Lugo family 1888

This portrait of the Lugo family, circa 1888, is part of the Los Altos History Museum’s latest exhibition, “Gold Fever!” 


The Gold Rush sweeps into town with the Los Altos History Museum’s latest exhibition, “Gold Fever! The Untold Stories of California’s Gold Rush,” on display July 22 through Aug. 29.

Gold Rush-era photos, documents and artifacts offer a glimpse into California before the discovery of gold more than 150 years ago in the American River, the frenzied rush to the gold fields over land and by sea, the experience of vigilante justice, life in the rowdy gold camps, commerce and farming, and the shaping of California’s future.

The exhibition spotlights the stories of individual Californios, women, Native Americans, adventurers and gold seekers who emigrated from all parts of the world during the Gold Rush, an era that continues to impact California’s peoples, culture, environment, politics and economy.

“We know the families in the area have been struggling this year with at-home schooling and missed summer trips, so we wanted to offer a family-friendly summer exhibition about a popular and approachable subject,” said museum executive director Elisabeth Ward. “The forty-niners are iconic in California, and we are looking forward to exploring this bygone time.”

To commemorate the opening of “Gold Fever,” the museum has scheduled a “Pioneer Day” with hands-on activities noon to 4 p.m. July 25. The Living History program, held outdoors, includes gold panning, quilting, butter making, clothes washing and pioneer games. Visitors are encouraged to dress in Western wear to receive a raffle ticket for a grand-prize drawing. Admission is $5 per party, and registration is required to comply with safety protocols.

In a program titled “Journey to Gold Mountain: Chinese and the Gold Rush,” author and historian Connie Young Yu will discuss the life and times of the early Chinese in California, and how the racial strife they faced in the gold country grew into a nationwide anti-Chinese movement. This program will be held both in person at the museum and via Zoom 6 p.m. Aug. 12.

The “Gold Fever” traveling exhibition tour was organized by Exhibit Envoy in partnership with Cal Humanities. Exhibit Envoy provides traveling exhibitions and professional services to museums throughout California.

To register for the programs and for more information, visit