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tv   California Gold Rush Fires and Floods  CSPAN  June 24, 2017 10:55pm-12:01am EDT

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mr. noy is the author of "old rushed stories -- "gold rush tories." this hour-long illustrated program is hosted by the california historical society in san francisco. >> introduction time. sierra, nevada, historian and native sun. a son and grandson of cornish hard rock gold miners. , a national historical society, selected gary as the educator of the year. he is also the author of distant horizons: documents from the history of the american west, coeditor of the illuminated
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landscape, a sierra, nevada, the award-winning sierra stories, which you can find in our store tonight as well. his most recent book which is gold rush stories was just published this year. it's amazing. members tonight get 20% off the book. if you do not have a copy of either, i suggest you grab them. they both are signed by gary, and the value of them will skyrocket afterwards. if you want a more complete biography or to learn more about the book, watch the trailer, you can go on his website. he is a lovely person. you are in for such a treat. his stories, when he tells them, are really compelling to adjust to also let you know, think of your questions because there will be a q&a portion, and we
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ask you to use this mike right in the middle in the alleyway. c-span is here tonight recording for american history television, so it's really important you go to the microphone and ask the question, so think of some good ones for gary while you are sitting and listening to the , i amtation, and now going to hand it over to him now. thank you, gary. [applause] : thank you for that lovely introduction. oncettie said, i spoke before during the exhibit on the yosemite valley grant act a few months back, and i was so thrilled when i was asked to return, so i'm here to tell you some stories. want to hear some stories? ok. well, let's take a trip back in time, a historical journey to a remarkable moment, which is the california gold rush. there's a wealth of stories in the neighboring from this event, and they are right under our
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feet, particularly here in san francisco, stories that are tantalizingly close in time and in attitude. the stories i want to tell you focus on the tails and accounts of the participants, tales of aspirations and discovery and determination, frustration and loss and despair. we have a vision of the california gold rush, and this painting reflects this. when we think about the 49ers and the gold rushers, oftentimes, we think of an image like this, someone in a red flannel shirt, his pants tucked pan, as boots, with a pick, and a shovel, and seemingly every one of them came from alabama with a banjo on their knee. it was more complicated than that. we have a vision of this adventure that this painting really reflects two important themes of the
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california gold rush. one is in permanence and the other is contradiction. this painting shows this rollicking rather drunken dance and the piety of those who were involved, too. that is all part of the story. it was very complicated. it was an enormous enterprise. it was not just an independent minor -- miner. it was very complex. many moving parts. wholesale changes in society and economics, politics and culture. this was a time period that embodied elements of anticipation. there were enormous environmental impacts, leaving us a legacy with which we still have to cope. it was very complex in terms of how you got here. were complexthere
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transportation by foot and wagon, steamboat, even dog sleds at one point for transporting passengers. also have in this very complex society that developed the beginnings of civil societies and the development of towns, usually a femoral towns, built on a foundation of risk-taking and adaptation. that was part of the gold rush legacy, too. so here we have san francisco in 1848, and here we have san francisco a few months later. huge changes. within sixwent from months being a few dozen people to 10,000. ivada city, close to where was born in grass bally, in a matter of three months went from 700 to 11 thousand. huge, the changes. and the participants were almost exclusively young and mail and unattached. they were not interested in
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putting down roots. they were temporary visitors for the most part. adapting to the circumstances as they found it, reinventing themselves was a great adventure. they functioned as land pirates, essentially, plundering anything shiny and then leaving. this temporary transitory stillt of the gold rush has elements that affect us to this day. women were rare. only 8% of the total population in the california gold rush was female, and in the mining camps, it was much less -- 3% or less. didact, many mining camps not see women for months. one of the exhibits in the library after my talk tonight is the original publication of the dame shirley letters. dave shirley wrote a series of expressing1851
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dramatically and well what it was like to be a woman in the gold fields. when she arrived, she was the first woman those miners had seen in six months, and when she wrote about it in her letter, she said, "when they looked at me, i was a petticoat astonishment. there were other groups here, too. rapidlyfornia gold rush became the most complex, culturally diverse, socially diverse place on earth, and here there were people from europe, south america, and a straley a. there were african americans, and here, the contradictory part of the gold rush is really demonstrated because there were stereotypicalc groups. there were laws that band testimony by blacks against whites. there was a supreme court decision in which the chinese
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were not allowed to testify against whites. there was the wholesale slaughter of the native population. the first state of the state address by governor peter burnett said that the policy toward the indians was a war of extermination. and yet, at the same time, there are stories galore in the california gold rush record of people overcoming the stereotypes. they were still there, but there were stories of interaction between races and cultures in which the individuals were no longer just stereotypes but neighbors and friends and partners. that is all part of this mix, this extraordinary california gold rush experience. it was also an event that was haunted by the specter of failure and danger. ers failed.min
