The Gold Rush
The word spread like fire. First, only those who were already in California started digging for gold. On April, 15th 1848, the word about gold reached the East coast, but people were sceptical as there had already been rumours of gold before. President James K. Polk confirmed gold had been found on December 5th, 1848 : the Gold Rush was on.
|Doc. The Gold Rush in California|
The gold diggers were called « Forty Niners » because they had left home in 1849. That year, it is estimated that 80,000 Forty Niners went West.
Digging for gold was hard work. The gold diggers spent back-breaking days in cold water digging, sifting. At the beginning, gold was easy to find. By mid 1849, as easy gold became scarce and miners more numerous, tensions increased. Life was extremely expensive. Many diggers returned home empty-handed. New technological advances obliged miners to join or organise large companies.
Those who really enriched from the Gold Rush were entrepreneurs, such as Levi Strauss (famous for his blue jeans), who supplied the gold miners with much-needed equipment and bare necessities.
Year after year, gold was nowhere to be found : the cities quickly became ghost towns. In 1856, eight years after it had started, the Gold Rush was over.
To finish with, the spirit of adventure has lived on. Nowadays people do not look for gold anymore but for fame and success (in Hollywood, in the Silicon Valley, etc.) California is the place that attracts risk-takers and entrepreneurs and where the American dream is still alive.
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