Ever wonder what it was like to participate in the Gold Rush of the American West?  Throughout the mid 1800s and early 1900s, many plots of gold were found throughout California, Washington, the Yukon, and Alaska.  The most ambitious would often pack up their entire families and head to the discovery site, seeking out a mining plot/right and investing all they had in to the tools and setting up camp -- all in hopes of striking it rich.  

For those that didn't go "all-in", there was gold panning - a process by which one would use a large, round pan to sift through the silt, rock, and minerals flowing through a stream that might be downstream from a larger gold deposit.  Some turned this in to a large-scale operation, but most did so for a short period of time before moving on to a new location.  The following photos give a rare glimpse in to the life of a "panner".  

This fabulous photo from 1889 titled, "We have it rich," shows "Old Timers" Spriggs, Lamb, and Dillon hard at work washing and panning gold in Rockville, Dakota.   Many men did indeed find a spot that provided a significant amount of gold, and when they did, they tried to keep it as secret as possible.  


While some worked in teams, many panners did so as a solitary activity.  This old stereoscope photo from around 1875 is one of the earliest-known photos of gold panning in the Dakota Territories.  

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What it Was Like to Pan for Gold (10 Photos)