Samuel Goldblum: eyewitness to the Gold Rush Jacob Hamm

Shalom! I am Samuel Goldblum, a German Jewish immigrant and a shopkeeper in San Francisco, California in 1850. Being in San Francisco in this time period I get to see first hand the people who have come to California. The reason I see this up close is that prospectors (mostly men between 20 and 50) come into my store to get provisions to head up in the hills looking for gold. This is an exciting and busy time to sell dry goods!

San Francisco Harbor

Welcome to San Francisco! San Francisco is a port in Northern California on a bay linked to the Pacific Ocean. It was originally founded by the Spanish, owned by Mexico, desired by Britain, Russia and the US and briefly part of the Bear Flag republic! The city is now a collection of people from all over the world. Many of them have descended on the city as a way station on their way to seek fortunes in the gold mines up in the mountains. The population of California has tripled over the last 3 years.

Chinese Immigrant carrying merchandise

San Francisco is a city of immigrants. While the town was founded by the Spanish as a Catholic Mission in the 1500's, the San Francisco of today is home to immigrants from Europe and Asia. Practically every group has a corner of the city they call their own and 1 in 4 people here were born outside the US. Possibly the most exotic group to be here are the Chinese immigrants who initially came here to look for gold. Many of them didn't find any and could not afford to come home, so they settled here and are getting by providing services and manual labor. We are also home to many different religions.

General Store

This is a store very similar to mine. I discovered quickly that I could make more money by selling goods to the prospectors rather than stand ankle deep in the river panning for bits of gold. My family and I (which includes my wife Miriam) sell a variety of goods, including clothing (much of which is made by my wife ), food and local specialties. This includes wine from the hills to the north and beer from local breweries. There is a fairly large Jewish community (about 7-8% of the city) mostly made up of business owners such as myself. Many of us have come from Eastern Europe and Germany and includes names such as Goldblum, Abel, and a guy named Strauss who keeps talking about making clothes out of denim. I think he is meshuggah.

Sutter's Mill

This is Sutter's Mill near Coloma, California. Gold was discovered here in 1848 by John Marshall. He tried to keep it quiet, but word eventually got out because of Sam Brannan. Brannan is a businessman who figured that if he could attract prospectors looking for gold, he could make money off of them by selling goods to them. It seems to be working for all of us...people have come overland from the East Coast of the US or have come here by boat, either around the tip of South America or across the Pacific from Asia.

Miners at Work

These are Gold Miners, and as you can see mining is not easy work. It is mostly done by hand by young single men in their 20's and 30's who stand in river beds looking for an initial strike from their staked claims. If they strike gold, they begin to dig into the hillsides around their claim looking for a gold vein amongst the sandy hillsides. You have to move a lot of dirt to find gold, which is beginning to wreck the landscape of the hills. There are too many men and not enough gold, which means most of them will eventually drift back into the city looking for some sort of work to survive. Grass will grow on the palm of my hand before most of these men make a fortune finding gold.

Mining Town

This is a mining town. They're thrown up very quickly and survive as long as the gold does. Each of these towns have boarding houses, stores, saloons, and law enforcement that tries to keep order. Fortunes are made and lost as quickly as the towns go up. Some of them grow into cities, but many of them dry up as the miners move on.


This is the inside of a saloon. Since most of the work is done by young single men, it's not much of a surprise that most of any money they make is spent in places like this. While San Francisco is a nice orderly town, a lot of the miners live in mining camps that are a little rough, and no place for a family.

Even with the boom and bust cycle of the Gold Rush we've managed to survive and grow in San Francisco! People come here every day looking for a new life and we're gradually getting used to being part of the USA. Rumors are that a railroad will begin soon to link us to the rest of the country and there are even stories about a canal that cuts across Central America to shorten the sea journey. That is the future though...the present is busy enough for all of us!

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