History and key dates San Francisco

History and key dates San Francisco

En 1579, the great English privateer Francis drake tackles the top. Spanish settlers from Mexico begin to settle and the small populations of Ohlone Indians are converted. La Pérouse called there in 1786, followed by George Vancouver in 1792. Russian fur traders also frequented the region.

After the independence of Mexico (1821), San Francisco, then known as Yerba buena, sees some American colonists settle. In 1846, a group of 240 Mormon pioneers landed, doubling the population!

The mad epic of the gold diggers

DeMexican, united by the "manifest destiny" of the American people to occupy the entire continent then receives its finest contribution (1,3 million square kilometers). Among the arms taken is California, still very sparsely populated.

San Francisco was still just a tiny village when, one day, some 220 km away, John Marshall brought his boss, the Swiss John Sutter, the first gold nugget.

This is the start of the rush and the myth of San Francisco. The Golden Gate ("Gold Gate") earns its name there: not because it is made of gold, but because by crossing it, you enter the land of gold... What a fever! In barely 2 years, the whole region has been invaded by adventurers, minors, the unemployed, maids, traders and scoundrels of all stripes from all over the world.
San Francisco grows like a mushroom : its population is multiplied by 62 (from 400 to 25 inhabitants), even though the city suffered six fires in a year and a half, between December 000 and June 1849! We then speak of Barbary Coast to designate its turbulent popular heart, where excesses of all kinds multiply. Prostitution, gambling, opium, poisoning with laudanum (an opium derivative) and corruption have made their home there, while forced engagements on ships are increasing. There is even talk of a cholera epidemic, unloaded from a ship from the Orient ...

The little Paris of the West

About ten years later, the vein has dried up. But, oh miracle, after gold, silver makes its appearance in the surrounding mountains.
This time, it is the investors and the professional miners who come running. Against the backdrop of the Civil War, the 1860s were also marked, in the West, by the construction of the railway transoceanic to Sacramento: in 1869, finally, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts were linked together. It only takes 6 days of travel instead of 2 months, previously, passing through the Isthmus of Panama! Chinese workers, in the majority in the “iron horse” development works, settled in the city but were the object of flagrant discrimination: hostile laws were even adopted to discourage their immigration.

San Francisco is gradually emerging from its Far West atmosphere to take on the appearance of metropolis more serious, with its banks, shops and offices. Based in San Francisco, the Wells Fargo imposes itself throughout the country through its maritime networks and stagecoaches.
- cable cars begin to climb along the steep streets, while the Golden Gate Park (1887). In Nob Hill, the first railroad and business tycoons built lavish wooden Victorian residences. By the turn of the century, many schools, a hospital and a library were built under the leadership of Mayor James Phelan.

The first 1905) succession is almost completely razed and, with it, the last saloons, gambling halls and brothels on the Barbary Coast. Some 3 people are killed and tens of thousands are left homeless ... The city is recovering at the mercy of corruption scandals which are worth the mayor Eugene Schmitz to find himself behind bars.

San Francisco, birthplace of Jack London and the beatniks

The fact that Jack London or néBlanc, L'Appel de la forêt ...), which made him one of the first millionaires in the history of publishing. This fortune did not make him renounce his commitments: he campaigned all his life for socialism and produced often visionary political writings ...

One of his spiritual sons is another Jack: Kerouac, Author of On the road, a flagship work that originally inspired the American road movie tradition. But he is not just a backpacker: Kerouac is the champion of a certain revolt against stifling social conventions, in favor of a liberation of the mind and the individual. He gives birth to beat movement, a word which, according to him, comes from "beatitude". Beat also means "pulsation" and, in slang, "at the end of the roll", "vagabond" ...

It all started in 1955 ... Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) ends his poem Howl, the starting point of a movement of rupture and rallying which aims to denounce existences driven by ambition. He makes it a public reading attended by all the now historical figures of the Beat Generation : Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassidy, Welsh and MacClure. Ferlinghetti, the founder of the City Lights bookstore, immediately edited this text, which quickly took on the appearance of a manifesto. The book goes to court for obscenity, but is "released".

