Gold Rush

gold rush, influx of prospectors, merchants, adventurers, and others to newly discovered gold fields. One of the most famous of these stampedes in pursuit of riches was the California gold rush. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill early in 1848 brought more than 40,000 prospectors to California within two years. Although few of them struck it rich, their presence was an important stimulus to economic growth. Agriculture, commerce, transportation, and industry grew rapidly to meet the needs of the settlers; mining, too, soon became big business as corporations replaced the individual prospector. Vigilante justice and ad hoc political structures quickly gave way to the complex organization of state government. Other large gold rushes took place in Australia (1851–53); Witwatersrand, South Africa (1884); and the Klondike, Canada (1897–98). The excitement of the California gold-rush days has been captured in the works of Bret Harte and Jack London.

See O. Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields (1949); E. Wells and H. Peterson, The '49ers (1949); P. Barton, The Klondike Fever (1958); R. W. Paul, ed., The California Gold Discovery (1966); D. B. Chidsey, The California Gold Rush (1968); H. W. Brands, The Age of Gold (2002); D. L. Walker, Eldorado: The California Gold Rush (2003).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture
Brian Roberts.
University of North Carolina Press, 2000
California Gold: The Beginning of Mining in the Far West
Rodman W. Paul.
Harvard University Press, 1947
Tales of the Frontier: From Lewis and Clark to the Last Roundup
Everett Dick.
University of Nebraska Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Gold! Gold!! Gold!!!" begins on p. 157 and "The Forty-Niners" begins on p. 165
California: Land of New Beginnings
David Lavender.
University of Nebraska Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Part Three "Lost in a Golden Wilderness"
California Gold Rush Merchant: The Journal of Stephen Chapin Davis
Benjamin B. Richards; Stephen Chapin Davis.
Huntington Library, 1956
Pictures of Gold Rush California
Milo Milton Quaife.
Lakeside Press, 1949
Journals of Forty-Niners: Salt Lake to Los Angeles: with Diaries and Contemporary Records of Sheldon Young, James S. Brown, Jacob Y. Stover, Charles C. Rich, Addison Pratt, Howard Egan, Henry W. Bigler, and Others
Ann W. Hafen; Leroy R. Hafen.
University of Nebraska Press, 1998
Exterminate Them: Written Accounts of the Murder, Rape, and Slavery of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush, 1848-1868
Clifford E. Trafzer; Joel R. Hyer.
Michigan State University Press, 1999
The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush
Pierre Berton.
Alfred A. Knopf, 1958
Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon
Michael Gates.
University of British Columbia Press, 1994
Women of the West
Dorothy Gray.
University of Nebraska Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Dame Shirley: Chronicler of Life in the Mines"
Frontiers of the Northwest: A History of the Upper Missouri Valley
Harold E. Briggs.
Peter Smith, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of the gold rush in multiple chapters
Gold--The Yellow Devil
A. Anikin.
International Publishers, 1983
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