Gold Discovery and California's Development

"Here you can step out of your house and see the whole world spread before you in every shape and form. Your ears are filled with the most delightful music, your eyes are dazzeled with every thing that is beautiful the streets are crowded the whole city is in the streets." Mary Jane Megquier, 1853, writing about San Francisco to her daughter in Maine

At the start of the 1850s, gold production reached $40 million per year. Gold miners were not the only ones who found wealth. Entrepreneurs grew rich supplying the miners with shovels and clothes, food and shelter. Cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento, and Stockton sprang up over night. Even Los Angeles, hundreds of miles from the gold fields, grew prosperous supplying beef to the miners.

Before long, however, the gold resting in river gravels and sand had been panned out. Expensive machinery was needed to extract more gold from below the surface. Those hoping for easy riches working the gold fields moved on to mining bonanzas in Canada or the silver mines in Nevada at the end of the 1850s.

Others realized that California offered more than dreams of gold: "There is not a country on the face of the globe more highly endowed with all the elements of prosperity," noted an English traveler, "richer in precious metals, [or] richer in agricultural prospects, than California...California's present position offers to both the emigrant and the capitalist better prospects of success than any country in the world."


Gateways to the gold country



California 150

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