After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley

After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley

by David Vaught


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"It is a glorious country," exclaimed Stephen J. Field, the future U.S. Supreme Court justice, upon arriving in California in 1849. Field's pronouncement was more than just an expression of exuberance. For an electrifying moment, he and another 100,000 hopeful gold miners found themselves face-to-face with something commensurate to their capacity to dream. Most failed to hit pay dirt in gold. Thereafter, one illustrative group of them struggled to make a living in wheat, livestock, and fruit along Putah Creek in the lower Sacramento Valley. Like Field, they never forgot that first "glorious" moment in California when anything seemed possible.

In After the Gold Rush, David Vaught examines the hard-luck miners-turned-farmers—the Pierces, Greenes, Montgomerys, Careys, and others—who refused to admit a second failure, faced flood and drought, endured monumental disputes and confusion over land policy, and struggled to come to grips with the vagaries of local, national, and world markets.

Their dramatic story exposes the underside of the American dream and the haunting consequences of trying to strike it rich.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801892578
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David Vaught is a professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Cultivating California: Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875–1920, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Table of Contents

Prologue: "Glorious"
Part One: Making a Settlement
1. Removals
2. Seduced
3. Farms without Titles
4. "A Very Public Place"
Part Two: Disaster and Persistence
5. "To Begin Again"
6. Favorite Son
7. Prominent Citizens
Part Three: The Second Gold Rush
8. "As Good As Wheat"
9. "A Devil's Opportunity"
10. Looking Back
Part Four: The New Generation Emerges
11. Gold—Wheat—Fruit
12. Legacies
Epilogue: Remnants
Essay on Sources

What People are Saying About This

Kevin Starr

I was delighted, even slightly overwhelmed, by the extraordinary scholarship and elegant writing of this book. Because Vaught writes so well, his study reads like a novel in its rich detail and narrative pace. It offers us a unique insight into the environmental history of the Sacramento Valley, banking and credit in California in the mid-nineteenth century, the entrepreneurial spirit of the times, community on the California frontier, the legal culture of the times, and a number of other important topics. It will appeal to scholars of American history, of American social and agricultural history, of the newly developing field of American business history, and Californianists of every sort.

Kevin Starr, University of Southern California, author of California: A History

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