Who were these individuals that flocked to California? They were primarily men, especially at first. They were merchants, craftsmen, and laborers. Bakers, sailors, and medics. All brought together by a shared dream of finding wealth in the California goldfields. The early rush of 1848 featured mostly miners from the Oregon area and the nearer parts of Latin America. As time progressed new inhabitants started flocking from all parts of America, all the way across from the East Coast. These individuals had to partake in a treacherous six month journey over land or by sea around the tip of South America. Many fell ill and died along the way. The travelers hardy or lucky enough to survive were joined by fortune seekers from virtually ever continent on the globe. The Chinese in particular made the long ocean passage in tremendous numbers. Of the nearly 300,000 individuals that made the journey for California's gold during the peak influx, 1848-1855, over 25,000 were Chinese.
It is not hard to see why the gold rush was so enticing. Only hard work and dedication were required to make a hefty sum. The reality of the riches found by those early miners and their 300,000 followers quickly met the reality that the easy to grab gold was soon gone. By 1850 the average miner could earn only roughly $2.00 a day. The decreasing accessibility of gold led the miners to discover new ways of extracting it. The gold was still there it was just finer and trapped inside the hills. For more on the ingenuity of the miners and the technological advances brought on by the gold rush check back into our future blog.