October 16, 2009

The California Gold Rush


In Make Flanagan's book IT'S ABOUT TIME: How Long History Took, he discusses the California Gold Rush, (pg. 124) which lasted 15 years, from 1849-64.
James Marshall was working for John Sutter with a crew of workers who were camped at Coloma on the American River. The men were building a saw mill and on January 24, 1849, James found a few gold nuggets. A few months later, John Bidwell found gold along the Feather River and Pearson B. Reading found gold in the Trinity River. On March 15th, “The San Francisco Californian” printed the first gold story. President Polk confirmed the discovery in December to Congress.

The following year, 30,000 true forty-niners came to California. By 1854, ten times that many, 300,000, had arrived to find their fortune as new veins and deposits were discovered.

California's Natural Resources site gives these other important gold rush dates:

In 1852, hydraulic mining began at American Hill just north of Nevada City and a Yankee Jims in Placer County.

In 1853, the first extensive underground mining of buried river channels commenced in the Forest Hill District, Placer County.

Also in 1853, the placers at Columbia, Tuolomne County, began to yield vast amounts of gold. This continued until the early 1860s. At that time, Columbia was one of the largest cities in the state.

A partial exodus of miners took place in 1853 when gold was discovered on the Fraser River in British Columbia.

In 1854, a 195-pound mass of gold, the largest known to have been discovered in California, was found at Carson Hill in Calaveras County.

By 1855, the rich surface placers were largely exhausted, and river mining accounted for much of the state's output until the early 1860s.

In 1859, the famous 54-pound Willard nugget was found at Magalia in Butte County.

By 1864, California's gold rush had ended. The rich surface and river placers were largely exhausted; hydraulic mines were the chief sources of gold for the next 20 years.


The all time high year of production was 1852, when more than $81 million of gold was produced.

It was the dream of hitting it rich that drove so many people west. Miners often spent six months' salary just getting to California. Though it was possible to find $2,000 of gold in one day, a miner was lucky to pan $10 a day. It was the possibility of the rich strike which drove up the prices of every day commodities.

Kidport Reference Library gives the following prices:

EARLY CALIFORNIA PRICES CURRENT.
Delano's "Life on the Plains and at the Diggings," gives the following as the prices paid at Lassen's Ranch, on September 17, 1849:

Flour, per 100 pounds .......... $50.00
Fresh beef, per 100 pounds .......... 35.00
Pork, .......... 75.00
Sugar, .......... 50.00
Cheese, per pound .......... 1.50

H. A. Harrison, in a letter to the "Baltimore Clipper," dated San Francisco, February 3, 1849, gives the following price-list:

Beef, per quarter .......... $20.00
Fresh Pork, per pound .......... .25
Butter, per pound .......... 1.00
Cheese, per pound .......... 1.00
Ham, per pound .......... 1.00
Flour, per barrel .......... 18.00
Pork, per barrel .......... $35 to 40.00
Coffee, per pound .......... .16
Rice, per pound .......... .10
Teas, per pound .......... .60 cents to 1.00
Board, per week .......... 12.00
Labor, per day .......... $6 to 10.00
Wood, per cord .......... 20.00
Brick, per thousand .......... $50 to 80.00
Lumber, per thousand .......... 150.00

William D. Wilson, writing to the "St. Joseph Valley Register," on February 21, 1849, gives the following schedule of prices at Sutter's Fort:

Flour, per barrel .......... $30 to $40.00
Salt Pork, per barrel .......... 110 to 150.00
Salt Beef, .......... 45 to 75.00
Molasses,.......... 30 to 40.00
Salt Salmon .......... 40 to 50.00
Beans, per pound .......... .20
Potatoes, .......... .14
Coffee, .......... 20 cents to .33
Sugar, .......... 20 cents to .30
Rice, .......... 20 cents to .30
Boots, per pair .......... $20 to 25.00
Shoes,.......... 3 to 12.00
Blankets .......... 40 to 100.00
Transportation by river from San Francisco to Sacramento, he says, was $6 per one hundred pounds. From Sacramento to the mines by team at the rate of $10 for every twenty-five miles.

“The rush to the diggings produced a handful of millionaires and many more broken hearts.”

http://www.answers.com/topic/john-bidwell
http://ceres.ca.gov/ceres/calweb/geology/goldrush.html
http://www.kidport.com/RefLib/USAhistory/CalGoldRush/CalGoldRush.htm

5 comments:

Obe said...

What a good article. Where I am from the California Gold Rush affected life here too. One gentleman named of Huntington heard about it bought up all the shovels and supplies he thought miners might need. Went west on a mail packet and sold them making millions. Coming back east he was a founding member of the Newport News Ship Building. Its now known as Northrup Grumman and one of the largest in the world. The gold rush affected all for sure.
Wonderful blog today awesome!
Nancy O'Berry
www.nancyoberry.com

Emma Lai said...

Amazing what chasing a dream can do for you!

Virginia said...

Great post! There is a big differents in the prices back then and now. Its amazing.

ddurance said...

Ah, those were the days! Wouldn't it be nice if we still had those prices?

Deidre

robynl said...

what an informative and interesting article;
In 1854, a 195-pound mass of gold was found at Carson Hill : Wow; wonder what the founder of this said upon finding it.

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