• Courtesy the Utah State Historical Society, via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Gold Mining P.5; No.2762
    • Date
    • 1894-07
    • Description
    • Placer mining, San Juan River, Utah--Dempsey's claim, $5.00 per day to the man. Picture was taken July, 1894. Gold rush on San Juan River started in 1893 and lasted two or three years. Courtesy: Julianne B. Fellmeth, Monticello, Utah. (Tribune Mining... more
      Placer mining, San Juan River, Utah--Dempsey's claim, $5.00 per day to the man. Picture was taken July, 1894. Gold rush on San Juan River started in 1893 and lasted two or three years. Courtesy: Julianne B. Fellmeth, Monticello, Utah. (Tribune Mining Cent. Coll.) less
    • Rights
    • Digital Image © 2008 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
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    • Mountain West Digital Library
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    • Utah State Historical Society

  • Courtesy of the USC Libraries - California Historical Society Collection.

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    Interior view of mine and miners in the Mohawk Mine, Goldfield, Nevada, ca. 1900-1905
    • Date
    • circa 1900-1905
    • Creator
    • Pierce, C.C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946
    • Description
    • Photograph of the interior view of mine, miners and $80,000 to the ton in gold sitting on the ledge in the Mohawk Mine, Goldfield, Nevada, ca.1900-1905. 13 men stand, sit or kneel while posing inside the mine. Many of them are holding lit candles. Se... more
      Photograph of the interior view of mine, miners and $80,000 to the ton in gold sitting on the ledge in the Mohawk Mine, Goldfield, Nevada, ca.1900-1905. 13 men stand, sit or kneel while posing inside the mine. Many of them are holding lit candles. Several are holding their tools either in front of them or over their shoulders. Their clothes are stained with dust and dirt. "In 1902 gold was discovered in the hills near Tonopah, Nevada. Soon a few tents dotted the barren hills among the Joshua trees, and the boomtown of Goldfield was born. In 1903 only 36 people lived in the new town. By 1908 Goldfield was Nevada's largest city, with over 25,000 inhabitants. Along with the influx of miners and businessmen, came the labor unions. The Western Federation of Miners, the Industrial Workers of the World and the American Federation of Labor all vied for power in the region. During the early years, the unions were able to control wages and working hours. But in November, 1906, the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company was incorporated by owners George Wingfield and United States Senator George Nixon, signaling the beginning of monopoly control in Goldfield, and the start of an adversarial relationship between mine owners and the unions." -- unknown author. less
    • Rights
    • Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library. From the California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
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    • California Historical Society Collection

  • Courtesy the University of California, via the HathiTrust Digital Library.

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    Six months in the gold mine (page 46)
    • Date
    • 1959
    • Creator
    • Buffum, E. Gould (Edward Gould), 1820-1867
    • Description
    • Later edition published in England under title: The gold rush; an account of six months in the California diggings. Originally published 1850.
    • Rights
    • Public Domain.
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    • HathiTrust Digital Library; University of California
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    • University of California.

  • Courtesy the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries, via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Double handed drilling contest in downtown Tonopah
    • Creator
    • Smith, Emory Willard
    • Description
    • Drilling Contest Tonopah Railroad Carnival. Pictures; Photographs; Photographic prints.
    • Rights
    • To purchase copies of images and/or for copyright information, contact University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries, Special Collections at: http://www.library.unlv.edu/speccol/
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    • Mountain West Digital Library
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    • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries

While uncommon, a few of the men mining claims or creeks actually struck it rich, especially in the early days of the gold rushes. But for most of the men who traveled to California, Nevada, Alaska, and the other gold fields, the work was hard and the reward small. Men stood in freezing creeks for hours every day, panning through the water in search of tiny flakes of gold.  Tunnels were drilled or dug into mountains at great risk to the miners, and digging took place in horrifying physical conditions. Disputes between rival claimants also led to violence that claimed lives, often in the generally lawless boomtowns that sprang up around reported discoveries of gold. The belief was that the gold, freely available to whoever could get ahold of it first, was the ultimate signifier of the American dream—that these miners were seizing for themselves their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In reality, their painful drudgery was rarely rewarded, and the miners who were partially responsible for the expansion of America and taming of the West often abandoned their dreams of easy riches for the taking, or followed them fruitlessly from gold rush to gold rush until they were no longer able to take part in the grueling work.