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Gold Fever! The Lure and Legacy of the California Gold Rush

Art of the Gold Rush: Painters and Prospectors

Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the Gold Rush

Natives & Immigrants

See the Exhibition: Prospecting

This QTVR gives a glimpse of the Gold Fever! The Lure and Legacy of the Califronia Gold Rush exhibition as installed at the Oakland Museum of California. This shows just one of several rooms and a few of the 2000 objects that comprise the exhibition. Shown to best advantage are the prospecting tableaux.

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"Some fifty-thousand persons are drifting up and down these slopes, of every hue, language and clime. All are in quest of gold. Some are with tents, and some without; some have provisions, and some are on their last ration. Such a mixed and motley crowd--such a restless, roving, rummaging, ragged multitude."
-- Walter Colton

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Those who followed their dreams to the bottom of a stream in the Sierras found themselves confronted with hard work, harsh weather, and a rapidly diminishing supply of gold. The efforts, tools and equipment required to get at the gold that remained quickly became more elaborate.

These mining scenes reflect the diversity of the people who sought their fortunes in the gold fields of California. They also depict the variety of tools and techniques used in the first months and years of prospecting. There is a Chinese mining camp, an arrastra being worked by a Sonoran, a Miwok woman washing gold with a basket, a pair of miners working a coyote hole, and miners working a long tom, who have been visited by a woman selling pies. As California flooded with people from around the world, the easy surface gold was quickly skimmed. Suddenly the streams were crowded, and competition became stiff. Tensions, conflicts and discrimination intensified, along with a few nuggets of gold.

Miners Working a Long Tom

These miners are working a "long tom." It allowed them to work together in a larger mining operation. A native Hawaiian, called a "Kanaka," faces the woman offering her meat pies for sale to the hungry miners. She was up before dawn to begin cooking. Many industrious women in the gold region earned more money than a lot of the miners.

Indians Gold Washing

This scene is an Indian mining site in 1848. A Miwok woman is panning with a watertight basket and a crevice tool. Gold had not been valued in Indian culture. But when foreigners rushed in, the Indians immediately realized its trade value. Whites proceeded to cheat them without moral qualm, offering goods worth a tiny fraction of the gold surrendered. Native people were driven from their homes; their hunting and fishing grounds were defiled; and they were constantly targeted for forced labor, robbery, even murder.

American Coyote Hole

The coyote hole took its name from the animals, who had similar burrowing habits. Miners were trying to reach the ancient, dry river channels that held rich deposits. The shafts were as deep as 100 feet. Working inside the hole was the most dangerous type of gold mining, with frequent cave-ins. The gravel, dirt and gold hauled up by that winch, called a windlass, were then carried to a nearby stream for washing.

One of the miners here is an African American. Many were brought to California as slaves, even though California entered the Union as a free state.

Sonoran Arrastra

Many of the 5000 Sonorans who came for gold had been miners in Mexico. They brought with them the tools and techniques they had used successfully for generations.

Many Sonorans used a machine called an arrastra, displayed here. A mule, or the miners themselves, pulled the boom around the circle, dragging heavy stones over the quartz ore to crush it. The miners then separated the gold from the pulverized ore in wooden bowls called bateas.

Chinese Placer Mining

This is a Chinese gold miners' camp. By 1852, 25,000 Chinese had come to what they called Gum Shan -- "Gold Mountain," making them the largest foreign group in the mining region at that time. Their sites were truly "camps," for they usually worked and lived in large communal groups.

Also Shown

The miner's log cabin, San Francisco in the Gold Rush, and an original pair of Levis.

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