European visitors to the Bay Area were preceded 10,000 to 20,000 years earlier by native people indigenous to the area. These people, later called the Ohlone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people"), lived in the coastal area between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay.
European discovery and exploration of the San Francisco Bay Area began in 1542 and culminated with the mapping of the bay in 1775. A Spanish party led by Juan Bautista de Anza arrived on March 28, 1776 and established the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis (named for Saint Francis of Assisi and now popularly known as "Mission Dolores"). The area first began to develop as a city under the name of Yerba Buena in 1822, when what is now the downtown area was first settled by William Richardson, an English whaler.
Yerba Buena remained a small town until the Mexican-American War broke out and a naval force under Commodore John D. Sloat took it in 1846 in the name of the United States. It was then renamed "San Francisco" on 30 January, 1847.
The California gold rush starting in 1848 led to a large growth in population, including considerable immigration. The Chinatown district of the city is still one of the largest in the country. Many businesses started at that time to service the growing population are still present today, notably Levi Strauss clothing, Ghirardelli chocolate, and Wells Fargo bank.
San Francisco became the USA's largest city west of those on the Mississippi River.
San Francisco County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. Parts of the county were given to San Mateo County in 1856.
Founded in 1855, The University of San Francisco was one of the first universities in the West. The University will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2005. Located near Turk and Masonic the campus can be seen from miles around. The University of San Francisco is best known for its high academic rigor, and Law school attracting students from around the world.
The most colorful figure of late 19th century San Francisco was "Emperor" Joshua A. Norton.
On April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake struck the city. This was estimated by modern scientists to have reached 8.25 on the Richter scale. The fires that followed were even more destructive, burning out of control for days and destroying the vast majority of the buildings in the city. Hundreds of residents were killed (some say thousands actually died), but the majority of the population escaped serious physical harm. (The 1936 movie San Francisco is set in the midst of these events.) Rebuilding of the city began almost immediately. See also: 1906 San Francisco earthquake
of the Golden Gate Bridge]]
In 1915, the city hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition, officially to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, but also as a showcase of the vibrant completely rebuilt city less than a decade after the Earthquake. On July 22, 1916 a bomb exploded on Market Street during a Preparedness Day parade, killing 10 and injuring 40.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was opened in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. During World War II, San Francisco was the major mainland supply point and port of embarkation for the war in the Pacific. The United Nations Charter was drafted at San Francisco in 1945.
San Francisco has often been a magnet for America's counterculture. During the 1950s, City Lights Bookstore in the North Beach neighborhood was an important publisher of beatnik literature. During the latter half of the following decade, the 1960s, San Francisco was the center of hippie culture. Thousands of young people poured into the Haight-Ashbury district of the city during 1967, which was known as the Summer of Love. At this time, the San Francisco sound emerged as an influential force in rock music, with such acts as the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead achieving international prominence, blurring the boundaries between folk, rock and jazz traditions. The Church Of Satan was founded and made its headquarters here in 1966.
In the 1970s, large numbers of gay people moved to San Francisco's Castro district. Tensions arose in the city over the cultural changes wrought by this migration, and these tensions led to tragedy in 1978 when a conservative member of the Board of Supervisors, Dan White, murdered a gay Supervisor, Harvey Milk and the city's mayor George Moscone on November 27 (see "Twinkie Defense"). Today, the gay population of the city is estimated to be at about 15%, and gays remain an important force in the city's politics.
During the Dot-com boom of the 1990s, large numbers of young entrepreneurs and computer software professionals moved into the city, and changed the economic landscape as once poorer neighborhoods became gentrified. The rising rents forced many people and businesses to leave, and this caused considerable tension in the city's politics. The resulting backlash resulted in a progressive majority winning control of the Board of Supervisors in the 2000 election.
In November of 2002, three off-duty police officers (one the son of the assistant chief) reportedly assaulted two civilians over a bag of steak fajitas. The resulting scandal was dubbed Fajitagate after it was alleged that high-ranking officers within the Police Department had tried to cover up the incident. Though top officials were formally indicted, they were soon exonerated, but with considerable damage to their reputations, and having brought the city nationwide ridicule.
The 2003 mayoral election of Matt Gonzales versus Gavin Newsom was notable in that it was between two liberal candidates, conservative candidates having had a hard time in the cosmopolitan and well-educated city. The newly elected Mayor Newsom broke onto national political scene, when in defiance of state law, led San Francisco to become the first city in the U.S. to issue same-sex marriage licenses in February, 2004.
Geography and Climate
San Francisco lies near the San Andreas Fault; a major source of earthquake activity in California. The most serious earthquake, in 1906, is mentioned above. Earlier significant quakes rocked the city in 1851, 1858, 1865, and 1868. The Daly City Earthquake of 1957 caused some damage. The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 also did significant damage to the city, and postponed the World Series between the Bay Area's two Major League Baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.
(A note of possible interest: a European satellite television sports channel that was carrying the game when the earthquake struck suspended its regular coverage to relay news for several hours.)
San Francisco is famous for its hills and the streets which run straight up and down them. Three of San Francisco's notable hills are Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill, all of which located in or near the downtown area. Not to be missed are the beautiful homes and area of the city known as Pacific Heights. San Francisco is also famous for its cable cars (narrow gauge, 1067 mm (3'6")), which were designed to carry residents up those steep hills. It is still possible to take a cable car ride up and down Nob and Russian Hills. San Francisco's cable cars are the only mobile United States National Monument. Coit Tower, a notable landmark dedicated to San Francisco's firefighters, is located at the top of Telegraph Hill.
Surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's climate is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean. The weather is remarkably mild all year round, with a so-called Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, foggy summers and relatively warm winters; average daily high temperatures in the summer typically range from the upper 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit, while in the winter it virtually never reaches freezing. Rain in the summer is extremely rare, but winters can often be very rainy. Snow is virtually unheard of. Occasional offshore flows of air bring hot air into San Francisco during the summer, when temperatures can reach into the high 90s Fahrenheit, but this is rare and it usually only lasts a few days, before the region's "natural air conditioning" takes over and cools the city down again. The warmest month is typically September.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city and county has a total area of 600.7 km² (231.9 mi²). 120.9 km² (46.7 mi²) of it is land and 479.7 km² (185.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 79.86% water.
Some 40 miles south of San Francisco is the Silicon Valley, which holds much of the computing business in the world.
Companies Headquartered in San Francisco
Apple Computer is based in nearby Cupertino. Oracle Corporation is based in nearby Redwood City. Yahoo is headquartered in nearby Sunnyvale. ChevronTexaco and IPIX are based in nearby San Ramon.
Law and Government