News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

A Day in Court Letter from New York

Wednesday Morning, October 5, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The California Steamship Lines
Interesting Synopsis of Local Matters
The News, Foreign and Domestic.

New York, September, 4, 1853

The Northern Light of the Nicaragua Line, arrived on the 24th August with dates to the 1st, making, in connection with the Sierra Nevada, a flying trip, and giving us for the first time a round communication with your city within fifty days.

Her freight of $1,100,000 of gold has created a stir in the street, and Transit stock has gone up three or four per cent.; quoted at 28 @ 28-1/4 cash I question whether it advances much further at present, however, under the presumption that the first large shipment via Nicaragua, is in consequence of the arrangement with the agent of the Mail Line, made in San Francisco. That agreement not having been sanctioned at head quarters, it is feared that the next shipment will fall back to the old mark.

A Mennonite and the California Gold Rush.

The Panama Line must bestir themselves, however. That Railroad must be "hurried up" and meanwhile, I have long wondered why the Company have not laid down a plank mule-track from Cruces or Gorgona to Panama. This would immensely facilitate the Transit of passengers and freight, and shorten the trips, while the tolls which would willingly be paid by passengers and muleteers would not only defray all cost but furnish a fund toward the completion of the Railroad. Be that as it may, however, it is only "my notion," they must hurry up somehow, as the Nicaragua Line is after them just now "with a sharp stick." I have a suspicion though that the Transit Company are only making hay in their sunshine. Low water in the San Juan river will soon bother them again and a nine days transit, or more, will again lengthen their trips and set their passengers to growling. Our last accounts from Panama state that $100,000 has been appropriated by the Government for improving the Cruces road. Ran Runnels, Esq., an old resident, has the contract, and his Yankee energy and enterprise will doubtless "tell" to the advantage of future passengers by that route.

Our Crystal Palace is, as the phrase goes, "in the full tide of successful experiment," although not yet complete in all its parts. The Machinery Arcade is announced as ready for occupancy, and the Painting Gallery is in process of arrangement. It is an immense room, extending nearly the whole length of the block, and will contain specimens of all degrees of art, from the handsome to the hideous. The Palace is now lighted and open in the evening till 10 oclock, an arrangement which will much increase the receipts. The visitors number about 7,000 daily.

Col. Fremont is off again to the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, exploring on his own account the Pacific Railroad route.

Mr. Depau's yacht Sylvia, which left here to join the English yacht squadron in their regatta this year, has not maintained the honor won for us by the America last year. She came off second best in the race, but has challenged the winner to another trial. McKay, the builder of the famous Sovereign of the Seas, is reported to have received orders for several clippers on English account.

In political matters, there is little stirring, and if there were, as I have but small pretensions to sucking statesmanship, I should trouble you but slightly with my opinions, preferring to leave pork, politics and percentages to heavier men, while I forage for the smaller, but in a general way more palatable game, of gossip, general news, and items of interest to the self-banished Jasons of your sun-set coast. Conventions are rife just now throughout the different States' political, woman's rights and temperance. To the Democratic Convention of this State, delegates were thronging in pairs; but "paired, not matched" Hunkers and Barnburners each organizing a gathering on their own hook.

It is still doubtful whether R.J. Walker goes to China; despatches from Washington to-day say that he will. I question it. The rumor tuns here that he has been in close consultation with the New York and Pacific Railroad Company, and they have made it worth his while to go to England as their financial agent. It is a case of "quien sabe" yet.

By the last accounts the fever in New Orleans was declining, both in number of cases and malignity. The efforts to raise funds for the Howard Benevolent Association of the afflicted city, have been very successful. Up to the 1st instant there has been contributed in this city alone, $48,000, while to the same date, throughout the principal cities, the collections have amounted to over $160,000. All the musical celebrities here have volunteered their aid in the good cause. Sontag, Ole Bull, Madame Thillon, and others. Well might Collins style music the "Heavenly Maid" when her noblest votaries are so constantly found rallying promptly and nobly under the banner of her Heavenly Sister Charity.

Talking of music, the long expected Jullien, "the" Jullien, is with us at last. He commenced his monster concerts at Castle Garden on the 29th ult., and advertises them every evening for a month. I have not heard him yet, but to borrow an idea from the old Greek joker, who carried a brick as a sample of his house, I have seen an instrument of Jullien's band, and no small sight either, the Ophicleide, an enormous brazen article, standing some 7 feet high, and equal in capacity, I should think, to a 68 pounder Paixhan, with keys or valves, like soup plates, and a mouth like the sun in a mist. If his band is proportionate in order instruments and numbers, he may well talk of "monster concerts."

