with a button fly that may have been made by Levi Strauss in its early years in business; and jewelry made from native California Gold Rush “mother lode” gold in quartz as gemstones,” said exponent Fred HolabirdPresident of Holabird Western Americana Collections, LLC of Reno, Nevada.

Insured for $1 million for this display, the jeans were discovered in a trunk belonging to the passenger John Dementedwho survived the tragic sinking.

SS central America sank 7,200 feet deep in the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina coast during a hurricane on September 12, 1857. She was on a voyage from Panama at New York carrying tons of California Gold Rush coins, bullion and gold dust from the San Francisco and Northern California areas. The tragedy claimed the lives of 425 of the ship’s 578 passengers and crew, and the loss of the gold cargo was a major factor in the devastating financial crisis. Panic of 1857 in the United States.

Also in the exhibit is a 19th century daguerreotype metal plate photograph of an unidentified young woman whom the Science Mission Recovery Team dubbed “Mona Lisa of the Deep” after recovering the photo in 2014 from the seabed, where she was discovered in a scattered pile of coal from the ship.

The exhibition also includes the central America brass name tag attached to a set of keys that belonged to the purser of the ship, Edward W. Hull.

“Because these keys are larger than the type usually used for passenger rooms, we believe these purser keys were for the locked room where the cargo of gold treasure was kept on the ship.” said Holabird.

“These incredible artifacts that have been kept in safe custody in three different states since the 1980s now give us a glimpse into the daily life of passengers and crew in the 1850s. ‘Gold in California’, said Dwight Manleymanaging partner of the California Gold Marketing Group of BreaCalifornia, owner of recovered items.

These items are among approximately 1,000 artifacts recovered from central America which Manley and his band have entrusted to Holabird for auctions scheduled for later this year.

The recovery from the underwater site of what has been described as “America’s greatest treasure” took place in several stages between 1988-1991 and again in 2014. Thousands of gold coins recovered and hundreds of gold bars have been sold since 2000; however, these latter items were stored in three different states, Maryland, Massachusettsand Ohio, until a court-approved settlement is reached, ending a decades-long ownership dispute.

“Seemingly ordinary objects from passengers and crew today give us extraordinary insight into the daily lives of those who traveled on the steamer,” said scientist Bob Evanswho participated in each of the recovery missions.

Led by the American Numismatic Association (ANA)the World Money Fair 2022 will be held from August 16th to 20th at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Room F5555 N. River Road, at Rosemont, Illinois.


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