The following timeline is the creation of Joel
and is based on his researches into the life of the Barbary Coast during the 1800s.
|1776 to 1859|
|1860 to 1879|
|1880 to 1897|
|1776||Foundation of the Presidio of San Francisco and the Mission Dolores.|
|1794||The Castillo de San Joaquin is completed atop the bluff overlooking the Golden Gate.|
|1806||Russian commander Nicolai Rezanov arrives on the Juno. He falls in love with the daughter of the Presidio commadant, Concepcion Arguello, and returns to Russia to ask the Czar's permission to become a Catholic so that they might marry. He dies enroute. Concepcion enters a convent where she waits for forty years until an American tells her the fate of her lover.|
|1808||Earthquake wrecks the Presidio.|
|1821||Mexican independence is established.|
|1822||William Richardson deserts the English whaler Orion and becomes Yerba Buena's first Anglo-Saxon settler.|
|1826||Frederick William Beechey pilots the British exploring vessel the Blossom
into the San Francisco Bay. His principal contribution to the geography
of the region is to switch the names given by the Spanish to Yerba Buena
(Goat) Island and Alcatraz, an error repeated ever afterwards.
Captain Jedediah Smith arrives in California after crossing the continent with a band of trappers and hunters.
|1833||The Pueblo of San Francisco is founded. Elections for municipal officers are conducted the following year and town boundaries are established by Governor Figueroa.|
|1834||Don Francisco de Haro is elected the pueblo's first alcalde.|
|1835||William Richardson builds the city's first permanent structure.
Grant Avenue makes its first appearance on the city map, named as Calle de la Fundacion.
Richard Henry Dana visits aboard the Pilgrim. He records his experiences in Two Years Before the Mast.
|1838||A major earthquake shakes the foundations of the Mission and the Presidio.|
|1840||John Sutter arrives in California the year before and begins work on
Dana's Two Years Before the Mast excites American imaginations about the possibilities of California.
|1841||William Leidesdorf, the mulatto son of a Danish planter, arrives in
command of an American schooner. He builds the City Hotel and other improvements.
John Bidwell leads the first trans-Sierra wagon train into California. He stops at the ranch of Dr. John Marsh.
|1844||One-time Yankee smuggler William Hinckley becomes the first American-born alcalde of Yerba Buena.|
|1845||Asa Whitney proposes a transcontinental railroad.|
William Ide becomes the first and only president of the California Republic and leads the Bear Flag Rebellion.
John Fremont bestows the name "Chrysoplylae" or "Golden Gate" upon the entrance of San Francisco Bay.
Captain J.B. Montgomery raises the American flag over Portsmouth Square, claiming the city for the United States.
Two hundred and thirty Mormons led by Sam Brannan arrive on the Brooklyn. They are surprised to find themselves in the United States after having fled religious persecutions in that country. Four of the new arrivals have been excommunicated during the voyage for "licentious and wicked conduct" by Brannan. Brannan himself eventually becomes disenchanted with Brigham Young and remains in California.
|1847||Mexican forces in California surrender to the Americans.
Yerba Buena renamed San Francisco.
Jasper O'Farrell makes the first formal survey of the town. O'Farrell reconciles different land grant boundaries and lays out Market Street.
A brushfire breaks out behind the town. Citizens manage to put it out before it ignites the town's wooden structures.
Company F of Stevenson's Regiment arrives aboard the ship Brutus. This is an evil day for the city as many of the members leave the unit and reorganize themselves as the extortionist Hounds.
Overland mail service to San Diego begins.
The Donner Party becomes entrapped in the Sierras. Desparate members turn to predatory cannibalism to survive.
A school census shows that there are 473 men, 117 women, and 60 children and others not officially recorded living in San Francisco.
|1848||Ill fortune for the Native American and Mexican population of the state
strikes when James B. Marshall discovers gold at Sutter's Mill, Coloma,
California. Sutter realizes that the discovery threatens his extensive
holdings in the Sacramento River Valley and tries to keep it a secret.
