There were many ways to pan for gold in California’s Mother Lode during the 1850s but this one by a larcenous bartender takes the cake for originality. Back in the days before the San Francisco mint began turning out gold coins the cost of a drink was a pinch of gold dust from a prospector’s poke sack and the bartender got to do the pinching with his thumb and forefinger. Needless to say bartenders with big hands could always find employment in the saloons.
One enterprising bartender skilled himself in letting a little dust spill on the bar on its way to the till. Every few minutes he’d wipe the bar, carefully brushing the dust onto the floor. Every hour or so he would step out the back door to a mud hole where he’d coat the bottoms of his boots with sticky mud. Then he’d tread across the floor behind the bar picking up the gold dust. The mud was then scrapped off into a bucket which he took home after work and pan out the gold.
Sounds tedious but it was said he could pan out thirty dollars a day on slow days and over a hundred dollars on weekends and holidays.