The Gold Rush

  • Discovery of Gold

    Discovery of Gold
    On January 24, 1848 John Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold.
  • Period: to

    The Gold Rush

  • Californian Report

    Californian Report
    The Californian reports gold is being found "in considerable quantities" at Sutter's sawmill. San Franciscans are skeptical of the news.
  • Gold Fever

    Gold Fever
    Sam Brannan sets off gold fever in San Francisco when he waves a bottle of gold dust and shouts "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!" Brannan will see huge profits at his merchandise store at Sutter's Fort.
  • Imigration to the Gold Mines

    Imigration to the Gold Mines
    News of the gold reached Chile via the brig J.R.S., which docked in Valparaiso after 64 days of sailing from San Francisco. The news didn't generate much excitement until the schooner Adelaide arrived from California on September 12 with gold dust worth $2,500. An estimated 5,000 Chileans arrived in San Francisco during the first six months of 1849.
  • More advertising

    More advertising
    More announcements of the gold rush are published on the East Coast of the U.S., including an issue of the Philadelphia North American.
  • President Confirmation

    President Confirmation
    Based on the report from Colonel Mason, President James K. Polk confirms the discovery of gold in California in his State of the Union Address.
  • Company Statistics

    Company Statistics
    One hundred and twenty-two men of the Hartford Union Mining and Trading Company set sail for California. They arrived in California in September. Within a year, the statistics for the company stand as follows: twelve men out of original 122 are dead (10%); 26 have returned home with approximately $1,280 each; 77 have stayed in California, averaging $1,239/man in earnings.
  • Upper California Gonvernment

    Upper California Gonvernment
    At a mass meeting, the citizens of San Francisco agree on the necessity of electing delegates to a convention to form a government for Upper California.
  • California Constitutional Convention Begins

    California Constitutional Convention Begins
    The California Constitutional Convention begins at Colton Hall in Monterey. Forty-eight delegates draft the first state constitution. Under constitution, California will enter the Union as a free state. In Washington, D.C., there is heated debate over slavery.
  • Increased Population

    Increased Population
    The population of California is estimated at 100,000 including 35,000 people who came by sea, 3000 sailors who deserted ships and 42,000 who came overland. There are an estimated 40,000 people mining in California by the end of 1849. The entire non-native population is estimated at 100,000.
  • Equal Digging Rights

    Equal Digging Rights
    Methodist missionary Israel Lord expressed his feeling that people should have equal rights to dig gold. Since the fall of 1849, Americans have been making efforts to oust foreigners from the gold fields.
  • New Ways To Reach Gold

    New Ways To Reach Gold
    As the surface gold plays out, miners invent new ways to reach the gold that lies underground, including a method called quartz mining. Grass Valley and Nevada City have more than 20 quartz mills in operation by the summer of 1851. Investors from Boston and New York get in on the action by purchasing stakes in quartz mining operations. Mining companies offer wages of $100 per month and find plenty of takers.
  • San Francisco's Celebration

    San Francisco's Celebration
    The news that California has been admitted to the Union reaches San Francisco. The entire city bursts into spontaneous celebration.
  • California is a State

    California is a State
    California is admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
  • Gold Fever for African Americans

    Gold Fever for African Americans
    Frederick Douglass writes about the spread of gold fever among blacks.
  • Foreign Miners Tax

    Foreign Miners Tax
    A second Foreign Miners Tax is imposed, this one aimed at the Chinese. The tax lasted through the 1860s and became a key source of revenue for the new American state of California.
    Gold exports for the year 1852 amount to $45,587,803. By the end of the year, the entire non-native population of California is estimated to be 223,586.
  • New Mining Technique

    New Mining Technique
    In 1853 a new technique called hydraulic mining spreads through the gold camps. Miners shoot water through hoses at hillsides and turn them to gravel heaps. They then separate the gold. This continued industrializing of the mining process forces more men into wage labor. Hydraulic mining also devastates the landscape.
  • Search for Gold Continued

    Search for Gold Continued
    The search for gold continued unabated throughout the 1850s. Gold production stabilized in 1857 at about 45 million dollars a year. Rapid technological advances in the 1850s, most notably the rise of river, quartz, and hydraulic mining, require far greater capital resources. To meet the growing need for capital, large-scale corporations become the dominant form of economic organization, and speculation in mining securities becomes a regional obsession.
  • Population

    By 1860, California's population was 380,000 compared to 54,415 in Oregon.
  • End to Hydraulic Mining

    End to Hydraulic Mining
    Judge Lorenzo Sawyer issues a perpetual injunction that brings an end to hydraulic mining in California.