Economics and Business

Gold Rush

What was the biggest gold rush?

The greatest American gold rush began on January 24, 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Within a year, a large-scale gold rush was on. As the nearest port, the small town of San Francisco grew into a bustling city as fortune seekers arrived from around the world. Due to the influx, by 1850 California had enough people to qualify it for statehood. This pattern repeated itself elsewhere in the American West, including the Pikes Peak gold rush in 1859, which effectively launched the city of Denver, Colorado. The gold rush led to the discovery of copper, lead, silver, and other useful minerals. It also spawned related industry. One of the success stories is that of Levi Strauss (1829–1902), a Bavarian immigrant who in 1853 began making and selling sturdy clothing to miners in San Francisco.

In other countries, gold rushes had the same effect on the growth and development of regions: After the precious metal was discovered in Australia in 1851, the country’s population almost tripled over the course of the next decade. The effect of an 1861 gold rush in nearby New Zealand was to double the country’s population in six years’ time. An 1886 discovery in South Africa led to the development of the city of Johannesburg. Just over a decade later, the infamous Yukon gold rush (in the Klondike region of Canada) spurred development there.


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