Gold Rush Gamblers

poker cards

The mostly greenhorn gold rushers who invaded northern California in 1849 were quickly followed by those who came to “fleece” the miners of their hard-gotten gold: saloon owners, professional gamblers from Mississippi riverboats, and freebooting conmen who preyed on the lonely who were far from home. Alcohol consumption escalated to astonishing levels, and gambling was ubiquitous. Although faro and monte drew their share of players, the game was poker, which swept through California’s frontier towns and mining camps like a religion. Phrases like put up or shut up, I’ll call your bluff, having an ace up one’s sleeve, having the cards stacked against you, and poker face all entered the American lexicon. The best poker-faced players were the professional gamblers, who generally were well-dressed, smooth-talking “gentlemen” who hoped to deflect angry loser’s animosity with sonorous phrases. Taking chances with cards was one thing; taking chances with their lives was another. Professional gamblers were always armed, in case their winnings resulted in drawn pistols.

Flags Over California

CA flag

Many flags have flown over California soil. A few are: the Spanish Empire’s royal standard of Carlos V; the Mexican Republic’s banner of green, white and red vertical bars; the Flag of Argentina hoisted by revolutionary (some say pirate) Hippolyte de Bouchard for sixteen days in 1818; the flags of Russia and the Russian-American Company 1812-1841 at today’s Fort Ross; and the Bear Flag for three weeks in 1846 until it was supplanted by the Flag of the United States.  Sir Francis Drake planted the Flag of England at Drake’s Bay in 1579. It flew for 37 days.

Extraordinary Charley Parkhurst

stagecoach sketchSo many legends surround the 19th century stage driver known as Charley Parkhurst that it’s difficult now to separate fact from fiction.  It was only after his death at age 67, toward the end of December 1879, that “he” was discovered to be a biological woman by friends who were preparing the body for burial–and stunned reports flashed across America. Some say her given name Continue reading Extraordinary Charley Parkhurst