1902 Encyclopedia > San Francisco, United States

San Francisco
United States




SAN FRANCISCO, a city of the United States, the largest commercial city of California and of the Pacific coast, is situated in 37° 47' 22"'55 N. lat. and 122° 25' 40"-76 W. long., on the end of a peninsula which has the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Bay of San Francisco on the other. The width of this tongue of land within the city limits is about 6 miles, and its whole length about 26. The original site of San Francisco was so uninviting that many of the pioneers doubted if a place of much importance could ever spring up there. The hills (Russian Hill, 360 feet; Telegraph Hill, 294 feet; and a number of others, ranging from 75 to 120 feet) were barren and precipitous, and the interspaces, especially on the westerly side, were made up largely of shifting sand-dunes; on the east side, however, the land sloped gently towards the bay, and there was the further advantage of a small cove extending inland nearly to the present line of Montgomery Street. This cove has since been filled up and built over. After an attempt to found the commercial metropolis at Benicia, 30 miles north on the Straits of Carquinez, it was evident that no other place within easy distance from the ocean possessed so many advantages for the site of a city as this barren peninsula. The Bay of San Francisco is reached from the ocean through the Golden Gate, a strait about 5 miles long aud averaging 1 mile in width, with a depth of 30 feet on the bar at the entrance and from 60 to 100 feet within. The bay, which extends past the city in a south-south-east direction for about 40 miles, is about seven miles wide in front of the city, while its greatest width is 12. Connected with the Bay of San Francisco on the north by a strait 3 miles wide is San Pablo Bay, about 10 miles in length and the same in breadth, having at its extreme northerly end Mare Island, the site of the navy yard. This bay, again, is connected by the Straits of Carquinez with Suisun Bay, 8 miles long and 4 wide. The total length of these bays and connecting straits is 65 miles. This great inland water, sheltered and for the most part navigable by the largest craft, receives the two great rivers of California, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. In the Bay of San Francisco are Alcatraz Island (30 acres), strongly fortified ; Angel Island (800 acres), fortified; and Yerba Buena, or Goat Island (about 300 acres).

The presidio or fortified settlement of San Francisco was founded on 17th September 1776, and the mission (San Francisco de los Dolores) in the following October. In 1830 the population of the presidio consisted of about fifty Spanish soldiers and officers; these added to the number at the mission made an aggregate population of about 200. Beechy, who visited the harbour and presidio in 1826, has left the following description:—
"The governor's abode was in a corner of the presidio, and formed one end of a row of which the other was occupied by a chapel; the opposite side was broken down, and little better than a heap of rubbish and bones, on which jackals, dogs, and vultures were con-stantly preying. The other two sides of the quadrangle contained stone houses, artificers' shops, and the jail, all built in the humblest style with badly burned bricks and roofed with tiles. The chapel and the Government house were distinguished by being whitewashed."

The presidio enclosure was about 300 yards square. In 1834, when it was secularized and began to be known by the secular name of Yerba Buena, the mission Dolores had a population of 500. In the summer of 1846 an American man-of-war took possession of the place. In the early part of 1849 the inhabitants numbered about 2000, and the embryo city had already come to be known by its future name of San Francisco. In consequence of the discovery of gold in California a strong drift of population set in towards the placer mines, and at the end of 1849 there were 20,000 people in the city. The first legislature of California granted a charter to San Francisco on 1st May 1850. Prior to that date the government of the pueblo had been administered by an alcalde. The pueblo grant originally made by the king of Spain contained four square (Spanish) leagues of land; this grant was subsequently confirmed to San Francisco by an Act of Congress. The jurisdiction of the municipality ex-tends over the islands in the bay. The area included in the limits of the city exceeds the original four square leagues considerably, including what were originally denominated " swamp and over-flowed lands" (see Dwinelle's Colonial History).

