California Gold Rush

It began in 1848 and would eventually involve a half a million people from around the world. California’s gold rush not only increased the population of the state, it brought prosperity and commerce to the area for years to come.

The first gold sighting occurred during the construction of a sawmill for John Sutter on the American River at Coloma, near Sacramento. James Marshall, Sutter’s partner in the construction, found the tiny gold nuggets in the river on the morning of January 24, 1848.

The Californian, a San Francisco paper from that era, first reported on the discovery in their March 15 edition. Following Marshall’s discovery, two other detections were made by General John Bidwell in the Feather River and Major Pearson B. Redding in the Trinity River.

Two years after the initial gold discovery, California became a state. By 1852, the new state’s annual gold production reached its peak of $81 million. In the same year, hydraulic mining was introduced at American Hill north of Nevada City and in Placer County at Yankee Jims. At the same time, panning for gold was quickly becoming unprofitable.

In 1859, silver was discovered in Nevada. Many miners abandoned their quest for gold, contributing to the eventual end of the gold rush. By 1864, the gold rush was over. Although, gold mining continued through the use of hydraulic mines for another 20 years in California, the days of simply spying shiny nuggets in the water had come and gone.

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Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.

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