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Precious Dust: The Saga of the Western Gold Rushes
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Precious Dust traces the experience of the hundreds of thousands of goldseekers who converged upon the American and Canadian West during America's great gold-rush era, 1848-1900. Beginning with the initial stampedes to California's "mother lode" country and continuing on to the zealous pursuit of gold mixed with sand on the beaches of Nome, Alaska, author Paula Mitchell Marks explores the various facets of the goldseekers' adventures: what propelled them westward, how they lived, how they met the myriad challenges of the journey and search, what kept them going or caused them to turn back, what sense they made of the whole enterprise. As the book shows, the rushes provided the major impetus for the initial development of western regions in the mid- to late nineteenth century, as well as a safety valve for restless dreamers and a laboratory for the American democratic experiment. Marks clearly reveals the tensions inherent in nineteenth-century American culture - the differences between pre-industrial ideas of success and later ones, between the American myth of abundance for all and the reality, between virulent racism and a democratic sense of fair play, between romantic appreciation of the land and exploitation of it, and between the American celebration of individualism and freedom and two quite different challenges to it: the need for community commitment and the demands of a changing economic and social order.
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