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In 1871, the North Bloomfield gravel mines in Nevada County commissioned Watkins to photograph their hydraulic gold mining operation. It was the largest in the state. The owners of the mines were interested in securing funding from English capitalists.
This view presents us with a vivid and realistic documentation of hydraulic mining: we see the water arc as the hoses are washing away the mountainside, the gold ore settles and was then collected downstream. The Mining and Scientific Press from Nov. 7, 1872 describes how the “the pictures…taken by C. E. Watkins, are really masterpieces of the photographic art, and represent the most perfect and lifelike representation of hydraulic mining which we have ever seen depicted on paper…”
Not only was Watkins able to capture the art of this mining process, but his photograph served as an indicator of the engineer’s progress. As Peter Palmquist describes, when “arching streams of water serves as elements of design