This is Nathaniel Currier’s celebrated lithograph iconic artwork portraying a gold prospector traveling to California during the Gold Rush. Perhaps more than any other contemporary print, it captures the spirit of the era.
The image depicts a rugged, determined-looking individual equipped with a pickaxe and a shovel. He is dressed in typical clothing of the time, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, boots, and carrying a backpack. The prospector’s face shows a sense of purpose and self-reliance.
The title of the lithograph, “I Neither Borrow Nor Lend,” reflects the independent and self-sufficient nature of the gold hunters during that time. Many individuals who journeyed to California for the Gold Rush aimed to strike it rich and preferred to rely on their own resources rather than borrowing money or depending on others.
Currier captures the excitement and adventure associated with the Gold Rush era, as people from all over the world sought their fortunes in the goldfields of California. It also represents the spirit of individualism, self-reliance, and the pursuit of opportunity that characterized the time.
Today, the lithograph serves as a historical artifact, providing a glimpse into the cultural and social atmosphere of the California Gold Rush. It is considered a valuable piece of American art and a representation of the dreams, aspirations, and challenges faced by those who participated in the Gold Rush.
The image seems to have been copied by Kellogg & Comstock, who published a similar work at about the same time.