Prospecting and mining probably motivated rapid expansion into the American West more than any single factor.
Only land schemes linked to the growth of the railroads would come close to pulling more people from the East into the Old West. It seems that a good Gold Rush put a gleam in the eyes and a lust in the hearts of millions throughout history. No where was the gold fever more prominent in all of history than in the Old West. Gold, silver, other precious metals – but mostly gold and silver – brought huge populations to the West in a hurry. We tend to think of Gold Fever starting with the riches in California in 1848-49 (the Westernism “49ers” is now rooted in American culture), but in reality there were gold rushes long before that. (In fact, there were some very prosperous, successful mining operations in Georgia and other locations in the East in the 18th and very early 19th centuries.) You can click on the articles and links below to enjoy our “Prospecting and Mining” category and read all about it.