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After the Gold Rush Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley by David Vaught

After the Gold Rush Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley


After the Gold Rush Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley by David Vaught

It is a glorious country, exclaimed Stephen J. Field, the future U.S. Supreme Court justice, upon arriving in California in 1849. Field's pronouncement was more than just an expression of exuberance. For an electrifying moment, he and another 100,000 hopeful gold miners found themselves face-to-face with something commensurate to their capacity to dream. Most failed to hit pay dirt in gold. Thereafter, one illustrative group of them struggled to make a living in wheat, livestock, and fruit along Putah Creek in the lower Sacramento Valley. Like Field, they never forgot that first glorious moment in California when anything seemed possible. In After the Gold Rush, David Vaught examines the hard-luck miners-turned-farmers-the Pierces, Greenes, Montgomerys, Careys, and others-who refused to admit a second failure, faced flood and drought, endured monumental disputes and confusion over land policy, and struggled to come to grips with the vagaries of local, national, and world markets.Their dramatic story exposes the underside of the American dream and the haunting consequences of trying to strike it rich.


Tells a powerful story that merits greater attention. -- Abraham Hoffman * Journal of the West * In this work on California's agricultural history, Vaught also provides a social history of the development of the Putah Creek region in the wake of the California gold rush... Libraries with collections forcusing on California, the Pacific slope, the western US, and agricultural history will want this book. * Choice * An excellent history of farming in the Sacramento Valley in the late nineteenth century. -- Ralph Mann * California History * Vaught tells a riveting story of two generations of farmers who 'committed themselves not only to the market but to community life as well.
He argues that these twin commitments, born of their failures in the gold fields, were an essential part of the culture of American capitalism that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century

. -- Ryan J. Carey * Business History Review * A rich account of a rural world that has been overlooked by historians, and it is an important addition to recent work on rural life that has, to date, focused exclusively on the Midwest... very accessible to general and specialist readers alike. -- Jeff Bremer * Southern California Quarterly * Useful for those seeking to understand the relationship between California's gold rush and its agricultural communities. -- Eric Steiger * Western Historical Quarterly * Vaught set himself the goal of writing a 'new
rural history of California, examining the state

's wheat farmers in their social and cultural contexts. In After the Gold Rush, he achieves his goal admirably. -- James J. Rawls * Journal of American History * An agricultural history that weaves together an unpredictable creek, a fluctuating market, and the perseverance of the American Dream. -- Melody M. Miyamoto * Journal of Interdisciplinary History * Ambitious, richly detailed. -- Gerald Ronning * Enterprise and Society * A detailed and focused study that advances our understanding of nineteenth-century California rural history. -- Andrew C. Isenberg * American Historical Review * In providing such a rich story within a unique context, After the Gold Rush does for Putah Creek what John Mack Faragher did for Sugar Creek and similarly will stand as an insightful and model work for years to come. * Labor History * Vaught has written an informative and very readable narrative study. -- Ken Owens * Agricultural History *'

About the Author

David Vaught is a professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Cultivating California: Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875-1920, also published by Johns Hopkins.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th May 2009


David Vaught

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Johns Hopkins University Press


328 pages


History of the Americas
Social & cultural history



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