Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stripping Along The Rocks

I went to a garage sale Saturday and found a treasure trove of postcards. My wife beat me to the punch by a day and bought me ten postcards. (Thank you, my love.) She presented them to me when I returned home after a week away at work. I couldn't believe my eyes. These were some of the best Alaskan postcards I'd ever seen. The next morning I was out of bed early so I could be the first at the sale on its second day.

The reason I had to attend was that Candy Waugaman, one of Fairbanks, most prodigious historical collectors of Alaskan memorabilia, including postcards, was unloading tons of her stuff. If you were a pack rat or a postcard collector, this was the place to be. Besides, all the proceeds from the sale went to the charity of your choice. It was a win-win deal all the way around.

For several hours I poured over boxes of post cards. I even worked the boxes with a friendly neighbor. She picked out pictures of locomotives for me while I handed her images of antique autos. I was only disappointed with my limited budget which forced me to leave behind some fine examples of postcard art and history.
The one above shows an example of hydraulic mining. I think this is in Ester, Alaska, just outside Fairbanks. I think it was taken in the late thirties or early forties. I bought another that shows the same shirtless guy from a different angle. That card has a white boarder. Neither card has writing or postal marks on the reverse side, so precise dating is difficult. Along the bottom of the card are the words, "Stripping along the rocks, ASP 15."
The "stripping along the rocks" could but does not refer to the shirtless man but rather is another name for hydraulic mining. High pressure water jets were used to strip the sediment or overburden from river beds to uncover gold deposits. Water was piped in from higher elevations through progressively smaller diameter pipe to create powerful jets of water. This engineering technology was extensively used during the California gold rush but similar techniques were employed by the Romans in northern Spain, (see this article).

This muscular lad strikes a strong pose for the picture. No doubt, handling the big gun was a task for a stout hand. I've been told by old miners that a good hand on a mining job could shovel ten cubic yards of "dumps," or mine diggings, a day. This is probably one of those guys. Notice he's wrapped the nozzle rope around his left hand to steer the water cannon where he wants it. Obviously, hours and hours of this work have put some pipes on this guy. For the benefit of our female readers and those who are curious about the giant water gun, I include the detail shot of it and its buff operator below.


  1. The same technology was used near here in Dahlonega, GA, the site of the first gold rush in the US. Although the mountains have been covered over with growth again, it is still possible to see the scars left by this unfriendly (and unwise) technique.

  2. Mining done by dozers or water pressure strips the land of vegetation and soil, true enough. Developments of strip malls and parking lots have the same effect on the environment. They bury valuable fertile soil under concrete and asphalt, thus taking it out of agricultural production. The question in both cases seems to be whether materials are segragated and saved. Whether mining for gold or a million mini malls the question is the same: was the fertile soil reclaimed in the process of production? Certainly, there are aesthetic considerations when mountains or oceans or our neighborhoods are involved.