Rights & Permissions; Homework
DAYBREAK: after a chilly night. A faint band of light — too cold and gray to be called a flush — has appeared in the east, and shows beneath it, in sharp outline, the black profile of a line of hills. In the zenith the stars yet twinkle frostily. A thin mist hangs like a ghostly pall over a lifeless earth. Through it looms a vast black shadow, towering like a spectral mountain into the night. The earth is moist and slippery, and eaves drip. There is no stir in the air, or this raw damp would nip shrewdly. On every hand, and for many a mile, stretches away the faint, floating veil of mist. It is not a fog: it is too thin and light — rather as the ghost of a fog, or as a dew made visible. Through it are also seen the blinking lights of a sleeping city. A muffled rumbling of wheels comes up now and again on the still, wet air; the early market-wagons are rolling in from along the foot of that blacker patch of night which stretches away in uncertain outline, as it should be another crest of hills. From far out into the night two flaming red eyes turn upon the land a drunken and blood-shot glare, even while they dart seaward the kind, strong beams which warn anxious sailors off the lurking death. The fierce eyes show where iron-hearted rocks have hid themselves beneath confederate waves, and lie stealthily in wait to give the sailor a landsman's welcome — only too like that which lies in wait for him on shore.
The light in the east now flushes and grows warm, and drives back the night— battling more feebly for the field, breaking and giving way throughout the long, wavering skirmish-line. The lights in the human hive are pale and sick; the two great, red eyes begin to lack lustre and grow old. The distant roll of wheels is become a steadier roar, and with it mingles a sharper rattle as the lighter wagons join in the early round. But the city still slumbers heavily. And again the glow in the east has deepened. The gray, misty pall, which had seemed so dank and chill, lights up in the glow of heaven, and floats — a fairy bridal veil — lending a tenderness to charms it can not conceal. Now, the eye may range over the fair picture, which lies unrolled, stretching wide and far on every hand. A broad expanse of water reaches away for many a mile, until closed in by an intruding headland — far beyond which, again, dim and faint in the blue distance, sweep the hills which bound the water's farther shore. The ghostly mountain now stands forth, reposing in quiet majesty, the chieftain of these hills. Following the broad sweep of the picture, the waters are seen to stretch away on the other hand until they mark a sharp horizon against the brightening sides. With bosom gently heaving beneath her bridal veil, the Bay of San Francisco seems to lie yet sleeping. At once, all the scene is flooded with a sudden glory; the curtains are thrown back; and, glittering, sparkling, flashing in the beams which bathe her beauties with celestial light, smiling half dreamily and all lovelily in the face of heaven's own god, the majestic Bay lies before us— awake: And at her side sits — San Francisco!
Its true story is yet to be written. Rather more than sufficient has been told concerning that outward and visible life which lies patent to the eye of the stranger, but which, in communities as in individuals, differs widely from that inner life which determines the character. Of this inner life, it might have been better for the young city had more been told, and especially in the direction of unflattering truth. It has stood in sore need of a satirist, and lays before such an one a virgin field. Most of the writing, too, which has been devoted to this outward and visible life of San Francisco has been composed in any thing but a judicial spirit. The writer has occupied the attitude of panegyrist or apologist. He may, indeed, have been honest; but his views have been inspired by inhabitants of the city. They bear the visible impress of San Franciscan self-assertion. The ideas expressed have been the old stock Californian ideas : the city praised in those points wherein it has been her habit to praise herself, and condemned for those sins which she is wont to confess with a frankness savoring of secret exultation. The few original reflections upon which tourists have ventured concerning the "inner life" of San Francisco — its social and domestic organization and quality— have been, necessarily, guesses. It can not be considered, in any sense, fortunate for San Francisco that the accounts given of it have been so uniformly favorable. The praise, which has not been criticism, is only operative to increase a quality already too great: a self-satisfaction which implies content with a present condition, rather than an honest ambition and purpose to attain unto a higher. It might well be wished that more of this foreign criticism had been less genial, so it had been discriminating, and had dealt somewhat freely with faults, to the exclusion of much pleasant commendation of virtues, among which the apparent has not always been the real.
According to the tourists, it would appear that the human nature of the people of San Francisco differed in some wise from that of the rest of mankind, and that most points of this difference set it at some generous advantage. But it is safe to assume that the differences which may be thought to exist between the people of San Francisco and those of other cities are more apparent than real, and are due only to differences of age and education.
Before proceeding to some description of San Francisco as a community, it is appropriate to glance at the city itself. Between her magnificent Bay on the one hand, and the Pacific Ocean on the other, lies a peninsula about thirty miles in length, and four miles in width at its upper end, upon which the city is built. Along this peninsula runs an axis or backbone of hills — the continuation of the westernmost fork of the Coast Range of mountains. In coming down from the north, this fork preserves something of mountain magnitude and dignity. It forms the bold North Head at the Golden Gate, and throws up, also, at the very shore of the bay, the Mount Tamalpais, over against the city, and facing it from the north, whose black outline we affected to distinguish in the darkness of early dawn. Our standpoint was then assumed to be the summit of Telegraph Hill, whence, facing south, the city stretches forward from us, skirting the shore of the bay climbing the sides of that backbone 'of hills, (whereof we stand upon the extreme point) like water "banking up" against a dam; also, flowing in and filling up the valleys and coves of the dam, and occasionally, after a straggling and painful ascent along a single line of street which leads to a "pass," flowing over it and down the opposite slope.
