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Ken Burns: The West- 1848 to 1856

Ken Burns; Burns, Ken; Kanopy (Firm)
Video; Streaming Video; Online
There are all kinds of people on earth that you will meet some day... They will be looking for a certain stone. They will be people who do not get tired, but who will keep pushing forward, going, going all the time... These people do not follow the way of our great-grandfather. They follow another way. They will travel everywhere, looking for this stone which our great-grandfather put on the earth in many places. Sweet Medicine. On the morning on January 24th, 1848, a man named James Marshall walked along the banks of the American River in California, to check on the progress of a mill he was building. "And he looks down where the soil has been dug and there's a sparkle, and there's a glint in the morning light, and he reaches down and he picks it up with his stubby dirty fingers, and the last thing in the world he might have expected, and here is this, this speck of the future, this tiny little shock that's going to reverberate right to today -- literally till now! He picks it up, and he says, you know, he says, 'My God!' And he yells out, he said, 'My God, I think I've found gold!'"- J. S. Holliday. By 1848, the United States claimed virtually all of the West. The Louisiana Purchase, the annexation of Texas and Oregon, and the war with Mexico had stretched the nation's boundaries all the way to the Pacific. But the West was American in name only. Few people east of the Mississippi were anxious to venture into its forbidding interior. It still seemed too distant, too mysterious, too dangerous. California Miners in 1852Then gold was discovered in California, and everything changed -- for the West, and for the country. Suddenly, gold-seekers rushed in from every corner of the globe: Chinese peasants, pursuing tales of a "gold mountain" across the ocean, Mexican farmers and clerks from London, tailors from Eastern Europe and South American aristocrats fallen on hard times. The thin stream of American emigrants crossing the continent became a torrent -- thousands upon thousands of optimistic but inexperienced prospectors, willing to leave their homes and families, and set out on the long trail for California, hoping to strike it rich and return in glory. Because of gold, a once-sleepy village on a magnificent bay would change overnight into a thriving, international city -- where storekeepers, speculators and scoundrels all dreamed of becoming instant millionaires. Because of gold, Spanish-speaking families who had lived in California for three quarters of a century, would suddenly find themselves surrounded by strangers -- and robbed of their land. And because of gold, California's Indians would be overwhelmed, enslaved -- and then slaughtered. The Gold Rush "revolutionized America," wrote one man who had seen it all. "It was the beginning of our national madness, our insanity of greed." It had taken half a century for the United States to encompass the vast spaces of the West. Now, the lust for gold would animate the nation to begin to fill them up. "The gold rush changed California, it changed the whole west, and it changed America's sense of itself because for the first time the United States of America, in the minds of the American people, fulfilled the dream of Jefferson, which was a continental nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. No one thought about America stretching from Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco Bay until fathers and sons and uncles and brothers and fiances were out there.- J. S. Holliday.
Ken Burns
Release Date
Title from title frames.
[San Francisco, California, USA] : Kanopy Streaming, 2015.
Recording Info
Originally produced by PBS in 1996.
Publisher no.
1137160 Kanopy
Related Resources
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1 online resource (1 video file, approximately 86 min.) : digital, .flv file, sound
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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