1820s -1850s

Clash of Cultures & the Discovery of Gold

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  • Chinese

    China was a nation in chaos in the first half of the 19th century. Between the 1850s and 1864, civil war killed millions, and millions more were forced from their homes. When news of the discovery of gold in California reached the embattled country, many Chinese made the long journey east to try their luck in the place they called Gum Saan, Cantonese for Gold Mountain. Learn More

  • Irish

    The Irish are the third-largest ethnic group in the United States, after the English and the Germans. Before the 1820s most Irish immigrants were artisans, teachers, or other professionals who could afford to book passage to America. These earlier immigrants generally met with good fortune in the U.S. Learn More

  • White Midwesterners / Easterners

    While the Gold Rush spurred the rapid development of Northern California, the southern part of the state was considered a remote area until 1869. That year the Southern Transcontinental Railroad established Los Angeles as its last stop on the Santa Fe line. During the next year some 120,000 people traveled the rails to Los Angeles — most of them tourists or enterprising businessmen eager to strike it rich in real estate. Learn More

    White Midwesterners / Easterners
  • Italians

    Millions of immigrants poured into the United States between 1870 and 1920. Most of these new arrivals came from southern and eastern European countries such as Greece and Poland. Four million of them came from Italy. Learn More