The discovery of and popular quest for gold and silver riches in the "Wild West" ended in disappointment for many hopeful miners, but their movement changed the landscape, population, and balance of the United States forever.
Mining in general could refer simply to coal mining, a major part of American industry and technological development after the Civil War. When discussing the mining boom however, the most significant topics focus on gold and silver mining that took place out West in the 19th century and really picked up after heavy settlement through the 1840s. The discovery of each of those valuable commodities led to a rush of prospectors moving westward in search of their fortune.
Never before in history were everyday, regular citizens capable of having access to such precious commodities. For thousands of years governments led by leaders with absolute power held sole access to anything like gold or silver. The amazing reality of the 19th century in America was this historical possibility in which anybody could lay claim to the treasures of the frontier, a land of limitless opportunity according to many American dreamers.
GOLD MINING / THE GOLD RUSH
The most famous explosion in mining popularity occurred in California after gold was discovered near San Francisco in 1848. News of the find reached back east and a year later thousands of hopeful prospectors, often young men, raced to secure gold they felt would be pouring out of the mountains. This group became known as the forty-niners since they journeyed en masse in 1849. The San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League should help you remember which small port city became a power center virtually overnight because of this particular mining boom.
Most of these hopefuls failed to find their fortune. Large companies had resources to acquire vast amounts of land. In turn they employed many of the forty-niners. Other businessmen recognized the needs of a boom town that grew so ...
The main focus of this concise essay is the background, problems, and significance of the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s, but basic information about silver booms and coal mining are also included.