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California Gold Rush


The Gold Rush in California in 1849 attracted a huge number of people seeking fortunes. The event was hallmarked by lucky people that made fortunes and thatwere successful unlucky that died owing to diseases, violence, and a difficult working environment. The event affected society by creating population growth, social development, and growth of towns and economic stimulation. Gold rush created development and expansion of towns, population explosion and helped California to join the US; nonetheless, despite the positive effects, Gold Rush caused environmental destruction, increase crime and social ills, as well as, and racial tensions.

Gold Rush played a critical role in the growth of towns, economic expansion, and financial stability. There was the growth of towns as the population increased, which provided an opportunity for businesses such as accommodation, hospitality, healthcare, and transport. It provided cities with the opportunity to expand their infrastructure systems such as roads and railway that led to the developments of towns created demand for goods and services. The population explosion was instrumental in enhancing the trade and growth of international trade as business networks started to creep in the society. Traders from different parts of the world interacted in California as they traded, which improved the money economy that provided funds for expansion of the railway network. Good infrastructure helped people to move easily to their booming businesses that provided money critical in the development of road and rail network, which was instrumental in opening up the interior areas and increased traders that sought to leverage on opportunities in the hinterlands. National Geographic agrees noting that "Gold Rush also led foreign businesses to flourish as they expanded the export of their goods and services to the booming new consumer markets in California". As well, manufacturing and agricultural activities increased owing to economic expansion owing to increased demand for lumber and clothing increased; thus, promoting manufacturing business. In the interior, improved transport played a role in enhancing agricultural activities as good easily reached the market. Enterprising individuals established industries to produce wine as raw materials were easily available locally.

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As well, Gold Rush caused a population explosion as people moved to seek fortunes, trade, and look for employment, immigration created towns such as San Francisco, which was instrumental as it enhanced urbanization. The growth of towns enhanced diversity as people from around the world moved to California in search of gold. According to Rohrbough, "The newcomers often wanted to keep in touch with family around the United States and pushed for the development of new communication and transportation tools that would help them bridge the distance". This reaffirms the desire for people to communicate with their relatives created a need to develop communication tools that consequently led to emergence of postal services that helped in bridging the distance gap. Also, Gold Rush created globalization as people around the world moved to California in search of opportunity. Although there were people that became rich from the extraction and trading of Gold, many remain poor, which created social classes and increased the gap between the poor and the rich in the society. The tension between classes and races was evident as poor workers started to profile people that were of a different race. Racial tension necessitated the creation of laws that curbed increased emigration to the US; however, it affected society as it perpetuated racial tensions and violence in the cities. Social vices such as prostitution, alcoholism, conflict for mining, and gambling behaviors thrived in the city owing to increased unemployment that caused people to lack economic activity that they can engage. Majority ended up spending their time in bars that caused tension as it created brawls that escalated into an ethnic and racial war. Similarly, the Gold Rush destructed the environment owing to the overexploitation of resources, which caused tensions.

The environment was most impacted by the God Rush as it created destruction of habitat, mining activity changed the course of rivers, clogging of lakes, and pollutions that affected farming activities. The environmental damage as people searching for Gold was huge as it affected the habitat and led to dwindling resources, which created war with locals who were forced to flee their land. The natives observed as their environment was turned into jungles that were unproductive. Ledbetter affirms saying that miners, "used high-powered jets of water to wash away hillsides in a practice known as hydraulic mining, and burrowed thousands of mine shafts into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains". The use of heavy equipment to move soil during extraction and cleaning soil in search of gold affected the environment as rivers and dams were clogged, which affected the supply of water downstream. There was tension between farmers and miners as they fought for the use of water in their farms as farmers felt that their lands were rendered infertile owing to sedimentation and siltation. As well, the gold mining activity caused pollution as it poisoned drinking water since gold sites in sediment and ore contain elements that are toxic such as mercury. Large deposits of toxins and gold in water bodies affected the health of people that caused people to die owing to waterborne diseases and injuries caused by open mines. Rohrboughsays, "Cyanide used at these mines to leach gold from ore resulted in such high levels of pollution that people cannot use nearby water resources until they have been subjected to extensive and expensive treatment and purification". The contamination caused affected both human and wildlife populations leading to diseases and deaths.

Conversely, the Gold Rush positioned California as a political unit as the population expanded and economic activities thrived, which enabled it to be allowed to join the US. The social ills in society such as violence and crime necessitated the creation of legislation to curb and control people. Political interests started to grow as the majority of locals felt threatened by immigrants who they felt took away their resources and employment opportunities, which spurred racial tension and hatred in society. Although the economy of California improved owing to Gold Rush, only a handful of people became rich leading to political tension as majority blamed immigrants for their woes. The gradual decline of gold reserves created unemployment for the majority of people that emigrated to the area. Rohrbough agree noting that, "the Gold Rush created a severe lack of labor in the non-gold mining industries in areas experienced mass emigration in the wake of Gold Fever". This affirms that financial benefits of the Gold Rush were shortlived leaving many people in despair since the economic activity was unsustainable that eventually hut the economy. The initial stimulation of the economy that made people achieve financial success was transitory creating instability of gold prices and monetary instability.


The Gold Rush played a critical role in increasing population, growth of towns, and political entitlement of California; however, it resulted in environmental degradation, pollution, violence and social ills. Socially, people from diverse areas converged in search of gold, which enhanced the cultural diversity. The population explosion offered an opportunity for society to develop economically. However, it created an opportunity for racial tension and hatred in society. The fewer people became rich while others remained poor during the time, which led to social stratification in society. As well, the increased population, better transport system, and finance enhanced trade between California and the outside world. Despite the positive economic, social and political impacts, Gold Rush affected environmental degradation.

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