For every successful mining district celebrated in history,
there were failed dozens whose stories have been largely forgotten.
The Mechanics of Optimism documents, in rare detail, the
boom-bust cycle of Hot Spring District, a mid-1860s Montana gold
camp that did not pay, despite early predictions of a sure thing.
Historian Jeffrey J. Safford examines how gold mining ventures
were developed and financed during and after the Civil War, and how
men, primarily Easterners with scant knowledge of mining, were
willing to invest large sums in gold mines that promised quick and
Safford explains how these mining companies were organized and
underwritten, and why a little-known district in southwestern
Montana was chosen as a center of operations. Relying on extensive
primary sources, Safford addresses the mind-set of the businessmen,
the expectations and realities of new mining technology, the
financial strategies, and the universality of the Hot Spring
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