Sam Brannan learns of it, starts a store in Sacramento, and then walks
the streets of San Francisco in a coonskin cap announcing the find. The
fate of the state is sealed when Thomas O. Larkin writes an enthusiastic
letter to Secretary of State James Buchanan about the discovery.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago grants California to the United States.
Dr. Stephen A. Wright starts the City's first bank with a starting capital of $200,000. Due to a money shortage, Wright and Company mints its own gold coins.
William Leidesdorf dies of typhus.
First Chinese arrive aboard the brig Eagle.
U.S. Post Office opens.
Remnants of Stevenson's Regiment organize the Hounds. They begin regular attacks on the Chilenos and other Latinos who live around Clark Point.
|1849||General Persifer F. Smith declares that California's gold belongs only
to "Americans" and proposes driving all foreigners from the gold
The first Forty-Niners arrive on the Pacific Mail's California.
The Memmon becomes the first clipper ship to arrive out of New York. The voyage takes 120 days.
Volunteer policemen organized.
A circus becomes the first public entertainment in the City's history.
Public sale of pueblo land held.
The clipper ship Niantic is sunk in shallow water at what is now Clay and Sansome Street and becomes the foundation of the Niantic Hotel.
The first of several fires destroys part of the young city.
The Hounds announce that they shall hereafter be known as The Regulators and that they expect the people of San Francisco to financially support their purges of the city's Latin population. After an especially viscious attack on the Chileno shanty town, Sam Brannan and other citizens call upon the Alcalde, Dr. T.M. Leavenworth, to take action against the Hounds. The perpetrators are caught; convicted of rioting, robbery, conspiracy, and assault with intent to kill; but none serves his sentence though all flee the City.
The El Dorado becomes the first gambling house opened after the discovery of gold. The club is at first housed in a massive canvas tent which is later replaced by a large room with several, small private rooms.
Convicts from Australia settle in the area which later becomes the Barbary Coast. When crimes are committed, locals say "The Sydney Ducks are cackling in the pond." Their influence in the Barbary Coast is felt for more than half a century.
A writer for The New York Post begins an Eastern tradition of literary condescension towards the West when he describes the people of San Francisco as "mad, stark mad".
|1850||Heavy rains make a quagmire of city streets, drowning several pack
Two thousand women, mostly prostitutes, arrive in San Francisco to serve the wants of the mostly male population.
The California Exchange opens.
The City of San Francisco is formally established. The city fathers move to control titles to land.
The cost of washing falls from two hundred to below five dollars when the first Chinese laundry opens.
Simone Jules becomes the first female roulette croupier at the Bella Union. Her success leads other gambling houses to feature women as dealers.
The city designates a plot of land at McAllister and Market as the town's burial ground.
Levi Strauss arrives in San Francisco. After he unpacks the materials he has brought along for the making of tents, he discovers that what the Forty Niners really want are sturdy pants. He changes his plans and founds a generous San Francisco institution.
Famed Chinese courtesan Ah Toy arrives in San Francisco.
Three fires destroy different parts of the city.
626 vessels lay in the Bay of San Francisco, most of them abandoned by sailors seeking their fortunes in the goldfields.
California admitted to the Union.
|1851||The San Francisco Orphan Asylum is founded.
Garrá's revolt, near San Luis Obispo, fails to mobilize native American and Mexican resistance and evict the American newcomers.
After two men rob the Jansen, Bond and Company of two thousand dollars in gold coin, police round up Thomas Berdue and Windred. Though evidence points to the possibility that Thomas Berdue is the victim of mistaken identity, a lynch mob, led by Sam Brannan, gathers outside the jail. Police manage to protect the two men. Winfred escapes by digging through the floor of his cell and Thomas Berdue is eventually exculpated.
The State relinquishes its title to all lots below the high-water mark within the City of San Francisco to the City of San Francisco.
Fire destroys nearly everything in the city except for the submerged hulk of the Niantic. The fire is blamed on the Sidney Ducks, who have been using arson and other extortion tactics to hold the city as their thrall. When the leaders of the fire-bug ring, Australians Jack Edwards and Ben Lewis, are brought to trial, they are released by the courts.
