The Gold Rush
Between 1848 and 1855, the California Gold Rush took place in the United States. Gold was discovered in California and thousands of people headed to California to try and strike it rich themselves. The first gold was discovered by James Marshall. He discovered the gold at Sutter's Mill near the city of Coloma. He had been building a sawmill and found flakes of gold in the river. He tried to keep the find a secret, but people found out and the rush began to California.
Prior to 1848, there were about 14,000 non-Native Americans living in California but by 1849 the population jumped to about 90,000. The people who came to California to search for the gold were nicknamed Forty-niners. People not only arrived from other parts of the country, but from all over the world too, including China, Mexico, Australia, and Europe.
Those who arrived first found most of the gold and made a lot of money. Originally, the gold miners would pan for gold, using special pans in rivers and other water ways to find gold. They would put water and gravel into the pan and then shake the pan back and forth. Gold is heavy, and they found any, it would sink to the bottom of the pan. The remaining gravel would remain on top and the gold would be set aside.
Later, more intricate methods were used which allowed miners to work together and search larger amounts of gravel for the gold.
Since there were thousands of prospectors coming to California in search of gold, they also needed supplies and tools. Tools included the mining pan, a shovel, and a pick. In addition to the supplies, they had to eat and live. Other needs included coffee, bacon, beans, sugar, flour, bedding, lamp, a tent, and a kettle or pot.
Since gold was found, stores and business owners selling the supplies and food sometimes became richer than the gold miners. The prices of goods were raised, but because the prospectors needed the products, they purchased the items.
Small areas where the businesses opened and the miners camped were called boomtowns. San Francisco and Columbia, California, both are examples of cities with their origins as a boomtown during the gold rush. San Francisco had a population of 1,000 but then during the gold rush it increased to 30,000.
Unfortunately, when the gold ran out or no more people stayed in the area to search for gold, the boom towns became ghost towns. Miners would leave and then the businesses would close, leaving empty and abandoned buildings behind. The present town of Bodie, California became a ghost town but is now a popular tourist spot for visitors.
It is believed about 12 million ounces of gold was found during the gold rush, and using 2012 prices, it would be worth about $20 billion.
Other gold rushes in America included Pike's Peak in Colorado and Klondike in Alaska, but neither were as big and as popular as the Gold Rush of California between 1848 and 1855.
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