California Travel Tips

Fake Reporting, Yahoo and Facebook Among Old West Tidbits

Published on: July 19, 2019


Pictured: MUD IN YOUR EYE–Streets in 1849-50 San Francisco and Sierra mining camps were often full of mud. “The streets were bottomless pits of mud,” wrote scribe Stewart White.

While fake news garners attention these days, it was the same story during California’s gold rush more than 150 years ago, according to historian Craig MacDonald who shares some of his favorite nuggets…

Old West Tidbits

FAKE REPORTING–James Townsend, a reporter for several newspapers, including The Grass Valley Union and The Territorial Enterprise, wrote about an isolated place in the Eastern Sierra as if it was a thriving city. He included fictitious interviews and detailed information about its prosperous stores, banks, saloons and even a train depot—none of which existed! He described plays starring prominent actors as well as the audience’s reactions to the productions that did not exist. His fiction helped not only sell papers but got foreigners to invest in area mines, since his words also appeared in publications overseas.

YAHOO & FACEBOOK IN GOLD RUSH–Miners “rebooted” only when their boots wore out. They let out a “Yahoo” when finding a gold nugget. “Hardware” was a gun; “E-Bay” was a light reddish-brown horse with a black tail. A “footprint” was what lawmen looked for at a crime scene. A sheriff’s “facebook” was full of criminal’s pictures; a “bug” was a mosquito; a “cookie,” a rare treat to eat; a “worm” was used to catch fish; a “file” helped you sharpen your pick; a “hard drive” was when you tried to make it home after tying one on in town; and a “website” was a place where spiders set their traps.

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