California Gold Rush

Barbara J. Feldman

A pea-sized gold nugget was unearthed at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California on January 24, 1848. Although the news did spread, Sam Brannan, a San Francisco newspaperman, is credited with starting the actual rush on May 12 when he walked the streets of San Francisco holding up a quinine bottle filled with gold nuggets and shouting, “Gold, gold, gold, from the American River.” Within three days, a third of the city’s 600 men were on their way to Sutter’s Mill. By mid-June, Brannan’s newspaper had to suspend publication because his entire staff had run off to gold country.

  • The Gold Rush5 stars

    "Throughout 1848, reports and rumors about plentiful gold in the mountains and streams of California percolated throughout America. Some of the accounts seemed too good to be true -- chunks of gold waiting to be scooped up. Instant prosperity!" The best nuggets on this PBS site (created as a companion to their television documentary) can be found in the Special Features section. And don't miss Strike it Rich!, an interactive role-playing game.

  • Gold Rush! California's Untold Stories4 stars

    Welcome to Oakland Museum's Gold Rush exhibit. This virtual tour is divided into a narrative (Gold Fever), a display of Gold Rush paintings (Gold Rush Art), and a photo exhibit (Silver & Gold). The best clicks of the site are the multimedia components (Shockwave and Apple's QTVR) listed across the top of each page.

  • History: The Gold Rush of 18494 stars

    Start with the opening video to discover how the Gold Rush led to the "invention of California." Below the video, this one-page history lesson is divided into four sections: Discovery at Sutter's Mill, News Spreads, The ‘49ers Come to California, and Lasting Impact of the Gold Rush. "Though gold mining continued throughout the 1850s, it had reached its peak by 1852, when some $81 million was pulled from the ground. After that year, the total take declined gradually, leveling off to around $45 million per year by 1857."

  • Museum of City of San Francisco: Discovery of Gold4 stars

    "It was in the first part of January, 1848, when the gold was discovered at Coloma, where I was then building a saw-mill. The contractor and builder of this mill was James W. Marshall, from New Jersey." So begins General Sutter's own account of the discovery of gold. This collection of eyewitness tales includes reports from European and New York newspapers, as well as a detailed chronology of California's history during the Gold Rush years.

  • SacBee: Cal Gold Rush5 stars

    The Sacramento Bee published this dedicated Gold Rush site in 1998, the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill. Despite its age, Cal Gold Rush is excellent resource for students and grownups. Visit for maps, a timeline, and the story of the Gold Rush told in seven sections, with a special emphasis on Sacramento. "They came by the tens of thousands from around the nation, riding on horseback or wagon train, steaming around Cape Horn, hacking their way across the isthmus of Panama or walking through the desert scrubland of northern Mexico. The destination was Northern California, their goal was gold, and for many, the hardships meant little when compared with the riches that awaited them in the gold fields."

  • Honorable Mentions

    The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!

    Cite This Page

  • Feldman, Barbara. "California Gold Rush." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 6 May. 2014. Web. 3 Dec. 2014. < >.

  • About This Page

  • By . Originally published May 6, 2014. Last modified May 6, 2014.

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