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that was a constant presence. the most startling statistic for me in all my research was if you take all the people who came at the height of the gold rush -- seven years or so after 1848 -- 20% of those who came for the gold rush died within six months of arrival. accidents,e and violence, and, sadly, those who could not cope with the failure, suicide. common -- there are sad stories of those who spent their last pennies to travel to this land of gold and dreams only to die soon after arrival. it was, to say the least, a monumental gamble. philosopher henry david thoreau said the california gold rush was the world's raffle. but for most, the greatest failure was not coming here to california and striking out. the great failure was not coming
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in the first place. you did not see the elephant, to use the phrase at the time period. this landscape was much more than a national research treasure house. it was also a realm of uncontrolled fantasy, a fabled province, promising freedom and endless opportunity, and for some, and escape. good stories, and what i would like to do is share with you a couple of stories from this dazzling, perplexing, contradictory kaleidoscope known as the california gold rush. they had many things to deal with, but one of the things they had to deal with was nature. fire and flood. that is what i would like to talk to you about tonight. how the gold rushers dealt with fire and flood. to do this, we need to hop in the time machine, and we need to 1852, and november 2,
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we are in sacramento with a population of about 15,000, but it was vulnerable, as were most gold rush communities, to fire. most of the buildings were hastily constructed, temporary structures reflecting sacramento's boomtown origins. it is election day in sacramento, and it has been a very contentious election. this meant accusations of voter fraud, accusation of outside influence from people outside our region. stories of electioneering that featured terrible, malicious name-calling -- does any of this sound familiar? as a result of this election, there were those who were upset with the results of the election, and to demonstrate their displeasure, they started a fire.
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that's one story. but the actual story -- most likely the actual story, is that a military shop -- millinery carelesslyker accidentally knocked a candle into some chemicals, and it started a massive fire. hours, this fire spread. the sacramento union said that the fire was bearing its lurid fangs and yvette -- in bellovin city in a sheet of fire. within three hours, 90% of sacramento was reduced to smoking ruins. 90%. the shopkeeper, famous as a member of the big four of the central pacific, was busily fighting the flames with his wife and not making much headway. armed with wet blankets and sacks, the fires kept licking at his feet. he got rid of his family, moved
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them out of the way, and he continue to fight it, but his eyes perceive your, and he could not see for several days afterward, but he was luckier than his neighbor, a young man named mr. brigham, who was caught in the fire and burned to senders. with the fire died outcome of the accounting occurred. at least six lives were lost. more than 2500 buildings were destroyed. property losses were conservatively estimated in 1852 at $10 million, which would be about 500 million dollars today. but sacramento almost immediately began rebuilding. even if the mountains of debris smoldered, and this was a characteristic of gold rush california -- fire was common, but rebuilding was just as common. these are photographs here at the top of sacramento after the fire, with intuitive months after the fire. these are buildings that have then rebuilt. even as the town was smoldering, new stores andl
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hotels and liveries and residences that spring to life, and by december 1852, just a month after the fire, sacramento was back in business. this was a pattern repeated throughout the age. the sacramento inferno was not the first and certainly not the igniting the region, and from the era's genesis, fire was a plague in gold rush california and a recurrent symbol of what the gold rush came to mean -- a place where roman could be followed by resurrection -- a place where ruin could be followed by resurrection. san francisco, where we are, was repeatedly swept by fire. there were seven major fires within 18 years, all the way through june of 1851. as the flames were licking the hills on may 4, which is the fire i want to talk about mostly tonight, the san francisco daily
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talked about the fire. it said san francisco is again in ashes. the smoke and flames are dissenting from several squares of our city, as if the god of destruction had seated himself in our midst and was gorging ofself and all his ministers devastation upon the ruin of our doomed city and its people. the gold country was not immune from the scourge of fire. virtually every mining can -- andt -- can't -- camp growing city was affected. structures were quickly constructed and just as quickly dismantled to move on or by tragedy, by fire, and many towns ind a horrible price destruction and anxiety. frequently, in order to deal rapid construction of towns, it was very common for mining camps -- san francisco did this, 2 -- two pave their
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streets with a planks, basically .arpeting the town in kindling the towns paid a price for this. there were fireproof buildings that were constructed that were made of brick. basically, these fireproof brick buildings became ovens. so there was much loss very rapidly. this is an intriguing image of in sanre may 4, 1851 francisco. this was published for the french. of all of the europeans they came to california, the french were the largest number. 30,000 french immigrated to california for the gold rush. of the population of california was french, and they upon theng-term impact development of gold rush culture, but this image was
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produced for a french audience. intriguingly in the caption, it refers to this major character here in the front here as durable -- derville. name.ame a brand who had a reputation for impeccable honesty that whatever he said you could trust this character, they could describe what was happening in gold rush california, and people could accept it in france because of the connection. there were many who were affected by this fire. there was an author by the name of frank marriott who wrote a book called mountains and thisills, and he recounted fire in 1851 in san francisco.
