Offering a brighter future, stories of found gold implanted hopes for a better life for those adventurous enough to answer the call. These stories, foretelling of the fortunes to be had in exchange for hard work and good fortune, beguiled many from across the states and territories within the U. S. as well as Latinos from Mexico, Central, and South America. People were beckoned from Europe, Australia, Japan and China. African Americans transported West by Southern slave owners on the hunt found themselves awash in the manic whirlwind of gold-seekers.
The indigenous of the area, indifferent to the wealth afforded by its minerals, shortly became victimized by the carnage that they wrought. Ironically causing devastation from the very ground in which it was produced, gold and the search for its material bounty, profoundly and irreversibly affected a range of stakeholders transforming California into what we recognize today. Before the detection of gold, the West Coast of the U. S. was scarcely populated by the indigenous who have called the land home for millennia, and the few new daring pioneers quenching their thirst of pure curiosity and adventure.
Once word got out of the treasures to be found in the earth, mass migration caused a new gathering of a wider variety of individuals emblazoned with a more specific goal. More than 62,000 people from around the globe landed in California in 1848 (cite reference). Ethnically diverse, yet identically powered by the glimmer of gold in their hearts these hopeful prospectors dug, fought, killed, and died in the few years between 1848 and 1855 affectionately known as the “California Gold Rush”. A classic treasure hunt ensued.
Stories conveyed ideas of fortunes ”easily accessible to anyone with a few simple tools and a willingness to work hard” (cite reference), found in the hills of California. The specific geologic anomalies of Northern California caused the production and high concentration of the precious minerals to be deposited in the rivers. Scattered amongst the rock, sand, and silt in the river beds, the nuggets of varying sizes and shapes could be harvested through a simple process of filtering called panning.
For few, this proved a small amount of work relative to the great riches to be rewarded. For many, the idea of striking it rich in California involved little more than digging, collecting, and leaving with the loot. Quite the contrary, many found their initial voyages to California replete with danger. Scores of men fell ill, lost courage, or died amidst interminable passages from their homeland. Upon arrival, those naturally selected for the hardships of a daily life of mining formed a core group of vigilant males.
The fortunate few who did amass their wealth in the rivers, found their next challenge in transporting their cumbersome bouillon amidst a host of thieves and back across the treacherous passages to their homes. For many, the success of the golden acquisition was plenty and decided to stay, thus forming lineages of various ethnicities, and providing the base of Californian culture. With such a massive influx of people, large-scale agriculture started to take shape. The vast area of unsettled land provided the fertility for agriculture to become a booming industry amongst the hungry miners.
Farming supplied a secondary industry to this already booming city destined to succeed due to the masses of people working up their appetites through hard manual labor. Roads were built, schools were erected, churches arose, and other civic organizations founded in an effort to unite the citizens of the new state and operate more pleasantly and efficiently. Organization emerged, resulting in civic-mindedness; drafts were drawn, representatives were sent to Washington, and California became admitted as a state.
By the early 1850’s, gold was harder to find resulting in adopting informal personal treaties and the use of technology. Damming and rerouting the rivers would reveal the riverbed and allow for easier extraction of gold. Corporations then took over, leading to miner’s positions as employees. Machines used to lift large amounts of rock and sand destroyed rivers in an effort to find every last nugget of gold. Hydraulic mining used high-pressure hoses to tear into the walls of the riverbeds. This revealed much more gold as it ripped away at the earth with incredible efficiency.
The massive upwelling of gravel, silt, and toxic chemicals killed fish and local as well as downstream habitats. While the method was understood to be destroying the landscape, little was done to stop it due to the predominant attitude for exploitation. As the amount of gold to be found slowly diminished, ethnic resentment inversely rose, sometimes in violence. Larger and larger masses of people arriving after long voyages came to find that a lot of the gold had already been found leaving little gold to recover for the greater number of individuals. Bitterness led to prejudice and aggressive intentions.
A law was passed in 1850 demanding a twenty-dollar per month tax on every foreign miner. With the majority of investment used for the cost of transportation, tools, and food, many foreign prospectors had little choice but to abandon their posts and return home empty-handed and defeated. Of course, with such drastic changes to the landscape in such a short amount of time, those unable to adapt became victimized by the changes. Native Americans, having lived in the area for generations were decimated. The environment itself was ravaged unconscionably in the covetous pursuit for material wealth.
. Unfortunately, uninterested in gold or mining, the natives of California were almost immediately annihilated. Affected by the new germs of the immigrants, they became victims of disease. As natural resources depleted many died of starvation. Those left alive, exhibited such a highly varying sets of ideals from the prospectors that thousands more Native Americans died as a result of genocidal attacks. Today, throughout the United States, California is thought as a diverse state, seemingly enigmatic due primarily to its highly diverse ethnical residency.
In San Francisco alone, China Town, Japan Town, North Beach (Little Italy), Larkin Street (Little Saigon), and Nob Hill (European Town) constitute a few of the representative concentrations of varying ethnical backgrounds. While there a wide variety of reasons for the diversification in other cities across the country, California owes its plethora of peoples to the abundance of gold found in its un-mined hills in the mid 1800’s. Originally inhabited by risk takers, the state of California continues its diverse enculturation with a mentality of optimizing at all costs.
There were a number of stakeholders involved in the Gold Rush who felt both its positive and the negative repercussions. It was this rush for gold that brought the people who led to the admission of California as a state in 1850, and its economic boom as a direct result of the gold. It was because of the large-scale invasion of such a wide array of peoples and cultures that California can claim such diversity today. A number of technological advancements owe their inception to the necessities encountered from mining.
While much of the original inhabitants and the environment can also blame the Gold Rush for their demise, California is what it is today due to these events. Today, the name California has become synonymous with fame and fortune, a symbol of new beginnings where hard work and good luck will be rewarded. References Holliday, J. S. (1998). “Gold Fever! ” Rorhbough, M. J. (1998). Days of Gold. The California Gold Rush and the American Nation. Chandler, A. (year). “Old Tales of San Francisco From El Dorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire” by Bayard Taylor. “The Story of the Gold Rush” (video, 1997)
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