All That Glittered

Save for the Civil War, what occurred after a carpenter glimpsed a flash of yellow 150 years ago was the biggest story of the nineteenth century. RICHARD REINHARDT examines what we think we know (and don’t) about the people who made it happen.

It was 150 years ago this January that Jim Marshall, the boss carpenter of a crew of Maidu Indians and transient Mormon settlers who were building a sawmill in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, glimpsed a metallic twinkle in a freshly dug tailrace. Marshall took it to be the glint of gold, and he was right.Read more »

Violence In America

What Human nature and the California gold rush tell us about crime in the inner city

VIOLENCE is the primal problem of American history, the dark reverse of its coin of freedom and abundance. American society, or a conspicuous part of it, has been tumultuous since the beginnings of European colonization.

 
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Lets Eat Chinese Tonight

Americans have been doing just that since the days of the California gold rush—and we’re still not full

A photograph taken in New York’s Chinatown in 1933 seems to sum up the special place of Chinese restaurants in American culture. The windows of a storefront are hung with Chinese characters, but there is also a large vertical sign, edged in neon, that proudly proclaims CHOP SUEY. REAL CHINESE CUISINE. Although chop suey is no more Chinese than succotash, it is this mix of the exotic and the familiar that has made the Chinese restaurant a ubiquitous national fixture. Read more »

Starting Again In San Francisco

No city has more energetically obliterated the remnants of its past. And yet no city has a greater sense of its history.

On the edge of a pond a few blocks from my home, there is a knee-high chunk of granite with a bronze plate on one side, marking the spot where a band of Spanish soldiers commanded by a captain named Juan Bautista de Anza pitched camp on a March afternoon in 1776. They were scouting the site of what is now San Francisco, and like most San Franciscans ever since, they came here hoping to change their lives. Read more »

The Last Stone Age American

As an epilogue to his forthcoming book on the archaeology of the United States, C. W. Ceram, the author of Gods, Graves and Scholars, has chosen to tell a symbolic tale—the story of lshi. Chronologically, the story is quite modern; culturally, it reaches back to the Stone Age. Mr. Ceram’s new book, The First American, will be published later this month by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. A MERICAN H ERITAGE presents his moving epilogue—the end of “a chapter m History.” Read more »

“Go It, Washoe!”

Granddaddy of all desert mining discoveries was the Comstock Lode, which sent the Far West on a silver stampede to Nevada’s Washoe country a century ago.

Into the mountain-bound mining camp of Grass Valley, California, rode a weary traveler late in June, 1859. He had jogged more than 150 miles over the massive Sierra Nevada from the Washoe country in western Utah Territory. With him, mostly as a curiosity, he carried some odd-looking chunks of gold-bearing ore.