I once heard, I think it was on a TV program about searching for gold in Alaska, the phrase "panned out" used by someone who was panning for gold. He declared a specific area was "panned out" and I took his meaning to be there was no longer any gold to be found there.
Looking around, I found a user having a similar question here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pan%20out
Do anyone have an early reference for the use of the phrase and can we be sure its earliest usage referred to success?
There is the phrase "strike gold" that refers to success. The usage of "pan out" to mean the opposite seemed authentic to me.
Edit: Thanks for all the replies! I found early quotations here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pan_out where it is used in the narrow sense of extracting gold. If anyone has any early quotes of other usage, that would be interesting. This link has a quote from Reagan: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pan%20out. I have not found the source, is this from his presidency? According to the usage trends here: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/pan-out, the use of the term has increased substantially since the mid 80s. Did the usage change around that time to more generally refer to success, maybe in response to Reagan's usage of the phrase? More info would be interesting!