Telegraph Hill itself forms the northeastern corner of the city. From its summit, the touching faith of San Francisco in her own future can be adequately realized: she lies before the spectator, spread over an area of thirteen square miles. Immediately at his feet is an area of one-fourth of a square mile, within which three-fourths of all her business is transacted. As he faces the south, on his right hand rises the huge, round-shouldered form of Russian Hill, extending from him, southwardly, half a mile. Over his right shoulder, distant about a mile, lies Black Point, on whose sheltered declivities some fine residences are clinging. From the steeper slopes of Russian Hill to the bay, or water-front, is a distance of half a mile. This is the business section of the city, and is about one-half built upon "made ground," occupying what was naturally a cove. From the farther (the southern) slope of that hill, the ill-built, scattered town extends away, over a series of flats, to Mission Bay, and around that to the distant Potrero and Hunter's Point. Beyond this lie the shallows of Islais Creek; and again beyond, is the tongue of land called South San Francisco. From the indented line of bay-shore here indicated, the city straggles back toward the Mission hills: a width varying from one to three miles. Over this total area, south of Russian Hill, embracing more than ten square miles, the aspiring young municipality lies, scattered.
[For a period photographic overview of San Francisco see also the composite of E. Muybridge's thirteen image panorama of San Francisco taken from the Mark Hopkins mansion on Nob Hil in 1878.]
Thus it will be seen that San Francisco is a city of expansive ideas:
large beginnings, confident promise, but rather-mean performance. It is
built on hillsides or flats.
Upon both, a thoroughly bad system of street grades has been established.
No comprehensive system has been adopted; or, rather, such a system which
adopted at an early day was speedily modified, in accordance with the
demands of numerous
private interests, and in the grades which have actually obtained, little
trace of the original plan is to be detected. As a consequence, a great
those flats possess an insufficient drainage; and, extensively built upon
as they now are, no modification can be introduced, except at enormous
Were it not for the gale of wind
which prevails for six months of the year — and is the true Health Officer
of San Francisco — the health of the city must be seriously impaired
by this defect. There is little doubt that the ravages of small-pox last
largely due to the very imperfect sewerage of .the city. The streets are
paved with cobble-stones, or with wooden blocks laid according to the Nicolson
Stow plan. The sidewalks are generally planked, as are many of the streets
outer portions of the town. Some attempt has been made in the suburbs to
macadamize with a soft redstone, found on the peninsula. It serves but indifferently
the summer, giving clouds of dust; and in winter, lying deep in mud. As yet,
the paving system of San Francisco must be pronounced a failure, and its
street grades something worse than a failure.
The city generally is meanly built. Few builders venture to rise above four stories, and a majority prefer three as a better limit of earthquake safety; therefore, the streets could not at best show those imposing trade-palaces and lofty piles of warehouse which are the glory of most modern cities. But it is not their deficient height alone to which the mean appearance of the buildings in San Francisco is due. The material employed is brick, stuccoed, and painted of various colors — but chiefly, and wisely, that of dust. More lately, considerable iron has been used in façades. The five principal hotels — accommodating upward of two thousand guests — lie all within the distance of one block from a central point. This small centre, together with two blocks of the financial street, present a better appearance. Toward the suburbs are a few handsome and costly residences, built of wood, which have been erected within the past three or four years. The majority of the houses, out of the business heart of the town, are two stories in height, also built of wood, and have, commonly, their patch of garden in front — in which flowers wanton with an almost tropical luxuriance of growth and brilliancy of bloom.
The climate of San Francisco was described (by Captain Marryatt, we believe) as delightful in summer — when the wind was not blowing, and delicious in winter — when the rain was not falling; but it rained all winter, and blew all summer. This is quite as nearly correct as the other familiar assertion, that the climate is "the finest on the face of the earth, sir." Free from extremes of cold or heat, it is subject to sudden transitions, which are very trying. For nearly six months of the year, the winds rise soon after noon, and blow violently till sundown. The city is filled with a whirling cloud of dust, sifting through every crack and crevice of the habitations, depositing a coating of fine powder upon the furniture; drifting into the hair and beard, and under the clothes; switching and dragging women's skirts to and fro. Finally, toward the close of the afternoon, it becomes cold and raw, laden with moisture from the dense fog-bank which is now pouring over the sand dunes, and which, an hour later, will settle down over the city, wetting it as by a shower of rain. Within the space of two hours, the thermometer falls from ten to twenty degrees, accompanied by an atmospheric change from a condition of withering dryness to that of aqueous saturation. Men who sat in offices, at noon, with garments unbraced, hurry home at evening, buttoned to the throat, and walking rapidly to keep from shivering in the dank air, which cuts to the marrow like a knife. The climate during the remaining six months or so better justifies its too favorable reputation'. Rain falls on about sixty days out of one hundred and eighty. The average fall is some twenty-four inches. The remaining one hundred and twenty days are balmy intervals, in which the summer's dry asperity is forgotten, and the blandness and humidity of an Eastern spring suffuse sky and air. Whether or not this climate of San Francisco shall be considered agreeable, as compared with other parts of the world, is very much a matter of taste — or, perhaps, of constitution. Persons who are prostrated by extremes of heat or cold would prefer it to the northern Atlantic or Western States, or, perhaps, to either northern or southern Europe. The Mediterranean climate has many raw, shivering days in winter, and many sweltering ones during its summer. The climates of New England, the Chesapeake, the Gulf, and Great Britain, have some very offensive attributes. It is assuredly an agreeable feature in that of San Francisco, that, during the long period of six months, there is no danger of "getting caught in a shower." This is some compensation for the désagrémeris of wind, dust, and fluctuating temperature. Yet, to sum up, we can see no reason for claiming that, upon the average of the entire year, and to the average person in good health, the climate of San Francisco is more enjoyable than that of New York, Charleston, St. Louis, Valparaiso, Melbourne, Shanghai, Paris, or Rome.
