33¢ California Gold Rush
Issue Date: June 18, 1999
City: Sacramento, CA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
James Marshall discovered gold in California’s American River in 1848 while building a sawmill for John Sutter, a pioneer trader. At first, the discovery was kept a secret, because Sutter feared the area would become overrun by treasure hunters. But word soon spread, and people flocked to the area. They came to be known as “Forty-Niners,” after the year of their arrival. By late 1849, less than two years later, California’s population had increased from 15,000 to 100,000 people.
For many would-be miners, traveling to California wasn’t an easy trip. Those departing from America’s east coast sailed around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, then north to San Francisco. The treacherous voyage took six months to complete. Despite the deplorable conditions of the ships, more than 43,000 passengers arrived in San Francisco from April 1849 to February 1850. Others sailed through the swampy Isthmus of Panama. Part of this trail had to be traveled on foot. About 50,000 gold rushers journeyed to the west coast by overland route in covered wagons.
Free-spending Forty-Niners made such communities as Sacramento and San Francisco into flourishing towns. Those who were not so lucky in the gold fields became ranchers and farmers in the central valley region.
Birth Of Bret Harte
Writer Francis Bret Harte was born on August 25, 1836, in Albany, New York.
The author was born Francis Brett Hart after his grandfather, Francis Brett. His father later added the “e” to the family name. His father was also one of the founders of the New York Stock Exchange.
Harte loved to read as a child and published his first work at age 11, a satirical poem called “Autumn Musings.” Harte only attended school until he was 13. Then in 1853 he went to California where he worked a number of different jobs including miner, teacher, messenger, and journalist. At one point he served as a messenger for Wells Fargo, guarding treasure boxes on stagecoaches. In 1860 he wrote a controversial editorial in response to the Wiyot massacre that led to threats on his life, forcing him to leave town.
Harte then moved to San Francisco. There he began to focus more on writing, having his poems and stories published in several different newspapers and periodicals. Harte also helped to establish a new literary journal, The Californian, and served as editor of The Overland Monthly. Harte’s story “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” which appeared in The Overland Monthly, helped him gain national attention. His poem “The Heathen Chinee” earned him even more attention after it was published in several national newspapers.
Harte then moved to Boston to promote his literary career. He began working for The Atlantic Monthly, but his popularity eventually declined. In 1880 he was made U.S. Consul to Glasgow, Scotland. He then settled in London, spending the last 24 years of his life in Europe. He continued to write extensively into his final years. Harte died on May 5, 1902 in Camberley, England.
Issued on Harte’s 151st birthday, the stamp pictured above was the first definitive issued in miniature sheet format.