tv California Gold Rush Fires and Floods CSPAN June 25, 2017 4:55pm-6:01pm EDT
seven major fires struck san francisco between 1849 and 1851. closed, and mega-storm the sacramento valley with 30 feet of water. theext, they talk about floods that coincided with the population explosion caused by the california gold rush. explains that as towns and cities were destroyed, citizens just rebuilt them. hosted by the california historical society in san francisco. is a, garytion
teacher. he was born in nevada county. he is the grandson of cornish hard rock gold miners. he is also the author of distant horizon, documents from the 19th century american west. illuminated the also, the award winning sierra story. you can find it in our stores night as well. -- store tonight as well. this was just published this year, it is amazing. members can i get 20% off the books. it is don't have a copy of
either, i suggest you grab them and get them signed by gary. the value will skyrocket afterwards. if you want a more complete biography or to learn more about the book, go on his website. he is a lovely person, it is such a treat. his stories, the way they tell them it are really compelling. also, to let you know, think of your russians, there will be a q&a portion. c-span is here tonight. it is really important you go to the mic and ask the question. now i will hand it over to him right now. thank you, gary. gary: thank you for the lovely interaction -- introduction. i spoke it once before during an
exhibit on the assembly valley grant a few years back. i was so thrilled when i was asked to return. i am here to tell you some stories. time,take a trip back in a historical journey to a remarkable moment which is the california gold rush. stories is a wealth of emanating from this event, they are bright under our feet. particularlyre -- here in san francisco. stories that are tantalizingly close in time and attitude. the stories i want to tidy are a focus on the tails and the participants. tells of aspiration and discovery and determination, frustration and loss. vision of the california gold rush. think about the 49ers
and the gold rushers, we often think of an image like this, someone in a red flannel shirt, his pants tucked into his boots with a pick and a shovel and seemingly everyone of them came from alabama with it and do -- with a banjo underneath -- on their knee. tos really reflects important themes of the california gold rush. one is impermanent and the other is contradiction. this painting shows this rollicking dance and the piety of those who were involved. that is all part of the story. it was very complicated. it was an enormous enterprise. it wasn't just an independent very complex, many
moving parts, wholesale changes in society and economics, politics, and culture. this was a time. that embodied elements of whimsy and this invasion. they were enormous environmental impacts. it was very complex when it came to how you got here. there were complexed transportation by foot and wagon, steamboat, even dog sleds for transporting passengers and mail. we also have in this very complex society that develops the beginnings of civil side he, -- civil society, and the developing of ephemeral towns built on risk-taking and adaptation. that was part of the gold rush legacy. here we have san francisco in 1848. here we have san francisco a few months later. huge changes. ,acramento went from being
within six months, from a few dozen people to 10,000. nevada city, close to where i was born, and a matter of three months, went from 700 to 11,000. huge, rapid changes. the participants were almost exclusively young, male, and unattached. they were not interested in putting down roots. they were temporary visitors, for the most part, adapting to the circumstances, reinventing themselves in a great adventure. they functioned as land pirates, essentially, plundering anything shiny. this temporary, transitory concept of the gold rush still has elements that affect us to this day. women were rare. only 8% of the total population in the california gold rush was
female. in the gold-mining camp's, it was much less, 3% or less. many mining camps did 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. dame shirley wrote a series of letters in 1851. she expressed, dramatically and well, what it was like to be a woman in the gold fields. she was the first woman those miners had seen in six months. when she wrote about it in her letter, she said, "when they look at me, i was a petticoat ed astonishment." the gold rush rapidly became the most complex, culturally diverse, socially diverse place on earth.
