During the California Gold Rush, lonely miners in remote regions were often desperate for letters from home. Leaving their claims for a days-long journey to post offices at San Francisco, Stockton, Sacramento or Marysville wasn’t practical. An enterprising young man named Alexander Todd came up with a solution, which he proposed to a group of miners. If each of them would pay him one dollar to act as their agent, he would collect their mail at the San Francisco Post Officeand hand-deliver it to the recipient for an ounce of gold dust. Todd soon had a lucrative business as thousands subscribed to his service. He invested in a rowboat to navigate the San Joaquin River—and he hauled more than mail. Miners needing transportation from one gold field area to another paid a $16 “tax” to be his rowers. Todd’s private-mail routes were hazardous. He had no interference from official postal authorities and for a time no competition. After expanding his services to include the delivery of gold dust to banks in San Francisco, Todd figured he was making $1,000 a day—far, far more than the average gold miner who considered himself very lucky if he panned out $100 a week.