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he said the fire started in a paint and upholstery store. the wind was blowing and increased to hurricane force. there were planked streets in san francisco. street after street went up in smoke. ships at sea 100 miles out in the ocean could see the flames. nearly 2000 houses were destroyed. 18 blocks in the main business district -- basically where we are -- was destroyed. described in his book the aftermath of this, and i think this image reflect the attitude that he talks about. he said no conception could be formed of the grantor of the scene, for at one time, the burning district was covered by one vast sheet of flame that extended half a mile in length, but when the excitement of such a night as this had passed by, one can scarcely recall the scene. the memory is confused in the recollections of the shouts of the excited populace. the crash of all in timbers, the
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yells of the burned and injured, the clank of the fire bricks. released from burning livery stables plunging through the streets. the swaying crowd forced back by .he flames explosions of houses blown up by gunpowder, showers of burning splinters that fall on every side. the thunder of brick buildings as they fall on a heap of ruined and the blinded glare of united spirits. amid the heat that scorches, smoke that strikes the eyes as if they had been pricked by needle, water thrown off the heated walls falls on you in a shower of scalding steam. you throw your code away and help work the engine. new plot home half blind, half drowned, have scorched, have stunned, and quite bewildered. from that time on, you never care to recall one half of the
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horrors you witnessed on that .ight, the night of may 3 this was a recurring pattern in the gold rush. take nevada city here. massive expansion. more than 10,000 over a matter of months. so rapidly was this town built that there was a woman by the name of liz xina stanley wilson who owned a hotel. she went into the woods to get when shewood, and returned a few hours later, she had difficulty finding her hotel many buildings had been built in that several-our period. on march 1851, a careless resident started a pilot with shavings on fire. , the tenderours light penthouses ignited with a spark, and the fire raged and
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roared. the fire howled and moaned at the giant in the agony of pain, and the buildings crashed and felt as if they were striking them down in his writings. athin hours, this city with population of 11,000 had 9000 homeless. the city was rebuilt within a matter of weeks. in 1852, a fire broke out, which obliterated the in ag camp literally matter of minutes. a matter of minutes. within hours, though, after the fire had stopped, sonora was held with what was described as a rising, energized orchestra of construction. writer witnessed the fire, and he talked about , thating that happened
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happened repeatedly with gold rush fires in big cities and small, in which he said that people started building even as the ground was still hot, even as the smoke was rising, and almost invariably, the first .uilding built was the saloon invariably. john david northwood noted this. townur or two after the burnt down, the saloon was in operation. the piano and violin which had been interrupted by the fire were now in livening the people in their distress, and the barkeeper was as composedly as cocktails for the thirsty throats of the millions. was common. as it swept through these gold rush communities.
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it ignited something else, too. it ignited a sense of resilience. this is a human behavior -- resilience in the face of tragedy. but in the california gold rush, it was amplified because everything happened so quickly and everything was so concentrated evil felt it was felt it was- people their duty to overcome difficulties. for people who have traveled months with their last pennies to come to the field of old and dreams, who stood knee-deep in ice cold mountain water's searching for an elusive flake, a little fire wasn't a big deal. they were resilient and tough and rapid in their rising out of the fire like a inexperienced very, very common. that was not the first thing or the only thing the gold rushers had to deal with.
