47 Down: The 1922 Argonaut Gold Mine Disaster

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9780471446927: 47 Down: The 1922 Argonaut Gold Mine Disaster

Advance Praise for 47 Down

"A gripping mystery story: Will the men trapped deep underground in a mine by fire be reached by rescuers in time? And why do these mining disasters occur, and reoccur, in our nation’s history?"
–Gerald M. Stern, author of The Buffalo Creek Disaster

"This is as much a story about journalism as it is about a mine disaster. Women reporters assigned to chronicle the human side were called ‘sob sisters’ for their ability to evoke emotion with words. O. Henry Mace pays tribute to the tenacious and creative Ruth Finney, whose storytelling skills framed the story for decades after her passing and established her as one of the early giants among women in journalism."
–Eleanor Clift, contributing editor, Newsweek

"Most disaster books are predictable and dry, but O. Henry Mace’s 47 Down, the story of the 1922 Argonaut mining tragedy, is, quite simply, one of the best disaster books to come along in years. Mace’s taut, lyrical, intelligent prose combined with his thorough research and his film director’s eye for detail and focus make 47 Down as compelling as The Perfect Storm and as memorable as Young Men and Fire. Mace takes the reader inside the Argonaut mine shaft and doesn’t let go. This is a necessary book."
–Denise Gess, coauthor of Firestorm at Peshtigo

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From the Inside Flap:

It was the Roaring Twenties, in the heart of California’s historic Mother Lode. The Argonaut Mine was one of America’s deepest, richest gold mines. Forty-seven miners were working the night shift on August 27, 1922. Some of the men working that late shift hadn’t taken a day off in twenty-one days, and many of them expressed uneasiness about going to work that particular evening. That night, after their dinner break, the miners’ worst nightmare was realized: there was a fire in the shaft, trapping them 4,650 feet underground, with apparently no way out.

Drawing on primary sources to re-create the event with nail-biting accuracy, 47 Down provides a chilling narrative of the miners’ terrifying ordeal, the friends and family who kept hopeful vigil at the mine’s entrance, and the experts and rescue specialists who came from across the nation to help free the trapped men. Author O. Henry Mace researched the Argonaut disaster for seven years, sifting through stockpiles of newspaper articles, diaries, government reports–including the complete minutes and correspondence of the Governor’s Committee on the Argonaut Mine Disaster–and other resources that were scattered throughout repositories across the United States to create this dramatic and riveting account of one of the worst gold mine disasters in U.S. history.

Through these rich primary sources, Mace paints a vivid portrait of the personalities and machinations involved in the Argonaut mine fire and rescue mission, including: Virgilio Garbarini, the seasoned, no-nonsense superintendent of the mine who fought doggedly against reversing the fans that would have drawn fresh air to the trapped miners; quick-thinking jigger-boss Ernie Miller, who had survived the Granite Copper Mine fire of 1917 and used his experience to try and shield his crew from the poisonous carbon monoxide that was quickly pouring down the shaft; and sharp-tongued Sacramento Star city editor Ruth Finney, who scored the scoop of the century and launched her career with her heartfelt coverage of the tragedy.

Documenting the dueling optimism and agony that stifled a city for twenty-two days, 47 Down tells a compelling tale of heroism, tragedy, and conflict as it explores the all-too-familiar theme of corporate greed versus worker.

About the Author:

O. Henry Mace has written on western history and has put together collector’s guides on both early photographs and Victoriana.

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