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San Francisco History



The following are some of the major milestones in San Francisco's history:

  • In 1579, Sir Francis Drake landed a few miles north of the Golden Gate, but apparently the fog shrouded the area to the south, preventing him from discovering the Bay or claiming the surrounding territory.
  • About 200 years later, Don Juan Manuel Ayala established a mission and a town in San Francisco.
  • Even by 1846, San Francisco remained a small town, with only about 800 inhabitants. The number one occupation at that time was raising livestock. It was not until 1849, a year after gold was discovered at Sutter's mill, that the town boomed, as 40,000 gold prospectors flooded the area. The gold rush peaked in 1852.
  • In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire occurs, killing 452 people and destroying 28,000 buildings.
  • In 1920, the first transcontinental airmail route is established between New York City and San Francisco.
  • In 1969, 78 Native Americans seize Alcatraz Island, demanding it be made into a cultural center; 19 months later they leave.
  • On October 17, 1989, San Francisco suffered the Loma Prieta earthquake, the second most powerful in U.S. history, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, which killed 67 people, left 48,000 people homeless, and resulted in $10 billion of property damage.

San Francisco Fun Facts

  • The discovery of gold in the 1840s brought incredible growth to the city of a few hundred people. San Francisco soon averaged 30 new houses each day. The vibrant combination of people moving to the city created a cultural hub-with theater, opera, and more newspapers than any city but London.
  • Famous films made in San Francisco include The Maltese Falcon, Vertigo, The Birds, The Graduate, and Bullitt.
  • The island of Alcatraz has been, chronologically, a fortification, a US military prison, an army disciplinary barracks, a federal penitentiary, a Native American stronghold, and is now a part of the National Park Service.
  • The 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park's attractions include Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, a Japanese Tea Garden, playing fields, grassy meadows, and wooded biking trails.
  • Cable cars have been a signature of San Francisco since 1873.
  • The nearly two-mile Golden Gate Bridge, completed in 1937, sways 27 feet to withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Famous San Franciscans

  • Robert Frost
  • Jack London
  • Jerry Garcia
  • William Randolph Hearst
  • Lincoln Steffens
  • Mel Blanc

Additional San Francisco History Resources

The San Francisco History Association
The San Francisco History Association was founded almost accidentally in July, 1982, after a group of collectors met at the first San Francisco Fair at the Moscone Center. While exhibiting their San Francisco history collections at the three-day event, these collectors started chatting about their mutual interest in SF's history. They decided to form a group, The San Francisco History Collectors Association, to share historical tales and information on collecting historical artifacts.

Over the years, however, the Collectors Association began to grow, attracting members interested in general San Francisco history rather than specifically collecting. These history buffs respectfully requested the group drop " Collectors" from the organization's name. When the group agreed, it became the San Francisco History Association we know and love today.

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