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Tim Elam: The California Gold Rush
Tim Elam: The California Gold Rush

Sat, Sep 23



Tim Elam: The California Gold Rush

Join geologist Tim Elam as he talks about the Gold Rush, one of the most important events to occur in the western United States

Time & Location

Sep 23, 2023, 1:30 PM

Bakersfield, 2018 Chester Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301, USA

About the Event


September 23, 2023

1:30 PM


The California Gold Rush was one of the most important events to occur in the western United States. Sierra Nevada gold was found in January, 1848, east of present-day Sacramento, when California belonged to Mexico. But days later, following a treaty that ended Mexico/United States hostilities, California was destined to become part of the United States.

The Gold Rush was one of the largest peacetime migrations in history. At least 500,000 folks came to California over a seven-year period ending in 1855. Many foreigners came not only to seek gold, but to escape political and economic strife. Travel to the distant land of California was difficult for both Americans and foreigners.

Once in California, the gold seekers, or “argonauts” largely displaced indigenous peoples, whose lifestyle was greatly disrupted. Their numbers were quickly, tragically reduced in multiple ways. Native-born Californians of Mexican descent generally fared poorly, though better than the Native Americans.

Early on, prospectors who possessed simple tools and a strong back might become rich. Miners frequently moved to new Sierra drainages and territories. Later, new, sometimes environmentally destructive mining techniques were employed to find elusive gold.

The gold camps were unusually diverse places, where people spoke different languages, and had different foods, customs, and religions. American government…and laws and law enforcement… had barely been established.

The gold camps launched the career of entertainer Lotta Crabtree, who began performing as a six- year-old, and reinvigorated the career of Lola Montez, an Irish dancer. A story written about jumping frogs at an 1860’s gold camp made a failed newspaperman, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), famous.

The boom-and-bust cycle of discovery fostered unbelievable yet true stories. The rapid decline of gold production led to a U.S. banking financial panic in 1857 that nearly destroyed San Francisco. But a disappointing 1850 Gold Rush era discovery in Nevada led to the 1859 discovery of a different metal, silver, which rescued the mining industry and San Francisco.

Join geologist Tim Elam as he talks about Gold Rush history. He leads walking tours about the Gold Rush in San Francisco.

The presentation will be informal, and questions and discussion are encouraged. No geologic background is necessary to enjoy the event.

There will be no extra charge for attending this event…just the normal Museum entrance fee.

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