gold rush

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gold rush,

influx of prospectors, merchants, adventurers, and others to newly discovered gold fields. One of the most famous of these stampedes in pursuit of riches was the California gold rush. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill early in 1848 brought more than 40,000 prospectors to California within two years. Although few of them struck it rich, their presence was an important stimulus to economic growth and hastened California's statehood (1850). Agriculture, commerce, transportation, and industry grew rapidly to meet the needs of the settlers; mining, too, soon became big business as corporations replaced the individual prospector. Vigilante justice and ad hoc political structures soon gave way to the complex organization of state government. The excitement of the California gold-rush days has been captured in the works of Bret HarteHarte, Bret
(Francis Brett Harte) , 1836–1902, American writer of short stories and humorous verse, b. Albany, N.Y. At 19 he went to California, where he tried his hand at teaching, clerking, and mining.
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 and Jack LondonLondon, Jack
(John Griffith London), 1876–1916, American author, b. San Francisco. The illegitimate son of William Chaney, an astrologer, and Flora Wellman, a seamstress and medium, he had a poverty-stricken childhood, and was brought up by his mother and her subsequent
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. Other large gold rushes took place in Australia (1851–53); WitwatersrandWitwatersrand
[Afrik.,=white water ridge] or the Rand,
region, Gauteng prov. (formerly a part of Transvaal), South Africa. The area, which forms the watershed between the Vaal and Olifants rivers, is c.
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, South Africa (1884); and the KlondikeKlondike
, region of Yukon, NW Canada, just E of the Alaska border. It lies around Klondike River, a small stream that enters the Yukon River from the east at Dawson. The discovery in 1896 of rich placer gold deposits in Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, a tributary of the Klondike,
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, Canada (1897–98).


See O. Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields (1949); E. Wells and H. Peterson, The '49ers (1949); P. Barton, The Klondike Fever (1958); R. W. Paul, Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848–1880 (1963, repr. 2001) and as ed., The California Gold Discovery (1966); D. B. Chidsey, The California Gold Rush (1968); H. W. Brands, The Age of Gold (2002); D. L. Walker, Eldorado: The California Gold Rush (2003); E. Dolnick, The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848–1853 (2014).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Gold Rush

lure of instant riches precipitated onslaught of prospectors (1848, 1886). [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 203]
See: Frenzy
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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