Gold rush: On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter originally from New Jersey, found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Coloma, California.
I found some gold.
49ers: Thousands of would-be gold miners, known as ’49ers, traveled overland across the mountains or by sea, sailing to Panama or even around Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America.
I´m headed west for gold.
Boomtowns:Though gold mining continued throughout the 1850s, it had reached its peak by 1852, when some $81 million was pulled from the ground. After that year, the total take declined gradually, leveling off to around $45 million per year by 1857. Settlement in California continued, however, and by the end of the decade the state’s population was 380,000.
dynamite: The overwhelmingly immigrant Chinese work force of the Central Pacific also had its fair share of problems, including brutal 12-hour work days laying tracks over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On more than one occasion, whole crews would be lost to avalanches, or mishaps with explosives would leave several dead.
ghost towns: By the 1880s, it had outgrown its meager infrastructure, and a succession of harsh and deadly winters convinced many of its prospectors to move to more profitable locales. The population dwindled until the 1940s, when the last residents finally shipped out. Since then, Bodie has become known as one of the nation’s most well preserved ghost towns.
The building of the transcontinental railroad opened up the American West to more rapid development. With the completion of the track, the travel time for making the 3,000-mile journey across the United States was cut from a matter of months to under a week.