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Spanish Flat

View of 4 men, two miners at work on a long tom (one man is an African American), one man in a wagon, one man standing behind the wagon.
Starkweather, Joseph Blaney
circa 1852
Starkweather, J. B. (Joseph B.). Spanish Flat, circa 1852. California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California, California History Section Picture Catalog. ttps://

This photograph shows two men posing while mining for gold more than 150 years ago. Many people just like these men came to California during the Gold Rush of the late 1840s and 1850s in search of gold, which they hoped would make them very wealthy. Do you think that being excited about coming to California in search of gold would be a pull factor or a push factor in explaining why people came to California in this era?

In the late 1840s and 1850s, many people came to California in search of gold with the hopes of getting rich. Very few were successful. People came to California from other parts of North America, and they also came from other countries. The people who came hoped that by mining for gold as a job, they could make a lot of money very quickly. While most ultimately found work with larger businesses extracting gold and other metals from the earth in California, very few experienced the “get rich quick” success that so many sought.

Spanish Flats, where this photograph was taken, was a remarkable mining town because of the diversity of miners it attracted. White migrants, immigrants, and formerly enslaved people mined together, a fact that appears to be reflected in this image. Make sure your students understand that seeking gold — or any kind of economic success —counts as a “pull factor” in motivating migration.