here, there were people from europe and south america and australia. they were african-americans, chinese, native americans. the contradictory part of the demonstratedreally because there were the sad, tragic, stereotypical accounts of groups. there were laws that band testimony by blacks against whites. there was a supreme court decision called the people v. hall in which the chinese were not alleged testify against whites. there was wholesale slaughter against the native population. the first state of the state address by governor peter burnett said the policy towards 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 interactions
between races and cultures in which the individuals were no longer just stereotypes, but neighbors and friends and partners. mix,s all part of this this extraordinary california gold rush experience. an event that was haunted by the specter of failure and danger. 80% of all miners failed. death was a constant presence. in all of my research, i think the most startling statistic for me was that 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 died within six months of arrival. from disease and accidents, violence, and sadly, those who could not cope with the failure, which was common. there are sad stories of those who spend their last pennies to
travel to this land of golden dreams only to die soon after arrival. grip notes in the gold rush lore. it was, to say the least, a monumental gamble. the philosopher henry david the row said the california -- henry eau said the gold rush was "the world's raffle." the great failure was not coming in the first place. elephant, toe the use the phrase of the time. bank -- of the time. . it was a fabled province providing opportunity, and for some, escape. there are many stories. what i would like to do is share with you a couple of these
stories from this as a link, -- 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's 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 go back to november 2, 1852. sacramento has a population of about 15,000. it was vulnerable, as were most old rush communities, to fire. most of the buildings were hastily constructed, temporary structures reflecting sacramento's boomtown origins. november 2, 1852 is election day in sacramento. it has been a very contentious election. there has been accusations of
voter fraud, of outside influence from people outside of , stories of electioneering that featured terrible name-calling. does any of this sound familiar? [laughter] gary: as a result of this election, there were some that were upset with the results. to express their displeasure, they started a fire. that is one story. but the actual story, most a shop in that in downtown sacramento, a worker carelessly knocked a candle into some chemicals, and it started a massive fire. within three hours, this fire spread. the sacramento union said the fire was "bearing its lurid fangs and enveloping the city in
a sheet of fire." 90% of sacramento was reduced to smoking ruins. huntington ofin was busily pacific fighting the flames with his life and not making much headway. blankets andt sacks, the fires kept looking at his feet -- kept licking at his feet. his eyes were seared, and he cannot see for several days afterwards. but he was luckier than his neighbor, a young man who was caught in the fire and bert to cenders -- and burnt to inders. property losses were conservatively estimated at $10 million, which would be about
$500 million today. even as the mountains of debris , rebuilding was occurring. here is sacramento after the fire. within two months after the fire, these are buildings that have been rebuilt. even as the town was smoldering, there were still new stores and hotels and deliveries and residences that sprang to life. just a month852, after the fire, sacramento is back in business. this was a pattern repeated throughout the age. of the sacramento inferno was not the first, and certainly not the last, igniting the region. plague in gold rush california, and a recurrent
symbol of what the gold rush came to mean. a place where ruin could be followed by resurrection. san francisco, where we are, was repeatedly swept by fire. major fireseven within 18 months, all the way through june, 1851. as the flames were licking the hills on may 4, the san -- "he san francisco daily" talked about the fire. "it was as if the god of destruction descended into our midst and brought devastation and ruin on our city and people." the city was not immune from fire. virtually every mining camp and city was touched by this god of
destruction. there were temporary structures of wood and campus, quickly constructed, and just as quickly dismantled to move on or by tragedy. and many towns, they had paid a horrible price in destruction and anxiety. frequently, and order to deal with the rapid construction of towns, it was very common for mining camps -- san francisco did this -- to pave their streets with wooden planks, basically carpeting the town in kindling. the towns paid a price for this. there were fireproof buildings that were constructed, made of brick. basically, these fireproof brick buildings became ovens. there was much loss very rapidly. ofs is an intriguing image this fire of may 4, 1851 in san
francisco. this was published for the french. thatl of the europeans came to california, the french were the largest number. 30,000 french immigrated to california for the gold rush. 10% of the population of california was french. they have a long-term impact upon the development of gold rush culture. but this image was produced for a french audience. intriguingly, and the caption, refers to this character in the .ront there was a recurring character that became a branded name. he was a lawyer who had a reputation for impeccable honesty, that whatever he said, you could trust. so by using him as this character, they could describe
what was happening in gold rush california, and people would accept it in france because of this connection. so this is him fleeing the flames of 1851. there were many, many who were affected by this fire. there was an author by the name of frank marriott who wrote a book called "mountains and molehills," talking about fires, in part. your account to this fire in san francisco. he said, "it started in a upholstery store. the wind was blowing and increased to hurricane force. there were plant streets -- streets thatanked went up in smoke. nearly 2000 houses were destroyed. 18 blocks of the main business district was destroyed. the burnt district was about a mile square."
