What if the 1849 Gold Rush happened 50 years earlier?

Aug 2014
9
US
#1
Seems like the timing of the gold rush was lucky. Just after California became a state and needed a population influx to sustain it. But how might things have been different if the 1849 gold rush happened earlier, say 50 years prior? Would the same amount of American settlers still made the real out there? Along what route since this would be prior to US exploration of the region? Wouldn’t other countries (Mexico) contest any gold claims? Would Britain have come down from Canada to take over? How would the US government have reacted to such a find? Enact an Indian Removal Act earlier?

What are your thoughts?

Edit: I meant Spain. Not Mexico. I forgot what year I was talking about. Sorry.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,268
Dispargum
#2
California was still Spanish in 1799. Under Spanish law landowners had no mineral rights. Gold and other minerals belong to the state. If a landowner found gold, he would have no incentive to publicize his find. If he tried to mine it secretly, he would have trouble getting the gold to any kind of market where he could convert the gold into cash or goods. What's the point of having gold if you can't spend it? There would be no gold rush since it was virtually impossible for an individual to get rich in Spain by mining gold.

The Spanish government, of course, had great experience looting gold and silver from the New World. Once the government learned of the gold they would try to mine it and coin it. Spain would have greater difficulty transporting the gold from California to Spain than the US did transporting their gold to the eastern states without a transcontinental railroad.
 
Aug 2014
9
US
#3
Wow great reply. Really appreciated. Can I bug you with one more? What if instead of California the gold rush was in Oregon in 1800-1810?

(Basically I’m looking for a discovery that would have sent a massive influx of settlers into the far west frontier in early 1800s as much as the gold rush did.)
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,268
Dispargum
#4
Oregon in 1800 was contested territory between Britain, the US, Russia, and Spain with Britain and Spain having the strongest claims. The US claim only strengthened after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and Lewis and Clark's expedition in 1804-5. As late as the War of 1812 British and Canadian fur traders drove the Americans out of the Columbia River Valley.

Circa 1810 the US population was very small. Few Americans envisioned much beyond the Mississippi River. Places like Indiana and Alabama were still wide open country with more Indians than white men living in them. The techniques for crossing the continent in covered wagons had not yet been discovered or invented yet or at least were not widely known. If people did want to go the Pacific coast they would probably go by ship via the Isthmus of Panama or all the way around South America. Easy wealth in Oregon would be in furs. There was also good farm land. People did sometimes head out west in large numbers due to various economic collapses. The first mass migration to Oregon happened after the Panic of 1837. Panic back then was their word for something similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was also a gold rush into the Black Hills of South Dakota after the Panic of 1873.

So have Lewis and Clark return from Oregon really exaggerating the richness of the territory and then you create a Panic of 1806.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,268
Dispargum
#5
Thought of another possibility. The Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, has volcanoes. Volcanoes are sometimes associated with diamond finds. You could have Lewis and Clark report finding diamonds near Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, or Mt. Rainier which is farthest of the four from the Columbia River.
 

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