Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


PFANNKUCH, Hans-Olaf, Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 310 Pillsbury Dr. S.E, Minneapolis, MN 55455,

This account of mining fraud in the late 19th century US is worthy of being reexamined: it focuses on the scope, the prominent people, institutions and interests involved, their connection to a parallel and equally large swindle at the Comstock Lode, and raises some open questions about involved parties besides the obvious perpetrators, Phil Arnold and John Burchem Slack who salted the site.

The involvement of financial (William Ralston, Bank of California), political and economic interests (congressman Butler, Massachusetts) and capitalists (Sam Barlow), experts (Henri Janin) among others to obtain favorable conditions in general and under the mining laws in 1872 by influence buying and outright bribery makes this story unfortunately into a “dejà vu” experience. Only Clarence King, 40th Parallel Survey stands out as the white knight.

The unanswered questions concern the meticulous preparation unexpected from simple prospectors, choosing a site corresponding to the prevailing theories of diamond occurrence in the least populous county of Colorado. Why did Ralston who was a Regent of the University of California not ask its Geology Department first for initial evaluation or opinion about the gemstone samples? What made Arnold keep his cool facing the then greatest authority on diamonds, Charles Tiffany?