News from Home

During the California Gold Rush, lonely miners in remote regions were often desperate for letters from home, but leaving their claims for a long journey to post offices at San Francisco, Sacramento or Stockton wasn’t practical. An enterprising young man named Alexander Todd came up with a solution, which he Continue reading News from Home

A Holiday to Give Thanks

President Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in September 1863. Prior to that, the observance was sporadically celebrated, mainly in New England, as a day of feasting and merriment after the autumnal harvests. California was not yet a state when military governor General Bennett Riley proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in November 1849 during the turbulence of the Gold Rush. It is unlikely, however,  that very many gold miners abandoned their prospecting to sit down to a groaning table.

Golden Flakes

The term “gold dust” conjures an image of a sand-like or coarse salt substance, but this was merely a convenient Gold Rush name for various-sized, small gold particles that included pea-sized nuggets and fish-scale-sized flakes. Miners typically carried their gold dust in leather pouches or rolled in handkerchiefs, using it as Continue reading Golden Flakes

Gold Near the Surface

“Placer” is the name given to gold (and other minerals) found in alluvial deposits of sand and gravel in modern or ancient stream beds that are near the surface when found. During the California Gold Rush, prospectors used shallow metal pans or water-tight Indian baskets with sloping sides to mine placer gold. After filling Continue reading Gold Near the Surface

A Gold Rush Libation

As legend has it, the martini was invented for hard-fisted California gold miners in 1849, only back then it was called a “Martinez.” San Francisco was the major port, and gold-seekers journeyed from there to the gold fields on steamboats that plied the Sacramento River. Steamboat travel was heavy and speed was essential, if the ship lines wanted to make money. The fastest ship Continue reading A Gold Rush Libation