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VIPs at The Port of San Francisco: 1800s

Arrived San Francisco on board the SS Panama, 1849

Theodore Payne joined thousands of other successful businessmen in the rush to California to seek new fields of opportunity. He was among the first tide of gold seekers and reached Panama in September 1849.

There his trials began.

The agents of the steamship company lost his baggage so he reached San Francisco with nothing at all. Being a resourceful individual used to successes, he remained optimistic. He forged ahead and shortly after his arrival, he joined with W.J. Sherwood and opened the auction house of Payne & Sherwood. Their business thrived and in so doing, Mr. Payne met many other industrious and well-connected individuals.

In October 1950, he dissolved the business with Mr. Sherwood and opened Theodore Payne & Co., a real estate auction-house, in a formidable building on the southwest corner of California and Montgomery streets.. His initial connections in the City opened many doors, including being chosen by town commissioners to sell the City's landed interests.

Like all residents of the City, Theodore Payne's fortunes waxed and waned with the fortunes of the City. Great fires swept through the downtown streets in the City's formative years. On more than one occasion Mr. Payne's business was engulfed in flames. However, with great self-confidence and an equal confidence in the growing City, he continually picked himself up and began again. At one point, he used his personal fortune to help the City through a nasty real estate deal wherein the City was about to lose a great deal of it's own property. Mr. Payne paid $17,696 to regain the property for San Francisco.

In September 1851, Mr. Payne was elected by the people to the office of Street Commissioner. However, before long, he turned his interests entirely back to his business and became one of its permanent, most useful and valued citizens.

Theodore Payne's quick rise to fortune is indicative of just how quickly an industrious man could reach new heights in the growing City.

Quite often, those who remained in San Francisco rather than bolting for the gold fields made significant and solid fortunes, whereas mining for gold was always an extreme gamble that proved fruitless for most seekers. He was also a member of The Society of California Pioneers.

Daily Alta California, 1852

Theodore Payne & Co., Real Estate and Stock Auctioneers, 1852.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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