The first epoch in the life of San Francisco is from 1849 to 1855 — six years ; the second, from 1855 to 1861 — six years ; and the third, from 1861 to 1869 — eight years. A large proportion of the men who migrated to the city during the first period were then between twenty-five and thirty-five years old; of these, the survivors are now from forty to-fifty-five years of age. But the class between forty and fifty-five years old constitutes in all communities that controlling one which gives society its characteristic impress, and San Francisco is no exception to the rule. And it is a matter of fact that a large majority of the individuals who are the leading men of the city, in all classes, are of those who migrated thither prior to 1855, at the average age of thirty years. It was they who constituted the business community of that elder day; they received their stamp from it, as well as impressed their own stamp upon it; they preserve it now, in many respects, as it existed then. Since that time they have been in a condition of isolation, with respect to the rest of the world, which was almost Japanese in the completeness of its exclusion. In considering who and what those men were then, what their life has been since, and what changes have come over the rest of the United States during the same period, we shall arrive at a knowledge of what the community of San Francisco now is, and of the relation which it bears to those of other American cities. It may be mentioned here, as par parenthése, that all its people work! It has no men of leisure — elegant or otherwise. When, from a desire to enjoy a competency, or other cause, an individual retires from active business, he finds that he has retired into a solitude ; therefore, he speedily leaves the "finest climate on the face of the earth" for others less genial, where he, having certain hours of leisure on his hands, may find a fellow-being also at leisure, with whom it is possible for him to consort.
Those men of 1849-55 who give the tone to San Francisco today, have, for nearly twenty years, worked hard — and that fact is conclusive, both of their present and future. They work hard still, and will continue hard at work to the end of their days. A fair allowance of wealth has been accumulated, but the question of amount of wealth has little bearing upon the habits of the man who has spent his years between the ages of thirty and fifty in its accumulation. These are also mainly "self-made" men. They are wholly self-made in the sense that they are the architects of their own fortunes; and they are also leavened with a leaven of that element in self-making which consists in self-education. It is easy, therefore, to see what we ought to expect to find in the San Francisco of today a community of men who left the United States twenty years ago in search of fortune, and since have been sturdily battling in its pursuit; who have been shut up within themselves during that period; who have received into their circle and quietly absorbed a continuous immigration of later date, under whose influence some features of the older society may have been modified, without the introduction of new features in their stead.
This community went forth into the wilderness, and builded unto itself a dwelling-place. In its isolation, it has had unlimited opportunity of self-contemplation ; and, contemplating itself in the light of a pioneer of civilization, has formed a somewhat overweening estimate of its achievements. But there have been pioneers of civilization, even from the day of the planting of that first vagabond Virginia colony down to this present. The "backwoodsmen" — first of Kentucky, then of Ohio, then Missouri — pioneered the path of civilization, attended by personal peril as well as hardship. They have gone to their account ; nor do we preserve the names of more than a half-dozen of them — made famous by deeds of personal daring. Men yet live who remember the founding of every city west of the Allegheny Mountains. We are not aware that they are regarded as having achieved a greatness because they bore their part in the opening of a new country. Nay, there are Californians who have flocked to a dozen new mining regions and have settled them up and built cities; yet who are not looked upon in the light of persons who have won honors — except as they may happen also to have won wealth. Yet this is precisely what the pioneers of California achieved, and it is all that they achieved. They did their appointed work honestly, (for which they have had liberal reward) and when they evince a disposition to presume upon this, and write themselves down, in all sincerity of conviction — or to credit the fable, when written down by others — as the most energetic, persevering, generous, liberal, and hospitable people on the face of the earth, it may be well to look into the claim, and to require proof.
In regard to their energy: they are doubtless as energetic as other Americans who went out West in '49, or who remained in their Atlantic homes and wrought. In regard to their perseverance — by which is probably meant the capacity to carry the ills and disappointments of life, without abatement of zeal or loss of courage, to a successful end — their career has been that of the average American citizen, East or West. In regard to their generosity: they have been as generous as other good-natured, rather successful men. But what proof that Californians are pre-eminent in this way? Their hospitals, asylums, and benevolent societies are, like those of their neighbors, perpetually clamorous for money. Californians gave liberally during the late rebellion — but in obedience to an impulse of patriotism — while others, in obedience to that same impulse, gave more, and sent their sons and brothers to the war. Hospitality may be granted; but when the Californian shall visit his brethren and fail of hospitable welcome, it will be quite time for him to glorify himself in this regard. The local praises of this quality have scarcely been in commendable taste; and perhaps, after all, the California hospitality loses something in its indiscrimination.
