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Big Dreams, Small Tool Triggered Gold Rush


Go For the Gold!

While Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland toiled over their latest articles in New York City, miners across the nation toiled over their gold pans. Long after big gold rushes, miners remained in California, Alaska, South Dakota, Colorado and North Carolina, to name a few – all in search of the golden goose.  Their big dreams and a small tool triggered the gold rush.

Not So High-Tech Equipment

The initial technology required to trigger a gold rush was typically nothing more than a shallow, flat-bottomed pan that was operated by one individual with a big dream of changing his or her life. When Gold Fever took hold, the rushes were marked by the giddy feeling that instant wealth was attainable.

California Dreamers

The California Gold Rush was one of the largest in the country. It was sparked when gold was first spotted at Sutter’s Mill in the Sacramento Valley in 1848.

This single finding spurred one of the most significant events in U.S. History, with an estimated 300,000 people migrating to the area in search of the California Dream. They flooded in by land and by sea. Approximately half of these dreamers came from other countries.

Miners seeking fast success in the new world were called the “forty-niners.” Many left their lives behind them and remained in the new gold rush towns that sprang from one gold pan and a dream.

Higher-Tech Techniques

Once deposits were confirmed, miners often moved to “higher-tech” equipment that could treat greater volumes of sand and gravel more quickly and efficiently, like the rocker box. It sat on, you guessed it, rockers that rocked back and forth to separate the gold from the gunk.

If the gold kept coming, they eventually moved to more advanced techniques like ground sluicing, dredging and later, and the industry’s most destructive tool, the hydraulic monitor.

Hydraulic mining changed the landscape of parts of California. One of the largest sites is Malakoff Diggins, a man-made hole that’s 60 feet deep, more than a mile long and half a mile wide.

750,000 Pounds of Dreams!

Miners extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold during the California Gold Rush alone That’s a lot of dreaming that started with one small pan!

Typically, the large investors became wealthy off of the mines. The average person who risked it all for their dream ended up with little to show for their efforts.

Still Dreaming After All These Years

Gold mining, which goes as far back as Ancient Egypt, remains a popular dream. Amazingly, tens of thousands of people continue to  use the same simple  “technology” today in search of the golden dream. Here’s a great piece by the History Channel about the Gold Rush, simple gold mining and how gold deposits collect.

Check out two poems about tarnished dreams and a pile of gold in The Saga of Hurricane Bill by Emmet, The Malibu Poet.
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