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W.O. Carpenter and the California Gold Rush: the making of entrepreneurial opportunities

Gary M. Fleischman (College of Business, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA)
Roland E. Kidwell (College of Business, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA)
Linda Achey Kidwell (College of Business, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 27 June 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to trace the entrepreneurial opportunity identification process of William Oscar Carpenter (WOC), a nineteenth century farmer, who went to California in 1850 to make his fortune in gold mining and ended up starting several new business ventures. The paper seeks to recount WOC's experiences and then apply them to similar issues faced by entrepreneurs in a modern‐day developing economy.

Design/methodology/approach

Using qualitative inquiry through archival research, the paper examines a compilation of WOC's letters to his future wife in New York. The letters provide a detailed account of the hardships and poor living conditions faced by gold seekers. The letters are examined and interpreted in the context of opportunity identification and the California Gold Rush, then applied to contemporary entrepreneurs.

Findings

WOC's letters elucidate the difficulties encountered making the trip from the East Coast to California, give later generations an historical viewpoint on a variety of social issues, and detail WOC's entrepreneurial activities in California. After a brief period as a successful miner, WOC's business career developed and branched out in different directions as he perceived entrepreneurial opportunities associated with the California Gold Rush. His story is an excellent example of opportunity recognition that has implications for current entrepreneurial activity.

Originality/value

WOC's awareness, anticipation, and timely action regarding business opportunity can be related, compared and contrasted with entrepreneurial activity today. The paper discusses these implications in light of opportunity recognition research and developing entrepreneurial economies.

Keywords

Citation

Fleischman, G.M., Kidwell, R.E. and Achey Kidwell, L. (2008), "W.O. Carpenter and the California Gold Rush: the making of entrepreneurial opportunities", Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 248-266. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511340810880625

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited