Staging didn’t exist in California before the Gold Rush lured tens of thousands of fortune-hunters west. James E. Birch, an experienced stage driver in Rhode Island before coming to California in 1849 as one of those thousands of eager gold-seekers, founded the first stage service. At Sacramento City he observed that hundreds of miners were coming and going on foot from the riverfront landing to the mines, and figured $32 per passenger (each way) was a reasonable price for transportation to the rich upriver gold fields at Coloma and Mormon Island. One day in July 1849, James appeared at the Sacramento River levee with a team hitched to a borrowed wagon shouting, “All aboard!” His stages were full that day, and every day thereafter. In December 1853 Birch spearheaded a consolidation of 85% of all the individually-owned stage lines in northern California and became president of the California Stage Company, soon the wealthy impresario of the largest stage company in the nation. Tragically, Birch died in 1857, aboard the palatial side-wheeler Central America when the storm-ravaged ship sank some 400 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras. Steered by new president James Haworth, the California Stage Company continued to enlarge and prosper until, by 1865, the company’s operations were so diverse that managing it became unwieldy. The California Stage Company completed its sell-out activities in early 1866. Read more about Jim Birch and the California Stage Company in The Stagecoach in Northern California: Rough Rides, Gold Camps & Daring Drivers.