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Bring history and American literature to life using these lesson plans based on primary materials about the California Gold Rush in the collections of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The lesson plans complement the school curriculum and are accompanied by an online exhibition.
Grades 4-5
Grades 7-12

Grades 4-5

This unit of study, for social studies, includes five lessons, each of which draws on primary documents and images and includes background information, activities, and questions to consider.

All of the curriculum materials in these two units are available for download in Portable Document Format (PDF). The free Adobe® Acrobat® Reader allows you to view, navigate, and print PDF files. To download the Acrobat Reader from Adobe's Web site, click here.

  • Lesson 1: The Adventure Begins: "Boys I believe I have found a gold mine!"

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  • Lesson 2: Getting There: "So you want to go to California?"

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  • Lesson 3: The Days of '49: "I've been toiling hard for the last two and one-half years"

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  • Lesson 4: The World Rushed In: "Who are these people...and how came they here?"

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  • Lesson 5: Legacies of El Dorado: "Here you can step out of your house and see the whole world spread out."
  • Also included are:
    Document Analysis Worksheet
    Culminating Activities
    Extended Activities
    Suggested Readings


    Grades 7-12

    This unit of study, for social studies, includes eight lessons, each of which draws on primary documents and images and includes background information, activities, and questions to consider.

    All of the curriculum materials in these two units are available for download in Portable Document Format (PDF). The free Adobe® Acrobat® Reader allows you to view, navigate, and print PDF files. To download the Acrobat Reader from Adobe's Web site, click here.

    • Lesson 1: "The march of civilization" (Manifest Destiny)

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    • Lesson 2: "The march of emigration is to the West, and naught will arrest its advance but the mighty ocean" (routes to California)

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    • Lesson 3: "...Down torrent and through the valley, ever rushes on the muddy sediment from the thousand busy rockers" (mining)

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    • Lesson 4: "If enny one wished to send out goods think I could sell them as well as enny man in California" (Gold Rush towns)

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    • Lesson 5: "All we want is an equal chance, an open field, and a fair fight" (racial diversity)

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    • Lesson 6: "An apron full of gold" (families)

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    • Lesson 7: "A Peck of Gold" (the Gold Rush in literature)

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    • Lesson 8: "A convention shall meet and frame a state constitution" (California constitution and statehood)
    Also included are:
    Document Analysis Worksheet
    Suggested Readings


    The Land of Golden Dreams: California in the Gold Rush Decade, 1848-1858 units of study were made possible by the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Peter S. Bing and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Munger. Additional funding was provided by Wells Fargo; Institute of Museum and Library Services, Library Services and Technology Act; the Times Mirror Foundation; Mrs. Helen Smetz; the GenCorp Foundation—Aerojet; and the Dorothy Clune Trask Murray Foundation.

    These curriculum materials are compliant with the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines and are optimized for screen readers.

    Credits The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens © 1999, Huntington Library. All rights reserved. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108, 626-405-2100. Comments to: webmaster@huntington.org