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Commerce - Market Hunting

When the 49ers rushed in, small restaurants, boarding houses, and hotels blossomed overnight throughout the mining region Shot Gun, 4-Barreland in San Francisco. Feeding the masses of immigrants swarming to San Francisco became good business. Market hunting emerged in response to the need for food; California's abundant wildlife gave new meaning to the term fair game. In 1854 John Audubon described the phenomenon called market hunting: Many of the miners, indeed, turned their attention to killing deer, elk, bear, antelopes, geese, ducks, and all sorts of game and wildfowl, by which they realized considerable sums from selling them in San Francisco.

This lethal multi-barreled gun killed dozens of birds with a single shot. Eventually laws were passed to protect migratory birds, and Oakland's Lake Merritt became the nation's first game refuge in 1870.

Egg Taking
How much would you pay for a fresh egg? One dollar? Two dollars - for a single egg! A sea bird called the Murre nested on several small islands just 30 miles outside San Francisco's Golden Gate. The Farallon Islands were home to tens of thousands of Murres. Beginning in the 1850s, Murre eggs were harvested by egg hunters, and sold to restaurants and hotels in San Francisco. How many eggs? The Farallon Egg Company set a record: in Murre & Eggsjust two days, they removed over one hundred twenty thousand Murre eggs! Not surprisingly, the Murre was very nearly made extinct. In 1909 the Farallon Islands were made a protected bird sanctuary, for the Murre and other island wildlife.

Top: Shot Gun, 4-Barrel, Collection of Oakland Museum of California
Bottom: Murre & Eggs, Collection of Oakland Museum of California

Market Hunting

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