Two years after the discovery of gold deposits in Sutter’s Mill on the year 1848 in California, the population drastically increased from 800 to 20,000. The discovery of prompted one of the largest mass migrations that happened in the history of America.
The feverish growth strained the area’s modest agriculture industry. Farmers struggled to keep up with the influx of hungry forty-niners and food prices skyrocketed. “It was a protein hungry town, but there was nothing to eat,” says Eva Chrysanthe, author of Garibaldi and the Farallon Egg War. “They didn’t have the infrastructure to feed all the hungry male workers.”
Chicken eggs were particularly scarce and cost up to $1.00 apiece, the equivalent of $30 today. “When San Francisco first became a city, its constant cry was for eggs,” a journalist recalled in 1881. The situation became so dire that grocery stores started placing “egg wanted” advertisements in newspapers. An 1857 advertisement in The Sonoma County Journal read: “Wanted. Butter and Eggs for which the highest price will be paid.”
The scramble for eggs drew entrepreneurs to an unusual source: a 211-acre archipelago 26 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge known as the Farallon Islands. The skeletal string of islets are outcroppings of the continental shelf, made up of ancient, weather-worn granite. “They are a very dramatic place,” says Mary Jane Schramm of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. “They look…like a piece of the moon that fell into the sea.”
I guess you could say that this became a “goldEGG opportunity” for the businessmen.
(Image Credit: New York Public Library via Wikicommons / Smithsonian)