The Wheelbarrow Men of the Gold Rush Days
The Gold Rush created many great fortunes. Aside from its use in
jewelry…gold from those days created the very impetus which
led to the establishment of many American great fortunes. There
was no end to the way enterprising men…and women…some
honest…some not so honest…made money. There were the ladies
of the day…who sold their favors to men tired from their
labors. There were bunco artists…who salted fresh digging with
sprinklings of gold dust in order to finalize their sales. And
there was the high cost of living created by vendors in the
Sierras…who sold sacks of flour for $100.00 a pop. Shovels
and pans…same price. Cats…ten bucks a head and the supply
could not keep up with the demand in the rat plagued towns where
the prospectors came to try their luck.
Among the now famous names like Levi Strauss–I wrote about him
in a past article–and Armour–the butcher–whose empires were
launched in the towns of the gold rush days…there was
another…a young man known for making wheelbarrows. He was one
of five brothers…and I suspect there is barely a person alive
today who does not know his name. I’ll tell you a bit about him
and his family. You see if you can figure out who he is before
the end of this Tidbits.
Aside from wheelbarrows…the brothers five…starting off as
blacksmiths…also made wagons. One of them…Clement by
name…was–for a while–a school teacher in South Bend,
Indiana. The brothers opened an office in St. Joseph, Mo. in
order to outfit settlers moving west. They were successful on
their own in any man’s language. But the days of the gold rush
were instrumental in the financing of their empires. I would
venture to say there was not a prospector alive who was not in
need of a wheelbarrow…whether to carry off the debris he
shoveled or the gold he found.
Our wheelbarrow men went on to get government contracts for their
wagons…and when the wagons they produced–a total of 750,000
units–went by the way of the horse and buggy as the automobile
forged a path to the forefront of American business…our
wheelbarrow makers…whose fortunes had been
established…indirectly and partially because of gold… tried
their hand at manufacturing automobiles too. Their names
were–have you guessed it yet folks…their names
were…Studebaker…giants in their time…and–I believe–still
today leaders and innovators of what I think was and is one of
the prettiest sports cars around: The Avanti.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.