U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
“Gold!” “Gold!” “Gold!” There is gold in California!
Word got out and the noteworthy news quickly spread across the globe. In fact, word of the gold spread faster abroad than to the American East coast. Ships to Asia and South America traveled quickly across the ocean with the news. Foreign prospectors began to flock to California. The Gold Rush was on.
It wasn’t until President James Polk announced the discovery to Congress on Dec 5, 1848 that word began to spread along the East coast. Newspapers had made mention of it earlier, but many did not believe the stories. The President’s announcement made it official. Within the upcoming months 1,400 ships, originating from the East coast and Canada, set sail for California.
The second route was by ship to the Isthmus of Panama. The Argonauts would then have to disembark from the ship and walk nearly 50 miles to catch another ship going north along the west coast. Panama was infested with diseases transmitted by the hordes of mosquitoes. Sometimes travelers even had to wait months for a ship bound for California to arrive.
The last route was overland. These Argonauts were nick-named the “Overlanders”. They followed the Oregon Trail until Wyoming or Idaho and then would turn towards California. Travel along the trail was fraught with disease, accidents, toil and weariness. Cholera claimed the lives of many travelers on the trails during the California Gold Rush. Many others were claimed by the short cuts which turned out to be not so short.
The gold prospectors made a big impact on California. “Forty-niners,” named after the year of 1849 when everyone dropped everything to find their fortune, changed the face of California. Population rose from about 15,000 settlers in 1848 to nearly 100,000 settlers in 1850. San Francisco and surrounding port towns grew greatly. Unfortunately, needed supplies did not keep pace with the quick growth and many necessities were in fierce demand causing prices to sky rocket. The Forty-niners spent much of their hard found gold on needed supplies such as food, shelter and clothing.
Discrimination became a problem in the swiftly populated California. White Americans passed a Foreign Miners Tax in April 1850 charging $20 a month to “foreign” miners. This tax was then repealed in March of 1851. Then once again in 1852 the tax was passed with a charge of $3 a month. Panning was no longer as profitable and the gold finds began declining. “Foreigners” unfairly took the brunt of the blame.
By the mid 1850s, the gold rush was mostly over in California. Prospectors settled down to other jobs or migrated back home.
|Last updated: 09-27-2012|
|USA.GOV | No Fear Act | DOI | Disclaimer | About BLM | Notices | Social Media Policy|