"Alaska is the land of the 19th century Argonauts; and the Golden Fleece hidden away among its snowcapped and glacier-clad mountains is not the pretty creation of mythological fame, but yellow nuggets, which may be transformed into the coin of the realm. The vast territory into which these hardy soldiers of fortune penetrate is no less replete with wonders than the fabled land into which Jason is said to have led his band of adventurers. There is this difference, however, between the frozen land of the North and the fabled land of mythology. There is nothing conjectural about Alaska or its golden treasure. Jason led his band into an unknown country without the certain knowledge that the treasure he was seeking was there." (A.C. Harris, author of Alaska and the Klondike Gold Mines )
One of the most important and memorable events of the United States' westward push across the frontier came with the discovery of gold, in the lands that became California, in January 1848. Located thousands of miles away from the country's power centers on the East Coast at the time, the announcement came a month before the Mexican-American War ended. It brought an influx of an estimated 90,000 "Forty-Niners" to the region in 1849, hailing from other parts of America and even as far away as Asia. All told, an estimated 300,000 people would come to California over the next few years, as men dangerously trekked thousands of miles in hopes of making a fortune. In a span of months, San Francisco's population exploded, making it one of the first mining boomtowns to truly spring up in the West.
This was a pattern that would repeat itself across the West anytime a mineral discovery was made, from the Southwest and Tombstone to the Dakotas and Deadwood. Of course, it was all made possible by the collective memory of the original California gold rush.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors
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