The Republic of Rough and Ready

Rough & Ready

Rough & Ready Front Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard
Rough & Ready back Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard
Rough & Ready Front Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard Rough & Ready back Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard

July 6th, 1967

Hi, you should be here and see this. It is really a great town 4 miles east of Grass Valley. I am here with my neighbor for the day it is a lovely country here in the hills.

Love aunt Margaret
Am looking for you folks

A Succession

Rough and Ready California is a former boomtown in Northern California about an hour away from the state capital of Sacramento. It was founded by Absalom Austin Townsend, who struck it rich in 1849 at the peak of the California Gold Rush. Townsend named his new company and mining claim after his former General, and then president, “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor. During his first four months, A.A. Townsend reportedly pulled somewhere between $15,000 and $40,000 (about $460k – $1.24mm in today’s dollars) of gold from snow-fed streams before returning to his home in Wisconsin. But Rough and Ready is not known for its gold, it’s known for its attempt to become a sovereign nation.

Aunt Margaret mentions in her message that it’s “lovely country here in the hills” which ties in perfectly with the town’s lore. Loads of articles on the internet document the story of Rough and Ready California as the first town to “secede from the nation” when, as the city website tells it, a tax on all mining claims pushed the town to declare its independence.

That’s right, on April 7th, 1850, a full 11 years before the southern United States attempted to secede from the nation, a small mining community in Northern California, was the first to attempt to part ways with the U.S. The newly elected “president” penned a letter to President Zarachy Taylor saying in part, “We…deem it necessary and prudent to withdraw from said Territory (of California) and from the United States of America to form, peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must, the Great Republic of Rough and Ready.”

But legend has it the new republic didn’t last long, and a mere three months later, after finding the saloons in Grass Valley wouldn’t sell liquor to “foreigners,” The Republic of Rough and Ready unceremoniously voted to rejoin the union.

Today, the city of Rough and Ready celebrates an annual Secession Day Chilli Cook-off on the last Sunday of June while enjoying a musical melodrama titled “The Saga of Rough and Ready”.

The story is almost too good to be true, and sadly, it looks as if may just be. When reading the Statutes of the First Legislature of the 1850 California State Assembly we find no taxes on mining claims. In fact, there’s no mention of mining until April 13, 1850, when the infamously cruel and racist Foreign Minors Tax was passed into law. Moreover, when searching California newspaper archives in 1850, one of the only time Rough and Ready comes up is on April 15th in a small article about a gang of Rough and Ready citizens who massacred 25 indigenous Americans over a cattle dispute.

It’s also been reported that due to some missed paperwork the one-time independent republic wasn’t formally readmitted to the U.S. until the United States Postal Service added it back to the postal map in 1948. The truth is that Rough and Ready did see its post office reopen in 1948, but only after arguing that its population size warranted one. In fact, an article in a Sacramento announced the first post office within the town borders of Rough and Ready in December 1850, just months after its supposed independence and readmittance.

While the myth isn’t based in fact, it’s still a fun story. If you’re interested in visiting Rough and Ready California you can be sure to still find a historical mining town filled with mining attractions. While never in history was it a nation-state, it’s still an interesting part of California State history.

That’s all I have for you this week! Send your family a postcard!


Special thanks to Megumi and Nettie for copy editing!

Postmark + Cancellation :
Rough and Ready CA AM Jul 6th, 1967 95975
Cover Art:
The Little Wedding Chapel
In the Historic town of Rough & Ready, CA
Published by:
Eastman’s Studio, Susanville, Calif.
S-811 510209
Henry Mcgrew printing K.C. Mo
E.H. Rickhoff & Family
631 Euclid Ave. 
Pueblo, Co
Scott 1282 1965 4c Prominent Americans: Abraham Lincoln

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash.

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Facebook

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Front
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Back
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Front Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Back

I like Seattle, it reminds me of S. F. as it was before the fire

Everett Wash. July 11-07

Dear Uncle and Aunt

How are you all?  Hope you are just as well and enjoying yourselves as much as we are.  We are having fine weather and seeing lots of nice places. This is a fine little city on Puget Sound.  We were in Bellingham yesterday and tomorrow go back to Seattle where we will stay a week. This is a fine state and I am having a lovely time.

S. Kelly

Stolen from Tongass

The first thing you see when you look at this card is the large prominent totem pole reach from the ground to the top of the image, framed between buildings and in the center of the square. This Totem Pole was hoisted into place on October 18, 1899, and since then totem poles have become a symbol of the city. In fact, a 2011 article written by the Seattle Times proudly begins “Seattle is a city of totem poles: Carved figures glower, stand watch, warn, scold, honor and mourn on poles raised in parks, city squares, museums and shop fronts all over town.” Even Seattle’s Football team, the Seahawks sells “Team Totems” on their official store. 

Dedication of the Pole 1889 University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division

But there’s a problem. Totem poles have little to do with Seattle, and the totem pole that started it all, the Chief-of-All-Women pole in Pioneer Square, was actually stolen by a group of wealthy Seattle businessmen who had recently traveled to Alaska. During their expedition, they stopped off at the Tlingit village of Tongass, and the way they tell it, the village was abandoned by all but one man who didn’t object to them taking any pole of their choosing. In their minds, nothing would be a better gift to the city of Seattle than this stolen piece of culture. But the people of Seattle did not know this pole was stolen, and in 1889 groups gathered and celebrated the 49 feet 8-inch tall totem pole as it was erected in pioneer square.

The Tlingit people tried to retrieve their totem pole but the local Seattle government refused to surrender it to them. The Tignit people then sued for $20,000 but only received an “out-of-court settlement of $500 to benefit an Indian school near Ketchikan”. None of the criminals who stole the totem pole faced any repercussions for their crime. 

So since 1889, it’s remained in Seattle’s pioneer square. Well, sort of, an arsonist burnt the original in 1938, and the Tlingit people carved a replica that now stands in its place. In 1977 the National Park Service placed the Chief-of-All-Women pole on the register of National Historic Places commenting that the pole “now stands as a symbol of the complicated relationship between American Indians and European Americans.”

Today you can still find Totem poles around the city of Seattle, but that may be changing. The Coast Salish, the indigenous people of Seattle, did not create totem poles and their art is not prominently featured in the city. However, that may change soon as a couple of city council members have started a review of the city’s numerous totem poles in consideration of cultural concerns.

But, for now, you can still find hundreds of Seattle Postcards featuring the Chief of All Woman pole in Pioneer Square on Ebay. And many of them are waiting to be sent by you to a friend. 

That’s all I have for you today,


P.S. Send your Grandpa a postcard!

Cover Art:
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. 

Lithograph on card stock

Published by:
5660 Published by The Puget Sound News Company, Seattle (Wash.) Leipzig, Dresden.  Polo Chrome Trademark ANC N Y Germany

Mr and Mrs J. Smith
2536 Folsom Street
San Francisco,  Cal

Postmark + Cancellation
Everette Washington July 11th 1907 6pm
American Flag Cancellation

1902 Franklin Blue Green 1 Cent Stamp 

Further Reading:
Arsonist damages Seattle’s Pioneer Square totem pole on October 22, 1938
Digital Collection of Tlingit people and Totem Poles 
Part 2 Coast Salish Art and Carving

Special Thank You to Paul for helping to transcribe the card and Valerie for copyediting.