California Rich

The lives, the times, the scandals and the fortunes of the men & women who made & kept California’s wealth


Book Description

Since the Gold Rush, California has represented a land of opportunity and bounty for a special breed of Americans. Heading west in pursuit of sunshine, riches, and elusive dreams, the early mavericks of California set out to make their fortunes--and often succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Prospectors became oil tycoons, squatters became cattle barons, and farmers’ wives became grandes dames of a new rough-hewn society.

In California Rich Stephen Birmingham explores this fascinating social history, showing how the ruling class of California was born, and how it evolved a lifestyle that continues to fascinate the world. Its colorful array of characters include: the despotic William Randolph Hearst, renowned for treating kings and copyboys with equal disdain; Governor Leland Stanford , who shamelessly used politics for the profit of his railroad; and the fiery James Irvine, who attended business meetings accompanied by an entire pack of hunting dogs.

In exploring how these self-made millionaires acquired their money—and what they did with it—Birmingham provides a glimpse of the customs and quirks of California wealth, shedding light on how the state came to symbolize the easy, opulent life, that still entices seekers of fame and fortune today.

About Birmingham, Stephen

Stephen Birmingham is a preeminent social historian, known for his books The Right People, Real Lace, and The Grandees. He allows his reader unparalleled access to the most exclusive society sets, and tells their stories with great warmth and wit.