marriott described the aftermath of this. i think this image reflects the attitude he talked about. he said, "no conception can be formed of the grandeur of the scene. at one time, the burning district was covered and one vast sheet of flame. when the excitement of such a night has passed by, one can scarcely recollect the scene. the crash of fallen timbers, the yellows of the burned and injured, the clank of the fire , the orders delivered through speaking trumpets, mad horses delivery -- mad horses delivered from staples, the crowd forced back by the flames that tramples all before it, explosions of houses loan up by , showers of splinters that fall on every side, and the blinding glare of it ignited
spirits. scorches -- admit the heat -- amid the heat, flames scorch the eyes. in daylight, you plod home half blind, half scorched, hast done, and quite bewildered. from that time on, you never care to recall one half of the horrors you experienced that night, the night of may 3." this was a recurring pattern in the gold rush. you take nevada city. massive expansion. more than 10,000 over a matter of months. so rapidly was this town built that there was a woman who owned a hotel in nevada city. she went into the woods to get some firewood. when she returned a few hours later, she had difficulty
finding her hotel because so many buildings had been built in that several hour period. extraordinary changes. in march 1851, a careless resident started a pile of wood shavings on fire. , the tenderours like pine houses a ignited and the fire raged over the town. likeire howled and moaned a giant in the agony of pain, and buildings crashed and fell. hours, this city with a 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 mining minutes. matter of
within hours after the fire had filled withora was what was described as "a buzzing, and a strategist -- buzzing, energized orchestra of construction." a scottish writer witnessed the fire and talk about something that happened repeatedly with gold rush fires. he said, "people started building even as the ground was still hot, as the smoke was still rising, and almost invariably, the first building built was the saloon." [laughter] gary: he noted this. "an hour or two after the town burnt down, the new saloon was in full operation.
the same gamblers were sitting at the same tables, dealing to a crowd of bettors. the piano and violin which had been interrupted by the fire were now live in the people in their distress. the barkeeper was as composed as ever, mixing cocktails for the thirsty throats of the millions." common. as it swept through these gold rush communities, it ignited something else. resiliend a sense of ce. this is a human behavior, resilience in the face of tragedy. rush, italifornia gold was amplified because everything happened so quickly, and everything was so concentrated. people felt it was their duty to prove that they could overcome difficulties. for people who had traveled for months with their last pennies
to come to the field of golden dreams, who stood knee-deep in ice cold mountain water's ,earching for an elusive flake a little fire wasn't a big deal. ,hey were resilient and tough and rapid and their rising out of the fire like a phoenix. common.ry that wasn't the only thing they had to deal with. they also had to deal with floods. fire was not the only challenge the gold rushers faced. for this, we need to hop in the time machine again and go back to january 1, 1850. josiahthere is a couple, and sarah royce, and their son
josiah junior. he was one of the very first graduates of what was then called the college of california , then became the university of california, and became a prominent philosopher in the 19th century for years. i am a child of grass valley. he was born about 200 feet from where i was born. i always like to bring him into the story. 's parents, josiah -- his andnts, josiah senior sarah, after eight months on a wagon from iowa, arrived on january 1 almost penniless. they found a spot to pitch their tents along the riverfront of the sacramento river. sacramentotarted for in april 1849, sacramento city had four houses and 12 inhabitants, other than sutter's fort.
by the time they arrived, there were 13,000 people. on the day they set up camp, the skies darkened as a fierce storm approached. the day lose a rat -- the deluge arrived with a vengeance. it would pour down for hours and hours. within a day or two, with no levees in those days, the rivers began to swell. the old settlers that had been there six months said, nothing to worry about. it rains all the time. no problem. but then it started raining again. within a week, there have been 13 inches of rain in sacramento. and then it got worse. the storm hit with a brutal vengeance after that point. the rain was coming down in sheets. just sigh royce senior burst into their tent along the river -- the riverfront and
declared that the banks had been reached and the water was coming in. about 100 yards away, there was a building under construction that had three stories. they gathered up the few toongings they had and raced this building 100 yards away. by the time they got there, the water was above their ankles. in 100 yards. recalled when she reached the structure, "i could hear the rippling and gurgling as the water rose higher and begin to find its way into crevices and over sills and the lower story." they went to hide out with many other people, almost 100, gathering together in the second story. some in the third story. they continued to rain and rain and rain. dead bodies were fished from the flooded thoroughfares. the number of dead and injured was never determined. everywhere, there was raw sewage, putrid animal corpses,
rotting produce, all mixed with the fetid floodwaters and debris coming down from the mountains. wrote atsally hester the time and her diary, "i wish i was back in indiana because snakes are plenty here, under our beds and everywhere." there were no levees. following this flood, levees were built, but they provided very little protection. this is a sacramento in 1850. you can see the pictures of it here. here is a bigger image of this. this is jay street downtown. the river is down here at the bottom of the picture. you can see out into the distance. is just an endless inland sea. during the flood, steamboats on the sacramento river could navigate 14 miles inland from the river. that's how deep the water was.
