A Map to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
Up to 8,000 people each year go hunting for a legendary gold mine, guided by cryptic maps like these.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
The Superstition Mountains to the east of Phoenix, AZ reportedly hold a legendary motherlode of gold known as the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Through the years, truth and fiction about this mine have been irrevokably mixed up, producing 62 varieties of the legend. Before we get into those, here are some genuine facts about the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine:
There really was a Lost Dutchman, although he wasn’t Dutch. Jakob Waltz was nicknamed Dutch (i.e. from the Netherlands) because he was Deutsch (i.e. from Germany; a common error, see also ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’). A man of that name was born in Württemberg in 1810 and emigrated to the U.S. From the 1860s onward, he homesteaded in Arizona, pursuing mining and prospecting as a hobby – a quite unsuccessful one. Waltz fell ill and died in 1891, but not before revealing the location of an alleged gold mine to Julia Thomas, the neighbour who cared for him. As early as Sept 1, 1892, a local newspaper relates how Thomas and others were trying to locate the mine. When they failed, it is reported they sold copies of a map for $7 each. After about a decade, the story sank into obscurity, regaining notoriety when it had acquired more spectacular aspects, in a fashion not dissimilar to a game of Chinese whispers.
The Lost Dutchman Mine is the most famous in American history. Quite literally so, according to Southwestern Folklore author and researcher Byrd Granger. In 1977, Granger noted that the Lost Dutchman story was printed at least 6 times more often than the story of Captain Kidd’s lost treasure or the story of the Lost Pegleg Mine in California.
The Lost Dutchman Mine is also the most sought after in American history. Attempts have been made to locate it at least since 1892. Some 8,000 people each year try to find it. And not just crackpots: former attorney general of Arizona Bob Corbin was one of the many mine-seekers.
Granger distinguished three main elements to the story, with the most complete version of the story incorporating all three legends. He argued that each of these three legends contains some truth, but have become badly distorted through time. The legend continues to evolve: recent additions are versions in which the gold is really a secret treasure trove of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Confederate secret society active during the American Civil War (1861-1864).
A cryptic map of the gold mine, or just a fake?
True or not, the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine continues to fascinate the public. This post card is a humourous version of the many serious treasure maps that undoubtedly circulated in Arizona and environs at the height of gold mine fever, at the end of the 19th century.
Strange Maps #63
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