Many people arrived in California expecting to immediately become rich and live a life of leisure. They didn't get what they expected.
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|In the early days of 1848
and 1849, it was not uncommon for a miner to dig $2000 of
gold a day. But the average miner might be lucky to find
$10 per day.
As time went on the easy gold was all found, Although some made it rich, most of the others were lucky if they made enough to eat. After 1852 most of the surface gold was mined, panning for gold was no longer profitable.
Thousands of miners died on the journey or in the diggings. Many died from disease, or from accidents such as drowning in a river.
This picture shows a 49er with his mule and supplies (Source: Library of Congress).
Camping and Housing
|Most miners lived in tents
and cooked their food over an open fire. Meals were
usually beans, bacon or local game cooked over an open
Most camps and mining towns were canvas tents or wooden buildings. Fires were very common. Many camps and towns were completely destroyed by fire. Some several times.
Heavy rain and snow during the winter months made for very difficult living and mining conditions. Most miners spent the winter in San Francisco or some mining town.
Sickness and colds were common from sleeping on cold, damp ground. The food was not very nutritious resulting in generally poor health. Scurvy was common from lack of fruits and vegetables. Sanitation was poor and miners seldom bathed or washed their clothes.
Family and Friends
|Most miners came by
themselves, leaving their families at home. Many young
miners suffered from home sickness from being alone.
Some families did make the trip to California. Many miners formed friendships and communities with other travelers. Card games, gambling and betting were common ways to pass the time.
This picture shows a group of travelers setting up camp (Source: Library of Congress).
|The success of finding gold
drove up prices for everything. While the average worker
might make $6 to $10 per day, food and supplies could
cost much more than.
Many people spent 6 months earnings, or more, getting to California.When they arrived, they could not afford basic supplies.
To the right are several prices lists of goods from 1849 (Source: Library of Congress).
|EARLY CALIFORNIA PRICES
CURRENT.--Delano's "Life on the Plains and at the
Diggings," gives the following as the prices paid at
Lassen's Ranch, on September 17, 1849:
Flour, per 100 pounds .......... $50.00
Fresh beef, per 100 pounds .......... 35.00
Pork, .......... 75.00
Sugar, .......... 50.00
Cheese, per pound .......... 1.50