On this day:
1848 – California Gold Rush: James W. Marshall finds gold at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento.
The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America, and they were the first to start flocking to the state in late 1848. All in all, the news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately half arrived by sea and half came overland on the California Trail and the Gila River trail.
The gold-seekers, called “forty-niners” (as a reference to 1849), often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. At first, the prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods of gold recovery were developed and later adopted around the world. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of gold companies to individual miners. Gold worth tens of billions of today’s dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, many returned home with little more than they had started with.
The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California. In 1849 a state constitution was written. The new constitution was adopted by referendum vote, and the future state’s interim first governor and legislature were chosen. In September, 1850, California became a state as part of the Compromise of 1850.
New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service. By 1869 railroads were built across the country from California to the eastern United States. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. At the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields and a system of “staking claims” was developed. The Gold Rush also had negative effects: Native Americans were attacked and pushed off their lands and the mining has caused environmental harm. An estimated 100,000 California Indians died between 1848 and 1868 as a result of American immigration.
1933 – The 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, changing the beginning and end of terms for all elected federal offices.
The Twentieth Amendment (Amendment XX) to the United States Constitution moved the beginning and ending of the terms of the president and vice president from March 4 to January 20, and of members of Congress from March 4 to January 3. It also has provisions that determine what is to be done when there is no president-elect. The Twentieth Amendment was adopted on January 23, 1933.
Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
Born on this day:
1862 – Edith Wharton, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1937)
Edith Wharton (/ˈiːdɪθ ˈwɔːrtən/; born Edith Newbold Jones; January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. Wharton combined her insider’s view of America’s privileged classes with a brilliant, natural wit to write humorous, incisive novels and short stories of social and psychological insight. She was well acquainted with many of her era’s other literary and public figures, including Theodore Roosevelt.
Despite not publishing her first novel until she was forty, Wharton became an extraordinarily productive writer. In addition to her fifteen novels, seven novellas, and eighty-five short stories, she published poetry, books on design, travel, literary and cultural criticism, and a memoir.
Wharton first began inventing stories when she was six. She would walk around the living room holding a book while reciting her story. In 1873, Wharton wrote a short story and gave it to her mother to read. Her mother criticized the story, so Wharton decided to just write poetry. While she constantly sought her mother’s approval and love, it was rare that she received either. From the start, the relationship with her mother was a troubled one. Before she was fifteen, she wrote Fast and Loose (1877). In her youth, she wrote about society. Her central themes came from her experiences with her parents. She was very critical of her own work and would write public reviews criticizing it. She also wrote about her own experiences with life. “Intense Love’s Utterance” is a poem written about Henry Stevens.
In 1889, she sent out three poems for publication. They were sent to Scribner’s, Harper’s and Century. Edward L. Burlingame published “The Last Giustiniani” for Scribner’s. It was not until Wharton was 29 that her first short story was published. “Mrs. Manstey’s View” had very little success, and it took her more than a year to publish another story. She completed “The Fullness of Life” following her annual European trip with Teddy. Burlingame was critical of this story but Wharton did not want to make edits to it. This story, along with many others, speaks about her marriage. She sent Bunner Sisters to Scribner’s in 1892. Burlingame wrote back that it was too long for Scribner’s to publish. This story is believed to be based on an experience she had as a child. It did not see publication until 1916 and is included in the collection called Xingu. After a visit with her friend, Paul Bourget, she wrote “The Good May Come” and “The Lamp of Psyche”. “The Lamp of Psyche” was a comical story with verbal wit and sorrow. After “Something Exquisite” was rejected by Burlingame, she lost confidence in herself. She started “travel writing” in 1894.
In 1901, Wharton wrote a two-act play called Man of Genius. This play was about an English man who was having an affair with his secretary. The play was rehearsed, but was never produced. She collaborated with Marie Tempest to write another play, but the two only completed four acts before Marie decided she was no longer interested in costume plays. One of her earliest literary endeavors (1902) was the translation of the play, Es Lebe das Leben (“The Joy of Living”), by Hermann Sudermann. The Joy of Living was criticized for its name because the heroine swallows poison at the end, and was a short-lived Broadway production. It was, however, a successful book.
Many of Wharton’s novels are characterized by a subtle use of dramatic irony. Having grown up in upper-class, late-nineteenth-century society, Wharton became one of its most astute critics, in such works as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence.
