10 AM to 5 PM ~ Wednesday to Sunday

Far from home and often alone in unfamiliar places, forty-niners wrote letters to loved ones describing both the challenges and the rewards of their new life in California. These rare, first-person accounts describe life during the California Gold Rush, revealing the hopes, dreams, and fears of those who came before us.

In addition to transcribed and annotated original manuscripts, this exhibition features selections from The Society’s impressive collection of nineteenth-century pictorial letter sheets. The beautiful illustrations on these fragile sheets of stationery provide a vivid, visual record of early San Francisco, life in the gold fields, and the important events of the day.

This special exhibition runs concurrently with the San Francisco Opera’s world premiere production of John Adams’ GIRLS OF THE GOLDEN WEST, featuring an original libretto by director Peter Sellars based on letters and diaries written during the California Gold Rush.


Contact John Hogan to reserve the museum for a free fall/winter field trip for your class, youth group, or scout troop: jhogan@californiapioneers.org or 415.957.1849 ext. 120




“To collect and preserve information connected with the early settlement and to form libraries and cabinets … that advances the interests and perpetuate the memory of the founders of this new state.”                        Objectives; Society of California Pioneers Articles of Incorporation, 1850


Past Exhibitions

2013 to present
2000 to 2013