they built levees after this, but they were inadequate. they didn't even ring the city. additional floods that occurred in 1852 and 1853. levees thatourn state biltmore levees. note -- they built more levees. no one expected what happened next. this storm is what meteorologists called a mega-storm. it was the biggest storm in california history by far. , andd this year much rain it touted very heavily we had the most rain in recorded history in northern california this year. statewide though, he worst storm by far was this one. , there isext 43 days a series of extreme rain and snow events that swept the gold
country and the sacramento valley. 15 feet of snow was deposited in the sierra nevada every week. most of the central valley, nearly 6000 square miles, was transformed into a colossal inland sea, with deaths approaching 30 feet in the valley. , and his book ," was adown california witness to this. "nearly every house and farm in this region is gone. we have never before seen such devastation by flood, and seldom has the old world seen the like." happenede floods that -- let me backtrack a little bit -- in other places in the valley. marysville saw flooding in 1853. this is several weeks after the
greater force of the flood came. this storm was extraordinary. these are the areas that flooded. serious flooding, all the way from the imperial valley to the over the entire sacramento valley and points west. , one quarter storm of california's cattle drowned. one out of every eight buildings was destroyed by flooding or mod. -- or mud. thousands died, we still don't know how many. the devastation triggered by this extraordinary amount of nearly continuous rainfall was just amazing. in nevada city at county, six inches of rain fell in in four hours. december, the red dog
mining camp witnessed 45 inches of rain. the kind of settlements -- the tiny settlements had nine feet rain.surable rainfall fromeavy november 1861 to the end of january, 1862. sonora had 8.5 feet of rain. the floodwaters reached alarming proportions. in napa, it was under four feet of water. real vista was under six feet of water. massive rainstorms generated landslides. , there wereerry -- nearly every building
was ripped to shreds by mud avalanches. a landslide and volcano roared through a village, killing seven. warm rains melted the snow pack. with this came problems, as well. as the snowpack started to melt, as we are experiencing now in northern california, it also brought along mining debris, hydraulic mining debris. inundated towns with devastating effects. , and the upper sacramento valley, they saw not only flooding, but also the introduction of seven feet of hydraulic mining debris. seven feet.
today go to marysville and go through downtown marysville, understand that that town is built on top of about 10 feet of hydraulic mining debris, most of which came from 1862. suffered thefornia brunt of the storms, but southern california was affected, as well. los angeles received 66 inches of rain that year, more than four times normal. there were floodwaters that accumulated virtually everywhere in the southern part of the state. in the imperial valley and the the imperial, -- valley and mojave desert turned into a lake. the levee system could not hold, and there were torrents of almost biblical proportions. during the flood, waters estimated to around 55 feet above flood stage. there was scoured river sediment, hydraulic mining
residue that left sand and slop eight feet deep. in march 1860 2, 3 months after -- this is pictures of -- downtown sacramento william brewer, and his book "up-and-down california," described california three months after the flood. "such a desolate scene i hope to never see again. most of the city is still underwater. no description i can write will give any adequate conception of the discomfort and wretchedness this must give rise to. , andk a boat and two boys we wrote about for an hour or two. houses, stores, stables, everything was surrounded by water. enclosed byonds dilapidated, muddy, slimy
fences. household furniture, the fragments of houses were floating in the muddy waters. over most of the city, boats are still the only way of getting around. not a road leading from the city is passable. business is at a dead standstill. everything looks forlorn and wretched. i don't think the city will ever rise from the shock. i don't see how it can." but they did. on january 10, 1862 in a right at the heart of the storm, california's newly elected governor lee lynn stanford was to be -- leland stanford was to be inaugurated at the capitol. the california state library was originally housed in the state capitol. when the floodwaters hit, the floodwaters were rising one foot every hour. the capital building was
swamped. the office of the state treasurer on the second floor was submerged under three feet of water. the california state library, spread throughout the building, sol 1000 books submerged and destroyed on the second floor. arrived at the ritual of his inauguration by rowboat. following the hasty administration of the oath, he departed to his flooded downtown mansion in sacramento. he entered his home by scrambling from a rowboat through a window on the second floor. ,e rebuilt his house after this and he kept the first floor deliberately empty just in case there was flooding again. everything was on the second and third floor. as a postscript to the district storm, sacramento developed an
