Precious Dust: The American Gold Rush Era, 1848-1900

Paula Mitchell Marks, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (448p) ISBN 978-0-688-10566-2
Beginning with the 1848 discovery of gold in California, the next 50 years saw thousands of ``argonauts'' (people searching for gold) leave their families to follow the trail of new discoveries in the American West, Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. Marks ( And Die in the West ) examines these pilgrimages in a scholarly study that considers seemingly every aspect of the prospectors' experiences. Although few remained wealthy from the profits of their ``diggins,'' and many never struck gold at all, Marks posits that the sense of freedom and the spirit of adventure permeating the quest compensated for the failures and hardships. Drawing on firsthand accounts, the author describes the severe weather and transit conditions that killed many seekers, as well as the lack of decent food and shelter at the sites. She also details the difficulties experienced by minority argonauts and provides a historical overview of the Western expansion that resulted from the gold rushes. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-06-258588-2
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-8032-8247-6
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