The Gold Rush. . .
Will you Strike It Rich?
On January 24, 1848, James Marshall uncovered gold where the American and Sacramento Rivers met, the news traveled fast, and many came to the forgotten backwaters. With head-spinning speed, these gold-seekers created one of the most extraordinary events in history. People from all over the world went to California to claim their gold. Traveling to the California to get gold was like playing the lottery. Some became wealthy within a matter of hours,while others toiled aimlessly for days and sometimes months and came up empty. At one point during the gold rush, a glass of water sold for $100! In 1849, the population of the American territory increased sevenfold as 80,000 gold miners, experienced or not, rushed to the scene. The rush for gold was later called "Gold Fever". This lead to California becoming a state in 1850.
The California Gold Rush ended in 1859 when silver was discovered in Nevada. It was not uncommon to mine $2000 in gold a day, but the average 49er found $10 dollars a day. After 1852, the gold on the surface of the river was gone, therefore gold panning was not a profitable way to strike it rich.
Many people died from the journey by disease or accident. Sickness was common due to the fact they slept on a cold, damp ground. Since the food lacked nutrients, poor health was found in many camps. Scurvy was common because many of the miners did not eat fruits and vegetables. Miners seldom bathed or washed their clothes and had very poor sanitary levels.
At this time, most miners lived in tents, and cooked beans, bacon, and local game over an open fire. More often than not, mining camps and villages were canvas tents and wooden buildings. Fires were very common, and many camps and towns were destroyed by them, some more than once. Heavy rain, snow, and sleet made for very difficult mining and living conditions during the winters. Most miners moved to San Francisco or another mining town during these conditions.
Most miners came alone and left their families behind. Many young miners suffered from home sickness and being alone. The cost of living was more than the average workman could afford. The average man earned $6-$10 a day, earning only $36-60 dollars a week. In these times of increasing economy, the prices jumped. Some examples of prices were...