California Gold Rush

Wednesday, January 24th. An accidental discovery at a construction site on this date 170 years ago changed the course of our history. In 1848, James Marshall was building a sawmill for his boss, John Sutter, near Coloma, California, when he found gold. The pair tried to keep the discovery secret, but word got out, and by the following year, the famous Gold Rush was on, drawing some 100,000 fortune-seekers to the California territory. About $2 billion of gold was mined during the rush, which spurred construction of railroads and hastened statehood for California. While the 49er image is long gone, about 14,000 workers at 175 establishments nationwide still make their living mining gold ore, extracting more than $9 billion worth of the precious metal from the ground every year.

Profile America is in its 21st year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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