Part I, Lesson 3: Too Funny for Words

Estimated Time:

45 to 60 minutes

Materials and Preparation:

  • Have available
    Resource 3-1 and
  • Gold Rush journals
  • Make two class sets of Cartoon Analysis Worksheet (Resource 3-2; also found in Primary Source Activities section).
  • Make copies or transparencies of newspaper articles (Resource 3-4a, 3-4b, and 3-4c).
  • Make a class set of the Written Document Analysis Worksheet (Resource 3-5; also found in Primary Source Activities section).
  • Make class sets of "Prompts"
    (Resource 3-6).
  • Goals:
    To give students a feeling of the climate of the times and the reasons that people around the world "rushed" to the gold fields of California

    Student Learnings:

  • Students will describe the importance the media (newspapers) played in the Gold Rush.
  • Students will interpret primary source cartoons and newspaper clippings of the period.
  • Students will be able to describe the difficult decisions people had to make during this period.
  • Vocabulary: exaggeration, political cartoon


    1. On the overhead, show transparency of cartoon (Resource 3-1) showing the abundance of gold in California. Pass out and use Cartoon Analysis Worksheet (Resource 3-2) to read the cartoon. Do the same with Resource 3-3.

    2. Pass out copies or show transparency of newspaper articles written during 1849 concerning the discovery of gold in California
    (Resource 3-4a, 3-4b, and 3-4c). Articles will need to be explained, especially the colorful figurative language used. (This would make a great language arts extension lesson.) Pass out Written Document Analysis Worksheet (Resource 3-5) to be used as a guide in reviewing the articles.

    Note to teacher: Question #2 on the Written Document Analysis Worksheet will not be appropriate as these are reproductions and not the original documents.

    3. Discuss and, if desired, chart reasons why people wanted to come to California to look for gold.

    Wrap-Up Activity:

    Pass out "Prompts" (Resource 3-6) to each child. Read each one and allow students to select the prompt they wish to answer. Students can respond in their journals.


    Have students create their own cartoons depicting how they would haul all of their gold back home.

    Note to teacher: The majority of people who came to California during the Gold Rush had no intention of staying. They meant to strike it rich and return home, although this did not turn out to be the case for many.

    Part I, Lesson 3
    Page 9