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1848-1865: The Gold Rush Era

California gold diggers, a scene from actual life at the mines The few short years of the Gold Rush changed California's population and environment dramatically. Ethnic diversity grew as people from all over the world poured into the state, ignoring numerous dangers and the ever-present risk of earthquakes to follow their dreams of striking gold. This sudden influx, and the gold mining industry in general, had a significant impact on the environment and contributed to the rapid growth of cities throughout the state. The state's legal infrastructure lagged behind this growth, however, and the lawless atmosphere of the gold mining communities led to a growing problem of murder and mayhem. Law-abiding citizens began to see the need to strengthen existing legal and judicial institutions to ensure a more peaceful approach to everyday life.


Murder and Mayhem
Everyday Life and People
Environmental Impact
Growth of Cities
Diversity in the Changing State

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Browse A-Z

Explore primary source sets on the Gold Rush era:

Bear Flag Republic
Donner Party
Frontier and pioneer life
Gold Rush
Overland trails to the West
Sutter, John
Sutter's Fort
Sutter's Mill
Westward expansion

California Cultures

Learn more about California's diversity in the Gold Rush era.