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Emigrants to California in the gold rush of 1849, which followed the discovery of gold by James Marshall (Jan. 1848). By June 1848, the local rush to the gold fields was in full course, and President Polk's message to Congress (Dec. 5), incorporating news of the possibilities of great wealth, inaugurated the international excitement. Ships were diverted from their usual routes to carry gold seekers from European countries, China, Australia, and the South Seas. Many Mexicans came by overland routes, and it is believed that a total of nearly 100,000 persons had entered the territory by the end of 1849. The thousands of emigrants from the eastern U.S. used three principal routes: by ship around Cape Horn; a combination of sea and land travel, crossing Central America by the Panama or Nicaragua route; and in wagon trains across the Plains. The common goal was the Mother Lode region. Innumerable diaries, letters, and other writings of the period have been published, including those by Alonzo Delano, “Dame Shirley,” and Bayard Taylor, and the forty-niners figure frequently in literature, the earliest major fictional interpretation being by Bret Harte.

Subjects: Literature.

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