A site has at least been secured for our Assay Office. Government have leased, with right of purchase, the white marble building on Wall Street, adjoining the Custom House, formerly occupied by the U.S. Bank, and latterly by the Banks of Commerce and of the State of New York.

Howard & Son's noble steamer the Golden Age made her engineer's trip on the 1st instant, to the satisfaction of her owners, and now lies at her berth receiving the finishing touches preparatory to her departure on the 28th for Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope. She will return from Australia to Panama, and run thereafter on that route. Her regular trip will take place in a few days.

The Mexican and Ocean Inland Company are making some stir again. Colonel Ramsay, their agent in Mexico, is making large promises. The mail, he writes, is now carried from Vera Cruz to Acapulco in eighty hours forty hours less than contract time. That will soon be reduced to sixty hours, and we shall have the news regularly from California in fourteen days. This also he promises shall be brought down to nine days from California, thirty-four from Australia and thirty-six from China, and that, before the Pacific Railroad is even surveyed. Ojala! as the Spaniard says: but I doubt it, or at least the feasibility of making it a paying route. The mails may be so transported possibly, but when it comes to carrying numbers of passengers and their luggage "c est toute autre chose."

The Atlantic arrived yesterday, P.M., in ten days, four hours from Liverpool. Her news you will receive in detail by the "Steamer Editions" of to-morrow; there is nothing of startling moment. The Turkish question is still "in statue quo ante-bellum," and whether England and France will yet "see" that ante and go enough "better" to "bluff" the Czar, is still undetermined. "Clubs," (represented by "clubbed" markets, is case of need), are evidently "trumps," and Nicholas has a good hand, and seems quite inclined to "play it out." Austria, in some respects the "pilot fish" to the Russian shark, seems rather inclined to "take Turkey" a bit, and if not careful may find a small bill brought against her for "kicking up a d d fuss generally." She has addressed a "manifesto to the various foreign ministers, protesting against Capt. Ingrahams course, in the Kossta affair, as a gross violation of international law," -- of course. I doubt, though, whether her "manifest" will at all expedite a clearance from the difficulty.

Another of those heavy robberies of Bank Messengers, of which we have heretofore had several instance, has just occurred. On the 1st, the messenger between the Providence and Newport Banks, a Mr. Remington, was robbed on board the steamboat Perry, of his bag containing nearly $50,000 belonging to the banks of Newport. He had laid his bag down beside the water jar, in the ladies’ cabin, and was promenading the saloon. While his back was turned for a moment in walking a perfect duplicate, in appearance, was substituted for his own portmanteau, and the theft was not discovered until he came to open it for delivery in Providence. There were about $21,500 in checks, and over $24,000 in bills, mostly of small denominations . . .

. . . A convocation, under the grandiloquent title of the "Whole World’s Temperance Convention," has been in session here for a few days past. There was a strong cross of "Women’s-rightsism" about it. Rev. Miss Antoinette L. Brown (as the Tribune regularly reports her) and "other such," figuring largely. They wound up yesterday with a Vegetarian Banquet, at Metropolitan Hall, luxuriating on such an enticing bill of fare as Graham bread, stewed squashes, wheaten grits, and pure cold water. Horace Greeley was chairman and grant carver, or, to be more in keeping with the materiel of the "carte," perhaps I should say Spooney-in-Chief. . .

Early California: Rulers and Rebels, Chronicles (1535-1846), Destiny's Children, Killing for Land, The Forty-niners. . .San Francisco 1849.

Gold Rush San Francisco Murders.Gold Rush San Francisco.
Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San FranciscoSan Francisco 1849.
Robert Graysmith
The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer (a friend of Mark Twain during his brief tenure as a California newspaper reporter), told through a harrowing account of Sawyer's involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco. hen 28-year-old San Francisco Daily Morning Call reporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer at a local bathhouse in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel. As Twain steamed, played cards, and drank beer with Sawyer (a volunteer firefighter, customs inspector, and local hero responsible for having saved ninety lives at sea), he had second thoughts about Shirley Tempest, his proposed book about a local girl firefighter, and began to envision a novel of wider scope. Author Robert Graysmith worked as an artist at The San Francisco Chronicle during the years of the Zodiac Killer; he wrote "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked" about those murders.

