10 [California] Watson, Benjamin A. Original 49er Quartz Gold Nugget, Miner’s Leather Pouch, and printed constitution of 49ers: Constitution of the Illinois and California Mutual Insurance Company, No. 1.[Springfield, Ill.: No printer, Jan. 20th, 1849.] 8vo, original blue printed broadside, signed in ink individually by the company of 49ers, including “B.A. Watson,” the owner of this nugget. Fine condition.
Very rare. The quartz nugget contains approximately 2/3 ounce of gold, rubbed smooth; it has been carried in the original leather pouch, which has a split in the side and a few worn holes where the nugget was carried. The printed constitution is bibliographically unrecorded, with only one copy located in OCLC (Abraham Lincoln Library in Springfield, also signed by all 21 men), and no auction or antiquarian market records. The printed constitution contained the rules of the company for the overland crossing and a promise to jointly divide their proceeds upon their return to Springfield. Watson has signed the bottom of the constitution, and so have the other 20 members of his company, who pledged to each other “Our lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor.” Printed records of voluntary associations headed to the California Gold fields are among the rarest of California Gold Rush collectibles, with the Streeter Sale having perhaps five. See also, R.G. Vail, “Bibliographical Notes on Certain Eastern Mining Companies of the California Gold Rush, 1849-1850,” PBSA 43: 247-278. A very rare combination.