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[Detail] Coos Bay Bridge, North Bend, Oregon.

Gold Rush

James Marshall was working in a California sawmill in 1848 when he discovered gold along the American River. More than 100,000 miners arrived in the area over the next year in the hope of finding riches.

The gold mines and mills in Calaveras County's Madam Felix-Hodson District represent mining activities from the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The accompanying"Summary of District History" describes the mines established in the area and acknowledges that only one of the ventures "was a financial success, and that was only during the 1885-97 and the 1932-42 periods . . . . The lack of understanding of the nature of the gold occurrence and inadequate technology, coupled with insufficient financial resources, explain these repeated failures," (page 8). The gold rush achieved greater success farther north.

In August 1896, the discovery of gold along the Klondike River in Alaska prompted hundreds of miners to make claims before the winter weather closed the area to travel.

A year later, the rush was on, as tens of thousands of people traveled to Seattle to purchase food, clothing, equipment, pack animals, and steamship tickets before heading to Alaska. The millions of dollars spent in Seattle influenced the city's economy for years to come.

Beginning in 1898, the Dalton Trail Post ran along part of the U.S.-Canada border. The post was designed to maintain order in the gold rush, control the surge of people to the area, and establish a border custom station. Inspector A.M. Jarvis led eighteen Canadian Northwest Mounted Police from April to October, 1898. Under his supervision, they collected over $11,000 in custom fees, captured several criminals, and witnessed the remnants of the U.S. Reindeer Relief Expedition pass through to the Klondike (page 3).

  • Why do you think that so many people tried to strike it rich in the gold mines?
  • Do you think that most people recouped the money that they invested in the gold rush?
  • How do you think that the influx of people in California and the Klondike influenced the development of those areas?
  • What do you think was the environmental impact of the mining industry in these areas?
  • Are there any contemporary investments or programs that are based on the possibility of earning a lot of money over a short period of time? If so, how do they work?
  • Use the items in the collection to write a detailed journal entry in the persona of someone who participated in a gold rush.