Documentary Series: Gold Fever

I wanted to share the documentary mini-series Gold Fever, which makes its television premiere on the Discovery Channel this Friday, October 11 at 9 PM ET/PT. Please take note: The Gold Rush was a violent period in American History. Some images in Gold Fever are disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.


“The California Gold Rush gave birth to the idea that still pervades in American society to this day— that you can get rich quick; that it’s always a possibility that you can get rich quickly without having to work for it,” noted Stephen David, Executive Producer of Gold Fever and the Emmy-winning The Men Who Built America.


The year is 1848: not long after the Revolutionary War. The country is still very young and dirt poor, a nation of farmers. And then, suddenly gold is discovered in California, and the new American dream is born. Over the course of a few years, Americans would discover the modern equivalent of $25 billion dollars — money that would give a jolt to the economy and make America the most powerful nation on Earth: the government could build an army and businesses had the capital they needed to create huge industrial empires unlike anything America (or the world) had ever seen.


The Gold Rush also created America’s get-rich-quick mentality. Early stories from the Gold Rush were of people literally picking million dollar fortunes straight off the ground. As the news spreads across the country, over 300,000 people— one out of every 90 Americans—drop everything and head west with the hopes of striking it rich. Violence, greed and chaos takes over as tens of thousands of miners battled each other over the same small fortune of buried treasure.

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  1. Thanks for the post! Blogging is still relatively new to me, but teaching and teaching with technology is not (though I still have a lot to learn). Nevertheless, I figured that I would reach out to fellow history teacher who values technology and its ability to engage students. I was wondering what your ideas are on looking at “Big History.” Have you seen the Big History site ( or the Big History series on the History Channel (H2) ( Big History looks at history at different temporal and spatial scales from the Big Bang to the present (with some conjecture for the future), and includes science and other disciplines in the study of history. What the H2 Channel is presenting is what might be called “Little Big Histories.” I thought that, if you had not already seen it, it might be something worthwhile for you to consider. For further reading, consider David Christian’s Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History; David Christian’s This Fleeting World: A Short Story of Humanity (an abridged version of Maps of Time); Cynthia Stokes Brown’s Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present; and David Christian, Cynthia Brown, and Craig Benjamin’s Big History: Between Nothing and Everything. The History Channel (H2) series presented an episode entitled “Big History: Gold Fever” last Saturday evening, November 9, 2013. I thought that an understanding of Big History and the H2 episode on gold might complement the one that you highlighted from the Discovery Channel.

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