RENO, Nev. - Charles B. Gillespie's iconic California Gold Rush artwork is no longer a family secret.
Historians are hailing the obscure 49er's extensive collection of sketches and oil paintings after a descendant decided to put it up for sale this fall.
"This is an important archive, particularly the sketches, which are charming and historically significant," Scott Shields, chief curator of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Calif., said in an e-mail.
For decades, the pieces were tucked away in the home of Gillespie's great-great grandson, Dick Rogers of Bowling Green, Ohio - virtually unknown to historians and others.
Now, Rogers is working with a Reno dealer, Fred Holabird, to try to sell the collection intact to a museum in hopes the public can finally have a chance to view it.
It's one of the most important Gold Rush archives to surface in the last 100 years, said Holabird, president of Reno-based Holabird-Kagin Americana, one of the country's largest sellers of Western Americana.
"It's a remarkable, wonderful archive, and it gave me goose bumps the first time I saw it," Holabird said. "Some of his art is destined to be published in books the next couple hundred years."