Doubtless, some reputation for liberality has been acquired through the spasmodic public donations made by San Franciscans on a variety of occasions. And further, strangers visiting the city have been strongly impressed by the high cost of small things; and when they return home, make record of their observations upon this point of social economy. It is likely that the Californian has earned some reputation for magnificence of expenditure, and possibly for generosity, by his extravagance in these minor matters. If so, that amiable trait in his character is now on the point of being eradicated forever. At the current scale of prices, the man who has been wont to indulge himself economically in such small vices as smoking and drinking, and the minor luxury of having his boots blacked, did so at an expense of scarcely less than one dollar per day, or thirty dollars per month. The practice of such merely stupid extravagance can not continue. Yet we do not mean to imply that Californians will become ungenerous ; for we submit that they have not yet done any thing to vindicate a claim above other peoples to an enlarged or characteristic generosity.
In examining the claim of San Francisco to Energy, it may be fairly asserted, that, for a number of years, her people performed the uttermost amount of work which their powers of endurance were capable of compassing. Competition in business was sharp ; there was money to be made, and other money to be saved, by dint of hard work ; and the work was done with a kind of fierce energy. Business hours then ran from 8 A.M. to 5 and 6 P.M. ; and, besides their "steamer nights," men "put in" long, weary watches of the night over their books and correspondence. The steamer nights came either twice or thrice a month, and then few left their offices till the mail closed in the morning. Twelve hours constituted a laborer's day's work, and the commutation of this to ten hours was resented by employers quite as much as a willful waste of opportunity to do work as the introduction of a bargain less advantageous than the old one. These were the days described as those
"Of monstrous profits, and quick declines,
And Howland & Aspinwall's steamship lines ;"
and now referred to, in derision of pioneer traditions, as those "when
the water came up to Montgomery Street." Their spirit and their labor continued,
however, till long after the water had been expelled the purlieus of Montgomery
The first innovation upon the old
hard-working routine was the abolition of "steamer
night," by the operation of the Overland
Mail. Then the banks shortened their hours — opening at 10 A.M.,
and closing at 3 P.M. This seemed a wanton exercise of power by the banks,
indication of dangerous innovations. It was soon followed by another, showing
that the old spirit was broken, and that a new condition of things impended:
a general early-closing movement, for Saturday afternoons, followed. This
was the first public act looking to general recreation. It implied that
a new element
was introduced into her commercial system, and that some persons had accumulated
property through which they began to feel their independence. About the
same time, certain additional facilities for getting into the country came
operation ; and the half-holiday each week became a confirmed feature in
the business of
the city. About the same time, the Sunday Law was passed. And thus San
Francisco became a city of morals, and eke of rigid decorum. Owing to the
of her climate, there is no season during which business of any sort is
suspended. From year's end, therefore, to year's end, the steady work moved
on. By day
and by night, without holiday, or rest, or relaxation, throughout the twelve
months, the wearying round of work was maintained. It is no wonder that
many men went down during that period, or that others, who then overtasked
strength, remain still in harness, comparatively
Upon such premises must rest San Francisco's claim to the possession of energy. They indicate simply that when she was younger and lustier, she pursued with a consuming ardor, a dogged determination, and an unremitting industry, the purpose of her existence — wealth. She may safely encounter comparison with the most energetic of her sister cities, but claim nothing beyond a rivalry with those whose growth has divided with her own, during the past ten years, the fame of our Western progress.
There are a few cognate facts which should be added here. The mercantile business of San Francisco has become, in a really eminent degree, conservative. Formerly, it was the reverse, and speculation in merchandise was the feature of the market. The market has now lapsed to the other extreme, and one of its peculiarities is that when an article is in overstock, it often can not be sold, though offered below the cost of importation. The explanation of this is partly the fact that many lines of goods are consigned to the market, not imported by local merchants ; and in the competition among consignors, they may, and repeatedly do, keep the market depressed below cost for several years together. The amount of capital employed by local merchants, compared with the amount of business done — i.e., with amount of sales made — is very much greater than on the other side of the mountains. A cautious Atlantic merchant would, and does, make from three to five times the amount of sales, upon the same capital, that is made by the merchant of San Francisco. This is not to be explained wholly by the less venturesome character of the latter, but partly by local peculiarities in the method of conducting business, by which merchants are placed in the attitude of being bankers to their customers. An important percentage of their own capital is engaged in "carrying" the latter. The interest earned upon mercantile capital is upward of twelve per cent., net, per annum.
We may give but a concluding word to this mercantile community: It possesses a Chamber of Commerce, so called, with a nominal membership of two hundred, from among whom it is with the greatest difficulty that a quorum of fifteen can be called together for any purpose whatever. Whether the explanation of this lies, as has been alleged, in the petty jealousies and mean rivalries which prevail among them, to the exclusion of a true public spirit, we need not undertake to say. In view of the fact that the community is small, isolated, and provincial, the explanation seems reasonable. At least, the fact is as stated ; and the consequence is, that the mercantile community, as such, has little voice or influence in public affairs — even of a strictly mercantile character.
Is San Francisco a success — as great a success as she might be? Has she made the best use of opportunity? It is a fact that she is about twenty years behind other American cities of her size. She has endeavored to grow up to, or in the direction of, a certain standard — the only one she knows: that which prevailed at the East fifteen or twenty years ago. Until within the past six months, comparatively few of her business men had visited the East at all for ten or fifteen years ; and a majority of them have not visited it yet. They do not know any thing in the way of cities except the New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or St. Louis of that elder date, and their own San Francisco of today.
