Not long ago I was contacted by a reader of the Guadalajara Reporter who lives in the United States.
Steve Wilson is a former museum director who has studied mining in Mexico over the last 48 years. He told me he had come upon the journal of a certain B. Jay Antrim, who, it seems, was not only a good writer but also a talented sketch artist.
Perhaps motivated by “Gold Fever,” Antrim decided in 1849 to quit his job in Baltimore and travel from Philadelphia to California, only he decided to take not the direct route, but to go there via Mexico. He would take a boat to Tampico, cross Mexico on horseback and catch a ship to San Francisco from either San Blas or Mazatlan.
In his journal Antrim occasionally waxes poetic. Here’s an example of his prose as he sails south to Tampico:
“Tuesday, February 13, 1849. The sun rose beautifully in a fleecy cloud of golden hue, and a brisk wind drove us rapidly towards the Bahamia Bar. Here the bottom is composed of white sand with patches of sponge. The color of the water on the Bar for about 60 miles is a beautiful sky blue … The day has been warm and clear and the sun set among gilded clouds. There is something exquisite, glowing, brilliant and more diversified with brilliant and unapproachable colors accompanying a sunset scene in this southern clime that seldom occurs to those farther north and infinitely above the artist’s pencil.”
Wilson says Antrim and friends spent 44 days traveling through Tampico, San Luis Potosi, Lagos de Moreno, Guadalajara and Tepic, before finally reaching Mazatlan. The highlights of the journey were captured in 115 sketches which Antrim turned into paintings while on the boat to San Francisco.