You know when you’re uber-familiar with two different things…. and then one day you realize they are related? No? Yes? Is it just me? Does your mind get blown? Mine does.
Starting from the beginning: It is 102 degrees in Sac-town, where I am. (Last week, it was 108.)
Why Sacramento? I’m here for 1 week on a super-secret mission.
Nooo, I’m not Justin Timberlake’s personal assistant.
(It’s only a super-secret because I had to sign a non-disclosure-type agreement that said I wouldn’t blog about it. Uh…. so I AM blogging about it, but I am NOT revealing my mission. I’m pretty sure that’s allowed.)
As a Californian, I’ve grown up with the GOLD RUSH hard-wired into my brain. Sluice? Hydraulics? Panning? It’s part of my childhood like I was there. In Sacramento, I am surrounded by Gold Rush living history.
Here is a photo from one of the highlights of my stay so far: a Living History Program Tour with a volunteer from the “Historical Old Sacramento Foundation.” He took us through Old Town Sacramento, or what is left of the railroad’s domination of the city from the late 1800’s through the 1940’s.
Personally, my mind is a sieve for details. You can tell me something and ten seconds later, all I have left is my opinion of what you said. Except for Gold Rush stuff. Did I mention I’ve known this since before I was born? Basically.
This guy, on the other hand, was a monster for details. Of course, I don’t remember 99% of what he said, although I was paying rapt attention.
So, here is where my mind got blown. As a San Franciscan, I go through South of Market to the Embarcadero all the time. Like, everyday. This is what I learned:
- Sam Brannan was a businessman during the Gold Rush. He bought up all the mining tools within a 100 mile radius of Sacramento and made a fortune selling them at a 3200% markup after advertising for gold. He ended up dying alone, the greedy bastard, in the countryside of San Diego.
You might know him better as “Sam Brannan” of “Brannan Street” in SoMA.
- The Embarcadero is built on silt. This silt came from the ruins of Sacramento’s hydraulic mining from the Gold Rush.
The monumental amount of dirt that washed away, and the distance it traveled, boggles my mind.
And this was the first time I’ve learned this stuff.
Is it just me? Gold Rush + San Francisco = me today. Obviously, there are lots of connections. But to think that this event that I learned about so long ago influences my daily SF life just blew my mind.
I’m not even a history nerd! But if you are (or aren’t), and you go to Sac-town, check out the tour–they consist of serious volunteers. It’s only $5 and totally worth it.
The top photo was taken in the Donner pass tunnel. It was formerly a train tunnel for the Central Pacific RR. Yes, that’s a graffiti’ed Chinese laborer. Under-paid Chinese-Americans built nearly the entire Pacific railroad.
The tour is biased. But I’ll let you all think critically and intelligently about it if you go.