Discovery of Gold in California

First gold nugget discovered in California
First gold nugget discovered in California

Historical Context

Held today as part of the national Smithsonian's collection, this gold nugget was the first ever discovered in California. It was found in January of 1848 by James Marshall, who was overseeing the construction of a sawmill at Sutter's Mill at Coloma, California, when he spied it in the river.

Marshall then sent it via Panama to government officials in Washington for verification, although not apparently until he had tested it himself by giving it the bite test.

It and other samples led to US President James Knox Polk declaring to Congress that gold had been discovered in California, initiating the start of the Californian goldrush.

Photo Info

Location taken: California, USA

Related Events

  • 1848-01-24 James Marshall finds gold in Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California
  • 1848-08-19 New York Herald is the first major eastern newspaper to report the discovery of gold in California
  • 1848-12-05 US President James K. Polk triggers Gold Rush of 1849 by confirming a gold discovery in California
  • 1849-02-28 1st boat load of gold rush prospectors arrives in San Francisco from the east coast
  • 1857-09-12 423 die when steamship SS Central America, the 'Ship of Gold', sinks in a hurricane off Cape Romain, South Carolina, carrying tonnes of gold coins and bricks from the California Gold Rush (rediscovered 1988)

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