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they also had to deal with floats. this is a bit painful for me, speaking as someone whose house was flooded twice in january by the massive flood of -- i live up near auburn. fire was not the only challenge that the gold rushers faced. there were also devastating floods. for this, we need to hop in the time machine again and go back to january 1, 1850. there's a couple, josiah senior and sarah royce and their sun -- their son, josiah royce junior -- i put him there because he was one of the very first graduates of what was then called the college of california which became the university of california. he became a prominent philosopher in the 19th century. taught at harvard for years. i may child of grass valley. he was born in grass valley about 200 feet from where i was born. i always like to bring all h into theold josia
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story. his parents had reached sacramento in 1850 after eight months on a wagon and iowa. they arrived on january 1 almost penniless. they found a spot to pitch their tents along the riverfront in the sacramento river. when they started for sacramento in april 1849, sacramento city had or houses and 12 inhabitants. they arrived, there were 13,000 people. on the day the voices -- the set of cap, the sky darkened. the daily arrived with a vengeance and a sera recall, it would rain, rain, rain, pour down for hours and hours. , the rivers or two bracketing the city -- no levees in those days -- began to swell.
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the old settlers covered the people who have been there six said nothing to worry about. rains all the time, no problem. but then it started raining again. within a week, there have been 13 inches of rain. then it got worse. the storm hit with a brutal vengeance after that point. the rain was coming down in sheets. josiah royce senior person to their tents along the riverfront and declared to his wife -- he said the river banks had been breached and the water was coming in. about 100 yards away, there was a building under construction that had three stories. they gathered up what few belongings they had and their young daughter, mary, and they raced to this building 100 yards away. by the time they got there, the .ater was above their ankles in 100 yards. sara recalled when she reached the structure, she could hit
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everything and gurgling as the water reached higher and began to find its way into crevices. store to hide the out with almost 100 people gathering together in the second story, some in the third story. it continued to rain and rain and rain. dead bodies were fished from the flooded thoroughfares. the total number of dead and injured was never determined. the smell was oppressive. everywhere, there was raw sewage. putrid animal corpses. rotting produce, decomposing groceries, all mixed with the fetid floodwaters and debris that was coming down from the mountains. teenager sally hester wrote at the time in her diary, "i wish i was back in indiana because snakes are plenty here, under ur beds and everywhere." there were no levees. following this flood, levees were built. they provided very little
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protection. sacramento in 1850. you can see the pictures, this .ast inland sea here is a bigger image. this is jay street, downtown sacramento. the rivers down here at the bottom of the picture, but you can see out into the distance, it is just an endless inland sea. during this flood, steamboats on the sacramento river could inland frommiles the river. that's how deep the water was. after this,evees but they were inadequate. they did not even ring the city. additional floods occurred in 1852 and 1853. they built more levees, and they thought they were safe. then, december 1861 dawned and no one expected what happened next. , december 18 61,
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january 1862 and a few weeks after is what meteorologists m.lled a megastor it was the biggest storm in california history by far. this year most rain -- they touted very heavily -- in recorded history. statewide, though, the worst storm by far was this one. over the next 43 days, there was a series of extreme rain and snow events that swept the gold country and sacramento valley. 15 feet of said no was deposited in the sierra nevada every week. most of the central valley -- nearly 6000 square miles -- was transformed in a colossal inland sea with depths approaching 30 feet. william brewer was a witness to this. he said the devastation spread
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everywhere. nearly every house and farm over this in this region is gone. america has never before seen such desolation by flood as this has been an seldom has the old world seen the light. they were floods that happened as well -- let me backtrack a other places in the valley. marysville saw flooding in 1853. this is marysville in 1862, several weeks after the greater force of the flood came. but this storm was extraordinary . these are the areas that flooded. serious flooding. all the way from the imperial valley to the hobby does it. the entire sacramento valley and points west. , one quarter storm of california cattle drowned. one out of every eight buildings was destroyed by flooding or mud
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. thousands died. we still don't know how many died in this. the devastation triggered by this extraordinary amount of nearly continuous rainfall was just amazing. in nevada city, in nevada county, six inches of rain fell in four hours. the same story in red dog, a mining camp east of nevada city with 11 inches in a day. during december, red dog, little red dog mining camp would witness for inches of rain. the tiny settlements over the entire period of three months had more than nine feet of measurable rain. nearby grass valley had significant rainfall. , significantdays heavy rainfall. from november 9 agencies do unto the end of january 1862, sonora
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12 a county had 8.5 feet of rain. throughout northern california, floodwaters reached alarming proportions. north of san francisco in napa, the town of napa was under four feet of water. rio vista in the sacramento delta was under six feet of water. massive rainstorms generated landslides. in knights ferry, nearly every building in these towns, mcelheny hill had a population of several thousand. nearly every building was ripped to shreds by mud avalanches. a landslide volcano for through the village, killing seven. thisrains melted, and with came problems as well. the snowpack started to melt, as we are experiencing now in
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northern california, it also brought along with it mining debris -- hydraulic mining debris. it inundated -- it was hurled down stream and inundated towns with devastating effect. , in the upper sacramento valley, marysville saw not only flooding but also the introduction of seven rate of hydraulic mining debris. if you go to marysville today and you go through downtown marysville, understand that town is built on top of about 10 feet of hydraulic mining debris, most of which came from 1862. northern california suffered the , but of the storm's southern california was affected as well. los angeles received 66 inches of rain that year, more than or times normal.