The First Committee on Vigilance is organized to combat the Sidney Ducks. When a Sydney Duck named John Jenkins (aka The Miscreant) steals a small safe from a Long Wharf shipping office, he is pursued by members of the Vigilance Committee out onto the Bay, captured, and tried. Jenkins is calm throughout the trial, but the expected rescue party never materializes and he is hung.
Anchor Steam Beer Brewery begins the production of malt products on Eighth Street.
James Stuart, for whom Thomas Berdue has been mistaken, is captured and hung by the Vigilance Committee.
The Vigilantes capture Samuel Whittaker and Robert McKenzie, charging them with robbery, arson, and burglary. The pair are turned over to authorities when the Sheriff arrives with a writ of habeas corpus and removes them to the City Jail. A few days later, 36 heavilly armed Vigilantes overpower the Sheriff's guard, remove Whittaker and McKenzie from the jail, and lynch them. This is the last official action of the Vigilance Committee which never formally dissolves.
A quarry is opened on Yerba Buena island for the production of blue rubblestone.
|1852||Time ball put into operation atop Telegraph Hill.
A fixed San Francisco fire district is established by the Board of Alderman.
Chinese laborers working on the Parrot Building strike for higher wages.
The Yellow Line begins the first urban transit line in the City, running passengers from the Post Office at Clay and Kearny to Mission Dolores via a horse-drawn "omnibus". The omnibus can carry eighteen passengers.
Shanghai gangs become active in the city. Some twenty three different groups make a profit out of kidnapping crews for vessels.
Mary Pleasant arrives in the city as a cook. Villified by some and loved by others, she is rumored to be a practitioner of voodoo and known to be a champion of civil rights.
State Senator James W. Denver and U.S. Representative and Alta California publisher Edward C. Gilbert row out to Angel Island to settle a dispute over Gilbert's attacks against Governor James Bigler on the field of honor. Only Denver returns alive.
First interment in Presidio National Cemetery.
|1853||The U.S. Land Commission begins holding arbitrations to decide the
validity of land claims based on old "Spanish" grants.
The California Academy of Sciences is organized.
Construction of Fort Point is begun.
The California Wharf at Drumm Street burns.
Construction starts on Saint Mary's Church.
Ladies' Protection and Relief Society founded.
San Quentin Prison opens.
A head, reputed to be of the bandit Joaquin Murietta, is displayed at King's Saloon. A debate ensues in the city's newspapers as to whether the head brought by Captain Harry Love is truly that of Murietta.
Fence is built around Yerba Buena cemetery.
A group of merchants establish the Mercantile Library, a membership lending library.
California State Telegraph Company founded with service to San Jose.
The Federal Government appropriates funds for a survey of possible routes for a transcontinental railroad. Partisan disagreements prevent a decision until the Civil War.
First street signs.
William Walker invades La Paz, Baja California, intendng to proclaim it as the capital of a new state. The U.S. Government blocks shipment of his supplies out of San Francisco. After Walker and his followers are forced to retreat back to Alta California, they are tried in U.S. District Court for violating the nation's neutrality laws, but acquitted.
|1854||U.S. Mint opens on Commercial Street.
The Flying Cloud sets a world record by sailing from New York to San Francisco in 88 days.
Lone Mountain Cemetery opens.
The "head of Joaquin Murietta" is displayed by John W. Chiles, a former ranger and companion of Harry Love at Long Wharf. Chiles does this to try to raise money to cover the expenses of himself and the other rangers who produced the trophy.
The state legislature passes the first anti-gambling law.
Alderman Thomas Meiggs flees the city after his forgery of city warrants is uncovered. Many businesses and banks which depended on his investments fail in the next few months.
|1855||Several city banks close on Black Friday.
City commissioners begin the job of laying out the city's streets west of Larkin.
The Sheriff of San Francisco County seizes the alledged head of Joaquin Murietta from its owner, one Wothring, to satisfy a judgement. The head is sold at auction for $36 to a Judge Lyons and a Mr. J.V. Plume. A news writer laments: "Poor Joaquin. A price was set on his head while living, and a price is set upon it now that he is dead. It is a head that seems particularly liable to executions." The head is later resold for $100.
More than 100 houses of prostitution operate around Portsmouth Square.
