Share |

Samuel Brannan

Born: March 2, 1819
Died: May 14, 1889
Famous For: Proclaiming the Gold Rush/San Francisco's first millionaire

Samuel Brannan sailed into a Mexican port called Yerba Buena (present-day San Francisco), with about 240 fellow Mormons. The year was 1846.

Saumuel Brannan

They immediately tripled the population of the town. Samuel had a printing press on board and founded the "California Star" newspaper. When he began to suspect that the Gold Rush was about to explode, he ran through the streets of San Francisco, proclaiming the news, and pretty soon most all the men in the city had left in pursuit of gold.

It was Sam who bought up every shovel he could find, to resell it along with other goods that miners would need in the mountains. In 1849, his Sutter Fort Store was making sales totaling $150,000 a month. By 1856 Brannan owned about a fifth of the city of San Francisco and was supposedly earning between $250,000 and $500,000 per year, quite a fortune in those times. He founded the hot springs resort town of Calistoga, North of SF and it is a fact that he was the city's first millionaire. But he was described by his peers as having been quite a hothead, and it was believed that his fortune was built upon what he kept for himself, in tithes, which rightly belonged to the Mormon Church. Ultimately, Samuel was excommunicated from the church, and financially ruined in a nasty divorce from his wife. He died in ignominy, in Escondido, California on May 6, 1889.

Next time you walk down Brannan Street (South of Market), think of Sam.