Top 10 Weird but True Things About the California Gold Rush

To put it simply, the California Gold Rush was (surprise, surprise) a gold rush that began on January 24, 1848, and brought people from the rest of the United States and abroad to California in hopes of getting a good chunk of wealth for themselves.
The Top Ten
1 It was not the first gold rush in the United States

Oftentimes, we just assume the best this or that was the first. In this case, the best gold rush in the USA. While the California Gold Rush was by far the more memorable gold rush the United States had, it was not the first one. That was about fifty years beforehand, and it was in North Carolina.

About 30,000 people surged into North Carolina after a seventeen-pound gold nugget was found in Cabarrus County.

2 There were hardly any women in the California Gold Rush

What does that have to do with anything? Well, it's kind of complicated. In 1852, about 92% of the people prospecting for gold were men. The few women who did travel to the West looked for a living in the boomtowns, working in restaurants, bars, and hotels that were everywhere.

Women back in the East were afraid of the trouble the men might get into without the influence of women. They published stories and ran advertisements directed at educated, young women with good ethics to travel west to tame these men. Few took them up on this offer. The percentage of women in gold mining groups did grow a bit, but even in 1860, they numbered fewer than 19%.

This resulted in the spreading of homosexuality and gay culture in the mines. I could elaborate, but I think it's best I don't.

3 The Gold Rush is how Death Valley got its sinister name

Yeah, the valley that sounds like it was derived from Psalm 23:4 (that's the verse about the valley of the shadow of death) did not get its ominous name because a Christian discovered it or something. Although it is possible that the Bible verse has at least a small connection to Death Valley, it mainly got its ominous title when 13 prospectors died while crossing a desert valley in eastern California. The valley received its name as "Death Valley" after they died of heat strokes, making it literally a valley of death.

4 The Gold Rush was one of the largest mass migrations in American history

The California gold rush is considered one of the largest mass migrations in American history. In March 1848, the population of what was then just Native American territory (later to become the state of California) was 157,000: 150,000 Native Americans, 6,500 of Hispanic descent, and fewer than 800 white men.

By the mid-1850s, after a gigantic increase of settlers, there were more than 300,000 new arrivals, and one in every 90 people in the United States was living in California.

5 The California Gold Rush is where the term "49ers" came from

We all know the American football team, the San Francisco 49ers, but what is a 49er? The term "forty-niners" alludes to about 300,000 immigrants who arrived in California in covered wagons, clipper ships (which is how we got the "Los Angeles Clippers" basketball team), and on horseback and staked claims to parts of land around the river to extract gold. They are named "forty-niners" for the year they started to arrive in California: none other than 1849.

6 The California Gold Rush created the California Dream

The gold rush led to the concept of the "California Dream," which is associated with the thought of getting rich quick. If you asked your dad what the California Dream is, and asked your grandfather what it is, you'd get two very different answers.

Your grandfather would tell you that the California Dream is how you could get rich fast, as this California Dream was defined during the gold rush. Your dad might say that it's something that has lost its meaning or simply say he doesn't know. Your grandfather would be right about what the California Dream is.

7 The Gold Rush is where we get the term "panning out"

The phrase "to pan out" has its origins in the California gold rush and the utilization of "placer mining," where a gold miner carefully spins around a metal pan filled with river sediment, hoping to find a dot of gold that would hit the bottom of the pan. When a miner would find gold at the bottom of the pan, it was said that it literally "panned out."

In modern days, something panned out is something finished or concluded. Interesting how the term changed a bit.

8 Women got higher pay than men in California during the Gold Rush

California was the one place that women could earn more money than men for doing the same job. Given women were few and far between in California, men would often pay women to work with them just for the presence of a female or pay them to do chores that they didn't know how to do themselves or jobs that were considered "women's work."

One woman supposedly made over $18,000 by baking pies and nothing else.

9 The California Gold Rush caused lots of tree planting in California

The gold rush led to a huge demand for timber, building materials, and fuel, which, in turn, led to an enormous deforestation of California's woodlands. One of the solutions to this problem was to bring eucalyptus seeds from Australia to California and plant forests of these trees. They grow six feet a year and can grow up to 30 feet tall.

While you mostly see California redwoods in California, eucalyptus trees can still be found here and there.

10 Two brothers mined $1.5 million worth of gold in a year

Two brothers mined $1.5 million worth of gold in a single year. John and Daniel Murphy arrived in the Sierra Nevada in 1848 and struck gold within days. In a year, they mined $1.5 million worth of the precious metal, about $40 million today.

The Contenders
11 The Golden State Bridge was not named after the Gold Rush

"Seriously?" Yes, seriously. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was not named after the California gold rush. About two years prior to the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, the Golden Gate Bridge was titled "the Golden Gate" because it was viewed as the "golden gate to trade with the Orient."

I always assumed that it was named after that. By the way, great list!

12 Two miners on Weber Creek gathered $17,000 in gold in seven days
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