Golden Anniversary

The rush for treasure in the West is more than part of a picturesque past; it has profoundly shaped our present

On January 24, 1848, one hundred and fifty years ago this month, a man named James Marshall was inspecting a millrace that he had just constructed on the American River, not far from Sacramento, California. He had turned the water into it the night before to clear the debris, and now something “about half the size and the shape of a pea” glinting in the water caught his eye. “It made my heart thump,” he remembered later, “for I was certain it was gold.” To his workmen he said, “Boys, by God, I believe I have found a gold mine.” Read more »

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 »