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there were floodwaters accumulated virtually everywhere in the southern part of the state, in the imperial valley, and the mojave desert turned into a lake. in sacramento, the revamped levy system simply could not hold, and there were torrents of almost biblical proportions. during the flood, water is estimated to have gone if the five feet above flood stage -- 55 feet above flood stage. hydraulic mining residue left ridges of sand and slap eight feet on jay street. in march 1860 2, 3 months after the flood -- here's pictures of it. this is downtown sacramento. march, three months after the flood in sacramento, william brewer in his book describes sacramento three months after the flood.
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such a desolate scene he wrote, he hopes to never see it again. no description i could write would give adequate description of the wretchedness this must give rise to. he took a boat with two boys, and they wrote about for an hour or two, houses, stores, stables, everything surrounded by water. household furniture, chairs, tables, sofas, the fragments of houses were floating in the muddy waters. over most of the city, folks are still the only way of getting around. not a road leading from the city is passable. business is at a dead stance. everything looks forlorn and wretched. i do not think the city will ever rise from the shock.
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i don't see how they can. but they did. california's newly elected governor, leland sanford, was to be inaugurated, at the state capital, which is under construction. let me mention this -- the california state library was originally housed in the state capital. on every floor, it was spread out over every floor on the state capital. when the floodwaters hit, the floodwaters in sacramento on the state capital are rising one foot every hour, and the capital the office of the state treasurer, which is on the second floor, was submerged under three feet of water. california state library spread throughout the building so 1000 books submerged and destroyed on the second floor. arrived at the ritual by rowboat. following the hasty administration of the oath departed to his flooded downtown
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mansion in sacramento. byentered his home scrambling from a rowboat through a window on the second floor. he rebuilt his house after the -- after this, and he kept the emptyfloor deliberately just in case there was flooding again, so everything was on the second and third lord -- he added a floor. sacramento developed an plan.ive flood prevention the city repaired and expanded its levees and began a then-your project to raise downtown street level. if you go to sacramento today and travel along jay street, understand that has been raised from the original level 15 feet, and that was done to forestall any further flooding. there are wonderful underground tours under those streets that show the original gold rush
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level. in decadests ushered of relative safety in sacramento. but sacramento remains vulnerable. we saw this not very long ago with the potential of the orville dam bursting in which there was a vacuum very close to sacramento. here in recent months. in 2008 and 2015, there were studies about the most formidable areas in the united states for flooding, and the 2008 report came in the wake of hurricane katrina. we all remember hurricane katrina in new orleans. these twoed places -- studies studied the places most vulnerable to flooding. number two on the list was new orleans. number one was sacramento. still, according to the report -- the conclusion of the
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report, "sacramento's risk of flooding is the greatest of any major city in the country. country." and yet, they came back. they did not leave. they were resilient. they kept going. this is the characteristic of the california gold rush that i find so appealing, that these people suffered tragedies and loss and failure, but they kept going. there was never any second thoughts. they were strong and tough and resilient. almostt becomes an venerated california trade that we are invented and innovative, and we rolled through the punches to earthquakes and fires and all the other things that have affected us all the way up to the present day -- that
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becomes an almost venerated it, that we are ive and innovative, and through the punches to earthquakes and fires and all the other things that have affected us all the way up to the present day. here are a letter to his cousin in france, this letter here, in which he offered this admiring code-2 the people of gold rush california. he said one calamity more or less seems to make no difference to these californians. .hat a time so many stories, so many things that seem so distant in time, and yet, they influence us to this day.