The city has no park, baths, drives, nor — save one theatre — any well appointed place of recreation which is at all up to the modern standard. The city is unornamented — possessing only some dozen buildings which are fine by comparison with the poorer buildings surrounding them, but which are not fine, compared with the finer buildings of those other cities. The city is vilely graded and paved. It is imperfectly sewered to a degree which we dare scarcely contemplate, and which, for one considerable section, will yet necessitate a pumping of the sewage, as the only alternative to a change of grade which it would even now cost millions of dollars to bring about. It is atrociously taxed — equal to upward of $4,000,000 per annum, for municipal purposes alone, or more than fifty dollars per head of the total adult male population. The tax levied upon its shipping has been stated as the very highest of any port in the United States, and the greater part of it is devoted to the prosecution ot a work (a sea-wall, so called) the utility of which is not beyond question. It has but few respectable public buildings. Out of $3,000,000 direct taxes, its public schools receive $350,000, and thousands of children will next year be without school accommodation.
Is this the best that San Francisco could have accomplished with her opportunities? It is possible, that, had she been all this while within rail connection with the greater cities of the East, she would not have submitted to bear these things as they are. She would have had a park, a public library, and an art-gallery, and would long ago have learned that to do nothing but gather money was an offense against good taste. Nay, she would actually have had a taste to be offended. These evils could not have existed had it not been for the fact of her isolation. But does that fact wholly excuse her? Can she lay claim to an amount of enterprise that is in any sense creditable, while she has permitted this state of affairs to obtain — and merely for want of example to shame her out of it?
It is apparent, also, that she has arrived at a point in her relations with the East, and in her own industrial development, where some decline in the price of labor is upon the point of taking place, and a consequent expansion of the manufacturing, and possibly the mining field, is impending. The following, from the San Francisco Times, sets forth the facts of the situation:
"In 1868 we bought foreign goods to the amount of $15,000,000, and Eastern goods, $43,000,000; paid freights and duties, $16,000,000; so that the total cost to us (in first hands) was $74,000,000. We resold of these goods to the amount of $5,000,000; probably one-third of the freight money was paid out again in the port — say $2,500,000; the balance was remitted to owners; giving a total of $67,000,000 to be remitted. During the first nine months of the current year, we have purchased to the amount of $43,300,000; have paid freights and duties, $13,700,000; total, (in first hands) $57,000,000. We have resold of the goods and been repaid of the freight money, $5,500,000 ; leaving to be remitted for, $51,500,000. In the twenty-one months, the gross remittance called for is $118,500,000. On this account, our remittance in produce has been $30,000,000; railroad bonds, $6,-000,000; the balance, treasure, $82,500,000. * * * Of said total, foreign goods called for (including their duties and freight) $43,750,000 ; leaving, as remittance on our Atlantic account, $74,750,000. That sum — paid to the Atlantic in less than two years — was composed of $8,000,000 paid to their ship-owners, and the balance to their manufacturers. The whole of these Atlantic goods were manufactured goods. More than half their value represented the wages that had been paid in their manufacture. In less than two years, then, we have paid $40,000,000 directly as wages to Eastern mill-hands and Lynn boot-makers. * * * We pay freights on that Atlantic merchandise, $5,000,000 per annum; the wages paid on it amount to $25,000,000. We can afford, therefore, to pay our workmen about one-fifth more wages than are paid at the East. During the same period of twenty-one months, the product of bullion and surplus of raw produce united were insufficient to settle the trade-balance, and the previous stock of coin was drawn upon, to the amount of about $7,000,000, to make up the deficiency."
She can not go on buying every thing at the East, for the simple, but conclusive reason that she can not procure the wherewithal to pay for it. It follows, therefore, that she must produce some of these things at home.
Society in San Francisco is not given to recreation, but is what the youth of the period would call "slow." For it is by men of leisure that social recreations are promoted. Such men make the evening calls, get up the riding, driving, dancing, picnic, sailing, or other parties, which constitute the staple of that recreation. There is, comparatively, little social intercourse in the evenings, among the unmarried; and still less, among the married. Women, naturally, do their rounds of "calls," but are less slaves to the irrational custom than in many other societies. Of pleasure parties, there are almost none. Dancing parties are as frequent as the people from among whom they are made up, will consent to attend. It is more difficult to get these parties attended, than to find those who are willing to give them. And in making out an invitation list, the greater difficulty is to find a sufficiency of dancing men. Sometimes the Army and Navy come gallantly to the rescue ; at others, there are few eligible youngsters stationed at the accessible posts.
But how does the San Franciscan spend his evenings ? The town sits down to dinner between half-past five and six — probably two-thirds of it at the latter hour. Men dawdle over the meal ; few give less than an hour to it, and, under favorable conditions, it is spun out to two. Then, they lounge; drop in at the hotels, or other public places ; sometimes into other men's rooms; a great deal of billiards is played; the drinking saloons are not greatly patronized — i.e., those of the better sort. The lower sorts, particularly the "corner groceries," are rather extensively resorted to. There are twelve hundred places, in all, where liquor is sold by the glass — or one to about every seventy adult male inhabitants. And yet, drunkenness is not by any means a rule at these places. Men haunt them, apparently, to meet other men, and to while away an hour or so before going to bed. For the town works, and the morrow brings its labor. Men who work do not make a habit of drinking hard. And a large number go to the play. The receipts of the regular places of amusement are nearly one million dollars per annum. There are always one or two negro minstrel troupes performing; two or more melodeons, whose entertainments are more or less obscene; and one, two, or three dramatic theatricals. The average nightly attendance at these regular places of amusement is about three thousand — or, say one in every forty of the adult population. The average performances at the leading theatre — called The California — are of the best in the United States. There are no theatrical seasons. The theatre is open nightly, (Sundays excepted) to audiences that suffer no abatement, winter or summer.
