The California Gold Rush (1848-1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. All told, the news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately half arrived by sea, and half came overland from the east, on the California Trail and the Gila River trail. The gold-seekers, called "forty-niners" (as a reference to 1849), traveled by sailing ship and covered wagon and often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. At first, the gold nuggets could be picked up off the ground. Later, gold was recovered from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods were developed and later adopted elsewhere. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, and mining companies became important. Gold worth tens of billions of today's dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, many returned home with little more than what they had started with. This Gallery revisits some of the historical mining communities that developed during this boomtown era.
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