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California gold diggers

Date: c 1850
Dimensions:
Overall: 249 x 345 mm
Display Dimensions: 248 x 345 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Art
Object Name: Lithograph
Object No: 00008284

User Terms

    Description
    Coloured lithograph titled 'California Gold Diggers. Mining operations on the western shore of the Sacremento river'. The scene depicted is believed to be circa 1849-1851.
    SignificanceThis lithograph shows scenes of everyday life on the Californian gold fields.
    HistoryThe discovery of gold on January 24, 1848 by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California started the beginning of the Californian Gold Rush. The discovery of gold in California, closely followed by the discovery in Australia, attracted thousands of miners and their families resulting in an influx of people and wealth to both countries and dramatically changing their societies and environments. The coverage of the Gold rush was a popular story in America, Australia and England as many people were keen to discover their fortune on the gold fields too. People wanted to hear about the opportunities, adventure and conditions on the gold fields. Tens of thousands of miners criss-crossed the Pacific Ocean between Australia and America. A $20 one-way ticket bought the traveller a bunk and space for one trunk, the trip between Sydney and San Francisco taking about six weeks.

    Living and working on the gold diggings was a harsh and dirty existence. The landscape was often stripped of trees that were used for firewood, huts and building mine shafts. The extremes in weather conditions and sanitation were a major issue for the large number of people living and working together. Washing for gold added to the pollution of streams and rivers. Holes in the ground held both sewage and refuse. Infections and diseases spread readily under these conditions with influenza and pneumonia being a common cause of death for miners of all ages and genders. Many children suffered from scarlet fever and diphtheria. If they did not die from the disease, they were often killed by the 'cures' - many of which were poisons.

    Only a small number of miners made a real fortune in the Gold Rush. It was easier and more common to gain wealth by establishing businesses and trade related to the diggings. Many unsuccessful miners turned to razing cattle, fruit plots or running stores selling over-priced goods, supplies and services. Some of the miner's camps developed into permanent settlements with the demand for food, housing and supplies fueling the Australian economy.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: California gold diggers

    Primary title: California gold diggers. Mining operations on the western shore of the Sacremento river.

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