San Francisco History
The earliest inhabitants of
San Francisco date back to about 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
The native people of the Bay area were called the Ohlone,
which is an Indian word meaning "western people."
Despite various Spanish and Portuguese explorations in the
late 1500s, the United States won out in the end, taking possession
of San Francisco
and other parts of California during the Mexican-American War. The
city received its name from the Chief Magistrate after his decree
was published in a California newspaper.
Little more than a small Spanish settlement, the discovery of gold
in California in 1848 catapulted the city into a mini-metropolis
as more than 30,000 people settled in San Francisco after their
rush westward. By 1869, thanks to the completion of the transcontinental
railroad that linked the east and west coasts, San Francisco was
finally recognized as a major US city and it was full-steam ahead.
By the end of the 19th century, San Francisco was a fairly progressive
city. Levi Strauss obtained a patent for jeans and San Francisco’s
cable car system was born. But the city has also had it’s
share of damage and natural disasters, especially during this time
period. The first of its major earthquakes shook the city in October
1865 with an even more severe one following three years later. The
Great Earthquake struck in April 1906, but it was the Great Fire
that followed that caused the worst damage to the city leaving 3,000
people dead and over 200,000 homeless.
But San Francisco has a habit of dusting itself off and moving
on. Immediately following the Great Depression, the city began developing
major public works, including the Bay Bridge which was officially
opened in November 1936 to connect San Francisco with Oakland. A
year later in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened
to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
San Francisco likes to refer to itself as having “progressive
politics.” The Sierra Club was first formed here and many
leftist news papers and magazines like Mother Jones have been published
here. An all-accepting environment from the start, Bohemian communities
have thrived here as early as the 1860s when the Barbary Coast was
known for its raucous entertainment. In the 1950s, the city’s
main Italian community, North Beach, was home to the beat movement.
After Allan Ginsburg’s notion of “flower power”
was introduced, the Haight-Ashbury district flourished with hippies
living their trademark lifestyle.
Present day San Francisco prides itself on tolerance and celebrates
the diverse background of the people that represent the city. Asian-Americans
make up nearly 35% of the city’s population. The Chinese settled
into what is now known as Chinatown, abandoned warehouses left by
white businesses seeking more elegant locations. Originally more
of a refuge, the community still thrives and is a great place to
bargain shop by day and grab a good meal at night.
In the late 1990s, San Francisco capitalized on the Internet boom
and people once again went west to strike it rich. It was reported
in 1999 by local media that 64 Bay area residents became millionaires
every day! New found money caused soaring real estate prices pushing
many of the elderly and minorities out of the city.
Today, the city is still regarded as having some of the most expensive
rent in the US despite its recent decline, but San Francisco is
now moving forward at a more reasonable pace.