"patched argonauts from the states driving mules through the streets on their way south through the mountains to the coast. Goldseekers"
Illustration of Californian Argonauts (1860)
Public DomainIllustration of Californian Argonauts (1860) - Credit: Harper's Monthly Magazine
A forty-niner peers panning for gold in California’s American River (1850)
Public DomainA forty-niner panning for gold in California’s American River (1850) - Credit: L. C. McClure

The Argonauts was a name given to the thousands of gold seekers who left for California to make their fortune during the mid-19th century. The name came from Greek mythology, after Jason and his Argonauts and their mythical quest for the golden fleece.

The gold seekers were also known as the 49ers, since the year 1849 saw the largest migration to the west coast during the Gold Rush. Many made the arduous journey on foot or by wagon, sometimes taking up to nine months to get to California. For the immigrants who came by sea, San Francisco became the most popular port of call. It was estimated that the population of California increased by 86,000 in just two years and San Francisco grew from about 800 in 1848 to over 50,000 in 1849.