AFTER THE GOLD RUSH After James Marshall’s discovery of gold in the American River during the winter of 1848, a flood of fortune-seekers came to the California frontier. Though the riches found in the state’s rivers and mines eventually amounted to little more than a flash in the pan, the lingering effects of the massive migration known as the California Gold Rush dramatically altered the political, social, and environmental landscape of California.
Environment The countryside of California was torn up as the newly arrived settlers searched for gold. They used high-powered jets of water to wash away hillsides in a practice known as hydraulic mining, and burrowed thousands of mine shafts into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The effects of mining began to harm a new industry developing in California’s Central Valley during the mid-1800s—agriculture. Mining involved digging up the rivers and producing silt. It heavily damaged the rivers for agricultural use. By the mid-1870s, the California government realized that agriculture was more lucrative than mining, and passed laws that restricted the impact of mining on rivers.
Social Growth The California Gold Rush turned rural California into an area dotted with towns and cities. The Gold Rush put San Francisco on the map. The first transcontinental railroad that connected the east and the west coast of the United States, would have its western terminal in San Francisco. The influx of gold-seekers to California affected the makeup of the state’s population. The Mexican people who lived in the region when it was part of Mexico saw their influence erode. The Foreign Miners License Law, a discriminatory piece of legislation charged foreign miners a $20 fee per month. Though the $20 a month foreign mining fee was repealed, a new $3 a month tax was aimed primarily at the Chinese miners.
Golden State The California Gold Rush’s main contributions was the rapid “Americanization” of California. The flood of gold-seekers was a major factor in California becoming a state in 1850. Before the Gold Rush, California was a frontier with only a small connection to the rest of the United States. But the massive number of Americans who settled in California stayed connected to their families on the East Coast and in the Midwest. The California Gold Rush brought together the east with the newly acquired western parts of the American empire, especially California.
Source: After the Gold Rush
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