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The gold rush of the 1850’s symbolized America’s quest towards westward movement, challenges of life on the frontier, and the impact it had on California’s growth. As a result, the gold rush strongly influenced the shaping of American History. Many people that had heard of the gold rush in the 1850’s moved right out there as fast as they could to get their hands on that gold. Once the people got out there they wouldn’t return back to the east. As a result, the gold rush strongly influenced the shaping of American History.
James W. Marshall’s finding of gold on January 24, 1848 led to the expansion of the West Coast and the beginning of a new state, California. Marshall discovered gold in a mill on the south fork of the American River, and seeing that it was John A. Stutter’s mill he wanted the gold kept quiet and the press kept out of it for a while, but by March it was revealed. By May the rush had started and men who headed for the streams flowing westward from the Sierra Nevada depopulated San Francisco, Monterey, San Jose, and other California communities. By the time summer was there, Californians joined by few men from Hawaii and Oregon were already in search for the gold without competition from the gold seekers who would soon descend on the gold country. By the time August came around the news had already hit the East when the New York Herald published a report. In December of that same year President James K. Polk notified Congress of the gold discovery and the whole world realized that this was true. Gold fever broke out in the United States; thousands made arrangements to go the California in the spring. Some small gold seekers went west and planned to do the job on their own. Being able to share expenses, labor, and profits between just a small group of people benefited these workers. The small groups would not have to worry about being paid for their labor by companies. They would be able to keep what they had mined out and not have to worry about giving it to the companies and getting a smaller cut.
Many Americans on the eastern seacoast decided to travel by sea. Within a month after the president’s message, 61 ships left the Atlantic seaports for a voyage of 6 months around Cape Horn. They faced 15,000 or more miles of travel between the East Coast and San Francisco depending on how far their vessels had to swing into the Atlantic and Pacific. The travelers were mostly farmers and tradesmen who knew nothing or very little about the sea.
“One representative group, of the Hartford Union Mining and Trading Company, had 122 members, more than one third Married, with an average age of 27. The 23 farmers in the Group made up the largest occupational category, followed by 16 Joiners and 8 machinists. Only 2 navigators and 6 seamen Were included in the number.” (Marks, 83-84)
And the journey to seek gold would finally end when the vessels hit land in the summer of 1849. By far the largest number of gold seekers traveled by land because it was a less expensive and shorter trip. Warm weather permitted because and early start across northern Mexico or New Mexico. There were not many easy trails to follow on the way to the rush. Men and women traveled many different trails, which were all difficult in search for the gold.
Not only were trails difficult to follow in the quest for gold but there were also many challenges to survive on the frontier. The danger of Indians was minimized although due to the number of people that traveled to get the gold. The heavy traffic exhausted the grass supply needed for animals and water holes along the trail were infected with Asiatic Cholera. The immigrants knew nothing about the traveling along the plains or over the mountains. Guides were scarce, and many guidebooks were misleading. This all caused many problems for immigrants throughout the journey. A relief society in Sacramento financed and delivered medical help and food supplies to people stranded on the desert, which saved many lives. People who wandered from the established routes encountered suffering. “One party
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American folklore, British Columbia gold rushes, California Gold Rush, Hydraulic engineering, Maritime history of California, Gold rush, James Grizzly Adams, Rush, American frontier, Pikes Peak Gold Rush
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