I read about those gold rushes in 1849 and 1896 etc., and I keep asking myself: Why would anyone who finds gold announce it to the world? If they had any sense, they would keep it extremely secret and absolutely not attract a ton of people coming from all over the world to harass and steal from you. Possibly even murder you to get to the gold. It makes no sense to me that one would run around and shout about having found gold in such a situation. So why do they (apparently) do so?

Or maybe gold was/is found all the time, but we never hear about it so there is no gold rush there? And in these few known cases when there was a gold rush, it's only because they forgot to be careful or made a mistake or something?

  • Your question assumes that people are sensible. In practice, there is no "homo oeconomicus"that always makes sensible decisions. Many people just like to boast how great of a gold miner they are. Most of them also spent their gold gambling and drinking instead of saving it as common sense would dictate – Manziel Mar 5 at 8:29
  • I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on history.SE. – Ben Crowell Mar 5 at 13:55
  • In the case of the California gold rush, I think the history is that the discoverers tried to keep it secret, but the secret leaked out. – Ben Crowell Mar 5 at 13:56

Probably the first people who found gold wouldn't announce it. They'd keep quiet about it as long as they could, while mining as much as possible in secret. But when a person who didn't have a lot of money suddenly starts spending lots of money, people notice. Shopkeepers and bankers would also notice their money was in the form of raw nuggets or flakes instead of coins.

Once people noticed that this person had an unusual amount of money in an unusual form, they'd start watching that person. It wouldn't take long to figure out that they were finding gold. And once more than one person knows a secret, it doesn't stay secret for long.

Also, the real money in the goldrush was in selling supplies and services. So it would definitely be in the interest of merchants and people who provide services to publicize the find to increase business.

  • And in those days towns were small, the tiniest details were gossiped, and nothing remained a secret for long. – Weather Vane Mar 5 at 14:20
  • In the case of the 1849 California gold rush, it is documented fact that "merchants and people who provide services" definitely made a huge deal out of it when they found out; and they became wealthier than most of the miners. – Jimmy Fix-it Mar 7 at 6:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.