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American History

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In the 1800's something was discovered in California and Alaska that would change the state forever. That thing was gold and hidden behind its value were about 400,000 miners, thousands of deaths, and a journey of full of hardship. Each location, California and Klondike Alaska, had its own set of negative and positive aspects, most negative.

The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, Hawaii, and Latin America, who were the first to start migrating to the state in late 1848. All in all, the news of gold brought an estimated 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and countries around the world. Of the 300,000, half arrived by sea and half came from the east on the California Trail and the Gila River trail. The gold-seekers, called forty-niners, as referenced to the year 1849, often faced many hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. In the first months of the gold rush, the gold nuggets could be picked up off the ground. Later, gold was recovered from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques such as panning. More advanced methods were invented and later used elsewhere including the Klondike. Gold worth tens of billions of today's dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. In the end, many returned home with little more than they had started with or sometimes less then what they came with.

As gold became harder to get, so California had to undergo changes. By the early 1850s, a single worker could no longer work his area alone, so he needed help and technology to find more gold. To begin with miners would work together to dam rivers and reroute water to make the gold more visible. Soon after this happened the group of workers were taken over by corporations. The new corporation developed new ideas for mining gold that would destroy the rivers. One thing that miners would use was mercury. Miners would line their pan with mercury to create a type of magnet for gold. Unfortunately, miners didn't know the long term effects of using mercury, because mercury would be washed into the rivers and pollute the rivers as well as any animals that were living in the rivers. The most common way to safely mine gold was to use shallow metal pans, and mix soil from the riverbeds. Then by making circular motions with the pan, the lighter soil washed away, leaving only the gold. A more complex way of mining was the waterwheel that was introduced by the Chinese. The water would move the wheel, thus powering various mining machines. However the worst was yet to come when in 1853, the technique of hydraulic mining was introduced. Hydraulic mining used strong jets of water that tore apart the walls



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