In the first stages of its history the buildings of the city were chiefly of wood,—in many cases the frames and coverings having been brought from the Atlantic States round Cape Horn in sailing vessels. Within a few months of the establishment of municipal govern-ment the city suffered severely on more than one occasion from fire. The fire of 4th May 1850 destroyed property to the value of about $3,000,000; another in the following month was still more destructive ($4,000,000); and the damage resulting from a third in September was estimated at $500,000.

These occurrences naturally led to the employment of more substantial building material in some cases, granite being imported from China for some buildings, and iron and brick being used to a considerable extent on others ; but to this day nearly all the private dwellings of the city are of wood. Since 1850, however, the damage from fire in the portion of the city occupied by private houses has been remarkably small,—partly because of the use of red-wood instead of pine. In the business houses erected recently the increase of solidity and costliness has been very marked.





Throughout a considerable part of the city the streets are laid out in rectangular form, and nowhere with any reference to the natural elevations. The most important business thoroughfare is Market Street, extending from the water front at the ferry landings to the hills on the west, a distance of 3 miles or more. The more important streets are paved for the most part with cobble stones and basalt blocks; but asphalt on a stone or concrete founda-tion has begun to be used. Among the public buildings and institutions of San Francisco are the mint, appraisers' stores, subtreasury, custom-house, merchants' exchange, stock exchange, city-hall, industrial school, house of correc-tion, almshouse, Masonic Temple, new Oddfellows' building, safe deposit, and seven theatres and opera-houses. The Palace Hotel cost $3,250,000, and can accommodate 1200 guests. The city has eleven public squares. Its greatest attraction is the Golden Gate Park of 1050 acres, 3 miles long and half a mile wide, having the ocean for its extreme westerly boundary. The greater part of this area was formerly a shifting sand-dune. An extensive glass-house in a central position is filled with the rarest tropical and semi-tropical plants and shrubs ; a large part of the area is planted with forest trees, or is laid down in grass ; the walks and drives are well planned and well kept.

San Francisco is traversed in various directions by horse railroads, which extend from the water front to the suburbs. There are also 50 miles of wire cable roads, which are yearly increasing. These cable tramways extend 2 miles on Clay Street, overcoming an elevation of 120 feet. The cost of their construction and equip-ment has ranged from $100,000 to $125,000 per mile. The speed is usually about 5 miles an hour. San Francisco is the terminus of two continental railways, viz., the Union and Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific; while a third, the Atlantic and Pacific, enters the city over a leased line from Mohave. Two narrow-gauge lines and one broad-gauge, each less than a hundred miles long, to important points in the State, are connected with the city by means of ferries.

The population of San Francisco, as shown by the census returns, was 34,000 in 1850; in 1860, 56,802; in 1870, 149,473; and in 1880, 233,959 (132,608 males, 101,351 females); in 1885 it was estimated, on the basis of the school census, at 275,000 (Chinese, 30,000). At the last presidential election (1884) the total vote cast in the city was 50,167, the total foreign vote being 25,254; of these 12,837 were British (10,206 of them Irish) and 7052 Germans. Of the 90,468 children in the city under seventeen reported for the fiscal year 1884-85, 50,973 had foreign-born parents, and 15,460 more had one parent of foreign origin. In social customs, trade usages, amusements, and religious observances, the large foreign popu-lation of San Francisco contributes materially to the formation of its liberal and cosmopolitan character.

Administration, &c—In July 1856 the city and county, which until then had maintained separate governments, were consolidated in one organization. The government is administered by a mayor and a board of twelve supervisors, with the usual officers common to municipal and county organizations. There is also a superior court having twelve departments, with one judge for each, a police court, and justices' courts. The supreme court of the State holds a number of terms each year in San Francisco. The U. S. district and circuit courts also hold regular terms in the city. There is a well-organized and efficient police force of 400 men. On 1st July 1884 the fire department had 315 men. The city is supplied with gas by two companies. Water is supplied by the Spring Valley Company, principally from San Mateo county. The water is brought in three lines of wrought-iron pipe; the largest, which connects the Crystal Springs reservoir with the city, is 44 inches in diameter and 23 miles in length. The daily consumption of water is about 18,000,000 gallons. The company is able to supply 25,000,000 gallons daily.

