A violent hurricane lashed at the Central America, a sailing vessel carrying passengers and a huge shipment of gold from California. The year was 1857, and U.S. banks needed that gold to reach its destination safely.
The banks had invested in businesses that were failing, and this was causing the American people to panic. Investors were losing heavily in the stock market and railroads were unable to pay their debts. Land speculators who had counted on the construction of new railroad routes were losing money. People feared financial ruin. They ran to the banks to withdraw their money, but the banks did not deal in paper money. They used silver and gold.