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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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First gold found at Sutter's Mill, California, 1848First gold found at Sutter's Mill, California, 1848

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall found this tiny piece of gold in a stream near John Sutter's sawmill in northern California. News of the discovery inspired the great Gold Rush of 1849. Marshall and Sutter gave the gold nugget to a U.S. Army officer in San Francisco, who sent it to Washington, D.C., to the National Institute, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution. When the institute's charter expired in 1862, its collections were transferred to the Smithsonian.

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