M471 | Cabin on the Fraser, B.C., "The Bacon is Cooked"

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Cabin on the Fraser, B.C., "The Bacon is Cooked"
About 1862, 19th century
Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper
22.6 x 31.4 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Painting (2229) , painting (2227)
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Keys to History

In 1860, prospectors from the Fraser River gold rush discovered new gold deposits in the Cariboo Mountains, a short distance north. With that, the second British Columbia gold rush was underway, square in the middle of traditional native land. Men numbering in the tens of thousands poured into Canada from the United States, Great Britain and Europe. A number of natives also took part and, like the Chinese arrivals, held jobs such as guides, porters, prospectors and suppliers.

It was, for miners, the nature of their work to be constantly on the move. They were a nomadic group for whom towns served as temporary lodging rather than a place to settle down. William Hind, an artist who came to Cariboo during this period, depicted the life of miners through a series of works. This one portrays a group of men in a cabin.

The cost of living was extremely high for miners, as this letter from a miner working near Barkerville describes: "Supplies are so expensive, however, that very few miners are able to stay long enough to work their claims properly. I can earn $10.00 a day but the money is soon spent. Flour, beans, sugar, salt and rice each cost $1.25 a pound [.460 kg]." (Conner, 1985: 132)

  • What

    The miner's fare was mostly bacon, beans and bannock (traditional native bread).

  • Where

    In a letter to his brother in 1863, William Hind described his experience in the region: "Cariboo is a mining region that has proven itself difficult to reach, difficult to penetrate and unjust in the division of its wealth." (Hughes, 2002: 132)

  • When

    The second gold rush, which took place in the Cariboo district, began in 1860 and lasted until 1865. It remains British Columbia's most famous gold rush.

  • Who

    Following the boom years of the gold rush, British Columbia's population was in decline. In 1871, the region's total population was approximately 40,000, including 30,000 natives. It would be the 1880s before white settlers formed the majority.