Ken Burns American Stories2002 | TV Show
Season 2, Episode 5 The West: The Speck of the Future
First Aired: September 17, 1996
Part 3 of the Burns-produced 1996 chronicle of the West (directed by Stephen Ives) details the 1848 discovery of gold in California and how it transformed the West. In the following year, more than 50,000 settlers (“'49ers”) would travel to California in search of riches, including farmer William Swain, whose letters reveal a passion that was shared by the majority of the treasure-seekers and the disappointment that met most of them. Included: frustrated '49ers who turned their anger on nonwhites, often aided by local laws; the truth behind legendary onetime mountain man Kit Carson; the Fort Laramie treaty, which brought a fragile peace to native tribes; and the gold rush's impact on San Francisco. Peter Coyote narrates.