America’s First Gold Rush — a democratizing, divine subsidy

“History has overlooked America’s first gold rush perhaps because the gold produced in the Carolinas and Georgia [in the early 1800s] was not all recorded in the books at the U.S. Mint. Much of the gold was shipped to Europe and perhaps as high as twenty-five percent went into the decorative arts of the period such as jewelry making, gun smithery, picture frames, and other articles.

“A good deal of the gold was taken to the nearest bar instead of the nearest mint. Many a gold nugget stuck in a miner’s pocket and somehow was accidentally discovered by the miner after he left work. In those days when someone stepped up to the bar proclaiming the drinks were on the house, the chances were the drinks were on the mine owner!

“The value of the gold that did reach the mint is recorded at the rate of eighteen to twenty dollars an ounce, about half the current thirty-five dollars an ounce. In a land where a man was lucky to make ten dollars a week, an ounce of gold was two weeks’ pay.

“For a nation with no Fort Knox gold behind its currency, the Carolina gold rush saved the eagle and the dollar from being dependent upon foreign sources of gold. It also put into circulation gold coins, both privately and officially minted, in a land where cash of any kind was scarce. At country stores and taverns throughout the Carolinas gold dust was the poor man’s currency and many a farmer and miner picked out his supplies in country stores from Marion to Greenville while the store owner got out his scales and measured pennyweights of gold dust in payment.

“The Carolina gold rush is best described perhaps as a subsidy program instituted by divine providence to help a particularly deserving and needy section of a young nation. It was one of the most successful monetary programs ever undertaken in the United States.”

Source: The Carolina Gold Rush, by Bruce Roberts. Charlotte, N.C.: McNally & Loftin, [1971]. pp. 62-63.


About negxl1

Rocks interest me; some fascinate me.
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