At the start of the 1830 decade, about 500 people resided in California. One of these settlers was John Sutter (Boyer 336). Sutter was a Swiss immigrant who came to California in 1839 intending to build his own private empire. On 24 January 1848, James Marshall, an employee of Sutter, was assisting with the construction of a lumber mill on the American River in the Sacramento Valley. A bright glint in the river caught Marshall’s eye. It appeared to be a bright, soft metal. In disbelief, Marshall and Sutter tested this metal and concluded it to be gold. Sutter made a pact with Marshall and his employees to keep the discovery covert due to the fact that gold hunters will get in the way of constructing the lumber mill. However, the promise was broken and the word was leaked out to the public (“The Gold Rush” 2).
The word of a gold discovery eventually reached the ears of Sam Brannan, a San Francisco merchant. Brannan set the Gold Rush into motion by planning hype. He ran through the streets of San Francisco with a bottle of gold dust shouting about Marshall’s discovery. However, just before he did this, Brannan had purchased every pick, axe, pan, and shovel in the region. A metal pan that was available for twenty cents from a general store was sold for fifteen dollars from Brannan. In just nine weeks alone, Brannan had made $36,000 and would soon become the richest man to benefit from the Gold Rush (“The Gold Rush” 3).
News spread rapidly along the West Coast including Mexico and... [continues]
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