Why are they called 49ers? The history behind the San Francisco 49ers' name

Why are they called 49ers? The history behind the San Francisco 49ers' name originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The 49ers are going for gold.

Well, technically, the Lombardi Trophy is silver. But you get the point.

The phrase "going for gold" is even more fitting if you're familiar with the origin of the San Francisco 49ers' team name.

The 49ers have won more gold than most NFL franchises - with their five Super Bowl titles tied for third most in league history. They'll have a chance to add a sixth on Feb. 11 when they play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.

But the nickname "49ers" was created more than a century before the first Super Bowl was played in 1967. It was used in reference to those who came to California while going for gold.

Why are the 49ers called the 49ers?

It all dates back to the year 1849. That's when thousands flocked to California in search of gold and became known as "49ers."

The year prior, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill on the American River in Northern California, according to James W. Marshall, who found the gold nuggets at the site while overseeing the sawmill's construction, and his boss John Sutter were unable to keep the discovery a secret. Prospectors were soon en route to the site hoping to strike gold.

The gold rush caused San Francisco's population to triple in a two-year span, going from 6,000 residents to in 1848 to 20,000 in 1850, per History. Overall, more than 300,000 people came to California by the mid-1850s, traveling from eastern United States, Europe, China, Mexico and South America.

When did California become a state?

California, home of America's largest gold rush, is fittingly nicknamed "The Golden State." Hey, now the Golden State Warriors' name makes more sense, too.

The mass migration to the area by those in search of gold between 1848 and 1855 led to a rapid population growth. The new arrivals helped speed along California's admittance to the Union, according to History. California became the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850. 

When did the 49ers become a NFL team?

The 49ers who rushed to California seeking gold were honored nearly a century later when a football team adopted their nickname. Gold would become one of the team's colors, as seen by its iconic helmets.

The San Francisco 49ers played their first regular-season game in 1946 as part of the All-America Football Conference. The team spent four seasons in the league, falling to the Cleveland Browns in the 1949 championship in the AAFC's final season, before heading to the NFL.

How many Super Bowls have the 49ers won?

The 49ers had a gold rush of their own in the 1980s.

The team, led by quarterback Joe Montana, won four Super Bowls during the decade - capturing the title during the 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1989 seasons.

The 49ers added another Super Bowl title in 1994 when Montana's successor, Steve Young, led the team to a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. At the time, the 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls.

They are now one win away from winning a sixth, which would pull them into a tie with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all time.