This year is the 170th anniversary of one of the most significant events in world history: the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. On January 24, 1848, while inspecting a mill race for his employer John Sutter, James Marshall glimpsed something glimmering in the cold winter water. “Boys,” he announced, brandishing a nugget to his fellow workers, “I believe I have found a gold mine!”
Marshall had pulled the starting trigger on a global rush that set the world in motion. The impact was sudden – and dramatic. In 1848 California’s non-Indian population was around 14,000; it soared to almost 100,000 by the end of 1849, and to 300,000 by the end of 1853.
Some of these people now stare back at us enigmatically through daguerreotypes and tintypes. From Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands; from South and Central America; from Australia and New Zealand; from Southeastern China; from Western and Eastern Europe, arrivals made their way to the golden state.
Looking back later, Mark Twain famously described those who rushed for gold as “a driving, vigorous restless population … an assemblage of two hundred thousand young men – not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved weaklings, but stalwart, muscular, dauntless young braves…”
“The only population of the kind that the world has ever seen gathered together”, Twain reflected, it was “not likely that the world will ever see its like again”.
Arriving at Ballarat in 1895, Twain saw first-hand the incredible economic, political, and social legacies of the Australian gold rushes, which had begun in 1851 and triggered a second global scramble in pursuit of the precious yellow mineral.
For the rest of this article: https://theconversation.com/how-gold-rushes-helped-make-the-modern-world-91746