VIPs, San Francisco 1800s

Samuel Brannan

Born Saco, Maine, March 2, 1819
Died 1889, San Diego County, California

At age fourteen Samuel Brannan moved to Ohio with his family.

He completed his printer's apprenticeship in 1836, and spent the next five years moving from state to state as a journeyman printer, during which time he visited most of the States in the Union.

In 1837 Brannan had travelled the country as a journeyman printer, during which time he visited most of the States in the Union.

Samuel Brannan.

In 1842, he connected with the Mormons, and for several years published the New York Messenger for them.

In 1845-1846, then an elder in the Church of the Latter-day Saints, he organized a group of 220 Mormons to sail for and settle in San Francisco with the goal of establishing the Mormon Church in California. He did not actually establish the church in California, but he added greatly to the growth and development of Northern California. On the ship, Brooklyn, which he chartered for $1200 per month, he brought a printing press, which was used to establish the California Star, the first newspaper in California.

Sutter's Fort.

January 16, 1847, California Star


The undersigned in common with the rest of the citizens of the United States, having experienced the good effects of the Press in diffusing early and accurate information on all important subjects, in advocating and defending the rights of every class of the people, in detecting, exposing and opposing tyranny and oppression and being anxious to secure to himself and the citizens of his adopted country, the benefits of a free, fearless and untrammeled society. He purchased and brought with him to California a press and all the materials necessary to effect that desirable object. Contrary to our original intention, but being fully convinced that the present crisis in the affairs of the country demands it, we have resolved to commence at once the publication of a paper to be styled "THE CALIFORNIA STAR".

The peculiar situation of our country, and the absence of all sinister motives forbid the idea of the intrusion into our columns of party politics, the bane of liberty, the usual door to licentiousness, and which defeat the true end noble objects of the press. It is our fixed purpose to advocate and defend to the utmost of our abilities the best interests of California; to which end we shall at all times speak truth of men and measures, regardless of the fame we may win or lose or how it may affect our individual enterprise.

We will endeavor to render the "STAR" pleasing and acceptable to all classes of readers by collecting and publishing the latest news from all parts of the world. It will communicate from time to time all the information that can be obtained, touching the commercial, agricultural, mechanical and mineral capabilities of the country ; and will eschew with the greatest caution every thing that tends to the propagation of sectarian dogmas.

The "STAR" will be an independent paper uninfluenced by those in power or the fear of the abuse of power, or of patronage or favor.

The paper is designed to be permanent, and as soon as circumstances will permit will be enlarged, so as to be in point of size not inferior to most of the weekly papers in the United States.

It will be published weekly on a Royal sheet at six dollars per annum. As soon as a suitable person can be employed, all articles of general interest will be published in Spanish as well as English.


Brannan started a store at Sutter's Fort in the fall of 1847 and benefitted greatly from the discovery of gold.

September 22, 1847, Californian


Mr. S. Brannan, publisher of this paper after an absence of nearly six months, arrived at this place on Friday morning last, 28 days from Fort Hall.

By him we learn that the emigration to this country, this year will not exceed ninety wagons. An advance company of about twenty-five wagons, is supposed to be now on Truckey's Lake, while the most tardive, are in all probability at least 150 miles from the sink of Mary's River. The backward wagons, without brisk travel, may find their mountain road obstructed by the snows, fear is already entertained for their safe arrival.

Mr. Brannan informs us that the emigration to Oregon was still "rolling on;" that up to the 18th day of August, seven hundred and seventy wagons had passed Fort Hall, and before the expiration of the month, many more were expected.

Of the "Mormon emigration," there had arrived at the great Salt Lake, up to August 7th, 480 souls. This body, for the most part males, is but an advance of an extensive emigration soon to follow, and there was expected in one week's time, an additional caravan, consisting of four or five hundred wagons.

Samuel Brannan.Here they have laid off and commenced a town, planted large crops, which are described as being forward and flourishing, and have at hand eighteen months' provisions to be used in the event of a failure of crops. They contemplate opening an entire new road through to this country, in connection with the present rendezvous, and when completed, they move en masse to the valleys of California.

Brannan started a store at Sutter's Fort in the fall of 1847 (image right) and benefitted greatly from the discovery of gold. During 1848 and 1849, sales at the store averaged $150,000 per month.

By the summer of 1848, he had established Mormon Island and the Mormon Island Mining Association with over one hundred men.