Aux cô1997) is another essential figure in modern American literature. Homosexual and notoriously high, this son of a bourgeois family is insidiously known to have killed his wife with a gun shot during a night that was a little too drunk ...

It is above all a new form of poetry and writing, which is partly inspired by the experiences of Rimbaud and the surrealists, novels of Joseph Conrad and jazz. The way is open for the hippies to prevail.

Hippie generation

San Francisco was the Ashbury.

In 1963, during the protest marches of the Free Speech Movement, a certain Joan Baez picks up the microphone on campus Berkeley to call to fight against censorship and for freedom of speech. A year later, the idea stirrer and LSD "great guru", Timothy Leary, accompanied by representatives of the Beat Generation Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, officially announces the advent of the "psychedelic revolution", relay between the beat movement and the hip generation.

To which we will find in full force at the Woodstock festival on the east coast. Among the most important groups in San Francisco are the Grateful Dead, pioneers of psychedelic rock, Jefferson Airplane...

In 1966, the movement took a name: in the magazine Rolling Stone, éAshbury, immediately renamed "Hashbury" (obvious pun), aka "Hippyland". Attracted by old houses with derisory rents, they settled on Ashbury Street, in the wake of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia and writer Richard Brautigan.

The "hips" read Zap Comics, the funny review sold at auction in the streets of San Francisco and launched by the cartoonists Crumb (which illustrates the covers of Janis Joplin) and Shelton (the father of the famous Freaks Brothers). The media are increasingly interested in hippies and their notoriety is growing. The Beatles get in tune with All you need is love ... The "summer of love", the famous Summer of Love, attracts hundreds of thousands of young people to the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, then to San Francisco itself. These runaways come from everywhere, fleeing the deep West or the reactionary South to taste this current of freedom that the city promises them. They come for music, for free love, but also for hallucinogens.

On the Ashbury side to mark the end of the movement ... Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix die in 1970, devastated by drugs. Some diehards keep the "Peace & Love" torch, like Santana, whose pacifist message has never changed. As for the group Grateful Dead, the death of singer Jerry Garcia in 1995 put an end to its existence, but the surviving members continue to broadcast his soaring music.


San Francisco, like all of California, is located on the great San Andreas fault, born where the tectonic plates of the Pacific and North America separate; the region is therefore particularly unstable.

Everyone remembers this sinister day ofApril 1906 or one earthquake (evaluated at 7,8 on the Richter scale) brought mourning to the city and, smashing the gas pipes, caused a gigantic fire which lasted 3 days. Some 28 houses were destroyed. Religious and puritans of all stripes then asserted their truth: the catastrophe was a divine punishment intended to chastise this decadent and misguided city, given up entirely to the demon of vice.

How then to interpret the October 1989 earthquake ? With an intensity of 7,1 on the Richter scale, the earthquake caused the dramatic collapse of the Bay Bridge - which connects the city to Oakland - in which most of the victims died. The rigorous anti-seismic standards applied to the buildings proved to be completely effective. Only some wooden houses in the Marina district, built on embankment, collapsed as a result of landslides; it is there that we deplored the only deaths outside the bridge.

Particularly known and studied, the San Andreas fault causes some 200 tremors of magnitude 3 or more each year (and 2 to 3 of magnitude 1,5 to 2 per day); most of them are, however, imperceptible. More than a fault, we should also speak of a set of faults, stretched over 1 km from north to south.
Among them, the Hayward fault seems the most dangerous: going inland, in the densely populated areas of Oakland and Fremont, near Berkeley and San Jose, it seems the most likely to move quickly. It worries all the more that the constructions in the region are not, as in San Francisco, designed according to earthquake-resistant standards.

If in recent times have been with a probability of occurrence of 62 to 75%. This Big One, as it is nicknamed, is the object of constant solicitude, through permanent recordings of the vibrations of the ground.
It could reach 8,5 on the Richter scale and cause between 800 and 3 deaths for 400 billion dollars in damage.
However, some experts believe that it will not occur in San Francisco, but in the very center of Los Angeles, where a long-unknown fault, the Puente Hills fault, has been detected.

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