The Gold Rush - Cours d'Anglais avec Maxicours - Lycée

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The Gold Rush

Although there were many gold rushes in world history, the Californian gold rush was unique. The events that took place in the western part of America between 1848 and 1856 were to have determining consequences on the history and geography of the USA.
1. The Californian Eldorado
a. Gold is discovered
On the 24th of January 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, while building a sawmill for John Augustus Sutter, saw and picked up gold nuggets from the American River (near the Sacramento River), near Coloma.
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.
b. The rush
From all over the country, and from abroad (Mexico, China, France, Germany, etc.), adventurers rushed to the Eldorado. Some walked, some sailed, some rode to this promise land, putting up with unbearable conditions (weather, health, Indian attacks, etc.) that only the hope of finding gold could make them endure. Most of them « saw the elephant ».
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.

2. The consequences of the Gold Rush
Then, the Gold Rush brought together people from all over the world and shaped the multi-cultural California : the ethnic mix and diversity is still pronounced in California.
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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