no, big mama see's did not sell supplies to the miners during gold rush. It was domenico "domingo" ghirardelli, a native of rapallo, italy. both brett and sylvie won tickets to the los angeles chocolate salon with the correct answer. thank you to all our contest participants...
so, let's find out a little bit more about ghirardelli...
Ghirardelli Chocolate has a history that dates back to California’s gold rush. At 31 years old, he was the owner of a fairly successful confectionery business in Lima, Peru. However, Domingo had heard of the fabulous riches in gold being found in California, and in 1849 he sailed to California with the intention of striking it rich (and then going back to Peru).
Domingo was out there in the hills and streams doing his best to find his riches, but like a few of the smarter miners he soon found it was much more profitable to sell supplies to other miners. Domingo first opened a store in the boomtown of Hornitos. He was forced to buy supplies for his store in Stockton, at the time the only general merchandise store that was around for miles. Domingo believed that he could open a competing store in Stockton, and make a lot more money, if only he could figure out a way to supply it.
Domingo bought himself a sloop that he used to sail up and down the San Joaquin River, acquiring supplies in San Francisco and then returning with his merchandise to Stockton. Domingo’s first store front was just a tent, but by the end of 1849 he owned a fleet of river sloops, and buildings in both Stockton and San Francisco. He also had some profitable side lines, including grubstaking prospectors in exchange for a share in any gold they might find; he owned a hotel; and he even owned one of California's first soda fountains (more than a decade before the marble fountain was invented). Unfortunately, by 1851 Domingo was starting over again.
On May 3, 1851, a fire swept through San Francisco and destroyed 1500 buildings. Three days later a fire swept through Stockton and destroyed half of that city. In less than a week Domingo lost everything. Domingo first tried opening the Cairo Coffee House in San Francisco, but it was a money loser, and he decided to go back into his old trade as a confectioner. He formed a partnership with a man named Girard, and they opened a confectionery store on Kearny and Washington in San Francisco. Domingo then sent for his wife, who was still living in Lima, Peru. Shortly after she arrived Domingo bought out his partner, and renamed his store "Mrs. Ghirardelli & Company." The rest is, of course, history.
from Middleborough, MA Public Schools