When you have a dream and follow it with your complete being, the most unusual opportunities unfold. During the early 1840s John Sutter wanted to build a large agricultural empire in California. He had managed to get there from Switzerland, and was determined that nothing get in his way. He and his hired hand, James Marshall, were working on building a sawmill down by the river when they spotted shiny pebbles of a golden color. Could it possibly be gold? It was, much to their dismay! Gold seekers would only get in the way of their agricultural dreams, so they tried to keep it a secret.
Secrets are hard to keep and Sam Brannan in San Francisco caught wind of the potential. Did he want the gold? No! He thought in terms of supply and demand. If gold seekers came they would need shovels and picks and pie tins. Sam bought all of them he could find within hundreds of miles. He bought them for pennies, and when the gold seekers came rushing in, he sold them for fifteen dollars (an exorbitant amount in those days). Within weeks Sam was the same as a millionaire. He made his fortune without ever sweating over the river.
Bending over the river searching for those specks of gold that were half the size of a pea was painful and exhausting work. For those experiencing success it was worth it. News of the sore muscles and aching backs reached an innovative thinker back in Indiana. He made his fortune selling a bottled salve to the fortune seekers who were traveling through on their way to California. “Just rub it all over your body and roll down a hill. The gold will stick to this special salve and you’ll be rich without slaving over the river.” Those with the glint of gold in their eye couldn’tresist such an offer.
Most of the gold seekers left their homes during 1849 and were dubbed “the 49ers.” The majority of them never arrived, but all encountered someone applying the law of supply and demand along the route. Trying to get through the desert without any water took the lives of many. Realizing this, the entrepreneurs in California brought buckets and barrels of water to the dessert – which they sold for as high as $100 a drink. If you didn’t have the money to pay, you were left to dehydrate and die in the desert.
Even though striking it rich with gold, many settlers found it hard to come out ahead financially. While they might have earned a dollar a day back where they originally came from, and were making twenty-five dollars a day now, those selling food were also playing the game of supply and demand. A meal at the end of the day took all of that twenty-five dollars. Those who found sources of food to sell were the ones who became rich. Sutter, the courageous thinker who originally found the gold, had his thousands of acres of agricultural land raided, his cattle stolen and slaughtered for food. Sutter remained penniless. And all the 49ers are now gone.
The elusive value of gold continues to fluctuate as concepts of supply and demand are applied in the minds of people. Ultimately, any object or service is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Although ‘all that glitters is not gold,’ gold still influences the economies of every nation.