Finance.—The assessment roll of personal property in 1885 showed a value of $56,634,860,—that of real estate and improve-ments being returned at $171,433,126. The actual value is not less than $350,000,000. The debt of the municipality is 34 million dollars. There are twelve incorporated commercial or discount banks, with an aggregate paid-up capital of $21,047,965, and a surplus (1st July 1885) of $8,945,647. The total assets are set down at $50,894,972. There are also a number of private banks. There are eight savings banks, all but one of these having some paid-up capital, the aggregate of which is $1,651,200. These banks on the 1st of July 1885 held deposits to the amount of $52,577,746; they had also a surplus beyond the paid-up capital of $2,067,209. The banks having a subscribed and paid-up capital pay regular dividends on the entire amount of nominal capital and about 4J per cent, per annum to depositors.

Commerce.—The exports by water for the fiscal year 1884-85 amounted to $37,170,800, and the imports to $37,171,100 ; the items of import and export by rail bring the total up to $80,000,000. The duties collected on imports were $6,610,400. The treasure shipped amounted to $17,540,000 ; and the exports of quicksilver were 14,900 flasks, valued at $438,800. The receipts of treasure from all productive sources west of the Missouri, including Mexico, reached a total of $40,253,635, and the coinage at the mint in San Francisco was of the value of $23,750,000, with an addition of $1,500,000 on foreign account. The sailing ships entering the port numbered 619 (604,200 tons); the steamers were 225. Among the imports were—coffee, 19,505,800 lb; sugar, 152,374,870 lb; coal, 900,000 tons ; lumber, 297,234,000 feet (92,754,000 feet red-wood, 177,305,000 feet pine, the remainder miscellaneous). The exports of wheat were 1,001,900 tons, valued at $26,791,500 ; this quantity was exported in 366 ships, the freights to Europe ranging from 25s. to 48s. 6d. per ton. British iron sailing vessels have the preference for wheat exportation, and obtain the highest rates. A much larger class of vessels is employed in this trade than formerly, the cargoes now averaging about 3000 tons. There are regular steamship lines connecting San Francisco with Mexican, Central American, Australian, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese ports, and with the chief port of British Columbia. The Pacific Whaling Company owns five or six ships, principally steamers, employed in the Arctic whale fishery. The same company has also extensive works for refining the oil in San Francisco. There is one stone dry dock admitting vessels of 6000 tons, and two or more floating docks which can take on vessels from 500 to 800 tons burthen. A sea-wall is in process of construction by State authority round the deep-water front to prevent the shoaling of the water in the slips resulting in part from the gradual washing down of debris from the hills and steep slopes of the city.





Manufactures.—For many years manufactures made slow progress. The city was remote from the great centres of population, and labour was very costly. But these disadvantages have been gradually overcome. In 1875 there were 18,000 persons employed in manufacturing establishments, and the value produced was $40,000,000. In 1885 38,919 persons were so employed, and the estimated value for the business year ending 1st July was $86,417,200. Subjoined are some of the leading manufactures, with the number of persons employed and the annual value of their production :—bags, 300, $1,500,000; boots and shoes, 3500, $5,300,000; cigar-boxes, 260, $5,000,000 ; wooden boxes, 350, $1,000,000 ; brass-foundries, 350, $535,000 ; breweries, 450, $2,450,000 ; cigars, 8000, $4,850,000 ; clothing, 1900, $3,750,000 ; coffee and spices, $900,000 ; cordage and ropes, 150, $600,000 ; crackers, 150, $620,000 ; dry docks (stone), 6, $675,000 ; flour, 175, $2,230,000; foundries, 2000, $5,500,000 ; furs, 170, $500,000; furniture, 1000, $2,000,000; gas-works, 460, $12,000,000; harness, 440, $1,150,000 ; jewellery, 165, $600,000; linseed oil, 55, $600,000 ; pickles and fruits, 2000, $1,700,000 ; provision-packing, 250, $1,900,000 ; rolling-mills, 550, $1,880,000 ; sashes, doors, &c., 1550, $5,010,000; ship-yards, 200, $503,000; shirts, 2550, $1,000,000 ; soap, 190, $715,100 ; sugar-refineries, 360,$8,700,000; tanneries, 335, $1,700,000; tinwares, 180, $525,000; woollen-mills, 1500, $1,900,000. In the laundries, it may be added, 935 whites and 1300 Chinese were employed.

