The Gold Rush The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century.

As news spread about the discovery of the nuggets, thousands of gold miners traveled by land and sea over to San Francisco and the areas around it. By the end of 1849, the population of California spiked to 100,000 people. Through the years a total of $2 Billion worth of precious metals was extracted during the peak of the Gold Rush in 1852.

DID YOU KNOW?

Miners extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold during the California Gold Rush.

On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter originally from New Jersey, found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Coloma, California. At the time, Marshall was working to build a water-powered sawmill owned by John Sutter, a German-born Swiss citizen and founder of a colony of Nueva Helvetia

As Marshall later recalled of his historic discovery:“It made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.”

After 1850, the surface gold in California largely disappeared, even as miners continued to arrive. Mining had always been difficult and dangerous labor, and striking it rich required good luck as much as skill and hard work.

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