33¢ California Gold Rush
Issue Date: June 18, 1999
City: Sacramento, CA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
James Marshall discovered gold in California’s American River in 1848 while building a sawmill for John Sutter, a pioneer trader. At first, the discovery was kept a secret, because Sutter feared the area would become overrun by treasure hunters. But word soon spread, and people flocked to the area. They came to be known as “Forty-Niners,” after the year of their arrival. By late 1849, less than two years later, California’s population had increased from 15,000 to 100,000 people.
For many would-be miners, traveling to California wasn’t an easy trip. Those departing from America’s east coast sailed around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, then north to San Francisco. The treacherous voyage took six months to complete. Despite the deplorable conditions of the ships, more than 43,000 passengers arrived in San Francisco from April 1849 to February 1850. Others sailed through the swampy Isthmus of Panama. Part of this trail had to be traveled on foot. About 50,000 gold rushers journeyed to the west coast by overland route in covered wagons.
Free-spending Forty-Niners made such communities as Sacramento and San Francisco into flourishing towns. Those who were not so lucky in the gold fields became ranchers and farmers in the central valley region.