James W Marshall/ Images from the California Gold Rush
This was the rush that brought tens of thousands of hopefuls to California from all over the world, including China, Europe and Latin America, and left most of them sorely disappointed and worse off financially; the rush that turned San Francisco from a small village of 200 odd people in 1846 to a city of 25,000 by December 1849. Massive demands for railways, steamships and other methods of transportation changed the face of American transport. Tens of thousands of Native Americans were removed from their lands, many of which were murdered in the process…
On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a foreman overseeing the construction of a mill on the American river, did not realise that when he found some shiny metal on a site that he would cause a fever that would change thousands of lives forever. Ironically Marshall would die penniless in a small cabin, his mill plans having been abandoned by the workers in favor of gold hunting, and his own attempts at gold mining leading to bankruptcy.
"I picked up one or two pieces and examined them attentively; and having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this, sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable. I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott (who was working at the carpenters bench making the mill wheel) with the pieces in my hand and said, "I have found it." "What is it?" inquired Scott.
“Gold,” I answered.
“Oh! no,” replied Scott, “That can’t be.”
I said,—“I know it to be nothing else.”
(Photography details unknown)
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