Alonzo Delano (July 2, 1806 - September 8, 1874), who went by the pen name "Old Block", was an American humorist, pioneer town city father, and a California Gold Rush Forty-niner. Delano's sketches of gold rush camp life rivaled Bret Harte and Mark Twain in popularity.
Delano was born in Aurora, New York. His father, Dr. Frederick Delano, a physician, was an early settler of the town. The family descended from French Huguenots. His great-great-grandfather, Phillipe de la Noye, was also the great-great-great-great-grandfather of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In 1849, Delano decided to head west to California. Before departing, he made arrangements to send correspondence to the publishers of two newspapers, the Ottawa Free Trader and True Delta in New Orleans. At the age of 42, and being sick, he shipped his belongings, including cattle, to join the Dayton Company of travelers in St. Joseph, Missouri, the rendezvous point. His first week traveling was spent delirious with fever. He did not see his family again for six years.
In California Delano became acknowledged for his artistic accomplishments — his letters and journals were published to rave reviews. He wrote comic poems and vignettes of gold rush life that were very popular — as popular as the writings of Bret Harte and Mark Twain would later become. Delano was a father of what came to be known as “California Humor” — satirical social commentary utilizing exaggerated situations. It is a literary style that has influenced generations of writers and performers.
Alonzo Delano befriended the scandalous Lola Montez — even being described as the much younger Lola’s private secretary and possible love interest. However, Delano would have a falling out with the mercurial Montez.
You can read Alonzo Delano's California Correspondence letters from the trail here: