This chapter seeks to understand the relationship of settlement booms and gold rushes, and to use each to gain insight into the other. In 1848, gold was found inland of San Francisco, California. The United States had just wrested this region and more from Mexico in the war of 1846–1847. The subsequent gold rush brought California's first great inflow of people in 1849, and unfolded thereafter in what was to become the standard pattern. Gold presented in two main forms: ‘placer’ or alluvial deposits of gold dust, grains, and small nuggets distributed through soil or gravel by erosion, which could be acquired simply by washing and sifting, and seams or veins in quartz rock which required expensive deep mining and crushing. The Californian rush proper peaked in 1853 and ended with a local bust in 1855, but gold continued to be crushed and washed from the Sierra Nevada for decades thereafter.
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