To many, miners embody the quintessential narrative of the American West: freedom, individualism, opportunity, and progress. Books, movies, museums, theme parks, and sports franchises celebrate, often with romanticized nostalgia and a nationalistic flair, the hardships endured by miners. In the mid-nineteenth century, the “forty-niners” and hundreds of thousands of other prospectors from all ends of the earth flooded the nation’s western frontier in search of gold, silver, copper, and other precious minerals buried within its vast and unexplored soils.
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