Sacramento City

Have just received by late arrivals, a very large and very extensive assortment of provisions, groceries, Mexican and dry goods, which they offer for sale at reduced prices.

Launches kept constantly plying between San Francisco and the Sacramento city. For freight or passage, apply to Mellus, Howard & Co.

Sacramento city, January 17, 1849 3-tf
San Francisco, Thursday, August 30, 1849
GREAT BARGAINS. To close the stock belonging to the late firm of S. Brannan & Co., at their old store, corner of J. and Sacramento Streets, Sacramento City: one half of the Sacramento City Hotel, with the Lot on which it stands; store ship Elidora, lying opposite the foot of J. street; schooner Eliza, 47 tons register; do Susanita, 25 tons register; do Dice mi Nana, 18 tons register; fifty town Lots in Sacramento City on J, K, L and M Streets; the store with the pre-emption claim to the land at Natoma (Mormon Island) and the stock of goods on hand; one mule team and wagon; seven horses; forty mares. Also, the large and well-selected stock of goods now in store and daily arriving from San Francisco.

Sacramento city, August 13, 1849. 35-3t

He is credited for spreading the news of the Gold Rush when, it is said, he ran through the streets of San Francisco waving a bottle of gold dust, yelling, "Gold! Gold!".

Sacramento, 1800s.
Sacramento City, California

James Wilson Marshall finds gold at Sutter's Fort.


He is credited for spreading the news of the Gold Rush when, it is said, he ran through the streets of San Francisco waving a bottle of gold dust, yelling, "Gold! Gold!") after James Wilson Marshall found gold at Sutter's Fort.

Brannan also invested in real estate, which he then sold to those seeking to make their fortune in California.

He is reputed to have been California's first millionaire.

From the Daily Alta California:

Valuable Improved Real Estate
S. B R A N N A N,
422 Montgomery street.

strong class="headline">The 50 VARA LOT AND BUILDING
on the southwest corner of Market and Fremont streets.
The Lot 100 feet square, with eight brick stores, on the southeast corner of Second and Mission streets.
The 50-vara Lot, less 22 feet by 67, with all the improvements, on the northeast cor. of Bush and Sansome street, 45 feet by 137-1/2 feet.


Pier No. 8, on Steuart, between Mission and Howard.
Lot on the east side of First street, eighty feet north of the corner of Folsom, 25 by 87 feet.
Lot on the north side of Folsom, 87 feet East of the corner of First street

In 1851 he visited Hawaii and bought extensive properties in Honolulu.

In 1853 he was elected State senator in California, and he was one of the founders of the first school in San Francisco. Also in 1853 -- in July --Brannan was elected President of the "California Pioneers."

December 7, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA, U.S.A.

Resignation of Mr. Brannan. - The causes assigned by Samuel K. Brannan, Esq., for his resignation as State Senator, will be found in the following letter, addressed to Gov. Bigler:

San Francisco, Dee. 3d, 1853. Sir - The indisposition of some of the members of my family, now in New York, after an absence of ten months upon a visit, renders it necessary that I should join them at as early a day as possible, and accompany them home when sufficiently recovered to travel. I am, therefore, compelled to resign my office as one of the Senators of the Fifth Senatorial District of the State of California; and do so at the earliest moment after being impressed with the necessity which requires it, but not without a due sense of my obligations for the honor conferred by a constituency with whom I have been so long associated, and am directly interested in all the relations of a permanent citizen of California.

Very truly, your ob't serv't, S. Brannan.

November 2, 1856, The Wide West, San Francisco, California


Offers himself as an Independent Candidate for the office of STATE SENATOR, for the district of the City and County of San Francisco. Unpledged to men, but pledged to the interest of the City, County and State.

San Francisco, September 18, 1856

In 1868 from Abel Stearn he purchased extensive land tracts (one hundred and sixty thousand acres of land) in Los Angeles county, which resulted in the opening of extensive tracts of land to settlement by small farmers.

Brannan also became the owner of valuable property in Nevada and several places in California, including Calistoga Hot Springs in Napa Valley, along with a valuable estate of three thousand acres of land surrounding these springs.

Throughout the 1850's, Brannan's wealth and influence continued to grow. In addition to becoming a major California landowner, he helped establish several banks and railroad and telegraph companies.

Serious alcoholism and a volatile temperament, however, were his eventual undoing. He lost his fortune and health, and died an unnoticed death in rural San Diego county.

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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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