The Emigrant's Guide, Artifact of the Month for December 2011

December 01, 2011 Posted by: Kathleen Moenster, Assistant Curator


inside cover of the Emigrant's Guide to the West

The Emigrant's Guide

Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase of the day, and the push to obtain Federal lands, coupled with Government encouragement to settle the West created a climate that spurred the great migration of Americans across the continent in the 1840's, 1850's and 1860's. In September of 1848, reports of the discovery of gold in California reached the East coast and gold seekers rushed to travel west to seek their fortune. Also spurring settlers westward were the emigrant "guide" books of the 1840's and 1850's featuring route information, recommended clothing, shelter and provisions, care of wagons and horses, and American Indians.

Emigrant's Guide to the West

One of these guide books is in the collection of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Entitled "The Emigrants Guide to the Golden Land Shewing Him When to Go/Where to Go/ How to Go", the book outlines the past, present and future prospects of California including its geographical and physical terrain. This volume contains several color lithographs of western scenes. It was written by G.A. Fleming and published in London in 1850 by McGowan and Company. The book concerns the emigration of poor tenant farmers from England to America.The bad economy and poor conditions of farmers and laborers at that time in England and the prospects of a better future in America led to their flight from England to America. "The artisan and labourer who daily hear and feel that England is the rich man's Paradise and the poor man's Pandemonium, gird up their loins as fast as possible, and prepare to leave the Pandemonium….".

The volume is full of helpful information that was essential for safe passage to America and traveling and settling in the West. The object of the book is "solely to enable those who contemplate emigrating to choose the most appropriate labour-field for the future, and to instruct them how to proceed in making their arrangements for reaching it in the most economical, safe and expeditious manner." This book is a fascinating view of the arduous and hazardous journey and life faced by the covered wagon emigrants.


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