"Chinese Camp in the Mines," color lithograph in Three Years in California by J. D. Borthwick, Edinburgh, 1857, RB 257

"When business is lively, and three or four steamers and twice as many other vessels are unloading every day, the levee is a tangled mass of men and rogues and Mexicans and Chinese and Chileans...and horses and mules...and lumber and flour and potatoes and molasses and brandy and pickles and oysters and yams and cabbages and books and furniture and almost everything that one could think of—except honesty and religion. These articles not being in demand here are not thrown into market." (Dr. Israel Lord, 1850, remarking on Sacramento's remarkable growth)

California's non-Indian population boom (from around 15,000 in 1848 to nearly 225,000 by 1852) affected everyone. Sleepy villages were transformed overnight into bustling cities. Restaurants, boarding houses, and hardware stores shared the scene with saloons, gambling halls, and brothels. Manuscripts, printed accounts, and engravings from 1849 through the early 1850s show that for some people, growing towns promised commerce and great opportunity. For others, they meant the decay of everything moral and righteous.

Although few Chinese arrived in California during 1849 or 1850, they were numbered in the thousands by 1852 as the enthusiasm for "Gold Mountain" took root. They joined thousands of other miners from the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Europe, and Australia.


Accommodating social change



California 150

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