A gold rush, as the name suggests, refers to the discovery of gold, which may also include the discovery of other precious metals or rare earth elements. Consequently, a flurry of miners and people dealing in gold go to the place of the gold rush in order to get a share of the fortune.
Historically, some of the major gold rushes have happened in the 19th century in nations such as Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Further back, it has been documented that gold rushes go as far back as the Roman Empire and maybe even to Ancient Egypt.
For the most part, gold mining was not that profitable to the miners. Instead, the people who benefited the most from gold rushes were merchants and transport companies. An argument can be made that gold rushes benefitted the whole economy since they always brought about a large number of people and a good supply of money. In addition, they always came with a general feeling that anyone could try their hand and make a fortune as evidenced by the California Dream.
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush started on January 24, 1848, and ended in 1855. After the discovery of gold by James W. Marshall, about 300,000 people from the United States and the rest of the world moved to California to explore the new fortune. This influx of population and money from the gold allowed California to grow at a rapid pace until it became a state in 1850. Aside from the boom in the economy of California, the gold rush also had other consequences.
One of the biggest short-term effects was the effects on the Native Americans who lived in California who depended on traditional techniques to hunt and farm for food. These people, around 15,000, were overwhelmed by the influx of foreigners who disrupted their way of life. For example, the mining techniques that were used led to the poisoning of the fish while clearing space for settlements led to the disappearance of game. As the settlers began farming, they also took away Native land. All these factors, combined with attacks against tribes that lived close to mining camps, decimated the number of locals. Records show that the deaths of California Native Americans stood between 9,400 and 16,000. Aside from these negative effects, the visitors showed remarkable leadership and governance skills that eventually transformed California into a powerful and desirable state. Worldwide, foreign countries obtained a new market for their goods in California.
Due to the incredible success that California had because of the gold rush, the term gold rush became permanently connected to fast success, which was described as the "California Dream." Consequently, more people began seeing the state as the perfect place for realizing a life dream thus earning California the nickname of the "Golden State." Today, the state remembers that revolutionary period by having images relating to it on the state seal as well the nickname of the state. In addition, the state motto, “Eureka,” also makes a reference to that period.