L. S. “Sandy” Bowers

Of Gold HillSome of the most profitable mining ground was never on the market. It belonged to a closed corporation, usually one man, and it was not for sale–like the twenty feet of L. S. “Sandy” Bowers in Gold Hill. It yielded a total of about one million dollars and gave him a good income, though nothing like the, fantastic $70,000 a month of popular report. Adjoining Bowers was the Plato claim of ten feet, also the property one man. In September, 1863, Plato declared the record dividend of the Territory, $1,335 per foot, a tidy monthly total of $13,350, which the owner did not have to share with any stockholders.Editors remonstrated against witless plunging, and humorists satirized it. One ironist invented imaginary claims called “The Rising Moon,” “It’s All in Your Eye,” “The Captain Kidd,” “The Freeze Out,” “The Nip and Twitch.” Dan De Quille had one of these that he named “The Pewterinctum.” Another wit, in “Advice to a Verdant Stock Operator,” said solemnly:”If I was in your place and thought the Baltic was going up, uld hold on; if I thought it was, going down I would sell. As a general rule in stock operations, buy at the lowest pricesell at the highest; get all you can and keep the money. I have sold my Baltic, and am sorry for it. I have plenty of er stocks on hand, for which I am also sorry… I think the Baltic is a good mine if it only pays dividends. There are two kinds of mines-those that pay dividends and those that require assessments. The dividend-paying mines are generally considered the most desirable to hold.Neither raillery nor serious reproof slowed down maniacal feet-trading in Virginia. All booms induce aberration, but this Washoe performance proceeded with utter disregard for reality. At the time only three mines were paying dividends: Gould & Curry, Ophir, and Savage. Most of the others were levying assessments, and no outside claim had shown any sign of becoming a paying one. Yet the hope of buying into a bonanza obliterated these hard facts and produced behavior as zany as the most hysterical-boom ever saw. The shrewd ones made money, as they usually do; the unskillful, who held on too long, lost their shirts. But that is an old story.The rapid increase of population pouring over the moun- tains from California made new buildings so much in demand that as soon as a foundation went down, the owner put up a sign: “This building is rented.” A shortage of living quarters jammed hotels and lodging houses, skyrocketed the price of real estate, and boosted rents. A good-sized house for a family, or a suite of elegant bachelor rooms, rented for as much as $250 a month; small wooden stores, $300-$500. The owner of a lot with a twenty-nve-foot frontage refused $12,000 for it. High freight rates on furniture and provisions brought over the mountains made the cost of living’about twice that of San Francisco: a home-town economist estimated a minimum of $100 a month for each adult, $30 for every child. Home life was rare, all bachelors and many families sleeping in rented rooms and eating in restaurants, where board at $12 a week was the rule in the few places fit for ladies. But nobody grumbled much about crowding or inflation. The prevailing maxim was: “Go for it while you can.”