Churches and, Charities.—There are 70 Protestant churches in the city, representing nearly all the denominations of the country. Besides these there are 19 Roman Catholic churches and a number of chapels connected with the various hospitals and schools. There are 7 synagogues and 1 Greek church (Russian). Including the chapels, the total number of places of worship may be set down at 100. With few exceptions, the church edifices are not imposing. In consequence of the rapid growth of the city wood has been employed in a majority of cases, but this is now being discarded for stone. The asylums and benevolent associations are numerous and well-supported. The more prominent of these institutions are the Protestant Orphan Asylum (214 children), Catholic Orphan Asylum, Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Magdalen Asylum, Old People's Home, Ladies' Protection and Relief Society, Little Sisters' Infant Shelter, Seamen's Friends Society, San Francisco Benevolent Society, Ladies' United Hebrew Benevolent Society, San Francisco Fruit and Flower Mission, Young Men's Christian Association, Pacific Homoeopathic Dispensary, Lying-in Hospital. Besides these there are a great number of associations which care for their members, and in some instances provide the best medical attend-ance in private hospitals. Nearly all classes of foreign nativity have established benevolent associations ; British, French, and German institutions have large resources, and are managed with great efficiency. Nearly all the secret orders (Masonic, Oddfellows, &c.) devoted in whole or in part to works of benevolence are strongly represented.

Public Schools.—The first public school was established in April 1849. There are now sixty-one free schools, with 43,265 pupils and an average daily attendance of 32,183. The number of children in the city between the ages of five and seventeen years according to the census report of 1880 was 69,000. The number of teachers, male and female, employed in the public school department was 734, the number of schoolhouses 65, and the expenditure for the fiscal year $817,168. The public schools are graded, the highest grades being two high schools for boys and girls respectively. Besides the day schools a number of evening schools are provided. There are upwards of 25,000 children who are to a large extent provided with instruction in public and private schools other than those belonging to the free-school department. There are about 100 schools in the city, of all grades, which are supported wholly by fees and voluntary contributions. Of these the Roman Catholics have the greatest number, the latter includ-ing two colleges and a number of convent schools. The Protestant denominations also have a number of classical and secondary schools of great excellence. The public-school system of the State culminates in the university of California, which has an aggregate endowment equal to about $3,000,000. The institution is situated in the beautiful suburban town of Berkeley, on the opposite side of the bay (named in honour of Bishop Berkeley). Instruction is furnished free to all pupils who comply with the terms of admis-sion. There are also a number of professional schools in the city, chief among which are the law, medical, and dental departments of the university, the Cooper Medical College, the Hahnemann Medical College, the San Francisco Theological Seminary, and an art school with an average attendance of about 75 students. The late James Lick left a bequest of $540,000 for the endowment of a School of Mechanic Arts, and among other bequests a large one for the Academy of Sciences, founded in the early period of the city. The public-school department of San Francisco is under the immediate supervision of a superintendent and twelve school directors, one for each ward of the city. There are eighteen public libraries, including the free library with 52,970 volumes. The Mercantile Library Association has 52,000 volumes, the Mechanics' Institute 33,000, the Oddfellows' Library Association 39,000, and the Law Library 23,355. There is also a rich and extensive State mineralogical collection. (W. C. B.)



The above article was written by: W. C. Bartlett, LL.D., San Francisco.


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