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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 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 Office and 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 used pack mules at first over hazardous trails, soon investing in a rowboat to navigate the San Joaquin River. There were always eager gold rushers just off a ship at San Francisco’s seaport wanting transportation to the gold fields, and Todd allowed passengers in his rowboat—charging them a $16 “tax” to be his rowers. 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 more than the average gold miner who considered himself very lucky if he panned out $100 a week.



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