University of Oulu

“One can’t have everything” : consumption in Louise Clappe’s ‘The Shirley Letters’ from Gold Rush California 1851–1852

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Author: Vanhala, Niko1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Humanities, History
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
Pages: 38
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : N. Vanhala, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-03-09
Thesis type: Bachelor's thesis
Tutor: Hokkanen, Markku
Mäntylä, Matti


This thesis examines consumption in Louise Clappe’s “The Shirley Letters” from gold rush California 1851–1852. One of the many migrants attracted to California by gold was Louise Clappe. Through her writing, this thesis examines the commercial world of the mining camps. Questions like how products reached customers in the camps, what kind of places sold the products and services are answered. Food, drink and acquiring them is also examined, as well as clothing situation and maintenance.

Together, these answer the question of what kind of consumption is visible in Clappe’s letters and why was consumption as described. Material scarcity, fluctuating prices and concentration on temporary goods like food, drink and experiences like gambling arises. In conclusion it is suggested that Clappe’s residences had their own special consumer environment, characterized by uncertainty, scarcity and temporary circumstances. Clappe’s writing reveals that she depended heavily on commercial services, but the chances available to her were far from what she had been used to on the east coast.


Tämä kandidaatintutkielma tutkii Louise Clappen kirjoitusten kautta Kalifornian kultaryntäyksen kuluttamista. Clappelle tarjolla olleet kaupalliset mahdollisuudet ruuan, vaatetuksen ja viihteen saralla esitellään. Esiin nousee kuluttajaympäristö, jossa saatavilla olevat tuotteet olivat rajoitettuja, hinnat vaihtelevia ja kuluttaminen keskittynyt ruokaan sekä viihteeseen kuten uhkapelaamiseen. Clappen kirjoitukset kuitenkin osoittavat hänen olleen vahvasti riippuvainen kaupallisista toimijoista, joten päädyn ehdottamaan hänen ympärillään vallinneen oma erityinen kuluttajaympäristönsä.

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Copyright information: © Niko Vanhala, 2023. Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence ( This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated. For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the author(s), permission may need to be directly from the respective right holders.