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there is a historian by the name of tom watkins who said that the history of the gold rush is not so much a historical record, it's the record of a seismograph . it was an earthquake and he still feel the tremors. reinvention, innovation, taking a chance, risk-taking, entrepreneurialism had their origins in the california gold rush. it is not as rise that silicon valley started in california. the foundation was that 130 .ears before it's not a surprise that hollywood ultimately ended up in california, with dream factory .ame you can dream in and fail with relatively little all of. that was all part of the full flesh.
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it is part of our legacy. the gold rush, according to historians -- the rush aspect lasted seven years. 1855, 1856, but it did not end there, as far as i'm concerned. the gold rush never ended. it just transformed into agricultural rush and technological rushes. it is still with us. we are still feeling the tremors. if you seek the california gold rush today, it is easy to find. just look around. thank you. [applause] >> we have some time for some questions, i believe. go up to the microphone if you would like to ask a question.
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>> thank you very much. just quickly -- am i -- is this on? thank you very much very quickly, on your maps on the flooding of the entire major valleys, i noticed the police valley and those areas did not seem to be flooded. i think they were, but i think it may have been the play my drawing skills. i did those free hand, but it was basically from the coast range to the sierra. sacramento said mccain valley -- san joaquin valley was basically rim to rim. >> [inaudible] not very well.
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the question was how did they eat. if they were fortunate, they had something saved up, but the decision they made was to get out of there as quickly as possible and to get to some place where it was dry and let it dry out. so if they were hungry, it was not for a very long time because they were just traveling somewhere else where there was more food. yes, sir? >> [inaudible]
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mr. noy: well, there's a couple of reasons. some of it is it was not always flooding, so getting up to sacramento in the summertime, for instance, the water is low, but i think the bigger thing was that the people who came for the really were unaware of the geography. early on -- there's depictions of this, too -- there's a widely held -- this is particularly true in europe -- that all of california was tropical and that in the sierra, it was not kind trees, it was palm trees -- it was not kind trees -- it was not ne trees. theas widely believed that gold fields were a few miles from san francisco bay and that you could mind during the day and come back and stay in your ship. when they got here, the gold fever had struck. they wanted to get to the gold
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fields as quickly as possible. abandoning the ships just became kind of the norm during the time. it was literally possible in 1840 nine to go from san francisco to what became oakland by hopping from ship to ship. that's how many ships were abandoned. extraordinary. >> thank you. i think you have to speak into the microphone, i think. as for the tv. aboutad some questions hydraulic mining, basically hosing down vast sites. how did they create the water pressure? mr. noy: they transported water from water sources. in the beginning, they were canvas, but they became metal. i don't know is the right word, that had smaller and smaller diameters, so it built up the pressure, and when it got to what were called monitors,
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which is the water cannon, the pressure had built up by gravity to the fact that they were incredibly powerful, and you could shoot several hundred yards of high-pressure water withst the hillsides enormous environmental devastation. that is what happens in these floods. a lot of that debris went down and caused huge damage, but the amount of water that was utilized for the hydraulic mines was extraordinary. mind, the north bloomfield mine, they use close to one billion gallons a week of water that was all directed by gravity in ditches and types. in the beginning, they used an even more ineffective method, which was called ground sluicing, in which they would deliver the water to the top of the ridge, and it would
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essentially form an artificial waterfall. you saw it in one of the pictures earlier, which would just wash away the hillsides in order to get an ounce 14 of of gold, hopefully. the environmental devastation was extraordinary for this. yeah, you bet. >> thank you very much. sure.y: >> i grew up to the blocks from the levy for the sacramento river, and i'm wondering who originally did build those levies, and seems to me that we a real problem with things from the foothills rushing down and raising the water level in the valley. the original levies were privately built by commercial interests and associations. part of the problem was they ran out of money, and they were ineffectively built so that when
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real serious flooding came, the worst-case scenario, these levies were something not capable. the water coming down from the foothills is just, you know, part of nature. today, they have it under control as much as possible, but even today with the orville dam is a classic example, if there's problems with construction, it could cause devastation. >> thank you. you bet. yes, sir. >> could you say something about the use of mercury during the gold rush and enduring consequences? of the: oh, yes, one saddest parts of the gold rush and it happened later, to with other mining. mercury was used in the recovery aocess because -- i'm not
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chemist or scientists, believe me, but gold will bond to mercury in the recovery process and make it easier to recover, used mercury and for a while, they use cyanide in this, too, and that goes into water sources and leaches out. if you go to mining historic parks, they have huge leech ponds in which stuff is still coming up, naturally occurring asbestos and mercury that was used in the process. and the hydraulic mines used mercury in this process. they just flushed it in the water. and still, they occasionally test the sacramento river, and there are still unacceptably high levels of mercury to this day. considered in the neighborhood of 10,000 sites in the whole country that are excessively toxic sites that come