Isthmus of Panama Then and Now: Ship Canal, Cruising Panama, Panama Fever, A Year in Panama, History of the Railroad, Trees of Panama and Costa RicaIsthmus of Panama.
David McCullough

History of Gold Discovers, 1848-1875, Lewis Swindle.Gold Discoveries of Northern California Mines by Lewis J. Swindle.
The History of the Gold Discoveries of the Northern Mines of California's Mother Lode Gold Belt As Told By The Newspapers and Miners 1848-1875San Franciscio 1849.
Lewis J. Swindle
While in the U.S. Military stationed in Turkey in the eary 1970s, Swindle became interested in minerals and geology. In returning to the U.S. and during the 26 years he lived in Colorado, he spent countless hours in the mountainous terrain looking for, digging and collecting the minerals known to exist in the Pikes Peak Region. In moving to the California and the Gold Belt Region, he searched out the history of the gold in the region.

Rooted in Barbarous Soil. Gold Rush California by Kevin Starr.
Rooted in Barbarous Soil:
People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California

(California History Series)
Rooted in Barbarous Soil.
Kevin Starr
A mercurial economy swung from boom to bust, and back again, rendering everyone's fortunes ephemeral. Competition, jealousy, and racism fueled individual and mass violence. Yet, in the very midst of this turbulence, social and cultural forms emerged, gained strength, spread, and took hold. Rooted in Barbarous Soil examines gold rush society and culture.

The Age of Gold:
The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream
Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
H. W. Brands
California Gold Rush.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.“I have found it.” These words, uttered by the man who first discovered gold on the American River in 1848, triggered the most astonishing mass movement of peoples since the Crusades. California’s gold drew fortune-seekers from around the world. That discovery accelerated America’s imperial expansion and exacerbated the tensions that exploded in the Civil War. The Gold Rush inspired a new American dream — the “dream of instant wealth, won by audacity and good luck.” Brands tells his epic story from multiple perspectives: of adventurers John and Jessie Fremont, entrepreneur Leland Stanford, and Samuel Clemens — alongside prospectors, soldiers, and scoundrels. He imparts a sense of the distances they traveled, the suffering they endured, and the fortunes they made and lost.

San Francisco Memoirs: 1835-1851: Eyewitness Accounts of the Birth of a CityShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Malcolm E. Barker
In July 1846 San Francisco was a tranquil settlement of about 150 inhabitants. Three years later it was an international metropolis with more than 30,000 people thronging its streets. Recalled in this intriguing collection of personal anecdotes from those tumultuous times are the days when San Francisco Bay extended inland to Montgomery Street. Bears, wolves, and coyotes roamed the shore. The arrival of 238 Mormons more than doubled the town's population.

Skull in the Ashes.
Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in AmericaSkull in the Ashes.
Peter Kaufman

More San Francisco Memoirs 1852-1899: The Ripening YearsSan Francisco Memoirs.
Malcolm E. Barker

Gold Dust and Gunsmoke
Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes
Gold rush Outlaws.
John Boessenecker
A collection of true tales of villainy and violence during the California Gold Rush. How gold fever ignited a rush of families, but also prostitutes, feuds, lynchings, duels, bare-knuckle prizefights, and vigilantes.

The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West
Carole Haber
Trials of Laura Fair.On November 3, 1870, on a San Francisco ferry, Laura Fair shot a bullet into the heart of her married lover, A. P. Crittenden. Throughout her two murder trials, Fair's lawyers, supported by expert testimony from physicians, claimed that the shooting was the result of temporary insanity caused by a severely painful menstrual cycle. The first jury disregarded such testimony, choosing instead to focus on Fair's disreputable character. In the second trial, however, an effective defense built on contemporary medical beliefs and gendered stereotypes led to a verdict that shocked Americans across the country. Carole Haber probes changing ideas about morality and immorality, masculinity and femininity, love and marriage, health and disease, and mental illness to show that all these concepts were reinvented in the Victorian West.

Embarcadero: Sea Adventures from 1849 to 1906Embarcadero. Sea Adventure from 1849 to 1906.
Richard Dillon
Tales of the colorful characters who went down to the sea in ships to and from the port of San Francisco.

Mud, Blood, and GoldMud, Blood, Gold.
Rand Richards
A year in the life of San Francisco: 1849. Based on eyewitness accounts and previously overlooked official records, Richards chronicles the explosive growth of a wide-open town rife with violence, gambling, and prostitution, all of it fueled by unbridled greed.


The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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