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“Exuberant. . . . Entertaining, lively. . . . Brands [is] a wonderfully skilled narrative historian.” –Los Angeles Times
“Highly readable and entertaining. . . . History titles loom large, and perhaps none larger than The Age of Gold.” –Houston Chronicle
“A triumph. . . . Brands has struck gold.” –The Oregonian
“[H. W. Brands] will change the way you see history. . . . The Age of Gold brilliantly pans the historical record for nuggets of hardship and, in the process, hits upon a mother lode of a story.” –Austin American-Statesman
“Gripping. . . . Thoroughly researched. . . . An eminently readable, detail-filled book.” –Chicago Tribune
“A serious, comprehensive study, filled with memorable visions and interesting observations. . . . A book that explores history, politics, geology, adventure and industry with omnibus enthusiasm. . . . Its author, like the miners of the gold rush themselves, leaves no stone unturned.” –The San Diego Union-Tribune
“A fine, robust telling of one of the greatest adventure stories in history.” –David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize—winning author of John Adams
“Brands assembles a colorful collection of people swept into this craze from around the world . . . in[to] a dazzling setting that conveys the world-changing effects of this era. . . . [He is a] master storyteller.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“Few historians can tell a tale better than Brands.” –Dallas Morning News
“Populated with colorful California characters. . . . Brands makes a convincing case that the discovery of gold was a seminal event in American history.” –Boston Herald
“Fascinating. . . . Brands brings the era and its characters to life in a remarkably entertaining narrative that is meticulously researched and crisply written. . . . The Age of Gold is historical reporting at its best.” –Arizona Daily Star
From the Hardcover edition.
|Prologue: The Baron and the Carpenter (Coloma: January 1848)||1|
|Pt. 1||The Gathering of Peoples (From the World to California: 1848-1849)||21|
|1||In the Footsteps of Father Serra||25|
|2||Across the Pacific||47|
|3||The Peaks of Darien||65|
|4||To the Bottom of the World and Back||93|
|5||To See the Elephant||122|
|6||Where Rivers Die||162|
|Pt. 2||From Vulcan's Forge (The Goldfields: 1848-1850s)||191|
|7||With a Washbowl on My Knee||195|
|8||A Millennium in a Day||226|
|Pt. 3||American Athena (California: 1849-1856)||243|
|9||The Miracle of St. Francis||247|
|10||Sutter's Last Stand||269|
|11||Shaking the Temple||287|
|12||Children of the Mother Lode||305|
|13||Reflections in an All-Seeing Eye||334|
|Pt. 4||The Gordian Knot and the Pacific Connection (California and the Union: 1856-1869)||359|
|14||The Pathfinder's Return||363|
|15||South by West||382|
|16||From Sea to Shining Sea||404|
|Pt. 5||The New El Dorado (America in the Age of Gold)||439|
Posted August 13, 2002
This is an inspired work of history. Brands's raw writing talent, combined with his diligence as a researcher, breathes life into the worldwide drama of the unfolding migration toward California's gold fields. This is every bit as good as Ambrose's book on the transcontinential railroad. Brands is a much more vivid (and often witty) writer than Ambrose.
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Posted February 19, 2013
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Posted July 29, 2008
On January 24, 1848 at about 7:30 A.M. a carpenter named James Marshall made a discovery that would change the world. Gold! There it was for the taking glistening in the cold water of the race just beyond the saw mill that Marshall and his band of mostly Mormons was building for his boss, John Sutter. Cleverly, Marshall let the river 'El Rio De Las Americanas' cut its own course just beyond the mill site. Each morning he would inspect the work that Mother Nature had performed overnight. As he stepped along the race conducting his daily inspection that cold January morning a few sparkles caught his eye. At first he thought it was merely some shiny quartz but it proved to be the real McCoy, Gold - with all of its economic, political and social implications. The area where the Gold was discovered was wilderness. It was known by the Indian name, Coloma and was located about 100 miles or so inland from San Francisco. The territory was still owned by Mexico as President Polk had not yet succeeded in grabbing it from Mexico. In a few weeks however, with the lopsided Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the territory would fall into American hands and with it huge deposits of gold. Within several months the United States President 'Polk' would confirm the existence of the Gold and, according to the Author, the largest migration of people since the Crusades began. The Argonauts came from Asia, South America, Europe, Australia and, of course, from the United States. Many in the U.S. traveled to the gold fields over difficult land routes others by stormy sea voyages and some by a combination of both. The trip to San Francisco ¿ gateway to the gold fields ¿ from the East Coast of the U.S. took about 6 months if done entirely by sea. For General William Tecumseh Sherman 'of Civil War fame' it took 196 days! But by the middle of the 1850¿s, with the advent of the Clipper ships the trip around the South American horn had been shaved to a record 90 days ¿ though a voyage of 120 days was not uncommon. The shorter route from the Eastern U.S. was to cross the Isthumus of Panama. But that trek involved 50 miles of jungle crossing and was treacherous and disease-ridden. The ¿around the horn¿ route was not much better. The voyage was some 16,500 