Italian immigrant Charles Cora shoots General W.H. Richardson after the general publically impugns Cora's wife, Belle, who runs a Pike Street parlor house.
|1856||Earthquake rocks the city.
Supervisor James Casey shoots newspaper editor James King of William after the Daily Bulletin reveals that Casey served time in Sing-Sing. The Second Vigilance Committee is organized to hang Casey and Charles Cora. Belle Cora retires from prostitution and becomes a noted local philanthropist. Both Cora and Casey are buried at the Mission Dolores. Casey's tombstone says "May God Forgive My Persecutors".
Abe Warner's Cobweb Palace opens on Meigg's wharf. Among Warner's customers is William Walker. When Walker pokes a cobweb with his cane, Warner predicts "That cobweb will be growing long after you've been cut down from the gibbet."
Yankee Sullivan commits suicide after a Vigilante taunts him, saying that Sullivan will surely hang in the morning.
Governor Johnson declares San Francisco to be in a state of insurrection and orders the Vigilance Committee to surrender its arms. The Vigilantes respond by fortifying themselves within a Portsmouth Square building thereafter known as "Fort Gunnybags". William Tecumseh Sherman, a local banker, is called upon to lead resistance to the Vigilantes.
Vigilantes capture arms shipments meant for General Howard and the Law and Order Party.
Judge Nathan Terry denounces the Vigilantes. When Vigilantes arrive to arrest him, Terry stabs one of them. He escapes before they can try him.
The Vigilantes hang Joseph Heatherington and a man named Brace. This is their last hanging. Several other malefactors are shipped out before the Vigilante Army parades through the City and disbands.
The Vigilantes formally surrender the captured arms and ammunition three months after they disband.
San Mateo County is created out of the southern part of San Francisco County.
|1857||Headquarters for the Army's Division of the Pacific is permanently established at the Presidio. Fort Point is constructed.|
|1858||French Hospital opens on Brannan Street.
Transcontinental stagecoach service begins with the departure of the Overland Mail.
San Francisco Water Works Company established.
Copies of The Phoenix, a scandal sheet which incidentally is also a good guide to the city's bordellos, are impounded under a new obscenity law.
San Francisco blacks set up a waterfront patrol to rescue Archy Lee, a slave whose master has attempted to retain possession of him after settling in California. In a convoluted decision, the California Supreme Court rules that while Lee is technically free due to his owner's residence in the state, it will order him to return to Mississippi because this is the first time this has happened in the state. Lee is ultimately freed by a decision of the United States Commissioner.
|1859||The Comstock Lode (silver) is discovered, bringing new prosperity to
The state anti-gambling law is repealed through the efforts of Jack Gamble.
Surgeon Dr. Elias Cooper assembles ten students in his Mission Street offices and proceeds to teach them medicine. This is the start of the Cooper Medical College which eventually becomes part of Stanford Medical School.
Theodore Judah is selected by the Pacific Railroad Convention to present the state's case for a north-central route for the transcontinental railroad.
After losing everything in an investment, real-estate operator and broker Joshua Norton has a nervous breakdown. He emerges from it as the Norton I, who claims to have been chosen by the California Legislature as Emperor of the United States.
Former Supreme Court Justice and chivalrist David S. Terry shoots abolitionist Senator David Broderick. Broderick dies two days later at the home of his friend Leonidas Haskell. His ghost is said to haunt the house still.
Sam Brannan invests a considerable part of his fortune in a Napa Valley resort which he intends to name Saratoga, California. On dedication day, however, he shows up drunk and announces that the town will hereafter be known as "Calistoga, Sarafornia". A messy divorce plus Brannan's mistaken faith in the value of his resort over that of his San Francisco properties leads to his ruin.
William Walker is shot by a Honduran firing squad, fulfilling the prophecy of Abe Warner.
Take a good look at this picture. These parlor girls from the Barbary Coast are typical for their day. Many of them are white slaves, young women from towns on the Peninsula and elsewhere who were ruined by their pimps and then brought up to The City to work as prostitutes. Some of the faces show signs of the venereal diseases which infected more than 80% of the women of the Coast. None of these women is over twenty.
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