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Rapid influx of fortune seekers to the site of newly discovered gold deposits. In North America, the first major gold strike occurred in California in 1848, when John Marshall, a carpenter building a sawmill for John Sutter, found gold. Within a year about 80,000 forty-niners (as the fortune seekers of 1849 were called) had flocked to the California gold fields, and 250,000 had arrived by 1853. Some mining camps grew into permanent settlements, and the demand for food, housing, and supplies propelled the new state's economy. As gold became more difficult to extract, companies and mechanical mining methods replaced individual prospectors. Smaller gold rushes occurred throughout the second half of the 19th century in Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, and Alaska, resulting in the rapid settlement of many areas; where gold veins proved small, the settlements later became ghost towns. Major gold rushes also occurred in Australia (1851), South Africa (1886), and Canada (1896). See alsoKlondike gold rush.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on gold rush, visit Britannica.com.