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Diversity in the Changing State

Questions to Consider

What ethnic groups lived in California in the mid-1800s?

Why did people from all over the world come to California?

Did people from these varying cultures generally understand and get along with one another?

About the Images

The images in this topic clearly illustrate the great ethnic diversity of California's population during the Gold Rush years. People from all over the world hoped to strike it rich in California's gold mines. Soon Europeans, Asians, and African Americans and Native Americans from other parts of the country joined the Native Californians and Californios.


The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on the population and culture of California. Before the Gold Rush, the population consisted mainly of Native Californians and Californios (settlers and landowners of mixed Spanish, Native Californian, and African descent). But gold fever brought people to California from all over the country and world. The Anglo Americans (of English, Irish, or Scots descent), other Europeans (including Italians, Russians, and others), Chinese, Asians, African Americans, and many more who came and stayed changed the ethnic makeup of the state's population.

Some images show different ethnic groups working and living side by side: in a saloon, a horse market, and along a riverbank mining for gold. The drawing entitled "A Road Scene in California" depicts social changes — European American miners drive a wagon, and a group of Native Americans leaves the mining area as Chinese miners enter it. Daguerreotypes show a group of Chinese and European American pioneers panning for gold; and African Americans working alongside European American pioneers at the mines.

The Modoc War (1872-73) was a result of the conflict between the interests of the European American pioneers and Native Californians. Photographs of various tribes, some taken by noted photographer Eadweard Muybridge, give a glimpse of how they lived.

Three-dimensional stereoscopic views offered people outside of California a glimpse of the West. Stereo views in this topic include portraits of Native Americans and Chinese workers.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 5:

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write research reports about important ideas, issues, or events.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver informative presentations about an important idea, issue, or event.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.3 Students explain the economic, social, and political life in California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and the granting of statehood. (4.3.3)

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.

Grade 5:

5.3 Students describe the cooperation and conflict that existed among the American Indians and between the Indian nations and the new settlers.

5.8 Students trace the colonization, immigration, and settlement patterns of the American people from 1789 to the mid-1800s, with emphasis on the role of economic incentives, effects of the physical and political geography, and transportation systems. (5.8.4)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Posters/Visuals (PDF) (Source: Bringing History Home)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)

What is a Daguerreotype?

Daguerreotypes are one-of-a-kind images created on silver-plated copper. Daguerreotypes are named for their creator, the French commercial artist Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, who discovered the process in 1837.

What is a stereoscopic view?

a stereoscopic viewer

Stereoscopic views were a new form of entertainment in the mid-1800s. These photographs of people and places, which appeared three-dimensional when viewed, offered viewers a way to "travel" without leaving home. The technology is fairly simple: two nearly identical photos offering slightly different views of the same scene are printed next to each other on a card. When seen through a stereo viewer (a simple handheld device), they create a 3D effect.