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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 42, October 15, 2006, Article 14

PRE-GOLD-RUSH-ERA CALIFORNIA GOLD

Leon Worden writes: "The first gold pieces ever coined from metal
discovered in California" were not 1848 CAL. $2.50 quarter eagles
*OR* anything from the Carter deposit that was discussed in the
last E-Sylum -- or from any other Gold Rush-era deposit.

The "the first gold pieces ever coined from metal discovered in
California" were struck in Mexico, from gold that was discovered
in my neck of the woods here in Southern California. While there
may have been even earlier discoveries in this same locale, the
first *documented* discovery was made in 1842 in Placerita Canyon
(northern Los Angeles County) -- a full six years before James
Marshall's more famous discovery in the tailrace of John Sutter's
sawmill in northern California.

In 1842, of course, California was still a part of Mexico. Documentation
of the subsequent establishment of the first gold mining district in
California (1842), signed by the Mexican governor of California, can
be found in the U.S. National Archives. Some 2,000 gold miners from
the state of Sonora, Mex., came to Southern California in the 1840s to
mine the gold. They sent much of it home, where some was transformed
into escudos. By the end of the war (1848), most of the local deposit
had played out. For more information, I refer you to my story on this
subject in the October 2005 issue of COINage magazine.

Incidentally, contrary to rumor, the 1842 discovery *was* reported
in the United States. Here's a permanent link to a little write-up
in the New York Observer of Oct. 1, 1842:
New York Observer of Oct. 1, 1842

I don't pretend to know the first coins minted *UNDER U.S. AUTHORITY*
from gold found in California -- but those key words must be added to
the phrase, "the first gold pieces ever coined from metal discovered
in California," to make it correct.

Sorry if I've come on a little strong; this is a provincial thing to me."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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