1900 – Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ukrainian-American geneticist and biologist (d. 1975)
Theodosius Grygorovych Dobzhansky ForMemRS (Ukrainian: Теодо́сій Григо́рович Добжа́нський; Russian: Феодо́сий Григо́рьевич Добржа́нский; January 25, 1900 – December 18, 1975) was a prominent American geneticist and evolutionary biologist, and a central figure in the field of evolutionary biology for his work in shaping the unifying modern evolutionary synthesis. Dobzhansky was born in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, and became an immigrant to the United States in 1927, aged 27 years old.
His 1937 work Genetics and the Origin of Species became a major influence on the synthesis and was awarded the US National Medal of Science in 1964, and the Franklin Medal in 1973.
Debate on Race
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ashley Montagu debated the use and validity of the term “race” over a period of many years without reaching an agreement, and the “debate” has continued to the present day. Montagu argued that “race” was so laden with toxic associations that it was a word best eliminated from science completely, whereas Dobzhansky strongly disagreed. He argued that science should not give into the misuses to which it had been subjected. The two men never reached an agreement, which led Dobzhansky to say in 1961, while commenting on Montagu’s autobiography, “The chapter on ‘Ethnic group and race’ is, of course, deplorable, but let us say that it is good that in a democratic country any opinion, no matter how deplorable, can be published” (Farber 2015 p. 3). The concept of “race” has been important in many life science disciplines; The Modern evolutionary synthesis revolutionized the concept of race, moving it from a strictly morphological definition based on “racial types” in humans, to a definition focused on populations differing in gene frequencies. This was done in hopes that its foundation in population genetics would undermine the deeply ingrained social prejudices associated with “race”.
Dobzhansky had serious confidence that mixing races created no serious medical issues. Dobzhansky’s experience with breeding fruit flies came into play when he made this conclusion. The only medical issue Dobzhansky found in this breeding was when certain crosses could lead to having infertile offspring. However, Dobzhansky noticed no such problems when humans from different populations reproduced. When anthropologists at the time were trying to compare the means of physical measurements of people from different races Dobzhansky argued that these means had no value because there was more variation between the individuals of each population than there was among the groups (Farber 2011 p. 63). However, Dobzhansky’s work and beliefs on genetics and evolution created opposition with his views on race mixing. First, that race has to do with groups and not individuals and so in this instance it is not races that mix, it is individuals. Second, if races do not mix then they will become different species, so therefore they have to mix. All of the races that currently exist are products of past mixed races, so according to Dobzhansky there is no pure race. Third, when race had been discussed in the past it was all about comparing means of trait to which this made no sense to Dobzhansky (Farber 2011 p. 65-67).
His concern with the interface between humans and biology may have come from different factors. The main factor would be the race prejudice that contributed in Europe that triggered WWII. His concern also dealt with religion in human life which he speaks about in his book The Biology of Ultimate Concern in 1967. “The pervasiveness of genetic variation provides the biological foundation of human individuality” (Ayala). Dobzhansky talks about in great detail that “human nature has 2 dimensions: the biological, which mankind shares with the rest of life, and the cultural, which is exclusive to humans.” (Ayala). Both of these are believed to have come from “biological evolution and cultural evolution” (Ayala).
Dobzhansky sought to put an end to the so called science that purports one’s genetic makeup determines their race and furthermore, their rank in society. Harrison E. Salisbury wrote in a New York Times article regarding his book Heredity and the Future of Man that Dobzhansky could not, alongside other scientists, agree upon what defines a race. Dobzhansky stated that a true bloodline for man could not be identified. He did not believe that a man’s genetic makeup did not decide whether or not he would be a great man but rather that man “has the rare opportunity ‘to direct his evolution’”. 
Martha Matilda Harper (September 10, 1857, Oakville, Ontario – August 3, 1950, Rochester, New York) was a Canadian-American businesswoman, entrepreneur, and inventor who built an international network of franchised hair salons that emphasized healthy hair care. Born in Canada, Harper was sent away by her father when she was seven to work as a domestic servant. She worked in that profession for 25 years before she saved enough money to start working full-time producing a hair tonic she invented. The product, and the creation of special hair salons that utilized it, was successful. Harper began franchising the salon model to low-income women, and by its peak the company included more than 500 franchises and an entire line of hair care products.
wiki: Martha Matilda Harper Rochester, New York) was a Canadian-American businesswoman, entrepreneur, and inventor who built an international network of franchised hair salons that emphasized healthy hair care. Born in Canada, Harper was sent away by her father when she was seven to work as a domestic servant. She worked in that profession for 25 years before she saved enough money to start working full-time producing a hair tonic she invented. The product, and the creation of special hair salons that utilized it, was successful. Harper began franchising the salon model to low-income women, and by its peak the company included more than 500 franchises and an entire line of hair care products.