Of mixed nationality, the population of San Francisco has been called cosmopolitan. It is not so in any broad sense. It is, on the contrary, essentially provincial. Isolated as has been its life, it could not well be otherwise. In neither its social, nor its business tone, is there any suggestion of French gayety, or German laboriousness, Spanish dignity, or English conservatism. There is no characteristic trait, save that eager industry which is more distinctively Californian than American. There are social sets, wherein foreigners naturally draw together, according to their nationality. In business, something of the same tendency is perceptible. The French population purchase from French small-dealers, and these from French importers. In the business aspect of San Francisco, there is one sufficiently prominent feature, distinguishing it among American cities only less notably than its specialty of Chinese merchants, to wit: the large space filled, by Israelites. In every profession, and in every branch of business — but most conspicuously in the mercantile — they play something more than a mere leading part: they constitute quite one-third of the stock company. And to them, and their influence, is due — both in a material and moral sense — much of the best progress that San Francisco has made, and the best work that she has done. Cosmopolitanism must be understood to mean something more than an absence of national prejudice: it implies a breadth of spirit, and an elevation of view, which shall be more than national in expansiveness and range. A true cosmopolitan, freed from the local influences engendered by the mere accident of his birth, in sympathy equally with Turk, Christian, Infidel, Pagan, or Buddhist — looking at his fellow-being only as one possessing a nature human as his own, interpreting current history by laws universal in their human application, and reading passing events in the light of universal human experience — the real cosmopolitan, however ardent a patriot as to his heart, is, as to his head, a citizen of the world. The foregoing description is, as nearly as possible, the reverse of that which would apply to the average citizen of San Francisco. The mental vision of the latter — very like his bodily organs — is habitually bounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the one hand, and the Pacific horizon on the other. His pride is to be a citizen of "this great State, sir," and not of those outlying tracts which compose the rest of the world; and, in order to truly characterize him, it is necessary (and quite sufficient) to change the conventional "cosmopolitan" into the "San Francisco Californian." But, after all, we have thus far indicated the characteristics of those classes in the population of San Francisco which are rather the more prominent — the classes who are suggested by the expression, "People whom one meets," using that term to mean people whom one meets in a business, as well as in a social way. But the great mass of her hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants one does not meet, like the great mass of any other hundred and fifty thousand people in the United States: these are honest, commonplace souls, fairly given to the homely virtues, attached to their spouses, fond of their offspring, decorously mindful of the seventh day, rather soft-hearted and headed, and uninteresting in the uttermost degree.
Some modification of California society is to be looked for from the State University, which has but just gone into operation, with an organization as yet imperfect. We may not here undertake to speak of the embarrassments attending this organization, nor of the difficulties to be met and overcome before it shall be in such operation as to realize the hopes which have been entertained that it might fill for the Pacific coast the place which has been filled for the South by the University of Virginia, for the West by the University of Michigan, and for the whole Union, in earlier days, by the Universities of New England. The immediate future of the University of California is seriously clouded, and it may yet be some years before it is fairly launched upon a career of usefulness. The importance, to such a society as that of California, of an institution of this character, is quite obvious. And when it shall have sent out into the State some hundreds of young men imbued with scholastic enthusiasm, it is fair to expect that a State Legislature will not again refuse the pitiful appropriation demanded for a geological survey, and that the meetings of an Academy of Natural Sciences will be looked upon by the community at large as something more than a subject for the cheap ridicule of a cheaper wit.
The health of San Francisco is tolerably good. By the mortuary reports, it appears that diseases of the respiratory organs are the chief source of death. Physicians assert that a considerable proportion of these diseases have sprung from seeds sown elsewhere. This is likely enough, since the larger proportion of the people who have died had attained to majority elsewhere; and for the further reason that many persons laboring under respiratory affections have come to San Francisco in the mistaken belief that the climate was suitable for the alleviation of their complaints. On the contrary, under the trying conditions of life here, these develop rapidly, and carry the patient rapidly to the grave. It is, perhaps, premature to speak with certainty of the classes of disease which will ultimately be found the most fatal. Among children, a mortality almost terrible has been shown, year after year, in the mortuary reports; and health officials and physicians inveigh, denounce, and exhort in vain to procure such reform as may diminish the sad record. It is conceded to arise in the fashion of clothing, which is insufficient to resist the summer ordeal. But the patterns come from recognized authority in Newport and Biarritz, and the slaughter of the innocents goes on. One conspicuous feature in adult mortality is suddenness. The climate is bracing, and few are taken down with sickness through which they linger, and convalesce, and emerge, looking bleached and feeble, and finally recover. On the contrary, one day a man attends to his business in robust health, goes home slightly ailing, during the night sends for a physician, is pronounced in a condition of typhoid fever, or pleurisy, or congested lungs, and his friends are notified of his illness by his funeral announcement ; or, men fall down in the street, are carried into a drugstore, whence a body only is carried out, and the physicians pronounce it a heart disease, or apoplexy. Probably these things are the fruits of the old wearing life when the "vital machine was run with the blower up," and the same speed had been maintained, regardless, perhaps, of premonitions that the engine was no longer quite what it had been.
