Treasure from a pre-Civil War shipwreck is going up for sale, but only after they are displayed around the country after decades of being kept out of the public eye.
Items available for purchase include jewelry made from gold found during the California gold rush, 165-year-old gold miner pants, photographs, bottles, pistols, and other objects. These items, alongside another 1,000 objects going up for sale, come from the wreck of the S.S. Central America, known as the “Ship of Gold,” which went down during a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina in 1857.
When the ship went down, 425 of its 578 passengers were killed and its wreck became one of the most well-known in American history. Historians cite the massive loss of gold from the wreck of the S.S. Central America as a contributor to the Panic of 1857, an economic crisis in the U.S. that lasted for about three years.
“These incredible artifacts that were in secure storage in three different states are now giving us a glimpse of Gold Rush-era daily life for passengers and crew in the 1850s,” said Dwight Manley, of the California Gold Marketing Group of Brea, the organization that owns the objects.
Another artifact found is the key to a wine cellar on board the ship and other keys believed to be for the rooms where the ship’s massive gold stash was kept. A photograph, known as the “Mona Lisa of the Deep” was found by divers with coal from the ship and features an unknown young woman.
Also among the ship’s notable artifacts is an 18-karat gold brooch intended to be a gift to a teacher from 19th century San Francisco businessman Samuel Brannan, as well as a pair of canvas pants used by a gold miner and possibly manufactured in part by Levi Straus.
Holabird Western Americana Collections will put the items up for sale in public auctions in October and November.
Artifacts were found on the ship over a period of almost 35 years as divers continued to pull more historic artifacts up from the deep. They had been kept at various storage buildings in Ohio, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
Tommy Thompson, the explorer who discovered the ship in the 1980s, is in jail in Michigan because of 500 gold coins that he will not disclose the location of to the government. According to USA Today, Thompson owes about $2 million in penalties because of continuous fines from his contempt of court charge.
It is unclear when or if Thompson will get out of jail.