By the Great Horn Spoon!by Sid Fleishman is a rip roaring swashbuckling kind of a tall tale. It’s a great book (though the cover on this edition is awful). Twelve year old Jack stows away in a potato barrel on a boat from Boston to California with his Aunt’s butler, Praiseworthy, in an effort to make his fortune and help his Aunt Arabella save the family home. The book is great for reading aloud and it’s one my six year old doesn’t want me to put down. The first half of the book focuses on the trip itself, with Jack and Praiseworth stowing away aboard the Lady Wilma in Boston, stopping in Rio de Janeiro, heading for Cape Horn and crossing through the Straits of Magellan in an effort to beat another boat.
We’ve had interesting discussions regarding the six months it took Jack and Praiseworthy to get from Boston to California and comparing that to how we can now fly there in less than a day. I wasn’t sure how to tag this book, it doesn’t really take place in Boston, but it does a good job of contrasting the life that Jack was leaving with the adventures and dangers of the Gold Rush and how the lure of instant riches drew people from all places and walks of life. By the end of the story fortunes are made and lost and made again, but they never quite make it back to Boston!
During the Gold Rush, San Francisco grew from 200 residents in 1846 to more than 36000 in 1852. There’s a gold rush trail that traces the original shoreline of the city. There’s also a gold rush tour which talks about the fleet of abandoned ships mentioned at the end of By the Great Horn Spoon! It must have been quite a sight, ships abandoned as everyone headed to make their fortune.