California admitted to the Union

October 18, 1850. The Pacific Mail Steamship Oregon burst through the golden gate with bunting flying and firing it’s cannon. It ran along the waterfront to Rincon Point then turned back to Clark Point and anchored in the stream where it landed it’s passengers. It brought news that California had been admitted into the union, and great excitement and rejoicing coursed through the city. That night a large meeting was held at Portsmouth Square with many speeches.

Portsmouth Square, 1850

After the meeting the true celebrations started in earnest as people retired to the usual places such as Delmonico’s on Washington, one of the most popular. Here, in a style characteristic of the time, they drank champagne. But this wasn’t the ordinary gold rush drinking bout. People were organized into groups and one group after the other, with near military precision, marched to the bar, drank and then retreated to wait their next turn. This was kept up nearly all night.

J. D. Borthwick, A Ball in the Mines

In those days the amounts of champagne consumed in California was enormous and often in the extravagant and reckless spirit as it was here. As the night grew on there was some rough play as every man who wore a stiff crowned hat had it crushed down over his face, something that caused a lot of boisterous talk. But due to the extra special significance of the celebration men recognized that what was done was merely a way Californians had of enjoying themselves, and on that night no one was allowed to get angry.



  1. Did they in fact have a night when no one got angry? Still what a way to celebrate.

    • I guess that on this one night not one drunk got into a fight with another, Doris, a remarkable accomplishment. They were known to celebrate in the gold rush. People drank an awful lot.

  2. I think a lot of people drank back then because the water was not always healthy. For many I think that was how they grew up and it was natural, just not healthy to excess.

    • The best way to store grain was to distill it. They still make moonshine. There are no taxes on it. But to us modern softies drinking for a week straight seems a bit much and it wasn’t that uncommon in the gold rush.

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