miles! Storms were plentiful. The trip around the horn often meant that ships had to travel further south of the Equator than New York or Montreal is north of the Equator. Some storms off the tip of South America blew for 2-3 weeks trying man and vessel to exhaustion. These were sailing ships subject to shifting, unpredictable winds. The crew was often composed of marginal types who were given alcohol, kidnapped and awoke to find themselves at sea. Their sailing skills were obviously lacking and there were discipline problems. Often the Captain and officers brutalized the crew. Any sailor will appreciate the rigors these men and their passengers endured on their fortune seeking journeys. Sailor or non-sailor will be amazed to learn that upon arriving in San Francisco Bay hundreds of crews simply abandoned their vessels and took off inland for the gold fields. Thus, hundreds of vessels lay abandoned in the harbor. The cross-country trip across the U.S. was dreadful. Death was everywhere. As the famous explorer John Freemont led a winter expedition of starving men and animals across the Rockies they were delighted to spy some grass ahead for the starving animals. But when they reached the ¿grass¿ it turned out to be only the tops of trees! Still, and despite the obvious dangers, gold seekers from all over the Planet descended onto the gold fields of Northern California. Hundreds at first then thousands then tens of thousands and ultimately an estimated 250,000 fortune seekers made their way to California. Their ranks included lawyers, physicians, farmers, accountants, tradesmen of all sorts and a number of women and children. Such was the aWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2006
Gold has been struck in California - mountains of it! All a man has to do is work hard, and he'll be rich beyond his wildest dreams. Such was the irresistible lure of gold that millions of men (and a few women too) suddenly dropped their lives and prospects of moderate success at home - and left their families - for the chance of a lifetime. But they would have to gamble with their lives! Such was the power of gold to beckon men to tempt fate on their quest for instant wealth. In a similar vein, H.W. Brands, the author, does a magnificent job of capturing the spirit of the age along with all the very real, often fatal consequences of this unquenchable thirst for miraculous fortune. He recounts pre-Gold Rush California - it's a sparsely populated, mostly peaceful Spanish colonial backwater. Tens of thousands of native Americans with a sprinkling of locally-resident Spaniards, missionaries and private ranch holders, marked the extent of California's population till 1846. In 1846, Fremont led a cavalry unit across the largely undefended Spanish colony and planted the US flag there. Following that and a book, Two Years Before the Mast, a trickle of immigration began to flow into the new US territory. But when Sutter and Brannan announced the discovery of gold, the trickle became a stream and finally a raging torrent. People flooded into California from South America, Australia, China, Europe, and of course the United States. American gold-seekers could choose one of two routes - by ship (either around Cape Horn or across Panama) or overland by horse or wagon. The first option, though somewhat safer and quicker, was also more expensive. So, many loaded up their wagons and headed West from Missouri into unknown and dangerous country. Brands relates the journey with firsthand accounts and does a masterful job of weaving the sufferings the argonauts faced into an exciting adventure story - really amazing stories! The book then continues to describe the life of the miners, their settlements and towns - especially San Francisco, the rapid evolution of the gold-mining industry, and other aspects - bars, gambling, prostitutes, gangs, etc. This provides a very revealing insight into life among these men. Brands traces the rise (and often fall) of many Gold Rush personalities, including the founders of the famed Central Pacific Railroad, George Hearst, and others. The first half of the book was almost addictive, as I didn't want to put it down. As the book goes on however, it appears to lose its focus, but it still remains quite good. I very highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adventure stories or American history. An excellent work!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2003
Posted January 29, 2003
Excellent and fun rendering of early California history via telling stories of historical characters. Thus in many ways it reads like fiction, but truth is always more fun, and this is a fun way to take in some history. I'm not sure it has anything new to say, but it's certainly a great overview of the period and an interesting take on the American Dream we live with today. "Maybe I will get lucky and get mine." Remember it did not happen for Sutter or his mill.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 3, 2002
Posted September 3, 2002
This is a book that, unlike most historical non-fiction, leaves you with a gnawing feel for the life and times of the characters. You're drawn into the story, not wanting to set it aside, and yet you linger over each paragraph, savoring the beauty of the fluid prose. As is the case with any fine work of art, you're engaged both intellectually and emotionally, gaining knowledge and appreciation, but more importantly feeling uplifted by the refined mastery of an expert craftsman. What could be better?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 24, 2011
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Posted May 8, 2012
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