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.