Gold Rush and the Peopling of California
The discovery of gold in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill spurred a great wave of migration to California. Hundreds of thousands of people descended on the territory from across the continent and across the oceans.
Chinese were among the immigrants who joined Americans in the quest for gold. Competition for mining stakes led to tensions among the gold seekers, often resulting in discriminatory actions toward the Chinese.
Chinese in California
The gold rush enticed many Chinese to leave home to seek their fortune in California. On arrival, immigrants found that tales of gold lying in the streets were a fantasy. To survive, many adjusted their expectations and found jobs on the railroad and in Chinese businesses.
White laborers considered the Chinese competition and responded with hostility. Californians led the effort to prohibit further Chinese immigration, encouraging passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.