Retroculturati Books

They Found Gold by A. Hyatt Verrill

The story of successful treasure hunts…

As a young boy I was fascinated by the myths and legends surrounding buried and sunken treasure, from pirate ships to art and jewellery seized by occupying Nazi forces man has long been obsessed with what lies below us and in this stunning book we find hope in the stories of successful treasure hunts.

Published in 1936 by G.P Putnam’s and Sons, the author A. Hyatt Verrill compiled a fascinating set of stories detailing treasure finds in the Americas. Verrill (1871-1954) was an author, illustrator, explorer as well as a truly prolific author with over a hundred books to his name. He wrote extensively on natural history, travel, whaling and science fiction stories for, amongst others, Amazing Stories magazine during its heyday. Verrill conducted extensive expeditions throughout South and Central America, Bermuda and the West Indies and in 1933 he was tasked with recovering a sunken 17th century Spanish galleon in the West Indies,

They Found Gold  was one of Verrill’s later books, his first non-fiction work, A-B-C of Automobile Driving  was published in 1916 and twenty years later the author had built a reputation for appealing to the readership of the general public at the irritation of the science community who accused him of sensationalising their subject matter. But in treasure hunting the sensational is an integral part of its being, Verrill’s own travels and expeditions gave him the kind of authority he perhaps lacked in the science based genres and his writing style enhanced that spirit of adventure to produce a wonderful period piece. 

Illustrated throughout by the author the reader is treated to small maps, photographs and drawings of symbols, people and artefacts from the expeditions, The chapter headings alone are the stuff of childhood dreams: The Lost Mine of Tisingal, Billy Bowlegs’ Blood-Stained Treasure, The Treasure Trove of Casco Bay, Salvaging the Spanish Galleon, The Treasure Ship that Vanished and Dredging the Treasure of the Golden Hind amongst many others of a 266 page volume. And the author gives the wanabee treasure hunter more reason for hope in his opening salvo claiming (reasonably in my view) that there have been more findings of lost treasure than we might imagine. Why, he argues, would anyone go to the time, trouble and expense to hunt for sunken treasure only to hand over the lion’s share to the government of that particular territorial water or, for that matter, to attract the attention of modern-day pirates and bounty hunters? He had a point.

It is a fascinating book, interesting historical and geographical facts are interlaced with moments of artistic licence in the dialogue he describes but it remains, nonetheless a wonderful piece of adventure writing from a golden age of treasure hunting. Who, in 1930s Britain could not be attracted to a life spent diving for sunken jewels off the Florida coast? No more or less than now some ninety years later! 

They Found Gold, the first US edition printed in 1936 is available to buy at Retroculturati Books. Please click here for details.


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