What’s your Plan?
On 24th January 1848 James William Marshall stooped down into the American River at Coloma, California and picked up a shiny object which
was to transform thousands of lives for ever.
Marshall, along with a group of 20 men, had been sent to the river to build a sawmill for John Sutter, a wealthy landowner. It was as the project neared completion that Marshall made his discovery…
It turned out to be Gold!
Both Marshall and Sutter tried to keep the discovery under wraps, because they knew that an influx of prospectors into the area would scupper their respective plans for completing the sawmill and developing the area agriculturally.
Not much chance of that with Sam Brannan around!
Brannan, a local store owner, never bothered to search for gold. He had a better plan! When he heard of the discovery, he ran through the streets of San Fransisco shouting about it to anyone who would listen. In his hand was a bottle full of gold dust, by way of proof.
Strange behaviour, you might think…
But not for a man who had bought up every shovel, pick, axe, pan and every other piece of mining equipment in the area first!
Prices went through the roof. Items which Brannan had obtained for 20 cents were now being snapped up by the thousands clamouring to stake their claim for $15. Sales rocketed to $150,000 a month (we’re talking about the 1840’s remember) and by 1856 Brannan was earning a reputed $500,000 a year, and was said to own almost a quarter of San Fransisco. He was California’s first millionaire.
Thousands of people descended on California during the 1840’s and 1850’s, desperate to make their fortune from gold. Most made nothing… But the shovel sellers got very rich indeed.
And here’s the interesting thing – 162 years later, it’s still the shovel sellers who make the money.