Archives for February 2012

The corrupt politics of San Francisco

The crimes of those who caused the financial depression of 1855 were minor compared to the social and political corruption in San Francisco. This group included murderers, robbers, burglars, thieves, forgers, prostitutes, gamblers, bullies and vagabonds but also the regular experts in stuffing ballot boxes and those politicians who used, aided or gave encouragement to the manipulators of fraudulent elections. The depth of political corruption reached in San Francisco in 1854 and 1855 had perhaps … [Read more...]

The impact of the 1855 depression

Even amid the fanfare in San Francisco over the opening of the Panama Railroad, and the improvements it made in the transportation of mail to the west and payments of gold to creditors in the east, the natural effect of the bank failures of 1855 was to throw everything in the city, and indeed the whole of California, into a state of confusion. And so, in spite of the advance in communication with the east and business affairs that even under these peculiar circumstances had reached a high level, … [Read more...]

Steamer days

For years the Pacific Mail Steamships would depart San Francisco on the fifth and twentieth of every month. There would almost always be a large crowd on the wharf but not so vocal as on arrival. Instead of hotel runners there were fruit, nut and sweetmeat vendors. And instead of the loud hurrahs there was often sadness in seeing the departure of friends, relatives and many stalwart men whose strength and vigor had contributed much to the greatness of the land they were now to … [Read more...]

The importance of Pacific Mail

The success of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., particularly after the opening of the Panama Railroad, justified an increase in service. To the original three steamers on the Pacific side, the California, Oregon and Panama, were added larger and more elegant ships while on the Atlantic a greater number of vessels were on hand for both passengers and freight. The original purpose of the company had been to carry the mail and two steamers a month regularly traveled between Panama and San Francisco … [Read more...]

Panama, the easy route to California

As soon as trains ran regularly along the Panama Railway between Panama City and Aspinwall, and passengers were not delayed more than a few hours in either direction or more than a day or two across the whole isthmus, the journey between New York and San Francisco became a relatively pleasant, but expensive trip. The railroad charged very high fares and those on the Pacific Mail Steamships were also steep, but to residents of gold rich California back then these cost mattered little. With … [Read more...]

The Panama Railroad

The news of the failure of Page, Bacon & Co. in St. Louis reached San Francisco by way of the newly completed Panama Railroad. In February 1855 the fastest means of communication between the east coast of the United States and California was by Pacific Mail Steamship and the Panama Railroad. Work on the railway began in 1850. From it’s terminal in Aspinwall, today’s Colon, to the end of the line in Panama City was only forty-eight miles and while there were no difficult engineering obstacles … [Read more...]

The unresolved Adams bankruptcy

After his arrest for contempt of court Edward Jones soon handed over all the Adams & Co. assets under his control and was released, but Alfred Cohen either could not or would not answer for certain missing funds from the accounts. In addition there was the issue of ten thousand dollars Cohen claimed for his commission that the courts refused to allow. Then on February 27, 1856 workmen discovered a canvas bag containing large account books that had washed in with the tide along North Beach … [Read more...]

The Adams bankruptcy has problems

Soon after Alfred A. Cohen was appointed as receiver for Adams & Co., creditors had sued the company demanding more than enough to exhaust the funds on hand. The court then declared the company insolvent and this allowed these funds to be administered for the benefit of all who had filed suit. Cohen was removed as receiver but at a meeting of the creditors Cohen, Richard Roman, and Edward Jones were elected assignees. Cohen, at the order of the court, transferred all assets under his control … [Read more...]

Adams & Co. a planned failure

On that Black Friday morning, perhaps with knowledge they could not pay their obligations, Adams & Co. set about to implement a plan for failure. An amicable, some called it collusive, lawsuit for dissolution of the partnership was to be filed in the fourth district court with Adams as plaintiff and Haskell and Woods as codefendants with Alfred J. Cohen appointed as receiver to take charge of their property. This happened early in the morning on February 23 and when the other banks opened at … [Read more...]

Fraud in the Adams & Co. failure

After the run on banks in San Francisco on February 23, 1855 the situation was not as bad as it had at first seemed. While Page, Bacon & Co. as well as Adams & Co. and several other firms had failed, Lucas, Turner & Co. and a few others had survived. They had paid all demands made on them and, at the close of business that fateful day, when they announced a readiness to meet all future claims made upon them, a certain confidence was restored and by the next day depositors began to … [Read more...]