01-105 The California Docks in San Francisco
Vol. 01 No. 105 04/22/2013
Lead: On February 28, 1849 the postal steam packet California docked in San Francisco Bay. It heralded just the beginning of the flood.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In early 1848, near Sacramento, California, gold was discovered on the property of John Sutter. From all over the world people began to converge on California in the often frenzied pursuit of the amber treasure. They got there in different ways. Travelers could brave the great American desert and scale the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains, they could sail for six months around the Horn of South America, or they could go to Panama, cross the Isthmus, and catch a mail packet, a light, fast vessel designed specifically for the coastal journey to San Francisco.

In January 1849, the brand new steam packet ship, the California, arrived in Panama City on the southeastern coast of the isthmus for her maiden trip on the Pacific leg of the mail route. The city was swarming with 700 prospective passengers, but the California could only take 250 and she already had 60 on board. During the next week, by a combination of priority, lottery, bribery, trickery, ticket scalping, mass meetings, and committees of protest, the passengers were screened and 365 were selected, some having paid as much as $1000 dollars for the chance to ride.

On the last day of February 1849, to the cheers of thousands, the California steamed through the Golden Gate. Within minutes of dropping anchor it was deserted, passengers, officers, and crew off for the gold fields. Gold fever was of epidemic proportions and in time the trickle established by the California would become a flood.

The Producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark. In Richmond, Virginia, this is Dan Roberts.


Caughey, John Walton. The California Gold Rush. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

Hulbert, Archer Butler. 49ers: The Chronicle of the California Trail. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1931.

Morison, James. By Sea to California, 1849-50: The Journal of Dr. James Morison. Memphis, Tenn.: Memphis St. University Press, 1979.

Pomfret, John Edwind. California Gold Rush Voyages, 1848-49: Three Original Narratives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974.

Copyright 2013 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.