Archives for January 2012

A water supply for San Francisco

A large amount of money had been expended in the hope that fresh water could be introduced to San Francisco as early as gaslight. In June of 1851 a contract had been issued to Azro D. Merrifield to provide water to the city. With the idea of bringing in the water of Mountain Lake, a large spring fed pond about three and a half miles west of Portsmouth Square, excavations were made and tunnels dug, but when it was found that the project was impractical and would not pay it was given up. In … [Read more...]

Coal gas lights for San Francisco

Despite the downturn in the economic outlook for San Francisco, the improvements previously started for the city continued. In February a third San Francisco directory was published and gave the names and addresses of about twelve thousand people. When compared with the older directories this suggested that San Francisco’s population had doubled every year since 1850. Then, on February 11, 1854, the city was lit by coal gas for the first time. Though only about three miles of mains had been laid … [Read more...]

A depression in gold country

The prosperity that San Francisco and all of California had enjoyed since the gold rush began reached its peak in 1853 and by 1854 economic trouble had spread across the state. There were a number of reasons for this. The rains of the winter of 1853-54 had been unseasonably light and the lack of water caused the production of gold to decline. When the amount of rain did increase during the spring, allowing almost all of the miners to return to profitable employment, it was hoped that a continued … [Read more...]

San Francisco rebels against taxation

The merchants of San Francisco were not inclined to pay taxes they considered unfair, and those imposed by the Revenue Act of 1853 were just that. A great number of these merchants resisted because they felt the taxes on consigned goods and auctioneers were unconstitutional and lawsuits were filed. But either their case was badly presented or the Supreme Court of California, who sided with the politicians in general, was unwilling to do justice for the city. Early in 1854 the court ruled that … [Read more...]

The Revenue Act of 1853

The march of prosperity in San Francisco, as seen in its population increase, its many new buildings, and the extraordinary prices commanded at the sale of its waterfront lots, was not stopped by the aborted waterfront extension swindle, but there was another legislative measure seriously advocated by Governor Bigler and successful in obtaining a sufficient vote to insure its passage, that was calculated to do, and in fact did for a time, a great deal of damage to the city. This was the Revenue … [Read more...]

The government reserve sale

In San Francisco, on December 28, 1853, another important sale of waterfront property occurred. This involved a portion of what was then known as the government reserve between Pacific and Broadway Streets east of Sansome. Originally a part of a tract claimed to have been granted in 1842 to an American named Robert Ellwell as a place for him to salt cattle skins, as the major industry of California at that time was the trade of tallow and hides. But the grant was never archived and by this time … [Read more...]

The city slip property misfortune

Close on the heels of the defeat of the waterfront extension scheme waterfront property rose rapidly to incredible highs. What few lots that were available commanded record prices. Among these beach and waterfront properties were some in four small blocks along Commercial Street from Sacramento Street to Clay that had been given to the city for ninety-nine years by the Act of March 26, 1851 and had been reserved by the city council as a free public dock and was generally known as the city slip … [Read more...]

The waterfront extension swindle

Even as San Francisco began its greatest year ever the next attack on its prosperity was launched by no less than John Bigler, the governor of California, in his annual message on January 5, 1853. He called attention to the enormous liabilities of the state, an impending debt of over two million dollars, an expected expenditure of over one million dollars for 1853 alone with an expected receipt for the same year of less than one-half million. To reduce the cost to the state Bigler proposed to … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Imports in 1853 San Francisco

1853 was a boom year for the new city growing rapidly along the San Francisco Bay. About seven hundred and forty-five thousand tons of goods were imported that year, worth in those days more than thirty-five million dollars. Exports for the year included fifty-five million dollars in gold and seven hundred thousand dollars in mercury or quicksilver, as it was commonly known then. One thousand and twenty eight ships arrived in the port, six hundred and thirty-eight of which were American and … [Read more...]