Gold_Fever_[1]

Gold_Fever_[1] - Title: Gold fever! Authors: Holliday, J.S....

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Title: Gold fever! Authors: Holliday, J.S. Source: Humanities; Jan/Feb98, Vol. 19 Issue 1, p12, 6p, 1 map, 2 color, 1 bw Document Type: Article GOLD FEVER! THE QUEST FOR CALIFORNIA'S RICHES 1 In January 1848, life in California changed beyond imagining. From Coloma, a quiet vale in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, stories spread of men finding gold--and more gold. Week by week the can-it-be-believed news proved to be wonderfully true. From coastal villages and vast ranchos and family farms the people of California rushed to Sutter's fort and on to Coloma and the goldfields. 2 Everyone who shouldered a pick or a shovel felt the gambler's thrill of fortune at hand, without fear of violating some law or being threatened by some authority-- though in fact every gold seeker was trespassing on U.S. government land and taking U.S. government mineral assets. The freedom to find and keep California's gold flourished throughout 1848, that year of plenty for all, and through the years thereafter, when the world rushed in. Ships and printing presses carried the news around the globe--that the abundance of California's gold was free to everyone. The wonder of it spread through the fall of 1848 and the year 1849 to seaports and into newspaper columns, to be debated in saloons and discussed around kitchen tables. 3 Could it be true, even half of what they read? That nuggets of gold-pocketsful--could be easily found and freely brought home? In family deliberations, fathers and sons, husbands and brothers were eager to believe. Maybe California did offer the means to escape from the toil of fields, the drudgery of factories, from life as lived by fathers and grandfathers, from famine in Ireland, conscription in German duchies, boredom in Buffalo. 4 Newspaper reports appeared during the summer of 1848 in Honolulu, Oregon City, Valparaiso, and Callao. From these ports hundreds of men boarded ships bound for San Francisco. From villages in the Mexican state of Sonora thousands walked north to la abundancia. A deluge followed in 1849; from Liverpool and Dublin, Le Havre and Bordeaux, Sydney and Hobart, scores of ships carried at least seventeen thousand gold seekers. From the United States the westward trails were crowded with more than forty-two thousand forty-niners, while another twenty-five thousand reached El Dorado by sea. In April 1850, the overwhelmed harbor master at San Francisco estimated the number who had landed during the previous twelve months at more than sixty-two thousand, from ports around the globe. For years thereafter, gold seekers by the hard-to-count thousands pushed ashore at California's suddenly famous city.
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5 After a few weeks' digging, or a few months' profiteering in San Francisco's booming economy, one's hoard, exempt from taxes or other inconveniences, could be safely stowed on board ship and carried home to finance a new life. Never had there been such an opportunity--for Cantonese peasants and New York City lawyers alike. 6
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Gold_Fever_[1] - Title: Gold fever! Authors: Holliday, J.S....

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