extensive flood prevention plan. the city repaired and expanded its levees and began a seven-year project to raise the downtown street level. if you go to sacramento today and travel along j street, understand that that has been raised from the original level 15 feet. that was done to forestall any further flooding. there are wonderful underground sacramento tours under those streets that show the original gold rush level. in decadests ushered of relative safety in sacramento , but sacramento remains vulnerable. agoaw this not very long with the potential of the oroville dam bursting, in which there was a evacuation's very close to sacramento here in recent months. in 2008 and 2015, there were studies about the most
vulnerable areas in the united states for flooding. in the 2008 report, and the wake of hurricane katrina in new studied the places most vulnerable to flooding. number two on the list was new orleans. number one was sacramento. it is still, according to the the greatest of any major city in the country for risk of flooding. and yet, they came back. they didn't 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 tragedy and loss and failure, but they kept going
. there was never any second thought. they were strong and tough and resilient. that becomes almost a venerated california trait, that we are inventive and innovative and roll with the punches through earthquakes and fires and all the other things that have affected us all the way up to the present day. it was concentrated and amplified in the gold rush. it was a trigger to attitudes that we still have today. perhaps the final word on the resilience of all these gold seekers was provided by a french argonaut who had repeatedly witnessed the destructive power of fire in gold rush california. he was here for virtually all of the fires i talked about earlier. the subsequent resurgence of the city, he wrote a letter to his cousin in france. this letter, and which he
offered an admiring coda to the people of gold rush california. more or less to make no difference to these californians. -- californians." what a time. they influence us to this day. 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 is the record of a seismograph." it was an earthquake, and we still feel the tremors. resilience, reinvention, innovation, taking a chance, entrepreneurialism had their origins in the california gold rush. it is not a surprise that
silicon valley started in california. the foundation was set 130 years before. it is not a surprise that hollywood ultimately ended up in california, where the dream factory came to where you could get to the last of the west in california and dream big, and fail with relatively little fallout. that was all part of the gold rush. it is part of our legacy. the gold rush, according to historians, the rush aspect orted seven years, 1855 1856. but he didn't end there, as far there,ut it didn't end as far as i am concerned. it is still with us. we are still feeling those 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. just go up to the microphone if you would like to ask a question. >> is this on? thank you very much. showing the entire flooding of the valleys, i noticed that the salinas valley in those areas did not seem to be flooded. gary: i think they were, but i
think it may have simply been my drawing skills. i did those freehand. it was basically from the coast range to the sierra. sacramento, san joaquin valley was basically rim to rim. it was extraordinary how deep it was. how did they eat? it was a struggle. , they hadre fortunate something saved up in their larder. oftentimes 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. if they were hungry, it wasn't for a very long period because they were just traveling to somewhere else where there is more food. yes, sir?
>> [inaudible] -- why did they abandon all the ships in san francisco? why didn't they get a little closer to the gold? gary: there's a couple of reasons. some reason is it wasn't always flooding. getting up the sacramento in the summertime, for instance, the water is low. i think the bigger thing was that the people who came for the gold rush really were unaware of the geography. --ly on, there is depictions this is particularly true in
europe -- there are thoughts that california was tropical. people came here, and it was widely believed that the gold fields were literally just a few miles from san francisco bay, and that you could mine during the day, come back, and stay in your ship. that was very,. but when they got -- that was very common. full and they got here, the gold fever had struck. they wanted to get to the minds as quickly as possible. abandoning your ships just became the norm. it was very possible in 1849 to go from san francisco to what became oakland by hopping from ship to ship. that's how many ships were available. extraordinary. think you have to speak into the microphone for the tv. >> wanted to ask about hydraulic
mining, which you referred to, hosing down vast hillsides to get out the gold. how did they create the water pressure necessary to make that happen? gary: they transported water from water sources -- and the beginning they were campus -- but eventually it was metal. pipes that got smaller and smaller in diameter. it built up the pressure, and when i got to what were called monitors, the water cannon, the pressure had built up by gravity and this kind of victory affect entury effec. there's a lot of what caused huge damage, the degree.
