In 1849 he sailed for San Francisco and the Gold Rush. After some success in the mines, he returned east to marry Mary Emma Leary of Wexford County, Ireland. They were back in San Francisco by 1854, and in 1857 he opened a saloon with partner William S. O’Brien.
After the discovery of silver in Nevada in 1859, the partners began investing in mining stocks. In 1858 they sold the saloon and went into business as stockbrokers. The following year, Flood and O’Brien formed a partnership with fellow Irishmen James Graham Fair and John William Mackay, a mining engineer. Mackay and Fair had the mining knowledge and Flood and O’Brien raised the money. The new firm gained control of the Consolidated Virginia Mining Company stock in 1873.
The original stock issue was 10,700 shares, selling for between $4 and $5 a share. It was in a mine owned by Consolidated Mining in Nevada’s Comstock Lode that the largest silver find in history was discovered. After the discovery of “the big bonanza,” the price of the stock went skyward. Flood is accredited by tradition with having directed the stock market operations.
The first stock issue was converted into two issues of 108,000 shares each, and by the middle of 1875 the speculative value of the company’s mines was close to $1,000,000,000. Shares went as high as $710.
Seats on the San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board jumped to $25,000 each as a result of the excitement. Varied interests sought to obtain stock control of the rich properties and there came the inevitable crash in which many went to financial doom.
The “Bonanza Kings” profited, however, and late in 1875 Flood and O’Brien sought to become leaders in finance. After producing $133,471,000, Consolidated Virginia and California could not be operated profitably, but in the language of the street, the owners had “caught them coming and going.”
By 1878 the four partners had made more than $300,000,000: their firm was described as “the richest in America, and prospectively the richest in the world.” The four-way partnership, more commonly known as the Bonanza firm, was held together by Flood, though he was the most unpopular of the partners with the public, and was regarded by some as a stock manipulator. Together they also established the Bank of Nevada in San Francisco, California. Dissention and an ill-fated attempt to corner the world wheat market in 1887 cost the firm millions.
Flood is considered to have been one of the 100 wealthiest Americans, having left a $30 million fortune. Flood is famous for two mansions, the James C. Flood Mansion at 1000 California St., San Francisco, and Linden Towers, which was located in Menlo Park before being torn down in 1936.
Editor Phil Robertson is an award-wining journalist and graphic designer. With a degree from the University of Florida’s School of Journalism, his career in journalism and publishing spans over 30 years, and includes positions as editor and publisher for several newspapers and magazines. During his career he has received a first-place award for investigative journalism from the Society of Newspaper Editors, and five ADDY awards for advertising design.