Friday, February 12, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 6

It's Friday, and that means the sixth edition of Photoblogging Friday.

For many years I used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, still my favorite place in American. While I could not afford to live in the city (after all, how many newspaper people can live in The City) I was lucky enough to eventually work there (thank you McGraw-Hill).
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When I was recruited to Chicago to publish a transportation construction magazine, one of the last things I did was to visit numerous poster and photography shops to find myself a nice picture of old San Francisco to take back east.  I had seen a great old photograph of kids sledding down California Street in the old city a few years earlier and wanted that shot. It must have been taken sometime between 1882 and 1887 because three times during those years the city received measurable (and sled-able) snow falls. Sadly, on the day I wanted to buy the photograph I could not find it.  Even today, using a Google search, I can not find that shot.

A little San Francisco history: California was seized from Mexico during the Mexican-American war of 1846. On July 9, 1846, the Portsmouth commanded by John B. Montgomery arrived to take possession of the town, raising the American flag near the Mexican adobe custom house in the plaza that would eventually be named Portsmouth Square in honor of Montgomery's ship.  (That last sentence was practically stolen from Wikipedia, sorry)

On board was Lt. Washington Bartlett who stayed to become the town's first mayor. On January 30, 1847 Bartlett officially changed the name of the town to San Francisco.  On January 24, 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill on the banks of the American River (halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe).  A school census that year showed that there were a total 812 residents of San Francisco -- 575 males, 177 females, and 60 children, according to  In May, 150 people left town causing the local paper, "The Californian", to announce that it was suspending publication "until further notice" because its employees had quit -- presumably to join the gold rush. 
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This week's shot is from 1851 and is of Portsmouth Square, the site of the first public square established in the old town of Yerba Buena. Today the Portsmouth Square is still there, right in the middle of Chinatown.