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from the gold rush and later mining, too. yes? >> thank you. wondering where all the workers came from that did all the development. for it to have been done so rapidly. mr. noy: some were failed miners who had come back to the community to get a start, so they were happy for any kind of job, but the atmosphere of the gold rush, in a calamity, people came together in these cities in an extraordinary fashion. the kind of thing you see in small towns, but here, it was a larger community all pulling together because they had dealt with not only fires and floods but epidemics and heat and drought and all kinds of issues. they had to work together to survive, and most of them had
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come a long, long way hoping to prosper from the gold rush and they were not going to quit. these were not quitters, so they were willing to do it. one thing that goes along with us, kind of the remarkable aspect of it is the construction crews for rebuilding mining caps and the like were incredibly eclectic culturally. there were chinese workers, there were many french, there were chileans. there were what were routinely called the sonoran's, which was spanish-speaking mexicans. there were english, you name it. but in a calamity, they put aside their differences, which were serious, to survive, and a think that is one of the great hallmarks, one of the most positive aspect of the culture.
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>> i have a question about the gold miners, but first, regarding the flood, i was totally ignorant of this because i have not done enough reading. the amazing devastation of the size of these floods and the rain. has there been anything like 1862? nce was this really once in a century or once in several centuries? mr. noy: this is considered the most unique storm in california history. the only storm that comes close was a couple of years before the gold rush at the time of the donner party, there was massive and the relief crew that went up to get the donner party actually was able to get there quicker because sacramento valley was flooded, and they were able to rowboats closer to the sierra as a result of it. at best to my knowledge, there has never been anything approaching this mega-storm of 1862. with the consequence of very few
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levies and the like, it was just devastation. >> i think you said early on that 80% of the miners failed, meaning they did not find any gold or very little. yes, and that is conservative. there are some who say it is much as 99%. the ones who get the press with the ones who found gold quickly. it was tough. virtually everyone who came out here gave it a shot at being a surface gold miner just to see. there are stories about lawyers, for instance, because there was almost no law in california, so they had nothing else to do. hats asld use their top pans, and they would fail because they did not know what they were doing. and people come a long way, they stayed and gravitated back to what they were doing before, didmost failed, but most
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not consider it a failure. aey tried, and that became characteristic of california, too. you could try and fail and there's not going to be -- james holliday, the great california gold rush historian said in california's gold rush, there were no hometown eyes watching you, and you could fail and reinvent yourself with relatively little fallout of the was not a the failure failure. it was at least you tried. that was important. >> [inaudible] that's an open question historically because there's a point in which more people were leaving then coming to california and some of them were --t were called pro-backers go-backers, and they went back to their hometowns with stories of the gold rush that they told the rest of their lives, but a
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lot of these people were poor who had nowhere else to go. they became the merchants and artisans of the time period, and they stayed and became ultimately californians. >> thank you. mr. noy: you bet. >> one of the features, one of itemstermath, one of the that came out of the 1851 fire was the vigilance committee. i wonder if you can talk about that a little bit. that has to dof with simply the lawless aspects of california in the gold rush early years. there was virtually cheated years of no law. foughthese fires were not by professional firefighters. they were usually by clubs or associations, volunteer groups, and oftentimes, these volunteer groups would compete to see who could get to the fire first because if the city would
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recompense people, they would pay the first group who got there, so it became almost a contact sport for fire prevention, and that led to as well, whichce i think that this kind of lawless community. you reminded me of something. in 1855, myley hometown, a massive fire broke out. this was after they had spent a great expense, bunch of money, to put together what they called a professional firefighting force in grass valley. they spent almost all the money including bright, shiny uniforms, and they spent their time marching up and down in parades and everybody was very impressed, but they spent almost no money on firefighting equipment, so when the fire happens, it destroyed virtually .very home in grass valley they could not fight it because
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the fire department was not professional. following that event, there was a huge outcry. we spent all this money on professional firefighting and nothing to show or it. there was a movement to have a professional, fully equipped, fully trained firefighting force in grass valley. it finally arrived three years after the fire. a characteristic of the gold rush because these communities were ephemeral and people stayed a short time and left. well, thank you so much. i had a great time. hope you did, too. thank you so much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-spanhistory.