The health of the women of San Francisco is fairly good — about the same, probably, as that of corresponding classes in other American cities. The children are generally fine-looking, with large limbs and robust forms, and the schoolgirls are rather rosy. Their precocity in physical development is, like the horticultural productions of the State, semi-tropical. But this condition does not last longer than elsewhere in the United States, and most of the married are in the average "ailing" condition. Statistics of the birthrate are as yet, like other California statistics, too young to establish any reliable conclusions. So far as they go, they confirm superficial observation in the conclusion that the birthrate is high. It has need to be, in order to countervail the high infantile death-rate. In appearance, the women, like the men, are an assorted mixture of all American types, from the nut-brown Creole to the blue-eyed Yankee.
The number of the insane and of suicides is, also, large enough to be a feature in the life of San Francisco. Of the former, about two hundred per annum — say one hundred and fifty men and fifty women, or one man in every four hundred, and one woman in every thousand — are sent to the Insane Asylum. They are nearly all of foreign birth — natives of the United Kingdom, in a considerable majority. About one hundred and twenty of the men are single, and thirty of the women married. The chief cause of insanity with the former, drunkenness ; with the latter, domestic trouble. The American in California has not yet developed an aptitude for lunacy. He figures more largely, however, among the suicides. The annual number of these is about forty — the proportion of men and women not specified. The men kill themselves from poverty; the women, from heart-troubles. The former of these causes certainly is not so prevalent as elsewhere; but men are separated from their families, and can end their troubles without plunging those who are dear to them into grief. Probably, the effect of this motive in dissuading from suicide is not quite appreciated in other communities, where the family ties do exist, and where, therefore, the suicides are not committed.
The Future of San Francisco is plain: She will grow — as the country behind her grows; she will become — what her citizens shall make her! Behind her lies a great expanse of territory, capable of maintaining a large population, depending upon San Francisco to transact its commercial business, and to carry on many of its manufactures. As that territory fills with population and pours down into the city its wealth of produce, receiving in exchange the products of her commerce and her industry, San Francisco will also increase in wealth and population. Should she maintain in manufacturing industry the lead which, as a commercial centre, she can not lose, her permanent population may continue, perhaps, to equal one-sixth of that spread over the territory from the British possessions to Arizona. If other places should become important manufacturing centres, her proportion of population might be reduced as low as one-tenth, but it can scarcely become less. When that territory shall be occupied by two millions of people, the population of San Francisco may be three or four hundred thousand; when that interior shall support four millions, the population of San Francisco may be upward of half a million. It will be many years before the Pacific States shall contain four millions of people. There are no laws of growth to operate in the case of San Francisco other than those which obtain in the growth of other cities. In her case, it is true, two fields of wealth, or two fields for labor, combine — as they are found combined in few other American cities: she is both a sea-port and the centre of a great agricultural country. An interior Western city can derive its wealth only from the latter field ; it has not the opportunity also to earn money in the original importation of goods and in transacting the business of ships. An Atlantic seaboard city fulfills the latter function, but is robbed by in-board cities of many manufacturing industries. These two distinct functions unite in the case of San Francisco. She is situated, with reference to supplying all wants of her interior country, rather more advantageously than any other American city — unless, possibly, New Orleans. But then, New Orleans is at the disadvantage of New York competition, the larger market — in virtue of its larger size alone — underselling her by a margin equal to many hundred miles of transportation. From this and kindred drawbacks, San Francisco is free. It does not appear humanly possible to wrest from her any important part of the business which her position of itself places naturally in her hands. At least, she can retain it if she will, and it is not likely that her citizens will lack either the wit or the energy to do it. Since, then, the question of the increase of San Francisco in population and wealth depends directly and solely upon the increase of the population for whom she acts as factor, it would appear that her best energies, for many years yet to come, should be devoted to stimulating this increase. Her own growth she can not directly force. The one purpose of her existence is to transact business for others; the amount of that business is the limit of her development; and the amount of population gives the limit of the business. Yet how is an influx of population to be stimulated? Perhaps, by State aid to immigrants. Mere representations of the advantages of California as a place of residence would hardly, alone, tempt the European immigrant to pass by the fertile and beautiful valleys and plains of Kansas, Minnesota, or Iowa. And if the immigrant is to be enticed to California, lands must be prepared for his occupation, and made accessible to market — penetrated by railways.
How rapidly the immigrant will come, is another question. With every Western and some Eastern States competing in the Immigrant market, it is probable that our European cousin will this year be furnished at least free transportation to the point of his destination, and will next year very possibly be paid a bonus for going there. A merely passing glance at what is being done in other sections of the country shows that the immigrant will not find his way to California, unless some special inducement is held out to him. The material future of San Francisco, therefore, divested of the very glittering Oriental generalities wherein it is wont to be bedecked, and of the extremely beautiful prismatic hues shed upon it from the lantern of the "first through locomotive," depends upon the general growth, prosperity, and wealth of the Pacific States — and these depend upon increase of population, and that upon immigration, and immigration upon exertion — and, therefore, upon what San Francisco shall do, not talk, in its practical aid.
