The California Gold Rush: The Stampede that Changed the World, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The California Gold Rush

The Stampede that Changed the World, 1st Edition

By Mark A. Eifler


218 pages

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In January of 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. For a year afterward, news of this discovery spread outward from California and started a mass migration to the gold fields. Thousands of people from the East Coast aspiring to start new lives in California financed their journey West on the assumption that they would be able to find wealth. Some were successful, many were not, but they all permanently changed the face of the American West.

In this text, Mark Eifler examines the experiences of the miners, demonstrates how the gold rush affected the United States, and traces the development of California and the American West in the second half of the nineteenth century. This migration dramatically shifted transportation systems in the US, led to a more powerful federal role in the West, and brought about mining regulation that lasted well into the twentieth century. Primary sources from the era and web materials help readers comprehend what it was like for these nineteenth-century Americans who gambled everything on the pursuit of gold.


Clearly written and well-organized, Mark Eifler’s The California Gold Rush effectively situates the events of that remarkable era within the larger framework of antebellum American history. With admirable brevity and an astute eye for the telling anecdote, he has produced a volume that will no doubt serve well in the classroom.

Peter Blodgett, H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western Historical Manuscripts, Huntington Library

This engaging book explains how the gold rush transformed not only California and the West but also America and the world. Combining lively prose with a rich trove of primary sources, Mark Eifler provides a fresh, insightful summary of one of the most significant mass migrations in history.

John M. Findlay, Professor of History, University of Washington, Seattle

Table of Contents


1: "Gold on the American River!"

2: Deciding to Go

3: The Stampede of 1849

4: Rushed Foundations

5: Reckonings

6: California Changes the Nation

7: Fools’ Gold


Suggested Readings

About the Author

Mark A. Eifler is Associate Professor of History and Assistant to the Dean for Communications at the University of Portland.

About the Series

Critical Moments in American History

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 19th Century
HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / West (AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, UT, WY)
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century