California gold rush


The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in the Sacramento Valley of California in January 1848 enticed thousands of immigrants from around the world. Between 1848 and the granting of statehood in 1850 more than 90,000 people migrated to California, most from within the United States, but large numbers also from Mexico, Chile, Australia, and others from many regions of Europe. Almost all arrived through the port of San Francisco, turning a sleepy village into a city of 25,000 in less than two years. Between 1850 and 1852, more than 20,000 people entered California, almost all men. By 1852, the Californian population had risen to more than 250,000. Among the immigrants were large numbers of Chinese workers from the impoverished and flood-ravaged province of Guangdong (Canton), who were especially responsive to the attractions of Gam Saan (Gold Mountain), as California was called in China. In the early years, 70 percent of Chinese immigrants were miners, though they moved into railroad construction and a variety of service industries as the placer deposits (those most easily reached with simple and inexpensive equipment) played out.

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