Today, January 24th, is an important day in American history. On this day in 1848, a nugget of gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The promise of gold that could be found on the ground or plucked out of a river drew tens of thousands of fortune seekers. The Gold Rush left an enduring mark on our state — our state motto is “Eureka!” (“I have found it!”); the nickname for California is the “Golden State;” and our state seal includes a tiny gold digger (along with a grizzly bear, wine grapes, and Minerva).
On the world stage, January 24th is a notable day because it marks the first time beer was available in cans. This led to significant disruption in the marketplace, as national beer producers and distributors were able to gain advantage over local distributors. Of course, you might argue that the tables have been turned, with tastes turning to craft beer (on tap, please!) in recent years. But whether you are interested in doing research on precious minerals or changes in food production, ArchiveGrid has the answers.
If you are interesting the evolution of food packaging and containers, look no further than the Continental Group Oral History Project from the Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University. Covering the time period from 1904-1974, this series of interviews with 226 subjects — everyone from executives in the corner office to workers on the factory floor — covers packaging (“metal cans, crowns and closures, glass and plastic containers, folding and corrugated cartons, fiber drums, grocery and multi-wall bags, paper cups and tubs, and flexible packaging”) alongside labor relations, manufacturing, and mergers / acquisitions, and advertising. And yes, there is discussion of the difference between beer cans and food cans.
There are numerous collections and items relating to the California Gold Rush, but to my mind none more tantalizing than the correspondence from those toiling in the gold fields to those back home, such as those in the Bancroft Library‘s California Gold Rush Letters collection. You can also find documentation regarding the remarkable growth of shipping at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park — in those days before the railroads, many people and most goods came via sea. This documentation includes, for example, crew lists from ships that sailed in and out of San Francisco during these years; this includes lists of those who worked on the ship, but also contains inventories of unclaimed merchandise carried by the vessels (and how much they sold for), giving a glimpse into boomtown economics. Also, in the personal narrative category, a sea journal kept on board the Croton, detailing the 195 day journey between New York and San Francisco.
ArchiveGrid — we know you will prosper from the wealth of archival description, and that you will slake your thirst for primary sources!