Honest Henry Meiggs

At the time Henry Meiggs began his fraudulent use of San Francisco city warrants there was no money in the street fund, but the warrants were considered satisfactory as security for a loan. And this was how Meiggs used them. Always a large borrower it was his way of doing business. Almost never out of debt he spent most of his time “shinning around”, as he called it, after money and considered it a rare day when he didn’t leave home without the need to find a loan of at least forty thousand … [Read more...]

The fraud of Henry Meiggs

The various improvements to San Francisco made by Henry Meiggs, such as the wharf he built, cutting a road around Telegraph Hill and the Musical Hall on Bush Street, ingratiated him to the residents in general and to North Beach in particular, so much so that in 1853 he was elected as a delegate to the convention to revise the city charter, a revision that was never adopted, and in September of that same year he was elected to the board of aldermen of the city council. Here he represented North … [Read more...]

Fisherman’s Wharf and Henry Meiggs

Of all the business failures in San Francisco that year of 1854 the one that attracted the most attention, and perhaps the most important, was the failure of Henry Meiggs. He arrived in California in 1850 aboard the Albany with a cargo of lumber that he sold for twenty times what he had paid and settled in North Beach where he went into the lumber business in a big way. A good looking, well dressed man who was always willing to donate to the public good as well as private charities, Meiggs … [Read more...]

A coming economic crash

In spite of the efforts of San Franciscans to maintain and even expand business in 1854 the strain of over speculation and extravagance had impeded the natural progress to the extent that there had to be a reaction more severe than the depression suffered in the earlier part of the year. However, in spite of lowered production from the mines, there was still a significant yield of gold that amounted to sixty-four million dollars, and, together with the large number of forty-eight thousand new … [Read more...]

San Francisco expands trade

Even while business in San Francisco was in the throes of a depression, efforts were made to reach out for more trade. Commodore Perry signed a treaty with Japan on March 31, 1854 that for the first time in history opened up that Asian nation to commerce with the United States. Shortly thereafter several ships sailed from San Francisco to Japan and later returned with full cargoes of Japanese goods. Efforts were undertaken to set up a line of steamships operating between the city and … [Read more...]

The 1854 depression slows

The lowest point of the business depression of 1854 was passed by the middle of the year. The public auction of twenty-two lots of the Government Reserve on the block bounded by Pacific, Broadway, Front and Davis Streets made over one hundred thousand dollars on June 6, nearly twice as much as was realized from the March 9 sale, less than three months before. While rents, which had been greatly reduced during the depression, did not rise, they had been much too high before and were still high … [Read more...]

The first San Francisco Mint

Because there had been a severe shortage of coins for legal transactions in California from the very beginning of the gold rush, and transporting raw gold to the US mints in New Orleans and Philadelphia then shipping freshly minted coins back to the west was inefficient and costly, President Millard Fillmore proposed in 1852 the construction of a new United States Mint in San Francisco. Congress soon passed the proposal. The constant growth of the population in the west and the abundance of gold … [Read more...]

San Francisco real estate prices fall

Early in 1854 a major economic depression hit San Francisco. The once rich placer gold deposits were almost gone and expensive quartz crushing machinery was needed to sustain gold production. Miners who lacked the resources to buy such equipment were pouring into San Francisco. Their mines no longer ordered supplies from merchants in the city and bankers started to call in their credit. The building boom of 1853, when over three hundred brick buildings had been constructed, many of them three … [Read more...]

The California Steam Navigation Company

At about the same time that gas was introduced into San Francisco there were more improvements underway. Proposals to cut down all the hills in the city and use the dirt to fill in the hollows were modified and the hills we see today were saved. Many of the principal streets were paved with water-worn stones called cobbles that had been taken from the streams of inland California. These cobbles were rough and noisy but they were durable and in many ways preferable to the wood planking currently … [Read more...]

The gold rush laundry business

In San Francisco during the early days water cost at least a bit a bucket, or two buckets for a quarter, quite a lot of money back then. Consequently only the washing of clothes that was considered indispensable was done and mostly by Mexican and Indian women at a fresh water pond in today's Marina District south of Black Point that came to be called Washerwoman’s Lagoon. At the same time there were a few laundries and washerwomen who did very particular work in some of the other locations where … [Read more...]