On this day in 1848, James W. Marshall (1810- 1885), a carpenter overseeing the construction of Sutter's sawmill in California's Coloma Valley, saw glittering metal in a streambed.
Marshall reached into the water, grasped gold flakes, and shouted, "Boys, I believe I have found a gold mine."
The California Gold Rush had begun... Gold, the most precious of all metal, had been discovered and the world was suddenly full of possibilities.
President James Polk validated the find. Thousands got the fever and headed west. Shovels and pick axes plundered the mammoth lode which extended about 150 miles along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. By 1849, the rush had attracted about 90,000 fortune hunters who produced $10 million in gold.
"Water is best," sang ancient Greek lyric poet Pinder. "But gold shines like fire blazing in the night, supreme of lordly wealth."
Throughout history, artists have used gold to symbolize the glory of heaven, the splendor of religious awe. Like the sun, many cultures linked gold to light, fire, and life. Just as the god Apollo rode his chariot of gold across the sky, gold was a symbol of all that was the hardest to attain.
Historian Sylvia Sun-Minnick explained how the 1849 rush gave Golden California a permanent mystique. "It is only here in California we had a gold rush called Hollywood. Only here in California we had a gold rush called Silicon Valley or here that we went from Charles Lindbergh to aerospace."
Good gold and endless possibilities.