the amount of water utilized for the hydraulic mines was extraordinary. they used close to one billion gallons a week of water that was all directed by gravity and ditches and pipes. >> pumping this water to get into the vice -- they weren't pumping this water to get into the device? gary: no. it was all gravity. they would deliver water to the top of the ridge and form an artificial waterfall which would just wash away the hillsides in order to get an ounce or two of gold, hopefully. the environmental devastation was extraordinary for this. >> thank you very much. i grew up two blocks from the levy for the sacramento river. i am wondering who originally
did build those levies? it seems to me we ran into a real problem with things from the foothills rushing down and raising the water level in the valley. gary: the original levees were privately built by commercial interests and associations. that was part of the problem. they ran out of money. they were ineffectively built. that's when real serious flooding came. worst-case scenario, these levees were not capable of. the water coming down from the foothills is just part of nature , and today they have it under control as much as possible. but even today, with the orville dan as a classic example -- the oro ville dam is a classic example, it can happen.
>> thank you. >> could you say something about the use of mercury during the gold rush and enduring consequences? gary: one of the saddest parts of the gold rush -- and it happened later with other mining -- is what is called the toxic legacy of the gold rush. mercury was used in the gold recovery process because -- i am not a chemist or scientist -- but gold will bond to mercury in the recovery process and make it easier to recover. mercury -- used to mercury and a process called cyanosis, with cyanide. that goes into the water, and leeches it out. if you go to mining historic parks, they had huge leech ponds in which stuff is still coming up, naturally occurring asbestos and mercury that was used in the
process, and cyanide. and the hydraulic minds used mercury -- the hydraulic mines used mercury. they still occasionally testy sacramento river, and there is still unacceptably high level's of mercury to this day. there are somewhere like 10,000 sites in the gold country that are excessively dangerous toxic sites that come from the gold rush and later mining. >> i'm wondering where all of the workers came from that did all of the developments and reconstruction for it to be done so rapidly. it seems like a lot of people. gary: yes. some of them were failed minors who had come back -- failed miners who had come back into the community to get a start.
they were happy for any kind of job. rush, atmosphere of legal and a calamity, people came together in these cities in an extraordinary fashion. it is the kind of things you see in small towns. here it was a larger community all pulling together because they had dealt with not only fires and floods, but epidemics and heat and trout and all kinds of -- heat and drought and all kinds of issues. they had to work together to survive. most of them had come a long way, hoping to prosper in the gold rush, and they weren't going to quit. they were not quitters. one thing that kind of goes along with this, the remarkable aspect of it is the construction crews for rebuilding mining camps and the like were incredibly eclectic culturally. there were chinese workers, many ,rench, chileans spanish-speaking mexicans,
people of my heritage, cornish people, english, you name it. in a calamity, they put aside their differences -- which were serious -- to survive. i think that is one of the great hallmarks, what is the most positive aspects of the gold rush. >> i have a question about the gold miners, but first, regarding the floods, i was totally ignorant about this. i guess i haven't done enough reading. the amazing devastation and the size of these floods and the rain. has there been anything like --s since 1862 with this since 1862. the only thing that comes close is a couple of years
before the gold rush at the time of the donner party. flooding, andive the relief crew that went up to get the donner party actually was able to get there quicker because the sacramento valley was flooded, and they were able to rowboats closer to the sierra as a result. to my knowledge, there has never been anything approaching this mega-storm of 1862. and was very few levees and the like, it was just devastation. >> concerning the gold mines, i think he said early on that 80% of the miners failed, meaning they didn't find any gold or very little gold. gary: yes. that is conservative, i think. there are some who say it is much is 99% who tried and failed. but the ones who get the press are the ones who found gold quickly. it was tough. virtually everybody who came out here gave it a shot at being a
miner. there are stories about lawyers, for instance -- because there was almost no law in california and they had nothing of you -- -- theyng else to do would go out and fail because they didn't know what they're doing. most people come a long way and stayed, and gravitated back to what they were doing before. most failed, but most didn't consider it a failure. they tried. that became a characteristic of california, too. you could try and fail, and there is not going to be -- james holliday, the great california gold rush historian, said that in the gold rush "there were no hometown eyes watching you. you could fail and reinvent yourself with relatively little fallout, so that the failure was not a failure. it was, at least you tried." that was important.
