• Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Maps Collection.

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    Map of the gold regions of California showing the routes via Chagres and Panama Cape Horn, published by Ensigns & Thayer
    • Date
    • 1849
    • Creator
    • Ensigns & Thayer
    • Description
    • With the wide (1.5 inch) ornamental border and printed on heavy paper. Similar to but an earlier version of the Upper or New California and Oregon portion of the Atwood and Ensigns & Thayer's Map of the United States, 1849. Closer to and der... more
      With the wide (1.5 inch) ornamental border and printed on heavy paper. Similar to but an earlier version of the Upper or New California and Oregon portion of the Atwood and Ensigns & Thayer's Map of the United States, 1849. Closer to and derived from their Pictorial Map of the United States of 1847 (see Wheat). Also has a map of North and South America from an unknown source. Under the maps are two blocks of text, one titled "Important Directions to Persons Emigrating to California" and the other titled "Description of California or the new Gold Region." Another version of this map was published on thinner paper and with a 5/16 inch ornamental border (Wheat 85) (see our copy- the title is in different print). The geography of the west is pre-Fremont 1848 unlike the 1849 Map of the United States which incorporates Fremont 1848. This makes us think that the map may be 1848 - there is no date on the map and Wheat estimates the date from sources he does not mention (other than finding the thinner paper copy in a book published in 1849). Full color. Relief shown by hachures.. With the wide (1.5 inch) ornamental border and printed on heavy paper. Similar to but an earlier version of the Upper or New California and Oregon portion of the Atwood and Ensigns & Thayer's Map of the United States, 1849. Closer to and derived from their Pictorial Map of the United States of 1847 (see Wheat). Also has a map of North and South America from an unknown source. Under the maps are two blocks of text, one titled "Important Directions to Persons Emigrating to California" and the other titled "Description of California or the new Gold Region." Another version of this map was published on thinner paper and with a 5/16 inch ornamental border (Wheat 85) (see our copy- the title is in different print). The geography of the west is pre-Fremont 1848 unlike the 1849 Map of the United States which incorporates Fremont 1848. This makes us think that the map may be 1848 - there is no date on the map and Wheat estimates the date from sources he does not mention (other than finding the thinner paper copy in a book published in 1849). Full color.. Wheat Gold 84. less
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
    • Contributing Institution
    • David Rumsey

  • Courtesy of California Historical Society via University of Southern California Libraries.

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    Two views of deserted ships in San Francisco harbor during the Gold Rush of 1850
    • Date
    • 1850
    • Creator
    • Pierce, C.C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946
    • Description
    • Photograph of two views of deserted ships in San Francisco harbor during the Gold Rush of 1850. Numerous ships, many of which are sailing ships, wade idly in the harbor parked and apparently unmanned. Several houses or buildings occupy the area near ... more
      Photograph of two views of deserted ships in San Francisco harbor during the Gold Rush of 1850. Numerous ships, many of which are sailing ships, wade idly in the harbor parked and apparently unmanned. Several houses or buildings occupy the area near the shores. less
    • Rights
    • Public Domain. Release under the CC BY Attribution license--http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/--Credit both “University of Southern California. Libraries” and “California Historical Society” as the source. Digitally reproduced by the... more
      Public Domain. Release under the CC BY Attribution license--http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/--Credit both “University of Southern California. Libraries” and “California Historical Society” as the source. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library; From the California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California. Send requests to address or e-mail given. Phone (213) 740-5900; fax (213) 740-2343. USC Libraries Special Collections. Doheny Memorial Library, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0189. Specol@usc.edu. less
    • Partner
    • University of Southern California Libraries
    • Contributing Institution
    • California Historical Society

  • Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

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    Pikes Peak or Bust
    • Date
    • Unknown
    • Creator
    • Unknown
    • Description
    • Covered carriage stops on dirt road between rocky cliffs. Five people sit in carriage, one man leans on wheels outside. "Pikes Peak or Bust" No. 773" printed on lower right of photo.
    • Rights
    • (c) Pikes Peak Library District. All rights reserved.
    • Partner
    • Pikes Peak Library District

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

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    Mormon Trail--Scenery-Devil's Gate P.2, No. 10134
    • Date
    • 2009-06-11
    • Creator
    • Kelly, Charles
    • Description
    • Devil's Gate, six miles west of South Pass, a landmark mentioned by every Gold Rush journalist. Donor & Photog: Charles Kelly
    • Rights
    • Digital Image © 2009 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Utah State Historical Society

The initial discovery of gold in California in 1848 was a defining moment, not only for America but also for the world. As the word spread, people from far-flung nations were as eager to abandon their lives in search of treasure, as were people from the cramped east coast of the United States. A special term emerged—those who rushed to California upon receiving news of gold discovery were called “forty-niners.” South Americans sailed up the west coast of the continent or around Cape Horn, braving one of the most hazardous stretches of ocean on earth. Emigrants from China and the Philippines made their way across the Pacific, and the sailors who worked the ships were entranced by word of gold, abandoning their ships in San Francisco’s harbor for the elusive promise of fortune. Europeans journeyed by train and ship and wagon across the vast expanse of prairie in the center of the continent. They joined the American migrants from the east coast as they made their way along the recently established Oregon Trail and detoured southwest somewhere in what would become Wyoming, crossing deserts and mountains and risking life and limb in pursuit of the promised gold. This pattern would continue with future gold strikes—word spread around the world, luring anyone who dreamt of improving their condition to follow the trail toward the possibility of striking it rich.