Historic Rocker Box

Four man operation

During the gold rush, if seven or eight pans figured to the cubic foot, a man working hard and long hours, could wash a ton and a half or two tons of material a day. If it yielded three cents per pan his earnings would have been about $6 a day.

Naturally, they looked for methods that would be faster and less laborious. One of the more popular tools was the cradle (rocker box), which resembled in shape a nursery cradle. This was on inclined rockers, six or eight feet long, open at the foot, and at its head a coarse grate, or sieve; the bottom was rounded, with small cleats nailed across.

For maximum efficiency, four men were required to work this tool. One dug the material from the ground, another carried it to the cradle and emptied it on the grate; the third gave a violent rocking motion; while the fourth dashed on water from the stream itself.

The grate kept the coarse stones from entering the cradle. The rocking motion along with the current of water washed of the earthy matter and the gravel was gradually washed out at the end of the cradle. This left the gold mixed with heavy, fine black sand above the first cleats.

A party of four men could then each average about $25 a day.