Return to Gold Fever Gold Fever! The Lure and Legacy of the California Gold Rush
Introduction
Lure of Gold
Stepping Back
California
Discovery
First Finds
The News
World on the Eve
Across Land
By Sea

Gold Fever Part II


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First Finds

Tens of thousands of years of erosion had loosened gold nuggets from the solid rock of the Sierra Nevada. Large and small pieces of placer gold were washed down by mountain streams over the millennia, often just resting in the stream beds waiting to be picked up by anyone who cared. Gold had not been valued by California Indian cultures--they regarded other products of nature as precious.

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First Finds

California Gold Nuggets,

But gold certainly was valued by the colonizers and immigrants who had begun to settle in the region. Those lucky few who were already in northern Mondo NuggetCalifornia in the spring and summer of 1848, or who could get to the gold fields quickly, were frequently rewarded with remarkably rich harvests of gold nuggets. Enormous fortunes could be made in a few weeks. Gold fever spread like a rampant epidemic.

Top: California Gold Nuggets, Collection of Oakland Museum of California
Bottom: Photo by Christopher Richard

 

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