there is a point in which more people were leaving then coming to california. some of them went back to their hometowns with these stories of the gold rush that they talked about the rest of their life, but a lot of these people were poor. when they came out here and failed, they had nowhere else to go, so they became the merchants and teachers and artisans of the time. back -- time. and they stayed. >> one of the items that came out of the may 1851 fire was the vigilance committee. i wondered if you could talk about that. gary: part of that has to do with the lawless aspects of
california in the early years because there was almost two years of virtually no law. vigilance committees and sealed the vacuum is part of it. but also, these fires were fought not by professional firefighters. there usually by clubs or associations, volunteer groups. often times these volunteer groups would compete to see who could get to the fire first because, if the city would recompense people, they would pay the first group who got there. contest formost a fire prevention. and led to personal direction as well, which i think fit this kind of lawless community. you reminded me of something. in grass valley in 1855, there is a massive fire that broke out after they had spent great
expense to put together what they call it a professional firefighting force. they spent almost all the money in getting bright, shiny uniforms. they spent their time marching up and down in parades, and everybody was very impressed. they spent almost no money on firefighting equipment. so when the fire happened, it destroyed virtually every home in grass valley. they couldn't fight it because the fire department was not professional. following that event, there is a huge outcry. we spent all his money on professional firefighting, and nothing to show for it. there is a movement to have a professional, fully equipped, fully trained firefighting force. it finally arrived three years after the fire. that was also a characteristic of the gold rush because these communities were ephemeral. people stayed a short time and left. so that was part of it.
>> thank you so much. time.i had a great hope you did, too. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] announcer: visit c-span.org/history. you can preview upcoming programs and watch lectures, museum tours, archival films, and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. c-span, where history unfolds daily. as a79, c-span was created public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. announcer: on july 6, join
american history tv for a live program from the museum of the american revolution in a little for you -- in philadelphia. we will be joined by museum staff to learn about their artifacts and exhibits, and they will be taking viewer questions and comments. here is a preview. >> hi. i am the president and ceo of the museum of the american revolution. i am now standing on the plaza of the museum at the corner of third and chestnut streets in old city philadelphia. philadelphia was the headquarters of the revolution. this is where the delegates came in the protest against british oppression. 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 on the street from me is the first bank of the united
states. that is alexander hamilton's branch bank when he launched our nations banking system. it also is the first building constructed by the united states of america. we are truly 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. right behind me you see canons from the era. these are part of the city of philadelphia's collection. every one of these 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 concepts that rose from the declaration of independence. the inspiring, lofty ideals of equality, freedom, liberty, and self-government, the whole purpose of the american revolution. it began in 1776, but the revolution continues to this very day.
have a look 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 was robert stern. we selected him because he so thoroughly understands classical architecture. somehat we wanted to copy building from antiquity, but we wanted the same sense of scale and proportion and stature. he delivered beautifully. in fact, this rotunda is named in his honor. let's go upstairs. the design of these stairs is intentional to evoke the curved, soaring stairways of some of the more elegant residential homes of the colonial and early republic period. they also welcome our visitors to come up to the second-floor atrium where the core exhibits are. in the atrium, you see some
magnificent paintings. these are paintings that are historic. they capture the spirit of the american revolution. the one you are looking at now is by a pennsylvania artist. he painted this in the early 20th century. this is his depiction of washington's army marching into valley forge for what was to be a very terrible winter encampment after the british captured philadelphia. behind me is the magnificent painting, but a copy. the original is by a frenchman. the original hangs in versailles. this was created in the middle of the 19th century, this copy. what it shows is the siege at yorktown. of course, since a french artist painted this for the king, the most prominent individual is
general roshambo. bank.the one of the george washington is behind him. it does capture the critically important role that the french played that only in yorktown, but throughout the american revolution. one other feature that attracted us to this painting is that it shows a tent. this is a french tent. it looks more napoleonic. certainly not the kind of george washington would have used. we love the fact that it did show how armies traveled, living in tents. one of the crown jewels of our collection is george washington's war tent. announcer: thursday, july 6 at 7:00 p.m. eastern time on
american history tv, the museum of the american revolution. announcer: you're watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter @cspan history for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. to learn about american history. house andh washington, d.c. was built by krishan heurich, we started a successful brewing company in 1872. today we learn how prohibition and world war i impacted the heurich family and their brewing company. this is the second of a two-part series. >> welcome to the heurich house museum. this is the home of washington, d.c.'s most successful