In January of 1848, James Marshall was building a saw mill for John Sutter on the American River near Sacramento, California. On the cold, clear morning of January 24, Marshall found a few tiny gold nuggets. Word spread quickly throughout California, the rest of America and eventually the world. Thus began one of the largest human migrations in history, as fortune-seekers from around the worlddescended upon California in search of instant wealth.
In one short year, the city of San Francisco had experienced a population increase of over 6,000%! By 1852, gold production in California reached an estimated $81 million a year. Even with the enormous amount of gold found, very few people actually got rich from mining. In the end, it was the massive influx of people and the infrastructure needed to support them that had the biggest impact on American history.
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