This recent discovery aboard a very old ship is still a bit surprising.
The ship, the SS Central America, sank to the bottom of the Atlantic in 1857. The jeans are calculated to be around 165 years old.
The ship left port in Panama and was going to New York with hundreds of passengers and heaps of gold on board. It could not weather a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas and sank on September 12, 1857.
425 passengers were lost, along with 30,000 pounds of gold.
The ship’s wreck was discovered in the 1980s, and Fred Holabird, President of the Holabird Western Americana Collections, says the relics aboard gave historians a interesting look into the gold rush era.
The style of the jeans found on the so-called “Ship of Gold” is thought to be an early pair of Levi Strauss, made in the 1850s. They sold at auction for $114k.
Experts believe they are possibly the oldest known Gold Rush-era heavy-duty work jeans and were likely worn by first-class passenger John Dement of Oregon.
They were far from the only great find onboard, though, says Dwight Manley, Managing Partner of the California Gold Marketing Group.
“These incredible artifacts give us a glimpse of daily life for the passengers and crew in the 1850s. They are a time capsule from the California Gold Rush.”
Some of the things include rings, stickpins, cufflinks, and a bunch of pocket watch cases, along with gold coins, paper money, a trunk of maritime provisions, keys to the gold treasure room, and passenger luggage tags.
They might seem like everyday items, but every historian knows that ordinary artifacts tell us more about the lives of ordinary people than anything else.