By: Preston Isaiah and Marcelino

Essential Questions

1.) What are the pros and cons of technological progress during the westward expansion compared to the colonial period?

2.) What can we learn about our dealings with Natives in the past that help shape our future?

Mine Rush

The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 started the Gold Rush is one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. As news spread of the discovery thousands of gold miners traveled by sea or land to San Francisco and the surrounding area by the end of 1849 the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000. A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush which peaked in 1852

New Technology

Miners used chemicals, heat, and electricity to process more complex metal and mineral compounds. Silver for example often occurs in the compound silver sulfide or in lead compounds. Historically the key chemical processes included amalgamation with mercury and leaching in a solution of chlorine sodium or calcium hyposulfite (lixiviation) or cyanide. Early Nevada miners mostly used amalgamation. The method dates back to medieval Europe and developed further in the mines of Spanish Colonial America. Amalgamation methods include passing crushed ore over mercury-coated copper plates and tables patio yards and the Washoe pan process, which used mechanical pans and steam heat to replicate patio yards. The Reese River variant of the pan process roasted ores with salt to form silver chloride before amalgamating in Washoe pans.

Essential Questions


The miners used many tools for completing various tasks such as the pick axe, used to break up rock. The mine carts used to transport the mined materials. Shovels used to dig up the dirt and move the rocks. Miners Hat used for protecting the miners in case of falling rocks or collapsing caves. As well as the miners code of signals used to communicate in tunnels or caves without yelling and potentially cause the tunnels to encave

Life as a Miner

Each mining rush required a town. Many towns had as high as a 9-to-1 male-to-female ratio. The ethnic diversity was great. Mexican immigrants were very common. Native Americans didn’t really go to the mining industry, but mestizos (the kids of Mexican and Native American parents) often did. Many African Americans aspired to the same get-rich-quick idea as the white people had. Until excluded by federal law in 1882, Chinese Americans were numerous in mining towns. Whites owned and managed all of the mines. Poor whites, Mexicans and Chinese Americans worked the mine shafts. A few African Americans joined them but many worked as cooks or artisans. It is these mining towns are thought of as the sterotypical Wild West. Most did have a saloon with swinging doors and a player piano. But miners and prospectors worked all day few had the luxury of spending it at the bar. By nighttime most were too tired to do anything. Weekends might bring folks out to the saloon for gambling or drinking to engage in the occasional bar fight or two. Law enforcement was crude. Many towns could not afford a sheriff, so vigilante justice prevailed. Occasionally a posse or hunting party would be raised to capture a particularly nettlesome miscreant. When the rush was at its peak, the town prospered. But eventually the mines were exhausted or proved fruitless. Slowly its inhabitants would leave, leaving behind nothing but a ghost town.

Mining Camp - Perris, CA
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