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"q&a" -- on reporter who covered politics. i got interested in political i could see in these books as studies in political power, but i thought when you were a reporter -- i don't want a couple of really miner journalistic awards, but when you win an award, you think you know everything. the first time robert moses started talking to me, i realized i did not know anything about power at all. >> pulitzer prize-winning biographer robert caro talks about his pulitzer prize-winning project on power. on hises his progress next book, a multipart biography of lyndon johnson.
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passion from the beginning, but ambition was the overriding consideration with him. it was only when compassion and ambition coincided with he was in the senate, he realizes if he wants to be president he has to pass a civil rights bill. ask if his feelings were false -- not at all because all his life, he had wanted to help poor people and particularly, poor people of color. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern "q&a." n's >> on july 6, join american history tv for a life program and the museum of the american revolution from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern time. we will be joined by museum staff to learn about their artifacts and exhibits and they will be taking fewer questions and comments. here is a preview. my name is michael quinn. i'm the president and ceo of the museum of the american
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revolution, and i now stand here museum atza of the the corner of third and chestnut street in old city, philadelphia. philadelphia was the headquarters of the revolution. this is where the delegates came when the protests against british oppression first mounted. this is where the declaration of independence was written, just 200 yards away at independence hall. this really is the most central element of the american revolution, the birth of our nation, which is why this museum is located here. just down the street from me is the first bank of the united states. that is alexander hamilton's branch bank where he launched our nation's banking system. it also is the first building constructed by the united states of america, so we truly are where the nation began, and it is the right place to tell the entire story of the american revolution, which is our mission in this museum. ,ight behind me, you see canons
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part of the city of philadelphia's collection. every one of these canons is old enough that it could have been used to fight the revolution. on the wall behind me, you see carved in stone those core that arose from the declaration of independence, the inspiring, lofty ideals of freedom, liberty, self government, which is the whole purpose of the american revolution. it began in 1776, but the revolution continues to this very day. having looked at the outside of the museum, let's go in. we are entering the entrance rotunda of the museum. this is a wonderful, classical welcoming space. the architect of the building we robert am stern, and selected him because he so thoroughly understand classical architecture. not that we wanted to copy some building from antiquity, but we
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wanted the same sense of scale and proportion and stature, and he delivered beautifully. in fact, this rotunda is named in his honor. let's go upstairs. the design of these stairs is curved,nal to evoke soaring stairways of some of the more elegant residential homes of the colonial and early republic period. also welcome our visitors to come upstairs to the second-floor atrium where the core of our exhibits are. in atrium, you see some magnificent paintings, and these ,re paintings that are historic and they capture the spirit of the american revolution. the one you're looking at now is who pennsylvania artist painted this in the early 20th century. this is his depiction of washington's army marching into valley forge for what was to be
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a very terrible winter the britishfter captured philadelphia. behind me is a magnificent painting, but it is a copy. they original is by a frenchman, and it hangs in versailles. this was created in the middle of the 19th century. it shows the siege at yorktown. since a french artist painted this for the king, the most prominent individual is general .oshambo -- general rochambeau he's the one in the pink sash. our general is to the left. it does capture the critically important role the french played not only in yorktown but throughout the revolution. one other feature that attracted us to this painting is that it tent.the this is really more french.
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it looks more napoleonic. certainly not the kind of tent george washington would have used, but we love that it did show how 6 on americanuly history tv, the museum of the american revolution. >> on "lectures in history," university of notre dame professor darren dochuk teaches a class about mid-20th century american oil interests. he describes the east texas oil boom and the expansion of u.s. oil businesses abroad to places like saudi arabia and alberta, canada. he argues that relign


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