Hellacious California!: Tales of Rascality, Revelry, Dissipation, and Depravity, and the Birth of the Golden State

Hellacious California!: Tales of Rascality, Revelry, Dissipation, and Depravity, and the Birth of the Golden State

by Gary Noy


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In 1855 an ex-miner lamented that nineteenth-century California “can and does furnish the best bad things,” including “purer liquors…finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier courtezans [sic]” than anywhere else in America. Lured by boons of gold and other exploitable resources, California’s settler population mushroomed under Mexican and early American control, and this period of rapid transformation gave rise to a freewheeling culture best epitomized by its entertainments. Hellacious California tours the rambunctious and occasionally appalling amusements of the Golden State: gambling, gun duels, knife fights, gracious dining and gluttony, prostitution, fandangos, cigars, con artistry, and the demon drink. Historian Gary Noy unearths myriad primary sources, many of which have never before been published, to spin his true tall tales that are by turns humorous and horrifying. Whether detailing the exploits of an inebriated stallion, gambling parlors as a reinforcement and subversion of racial norms, armed skirmishes over eggs, or the ins and outs of the “Spirit Lover” scam, Noy expertly situates these stories in the context of a live-for-the-moment society characterized by audacity, bigotry, and risk.

Published in collaboration with Sierra College Press.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597144995
Publisher: Heyday
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 572,378
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

A native of Grass Valley, California, Gary Noy has taught history at Sierra Community College since 1987. Noy is the author of Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues (2014) and Gold Rush Stories: 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss, and Luck (2017), both copublished by Heyday and Sierra College Press. In 2016, Sierra Stories received the Gold Medal for Best Regional Non-Fiction from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit his website at garynoy.com.

Table of Contents



1. Black-Legs, California Prayer Books, and Twisting the Tiger’s Tail: Games of Chance

2. Anti-Fogmatics, Coffin Varnish, and Oh-Be-Joyful: The Demon Drink

3. Grizzly Bear Steak, Sourdough Slapjacks, and Whole Jackass Rabbit: Gracious Dining and Gluttony

4. Spittoons, Quids, and Cigarillos: Tobacco Culture

5. Demanding Satisfaction, Frogstickers, and the Slogging Fraternity: Dueling, Knife Fights, Fisticuffs, and Animal Baiting

6. Sparking, Philanthropic Importation, and the Hospital: Courtship, Divorce and Prostitution

7. Put’s Golden Songster, The India Rubber Man, and Pedestrianism: Eccentric and Extraordinary Entertainments

8. Hornswogglers, Honey-Foglers and Humbugs: Scoundrels and Charlatans


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