California has barely entered the United States as a territory when James Marshall, a carpenter working for John Sutter
, discovered gold in the American River
at the site of Sutter's new sawmill at Coloma
in 1848. When word got out, a rush of fortune seekers, known collectively as 49ers, descended on California. Within a few years, the California Gold Country was alive with boomtowns. Sacramento
thrived as a distribution and commercial center and San Francisco
boomed as the main port for the Pacific. By 1850, the population had swelled to such a degree that California was admitted to the union as a state.
The most productive strikes were played out within a few years, and although gold production continued, the excitement moved to other strikes, such as Idaho and the Fraser River in Canada. However, many fortunes resulted and the impetus given the state's economy gave it a fast start on its climb to the first place position it holds today.