Tag Archives: california

Norwich students show us how the California Gold Rush was done!

3d 1

Panning for gold in California

A teacher from a class at a local primary school in Norwich recently had his students look into the 1849 Gold Rush in California, and the results were amazing! He got in touch with us to see if we could help share the student’s work and we were able to put some of the posters and 3-D models on display in the Library. In fact their work is here now until the end of January!

The California Gold Rush

The Gold Rush lasted from 1848 when some golden nuggets were found at Sutter’s Mill until 1855 and shaped California into the state that it is today. In 1846 San Francisco was a small settlement of a few hundred and in six years had grown to over 35,000 by 1852. Some 300,000 people came to California, and although only a few became rich, people settled and built up farms, roads and towns to support the influx of people from the United States and abroad. California became a state in 1850 and the railroads came to California in 1869.

 This rapid population increase had a huge impact on California and the American West, as well as influencing the global economy.  Some historians have even said that the Gold Rush influenced and changed what people thought of as the ‘American Dream’:

The old American Dream … was the dream of the Puritans, of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard”… of men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year. The new dream was the dream of instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck. [This] golden dream … became a prominent part of the American psyche only after Sutter’s Mill.

– Historian H. W. Brands in The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream, 2002

This would have a profound impact on American life and culture from then until today. In addition to the wide ranging and long-term impacts, the stories of the individuals and families who made the arduous trek to California is fascinating. Some travelled up to 6 months across North America or on ships via Panama or around South America, facing diseases, hunger, storms, conflicts with bandits and some Native Americans as well as requiring great physical and mental stamina to make the trip.

Gold Rush board gameposter1Come on in and learn more!

To find out more and test your own knowledge, come and see the Gold Rush board game, informative and interactive posters and detailed models of what panning for gold and life as a “forty-niner” were like.

If you’d like to learn a little bit more about the California Gold Rush, or the other major Gold Rush in American history, the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska check out some of these books:

klondike book covergold, j. boess bookgold-rosen book

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Filed under American History, Public Events

California Dreaming: Memorial Library Travel Section Exposes the Hidden Gems of California from Wine Country to Black Bears

This week we have a guest blog from Sarah Salmon, the Activities Coordinator at the Millennium Library. In it she details the highlights of her most recent adventure to California and all the helpful hints and tips she gained from reading some of the books in our American Travel section. Read on:

In Sarah’s words,

I like to travel and explore new places. The amazing landscapes, national parks and cities of America are favourite destinations and thanks to the collection of travel books held in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library I’ve just completed an amazing trip exploring California with my husband and parents.

NO CALIn recent years we’ve travelled to the National Parks of the South West and also New York but without the books, and staff, in the library we’d never have managed to plan such a successful trip. When we started the planning 18 months ago we knew that we wanted to visit Yosemite and San Francisco but not much more than that; but by borrowing the travel guides in the library focusing on the area, especially Eyewitness Travel: San Francisco and Northern California, we discovered that there were many more National and State Parks in the area and slowly our itinerary grew into a fabulous trip during which we saw natural and man-made wonders of the world, stayed in the heart of the wine country in a luxury hotel and then in an almost silent lodge in a National Park with hardly any visitors.

Coming from a very flat county, mostly at sea level, the scenery of Northern/Central California was amazing and the highs were many.

storm clouds over the Sierra

Ansel AdamsMy personal favorites were landscape related, for years I’ve been a fan of the photographer of Ansel Adams and so the chance to see his studio, and take a short photography course that took me to locations where some of his most famous photos were taken was a dream come true but perhaps the joy of just taking a walk and seeing bear was the true highlight…

Salmon Bear If you are planning a trip to the States I do recommend popping into the library and looking at the travel guide collection, and the travel writing books stored next to them, as they really will help you discover some hidden gems. I’m now waiting to borrow, National Geographic’s Guide to State Parks of the United States, to start planning my next adventure.

We at the Memorial Library would like to thank Sarah for her amazing blog and for telling us all about her California adventure. Sarah’s blog could not have come at a better time since next week marks the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National State Park and we will be displaying many of our books which celebrate Yosemite and American state parks in general.

If her trip has inspired you, stop by the Memorial Library to browse our extensive  travel collection. You can browse online here but here are a few to get you started.  Where would you like to go?

state parks


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Filed under American Culture, Books, Memorial Library

Christmas in America: San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

nutcrackerOn December 24th, 1944, the San Francisco Ballet staged a full-length performance of a fifty-year-old Russian ballet scored by the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with new choreography by the company’s founder, William Christensen. It was called Nutcracker. Continue reading

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Filed under American Culture