What was the experience of the typical white miner during the California Gold Rush?

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were essentially two kinds of miners during the Gold Rush of 1849 - 1851: individual prospectors and company miners.  Tens of thousands of miners came west in search of riches, "staked a claim" on what they hoped would be a promising stream or mountain, and started their own operation.  In general, this didn't turn out too well, as they often produced little or no gold, or just enough in some circumstances (1 - 2 ozs. of gold dust per day) to pay basic expenses.  Most of them went bankrupt and turned to other work, or signed on as company miners.

Company miners worked for a flat daily rate for large, well funded corporations with hydraulic mining operations and sluice boxes.  No matter how much ore they produced, they were paid the same, and generally profited little from their efforts.

Chinese miners were heavily segregated from whites, as were the few African-Americans who came west, and anti-Asian racism was openly practiced and encouraged.