The California Gold Rush
In 1848, just east of Sacramento, the carpenter James Marshall was overseeing the construction of a sawmill for the rich landowner Johann August Sutter when he noticed a few nuggets of gold in the foundations. News of the discovery quickly spread, and before long prospectors began to flock to the area in their thousands in the hope of finding more gold. Among those willing to try their luck were some 30,000 Frenchmen, who came fleeing the political turmoil of 1848 in France. Although short-lived, gold fever devastated the Californian countryside and proved fatal for a large portion of the Indian population. This remarkable episode in history is described in detail in Blaise Cendrars' novel Gold.