Who Got Rich

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

After all the hard work, sweat, and blood poured into the land, the returns were more often than not disappointing for the miners who had journeyed to the gold fields. Quickly depleted claims, fast-moving mining companies buying up the rights to strikes and employing miners at a pittance, and sky-high prices of necessities in the boomtowns meant that the average miner of any gold strike was unlikely to make a significant profit. Instead, those who saw the strikes as opportunities to invest or ply their trades were usually the ones who came away wealthier. Grocers and shopkeepers who sold basic food staples at an incredible mark-up made a killing from miners who lived without women around to do household chores like tend a garden or bake bread. Gambling den owners and good-time girls siphoned money from men flush from a recent find and eager for a good time on the lawless frontier. Mining companies and banks who corporatized the gold mining process by hiring miners to work for them and skimming profits off all the gold brought in to be weighed, would come away from any gold rush far richer than the men who dug and panned for the shiny rocks or dust in the water.