Spreading the Word: A History of Information in the California Gold Rush
Richard T. StillsonISBN: 0803243251;
Spreading the Word examines the ways in which easterners who traveled West during the California gold rush of 1849–51 obtained, assessed, and used information. At the beginning of the gold rush the scarcity of information about westward travel posed serious problems for potential gold seekers in the East. Though most knew the trip was dangerous and that proper preparation could mean the difference between life and death, few had any practical knowledge of the vast deserts and mountains of the West or, for that matter, of how to mine gold. Information was produced quickly as newspapers, publishers, and businessmen hastened to cash in on gold fever, but much of it was unreliable, contradictory, and changed frequently. Richard T. Stillson follows several gold rush companies across the country, gleaning from their letters and diaries a sense of how they obtained information and evaluated its constantly changing sources, how they attempted to learn where gold was, and...