California gold rush

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I. Introduction

  1. 106 million troy ounces removed – 1848-1967

    1. Troy ounce = ~1.1 avoirdupois ounce

  2. Importance of gold to development of western US and California

II. Distribution of Gold

  1. Four main gold-producing provinces

  2. Two smaller producing provinces

III. Geology of Gold

  1. Subduction boundaries – melting of oceanic/continental rock

  2. Felsic magmas – producing granitic Plutons – emplacement Mesozoic era

    1. Filling fissures forming quartz and feldspar ‘veins’

    2. “veins” filled with ore-bearing minerals: gold, silver, copper

    3. Hydro-thermal vein deposits

  3. “Live” quartz vs. “Dead” quartz (49er’s terminology)

IV. Mother Lode

  1. Ore deposit from which placer is derived: a main mineralized unit with workable veins

  2. Most productive gold districts: Northern and Central Sierra Nevada

    1. Gold-quartz veins in metamorphic rocks and Sierra Nevada Batholith

    2. Grass Valley – Empire Mine @ $1 billion in gold

    3. Nevada City – gold and silver

    4. Sierra city – Gold

  3. Place deposits divided by age: Older (tertiary) and Younger (quaternary)

    1. Tertiary: mined by hydraulicking and drifting

    2. Quaternary: mined by dredging

V. Klamath Mountains

  1. Shasta-Trinity Counties: French-Gulch District

    1. Stream terrace placer deposits: mined by hydraulicking

VI. Basin and Range – Mojave Desert

  1. Bodie Gold Mine (1870s and 1880s)

  2. Surface and subsurface deposits in tertiary igneous rocks

  3. Quartz veins of older metamorphic and granitic rocks

  4. Dry placers (Bodie), Rand, Stedman

VII. Transverse Range and Peninsular Ranges

  1. Frazier Park, Saugus, Acton, Julian

VIII. Discovery of Gold in California

  1. Alluvial gold deposits – mined by Spanish and Mexicans (1700’s)

  2. San Fernando Rancho (1841) – San Francisquito Canyon

    1. Extraction method: ‘dry washing’ – similar to winnowing in agriculture

  3. January 24, 1848: south fork of American River, millpond built by James Marshall for

John Sutter

D. Methods of extraction:

A, Batea – dish-shaped Indian basket

\ B. Iron gold pan

C. Cradle (rocker)

      1. Long Tom developed – more efficient – less waste

D. Sluices

E. Water channels – riffles, sorters,

F. Monitors
IX. Changes Gold Rush brought to California

  1. Gold was great equalizer – up to a point

    1. Experienced and inexperienced miners

    2. rudimentary, simple equipment used at first

    3. African-American, Chinese came to gold fields – native Americans excluded

    4. After 1851 – more women came to gold fields

  2. A collective urge to leave everything for Gold: Argonauts

  3. Spark imagination of nation after slavery , Civil War, poverty, depression

X. Gold Rush shaped Western USA

  1. Mining displaced native Americans

  2. Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo guaranteed property rights of Mexican residents;

But seizure of property upheld in US courts : White American supremacy recognized

  1. Urbanized settlements dominate over more typical rural settlement patterns

  2. Negative influence on physical health of miners: injuries, illness, lack of sanitation

  3. Dependency on outside services for food, clothing, etc: Consumer market

  4. Demand for food countered by pollution of downstream rivers with tailings, toxins and hydraulic mining residues: miner vs. farmer

  5. Set stage for water wars: appropriative rights vs. riparian rights

  6. Mining ‘masculinized’ urban areas – social and cultural aspects influenced

  7. Glamorization of mining by east coast newspapers: fueled more immigration

  8. Complete disregard of environment: over 500,000 abandoned mines in California,

Leaking acids and toxins (arsenic, for example)

  1. Gold mining emerged as a capital-intensive, wage-earning, industry

  2. Produced great wealth: providing $$ and power to California

    1. Capitalism emerging

    2. Establishment of San Francisco as the entré-pot on Pacific Ocean

    3. Formation of sub-industries – technological industries to support Gold industry

    4. California controlled transcontinental railroads: Central Pacific and Southern Pacific

V. Drake

© 2001

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