But while all her citizens talk of the future of San Francisco, how many of them look to, or think of, her moral future? If it be true, materially speaking, that she will become what her citizens shall make her, it is equally true in a moral sense. The man of today may neglect opportunity to develop within the city a profitable business — he may decline immigration projects, or manufacturing projects. He only leaves the field open before the coming man, who would look back with something of wonder, perhaps, at the deficient sagacity of this generation; but would, doubtless, invent affectionate excuses for the shortcoming, and cherish its memory still. Lands may be worn out, mines exhausted, and the natural inheritance of earth turned over to him, wasted and despoiled : he will labor to repair the mischief, and to provide better for his son than this generation had provided for him; yet, as he shall tell that son of the havoc wrought by his improvident grandfather, it is likely that he will enlarge upon the wondrous experiences and adventures of that pioneer's early days, and look back to him as the Virginian of today looks back to the wild, shiftless, lawless, improvident old magnate, who held his principality by charter from his king and transmitted it to his descendants a barren inheritance, cursed with the curse of poverty. All these things, and many more, may the San Franciscan of today do, and eke leave undone; yet shall not his descendants look back to him with scorn, nor hold his memory in contempt.
But if that citizen of a better day and a higher life find himself a unit of a community of unsound morality — and unsound because of bad education — containing a large element which is vicious because ignorant, and useless because both; without such educational establishments for his children as he had a right to expect, and the provision made for this purpose and kindred purposes squandered or diverted; without art-galleries or libraries, or the means then to procure them; without provision made for his recreation, or even needful rest, in a public park, and the land once given in sacred trust for that purpose parceled away, as prizes were parceled by buccaneers ; without proper harbor accommodation for his commerce, and the means which should have provided it squandered ; without proper buildings for the conduct of his public affairs, and yet with an inheritance of municipal debt which may be a burden even unto his son's son after him; with a city infected in its health by imperfect drainage or no drainage — the result of an ignorance and folly which shall, to him, appear as inconceivable as it is inexcusable — if such as this shall be the inheritance devolved by this generation upon that which is to come, it may be well imagined that the memory of the pioneer will go down to his posterity with both contempt and scorn, and even something of execration. The reverse of this picture would show the great Pacific domain of the United States rewarding, with lavish hand, the labors of millions of human beings. The commercial centre and moral capital of this Pacific empire — its queen, seated upon the throne of hills prepared for her by the hand of Nature — respected for her power, revered for her justice, loved for her kindness, honored for her integrity —a noble city, a pride and boast and glory to her children and nation, a home and school of moral power and social grace, and their handmaids, Science, Literature, and Art — the youngest, fairest, wisest, and best of American cities: how far may we dare to hope that a day shall ever arrive when this high praise — if not, indeed, fully won — shall, at least, become something less than discriminating irony?
There is a familiar picture of an American Indian, standing upon a headland washed by the Pacific Ocean, and shading his eyes with one hand as he gazes steadfastly upon the sinking sun. The picture needs amending; for, already, the Indian has disappeared from this Pacific shore, and the White Man stands in his stead — his last Westward conquest already achieved. From ocean to ocean, the continent is his own — in his hand its destiny for good or ill.
We may stand upon the summit of that hill which stands sentinel over the young and wayward city of San Francisco, and looking out over the waste of waters that circles half a world, see a dense bank of vapor — murky and dark below, but rolling its surface billows onward in the setting sunlight as a heaving sea of molten gold — move landward from the ocean. Standing out cold and sharp and bleak against the coming tide, rises Lone Mountain — the city of the dead. There repose the bones of those who have gone before, and there will rest the dust — honored or dishonored — of the thousands now toiling in the city at our feet: battling the battle whose reward is — there. What is to be the story of that battle and these toilers ? Is wealth alone their confessed, as well as secret idol? Is it to suffice to gild every vice, and condone every crime? Do they know no test of merit or excellence, save that of their own mountain's touchstone, which shows by the fraction of a tint the proportion of pure Gold? If these latter questions are to be answered to the disadvantage of this generation, what measure of derision and contempt will be poured out over its grave-stones by the men who shall blush to own them ancestors? Is life worth living, if this is to be the reward? Is work worth working, if a gibe or a sneer at the dead man is to be the legend of his monument?
The fog has rolled up in mighty mass against Lone Mountain, towering in huge, fleecy billows above it, still black beneath, while its summit glows as if it might be the throne of a Pagan god. The grave-stones show as glistening specks against the dark lining of the cloud. An instant more, and the vast pile will topple over, rolling majestically down in solemn silence, wrapping hill and valley in a fleecy winding-sheet, swallowing up, as into the resistless current of oblivion, the City of the Dead, and all its monuments, whether of honor or of shame. The San Franciscan of today may look out toward that resting-place, which is to be his own — may see the fleecy, but impenetrable bank, as it overhangs and threatens to engulf it. Let him ask himself if he has earned such place in the life of his city as may be for him a monument of honor when the head-stones of Lone Mountain lie buried in a forgotten past. If he have not, then may he here see the type of his own memory — the poor lesson of his life — swallowed into the tide of the Forgotten, unto the last trace of a name which lent nothing of honor to what in death it shall not be permitted to reproach. And, even as we gaze, the vast bank topples over, and rolls down; and of the memory of the pioneers of San Francisco not a trace remains.
Transcribed and annotated by, and courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.