Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/187

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GOLD MINING IN THE UNITED STATES 183

meantime the governments of America and Europe, fearing that silver was becoming too common a metal, began to curtail its coinage; and this action still further depreciated its value.

Previous to this great output of silver the enormous quantity of gold from California and Australia had discredited the stability of the value of the latter metal, and silver was considered by many to be the safer of the two for coinage. In fact, Holland had actually adopted a silver standard for coinage in order to avoid the dangers of the de- preciation of gold, but from the day the output of the western mines made people realize the possibility of an enormous production of silver, that metal fell into disrepute. In 1886 the price fell for the first time to less than $1 per ounce, and after that it continued downward, with occasionally slight fluctuations upward, until it went below 50 cents per ounce. In late years, with the curtailment of production, silver has risen somewhat and has ranged a few cents above fifty cents an ounce. At the present time most of the great mines that were once worked entirely or mostly for silver are closed, and the production of that metal in the United States, though still large, is derived principally from ores containing both gold and silver, and as a by-product from copper and lead ores, with a little from zinc ores.

With the closing of the silver mines many men were thrown out of employment, and thousands of them started into the mountains to find something more desirable to work than the discredited silver. The long-neglected search for gold attracted many of them, for in gold they saw a metal that was not falling in value day by day. The result was remarkable, and in an incredibly short time many new discoveries of gold began to be made.

Period prom 1890-1911

The Cripple Creek district in Colorado was the most noted of the early gold discoveries following in the wake of the fall of silver, but so little confidence was put in it at first that those working there were scoffed at and called " alfalfa " miners by the old-time silver men ; yet in a few years it was producing many millions annually and Colorado had risen to the foremost ranks as a gold producer. The gold of Cripple Creek was discovered in 1890 by Eobert Womack, but was first actively worked in 1891 by E. C. Frisbee and E. M. De La Vergne; and in 1892 and 1893 the rush began which brought many thousands to this new El Dorado, where they hoped to recuperate fortunes lost in silver min- ing and in the financial panics of that time. The town of Cripple Creek suddenly sprang into existence high up on the mountains just west of Pikes Peak, and soon had a population of over 10,000 people, while the surrounding district contained several times that number. Many mil- lions were produced yearly, and though the output is now less than

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