The 1848 discovery of gold in northern California’s American River lured hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to the Sierra Nevada foothills in search of untold riches. Drawing heavily on original letters, memoirs, and journals, this two-hour American Experience brings to life a cast of international characters, and portrays the explosive creation of the first multi-ethnic, multicultural, entrepreneurial society in America. “Gold represented the possibility of starting anew, of being a new person, inventing a new self,” says novelist Isabel Allende. “It’s a metaphor for hope.” Working with an enthusiastic crew and collaborating with a passionate and knowledgeable group of gold rush reenactors and skilled horsemen, we filmed extensive, large-scale re-enactments in California’s beautiful gold country. Equally amazing was realizing the gold rush occurred just as daguerreotypes, the first photographic process, was becoming widespread. Combining this rich visual palette with new scholarship investigating the topic, this film tells the story of an extraordinary event that profoundly changed the American social, political and cultural landscape.
Winner 2007 Organization of American Historians Erik Barnouw Award
This film was produced as Yellow Jersey Films, Inc.