2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 19
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


SMITH, Michael S., Department of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403, smithms@uncw.edu

The southeastern United States gold rush (1799-1849) is a period when gold mining progressed from primitive methods developed in the 15th to 16th century to more practical, rapid, and profitable technologies adapted to the geology of the American South. The rapid exploitation of the California gold fields (1849-1855) depended greatly upon the modified techniques and expertise developed in North Carolina and Georgia. But how did these farmers-turned-miners gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and equipment to produce these changes? While Benjamin Silliman's American Journal of Science and Arts, Robert Blakewell's Introduction to Geology (1829) or William Maclure's Observations on the Geology of the United States (1809) were important to academic geologic thought and practice at the time, the part-time miners and “boomers' more often read extracted articles from these and other American or European journals and books from a less lofty source - the newspaper. The Miners' & Farmers' Journal represents the first weekly North Carolina newspaper that specifically addressed mining and geology in addition to agricultural topics and techniques. The newspaper was available at public houses, reading rooms, and by subscription. In addition to reports on the mining practices and techniques found in Chile, Mexico, Russia and elsewhere, notices of new mines or the sale of potential gold deposits were advertised, as were proposals or investment opportunities for the development or group ownership of an established gold mine. As gold mining moved from placer to underground mining, paid advertisements of equipment and mining materials as well as patent notices for new and improved mining devices became prevalent. The Miners' & Farmers' Journal provided the farmers-turned-miners a valuable knowledge resource and allowed for the dissemination of the necessary knowledge and background to utilize these new techniques and equipment. Other newspapers followed their lead and the interchange of news articles and announcements of gold discoveries throughout the southeastern United States helped foment the gold fever that changed the Southeast's economic and social landscape.