America's Golden History ; Flecks in a River Bed Ignited the California Gold Rush

By Jones, Robert C. | The Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

America's Golden History ; Flecks in a River Bed Ignited the California Gold Rush


Jones, Robert C., The Christian Science Monitor


For H.W. Brands, the California Gold Rush was an accumulation of "hundreds of thousands of small stories of the men and women who traveled to California in pursuit of their common dream." The author of bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt has now assembled those stories in a dazzling setting that conveys the world-changing effects of this era. Those who survived the journey "would never forget the trials they endured, the challenges they met, the companions they lost. They would tell the story of the journey to their children and their children's children."

As Brands sees them, those hundreds of thousands of small stories begin quite casually in late January of 1848, when James Marshall - checking on the progress of his sawmill near Coloma, on the American River - discovers, in the tailrace for the mill, several flakes of gold-bearing quartz.

It's almost a non-beginning. Marshall and his crew "had moved thousands of cubic yards of dirt and sand and gravel in that same location during the previous several months, and this was the first sign that those thousands of yards contained anything but dirt."

Sam Brannan, owner of a general store at Sutter's Fort, changed that perception dramatically when he purchased enough American River gold dust to fill a jar, traveled to San Francisco, and paraded about the town shouting, "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!"

Everywhere people heard the news, they "dropped what they were doing" and headed for California in search of gold, "by the tens and hundreds and thousands, and then by the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, by sailing ship and steamship, by horse and mule and ox and wagon and foot."

Brands assembles a colorful collection of people swept into this craze from around the world. Most are unknown, like Vicente Perez Rosales, with four brothers, a brother-in-law, and two trusted servants, from Valparaiso, Chile. Others are still famous, like Samuel Clemens, who "lit out for the territories in 1861" and adopted the nom de plume of Mark Twain.

Brands's well-documented study presents a compelling argument that those thousands of small stories record "a seminal event in history, one of those rare moments that divide human existence into before and after."

Before 1848, Brands notes, "the search for gold had been a haphazard affair, with lucrative finds so rare as to prevent all but the most desperate or deluded from making a habit of the hunt." The California Gold Rush taught the rest of the world "what gold geology looked like." The 25,000-square-mile Sierra Nevada batholith underlying the states of California and Nevada contains gold veins with concentrations 20 million times higher than average.

After ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the assumption was that the peopling of California would be as slow a process as the peopling of territories acquired earlier had been. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

America's Golden History ; Flecks in a River Bed Ignited the California Gold Rush
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.