California Gold Rush

Resources for a short learning block on the California Gold Rush

These reading selections are suitable for a large range of children.  Even smaller children will enjoy hearing the stories read aloud.  I’m planning to have my oldest child (13 years old) read most of the selections aloud to his siblings.


Lean John:  California’s Horseback Hero (Randall Reinstadt)This book is set in the 1840s, so before the Gold Rush happened, but I couldn’t resist sharing this story with the children.  The book covers the adventures of Lean John Brown, a real life hero at the center of the battle over California.  We will also use the accompanying activity guide.  The activity guide has a crossword puzzle, instructions for making a seal ring, a dramatic play, and more.

Tales and Treasures of the California Gold Rush (Randall Reinstadt)This a great overview of the Gold Rush, told partly through many fascinating stories and anecdotes.  A true living book. Some of the more intriguing chapter titles: “California Here I Come!”, “Bandits and Badmen”, “Women of the Gold Rush”, and “What the Forty-Niners Did for Fun”.  We’ll also use the accompanying activity guide.  Some of the activities in the Guide include “Buying & Selling Gold Rush Style” and “Miners Court”.

By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman.  A man travels to California to make a fortune in the gold mines to save his aunt’s home.


American Experience:  The Gold Rush (PBS).  Available on Netlix. Suitable for ages 10 and above.  “Relive the 19th century’s rush to riches, when thousands of Americans eager to make their fortunes converged upon the then-small town of San Francisco in search of gold after it was discovered in the American River. Their quest for nuggets changed the face of the city by the bay forever and set in motion events that would not only shape the West but the rest of the country, making this period one of the most fascinating in American history.”