A banner year for San Francisco

1853 was a banner year for the city of San Francisco in many ways, not only was this the year of the largest gold yield from the mines, reaching sixty-eight million dollars, but real estate was more valuable than at any former time and more than it would be for many years to come, while rents were nearly as high as the record year of 1849. The energy and vigor of the population remained strong and this resulted in the rapid making, and reckless spending, of money amid the wild extravagances of gambling and vice.

Chinese gambling house

But now the city had improved greatly in appearance. It’s new houses often resembled palaces while the broad streets bustled with activity; it’s wharves were crowded; it’s banks, hotels, theaters, gambling dens, billiard parlors, and saloons were filled with patrons. And because a tremendous amount of gold and silver coin circulated, stores and shops sold the finest of articles of taste and luxury; the finest horses and carriages with the most expensive dressings; the costliest delicacies; everything that fancy could crave and money would buy was available and plentiful in 1853 San Francisco.

San Francisco from Rincon Hill 1853

It was truly a great city. Everyone was young and wildly active. There were no old people, no lame or otherwise crippled people. The shaky wooden shells of buildings, the tents, sand hills, muddy streets, and heaps of refuse and dirty chaparral of 1848 and 1849 were gone and everything in town seemed almost as if a dream come true. Yet just as there always had been, evil influences still lurked; thieving speculators and corrupt politicians who conspired to cripple the resources of the city, retard it’s growth and injure it’s prospects, but in spite of all their sinister efforts San Francisco rose supreme and shone bright in the splendor of the glorious California sunshine.

A steamship in the San Francisco Bay



  1. 1853 was also the year of the first “magnetic telegraph” in California. It ran from Pt Lobos to Telegraph Hill and was used to signal the arrival of shipping into the bay. The line stretched for all of eight miles.

    • Telegraph Hill was important to San Francisco because it alerted the residents to the arrivals of ships. Ships were the life blood of the city. Pt. Lobos extended the warning time quite a bit. Thanks for sharing that great information on the telegraph, Steve.

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