It was here, in this sleepy valley, that the American Dream was re-defined. An accidental discovery near the obscure American River would forever change a young nation. The simple life would no longer be enough. In its place would come a new kind of lifestyle: entrepreneurial, wide-open, free. The new American dream: to get rich; to make a fortune–quickly. selfstoragefirst.com
Instant wealth was here for the taking. All across America, young men made the decision to go to California. Every city, every hamlet would send its brightest, its strongest, to California–and eagerly await their triumphant return home. They came from Europe, Asia, and South America in search of instant riches.
It was one of the greatest adventures the world had ever seen.
In the early 1840s, California was a distant outpost that only a handful of Americans had seen. The sleepy port that would become San Francisco had just a few hundred residents.
One of the wealthiest people in the region was John Sutter–an affable Swiss immigrant who came to California in 1839, intent on building his own private empire. Sutter soon built a fort, amassed 12,000 head of cattle, and took on hundreds of workers. His most prolific crop was debt. He owed money to creditors as far away as Russia. But Sutter was a man with a dream; a dream of a vast agricultural domain that he would control.
By the mid 1840s, more and more Americans were trickling into California by wagon and ship. Sutter welcomed the newcomers–he saw them as subjects for his self-styled kingdom. But Sutter had no idea that the trickle would become a flood–a deluge of humanity that would destroy his dream. Sutter’s undoing began 50 miles northeast of his fort on the American River. In late 1847, James Marshall and about 20 men were sent to the river by Sutter to build a sawmill–to provide lumber for Sutter’s growing ranch. The sawmill was nearly complete when a glint of something caught Marshall’s eye. It was January 24th, 1848.
“I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold. The piece was about half the size and shape of a pea. Then I saw another.”
After making the greatest find in the history of the West, Marshall and the other workers went back to work. But they kept stumbling upon more gold. Still in disbelief, Marshall took samples back to Sutter’s Fort. Sutter and Marshall tested the shiny metal as best they could–a tattered encyclopedia gave them clues. It was gold, they concluded–but neither man was happy about it.
Sutter was building an agricultural fiefdom–he didn’t want the competition that gold-seekers might bring. And Marshall had a sawmill to build–gold hunters would just get in his way. So they made a pact to keep the discovery a secret.
But it wasn’t long before stories of gold filtered into the surrounding countryside. Yet there was no race to the American River. The news of Marshall’s gold was just another fantastic tale–too unlikely to be believed.
The gold rush needed a booster, and Sam Brannan was the man. A San Francisco merchant, Brannan was a skilled craftsman of hype. Eventually, the gold rush would make him the richest person in California–but Sam Brannan never mined for gold. He had a different scheme–a plan he set into motion by running through the streets of San Francisco shouting about Marshall’s discovery. As proof, Brannan held up a bottle of gold dust. It was a masterstroke that would spark the rush for gold–and make Brannan rich.
Brannan keenly understood the laws of supply and demand. His wild run through San Francisco came just after he had purchased every pick axe, pan and shovel in the region. A metal pan that sold for twenty cents a few days earlier, was now available from Brannan for fifteen dollars. In just nine weeks he made thirty-six thousand dollars.
By the winter of 1848, whispers of a gold strike had drifted eastward across the country–but few easterners believed. It was an age when rumors were discounted–and government officials were revered. The gold discovery needed validation, and President James Polk delivered just that in early December, 1848:
President James Polk:
“The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by authentic reports of officers in the public service.”
Polk’s confirmation reached deep into the soul of millions. His simple words were a powerful call to action. Farmers left their fields; merchants closed their shops; soldiers left their posts–and made plans for California. Newspapers fanned the fires.
Horace Greeley the of New York Tribune:
“Fortune lies upon the surface of the earth as plentiful as the mud in our streets. We look for an addition within the next four years equal to at least One Thousand Million of Dollars to the gold in circulation.”
By early 1849, gold fever was an epidemic. Discussions of gold could be heard at nearly every kitchen table in the nation. Young men explained to their wives that a year apart would be worth the hardship.
Miner Melvin Paden:
“Jane, I left you and them boys to procure a little property by the sweat of my brow so that we could have a place of our own-that I might not be a dog for other
people any longer.”
They said their goodbyes and streamed west in unison–thousands of young adventurers with a collective dream–a year of pain in return for a lifetime of riches. They were dubbed “forty-niners” because they left home in 1849. When they would return, was another matter entirely.
By mid 1849, the easy gold was gone–but the 49ers kept coming. There was still gold in the riverbeds, but it was getting harder and harder to find. A typical miner spent 10 hours a day knee-deep in ice cold water, digging, sifting, washing. It was backbreaking labor that yielded less and less.
As panning became less effective, the miners moved to more advanced techniques for extracting the precious metal. But it was a losing battle as the gold reserves were declining and the number of miners was increasing dramatically. The atmosphere of friendly camaraderie so prevalent a year or two earlier, was all but gone by 1850. Forty-niners who expected to make their fortune in a few days found themselves digging for month after month–year after year–with little to show for the effort. Frustration and depression was rampant.
Out of despair, many 49ers turned to poker and other forms of gambling in hopes of snatching the quick fortunes that had eluded them in the rivers. When that didn’t work, many turned to crime. Jails, unnecessary a few years earlier, were soon filled. Hangings became common–almost matter of fact.
49er John Bucroft
“I take this opportunity of writing these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health. Me and Charley is sentenced to be hung at five o’clock for a robbery. Give my best to Frank and Sam.”
Many gave up the dream and went home to the east. Others stayed on–just one more year they hoped. One more year and they’d strike it rich. And there were the occasional lucky strikes well into the 1850s–just enough good news to encourage the masses to continue digging. Most failed every day, but they kept on–year after year. Dejected, disappointed, many would never return home to loved ones back east–they would die in California, broken by a dream that never came true.
Although the gold in the California hills eventually ran out–the impact of the gold rush era lives on. California was shaped by the adventurers who stayed–to form the idea that is California today: a place that accepts and nurtures risk takers.
John Sutter never saw the opportunity of gold. He couldn’t alter his vision–and left the state. But as Sutter and those like him departed, the new Californians came and kept coming. People who could adapt to constant changes; people who saw opportunity at every corner; people who longed for a more exciting life, and weren’t afraid to grab it.
It was a dream that precious few ever actually realized–but it’s a dream that lives on.
The Internet and her Marketing Capabilities
On April 30, 1995, the government and the organizations that built this system from scratch,released it and Internet traffic was handed over to commercial networks. While the NSF is still funding research and setting guidelines for network providers, new infrastructure will be built and maintained by offsprings of telephone companies and other organizations. Scientist developing networking technology in the 1960’s knew that what they were building would be far bigger than themselves; nobody, however , could have predicted the explosion in Internet access and interest in the past several years.
The original designers didn’t even think email would be something people would want. Commercial networks, students, and even Internet cafes are scrambling to
sign up and be part of a technological revolution. It is important for us to remember that the real revolution took place two decades ago — today’s
technology just rides on the wave of yesteryear.
The Marketing Capabilities of the Internet compares to the California Gold Rush.
Who was the REAL entrepreneur of the California Gold Rush?
The answer is Sam Brannan.