The Life of Emma Allison

The 1876 Centennial Exhibition Women's Pavilion Steam Engineer

Who was A.D. Marchand?

After a great talk at the 2013 Steampunk World’s Fair about Emma Allison and her fate, I thought more about the man she may have married later in life, A.D. Marchand. Someone in the audience had asked what I knew about him and to this point very little. But I have learned that if you keep doing the same search online, you can get different results because so much new info is posted constantly. So thank you to the person that asked that question because here is the new info that it helped uncover.

Keep in mind that a lot of this is still speculation because I cannot yet prove that the Emma Allison that married A.D. Marchand is the same as our Emma. But even if this is just another story of another Emma, it is revealing about the things women faced in that time period.

So I looked up Emma Allison’s marriage to a man name Marchand and a first name appeared: Aime. Aime Marchand, it turns out, was the brother of of Desire Marchand, a trained assayer of metals, including gold. Harris, Marchand, & Co. was an assay office in Sacramento established in 1855 as the gold rush was turning from an individual enterprise into big business, with large companies doing the gold extraction. Aime Marchand, born around 1836, was an assayer of gold in his brother’s firm. The Marchands’ father was rumored to be a friend of John Sutter of Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered. Here is an 1855 ad for the Marchand firm in Sacramento; they had another office in Marysville¬†(from an article in the Western Express journal).


I know it is almost fantastical that Emma Allison was also involved through marriage in the California Gold Rush, but it gets better. The reason so much is now know and available about the Marchand assay office is because in 1986 a shipwreck was located off the coast of Virginia that was confirmed to be the long lost S.S. Central America. The Central America was lost in a storm in 1857. It was carrying gold coins and ingots, including some that had the assay marks of the Harris/Marchand company. This gold was recovered and eventually offered for sale in the 1990s and it is the auction houses that uncovered the wealth of information about the Marchand brothers. Here is what a gold ingot with the Marchand mark looks like. It sold for $891,250 in 2012.


UPDATE: The man who recovered the gold from the wreck of the S.S. Central America, Tommy Thompson, has been arrested in Florida (January 2015) for deceiving investors who funded his recovery activities.


Desire Marchand sold his part of the assay business in 1859. By 1860, according to one auction house, Aime Marchand was doing assay work in Victoria, British Columbia. The same journal cited above states that Aime’s work in British Columbia was cut short because he was accused of embezzling funds. He disappears from the area and reappears in San Francisco in 1862. Correction: he is arrested and convicted in Canada.

The story gets wilder as Marchand is on the run and “hard up” for money:


That certainly makes him an interesting and shady character. Remember that Emma at this point is about 17 years old. He was captured in April, 1862 and sent to trial. I will try to find the results.

Categories: Canada, Emma Allison, Marchand, Marriage, San Francisco

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. Louise, thank you so much for this new information. How exciting!

    Dorothy T.


  1. Unanswered Questions | Who Was Emma Allison?

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