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Eldorado: The California Gold Rush Paperback – December 8, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The California Gold Rush of 1848-1853 may have led prospectors more often to bankruptcy than to riches, but the lure of gold also provoked an explosion of settlement and economic growth that transformed what had been a sleepy Mexican province into one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan states of a newly transcontinental Union. Walker (Pacific Destiny), drawing heavily on contemporary accounts, gives a panoramic account of this epic. He describes the gold fever that gripped the country, and the glitter and squalor of boomtown San Francisco and the mining camps. He crafts finely etched portraits of some of the tens of thousands of "Forty-niners" who braved the malarial jungles of Panama, the treacherous sea passage around Cape Horn, or the grueling trek across the Plains and Rockies to seek their fortunes in the gold fields. In California, Walker notes, the gold economy almost overwhelmed the real economy; prices soared and crops went unharvested as farmers left the land, workers left their trades and soldiers deserted their posts to go panning in mountain streams. But by1853, the romance was fading; corporate mining interests were pushing out the prospectors and bringing in industrial hoses capable of blasting away whole hillsides. It's a quintessential American story, and Walker's meticulous research and stylish storytelling bring it vividly to life.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Born in Illinois, the son of a career army sergeant, Dale L. Walker is a journalism graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso whose 20 books reflect his varied historical interests: military and Western history, 19th century "Golden Age" journalism, biography, and Jack London studies. Among his books are Januarius Macgahan: The Life and Times of an American War Correspondent; Legends and Lies: Great Mysteries of the American West; The Boys of '98; Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders; Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California; Pacific Destiny; and Eldorado: The California Gold Rush. He is a four-time winner of the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, the Owen Wister Award for life achievement in the history and literature of the American West, and many other awards, and is a member of the prestigious Texas Institute of Letters.

Walker, who lives in El Paso, Texas, with his wife of 43 years, Alice McCord, has been involved in virtually every aspect of the book business. He has served as a university press director, newspaper book page editor, magazine editor, fiction editor for Forge Books, book columnist and reviewer, and has written historical books, magazine work, and fiction.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (December 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031287832X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312878320
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,222,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Dale L. Walker's approach to writing American history makes him the most absorbing historian of our times. He tells history by focusing on those who were involved; by drawing vivid and penetrating portraits of the characters who made the history. He is also an amazing researcher, unearthing material that escapes others. This makes him far more readable than Ambrose, and his material is richer as well. Eldorado tells the story of the California gold rush in such rich detail that the whole era springs to life. We come to understandings about what happened, and the men and women who settled California, and the implications of the gold rush that linger even in present times. This is a remarkable work, by a masterful historian, and one that, I suspect, will win literary awards.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven Law on July 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Many books have been written about the California Gold Rush, and most recently a popular contender by H. W. Brands, but only the acclaimed author and historian Dale L. Walker, and expert in California history, could bring us such a brilliant and comprehensive account of this time and place of the American West, and he does so in his latest release, ELDORADO.
In the pre-Gold Rush era, California was a mecca of commerce for traders from all over the world. Those who stepped foot on its shores, or made the overland journeys across the Oregon or Santa Fe trails, all sought a prosperous beginning. John Augustus Sutter was no exception, as he left his wife and children and their home in Switzerland, evading substantial debt and economic loss, to start over. Dale L. Walker enlightens the reader on the important role the "Empresario" Sutter played in the commercial and social development of northern California, and ultimately, if not ironically, how such a man in his business ventures suffered, rather than gained, from the discovery of gold at the site of his new saw mill.
Though the story of James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's mill, under Sutter's employ, is likely the key highlight in the history of the Gold Rush, it is a perfect example of how the glamour of such an event can mask the reality of the craze, if not madness, that developed afterward. Walker offers great depth on how the news of the gold discovery reached the media and governments all over the world. How the news was received, who believed it and who didn't, and how those who did attempted to claim their share of the new fortune.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul F. Brooks VINE VOICE on February 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have always been curious about just what exactly happened in California in 1849. I could tell you that gold was discovered and there was a "rush" to travel to the gold fields and that many people ended up very disappointed. That was about the extent of my meager knowledge on the subject.

I was pleased to pick up this excellent book by Dale Walker. The basic facts are about as I surmised but as they say the devil is in the details.

The author devotes many pages relating the time consuming and dangerous journey to the California gold fields north of San Francisco. At the time the vast majority of the county's population resided east of the Mississippi. Therefore you had three unappetizing choices to get there: a mule train across the western desert and mountains; a sea voyage around South America or a slog across Central America and then a journey up through Mexico. The author's inclusion of eyewitness accounts of encounters with jungle fevers, storms at sea and searing desert treks confirms that there was no easy way from the East to the West in 1849.

In another section the author discusses the typical 49er. It is easy today to dismiss these men as naive, gullible, greedy and the dregs of society looking for the "easy money". The fact was that most men in 1849 were being crushed by poverty in the cities or barely surviving as farmers. The possibility of making a fortune far out weighed, for many, their inevitable short and hard lives. Puffed up press accounts telling of "tripping over golden nuggets" also helped motivated many thousands to undertake the treacherous journey to the gold fields.

As the author tells us some few did make a fortune but the vast majority traded in one life of poverty for another.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very well written history. Lots of detail and fairly easy read. As a new local I learned a lot about the area and why certain names show up on streets and cities..... gold rush history.
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