President Polk triggers the gold rush by confirming Californian finds
#OnThisDay in 1848, President Polk made his inaugural address in which he confirmed the positive results of a gold survey carried out for Colonel Richard Mason, California’s military governor.
The President’s announcement came almost a year after the first flecks of gold were found in the American River at the base of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Polk’s writings were emphatic, with the President noting that, “The accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service.”
It triggered the gold rush, with tens of thousands of people (mainly men) moving out west to seek their fortune. By the 1850s, the remaining ’49ers and their families contributed to California’s swelling population and its speedy accession to the Union as the 31st state.