A gold rush happens when people hear that gold has been found. They then rush to seek their fortune. Gold is a soft, yellow precious metal that is very valuable. Some people use gold as money. The California Gold Rush is very famous in history. In the 1840s, California was a land of large ranches with a few small towns. However, the discovery of gold in 1948 changed the region forever.
In 1948, James Marshall and some workers were building a sawmill for John Sutter along the bank of the South Fork of the American River. On January 24, the workers found a small nugget of gold. The workers found more gold and the news of the discovery spread. Although it took a year for the news to reach the east coast, by 1849 thousands of 'forty-niners' were mining for gold. Most miners used a shallow pan to find flakes of gold in streams. They were called forty-niners because most arrived in 1949.
Most of the forty-niners were from other parts of the United States. Others reached California by sailing around the tip of South America of by crossing the Isthmus of Panama and then sailing up the Pacific Ocean.
Many of the forty-niners who arrived in California were from other parts of the world including Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia. In fact, about one of every four newcomers was Chinese.
The gold rush caused great changes to California. Those who did not find gold often stayed and turned to ranching or farming. Others started business. And others returned home broke. By the end of 1949 California’s population had grown to more than 100,000 people. A group of California leaders decided that California should become a state. After some debate, in 1850, California became the 31st state.
The real money was made by freighters and merchants who brought and marketed supplies. Levi Straus 'struck it rich' by making and selling durable pants for the miners who were looking for gold.
"Gold Fever" has happened around the world. The British immigrants who went to Australia for the 1851 gold rush were called 'diggers.' In 1886, a part-time prospector in South Africa named George Walker started one of the world's biggest gold rushes. Another well-known gold rush occurred in the Klondike and Alaska.
Nowadays, there is a storage place for gold in Kentucky, United States. This place is called Fort Knox. Also there's actually more gold at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. This gold is owned by individuals and nations from around the world.