"Giving up drinking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."

-- Mark Twain



The Gold Rush

Prior to the Gold Rush, settlers very slowly filtered into California until 1848 when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill. Suddenly, people from all over the world looking to strike it rich flooded through San Francisco. They traveled up the Sacramento River to the gold fields. The Gold Rush was devastating to the Native Americans in the area and depleted many natural resources. What is now San Francisco was once a redwood forest. Whole native tribes were scattered or destroyed. In some areas there were bounties on Indians. The California tribes still have a rich culture and heritage, but the nineteenth century was a period of great loss for all native tribes in the area.
It was this discovery of gold that hastened California's statehood. On September 9, 1850, President Fillmore officially made California the thirty-first state.
One thing that helped ease California's isolation was the telegraph. By 1861, telegraph lines stretched across the country. Unfortunately, buffalo on the plains often knocked down the poles, leaving California isolated again until the line was fixed.

Sutter's Mill

Sutter's Mill was a sawmill owned by 19th century pioneer John Sutter. It was located in Coloma, California at the bank of the American River. Sutter's Mill is most famous for its association with the California Gold Rush. It was here that an employee of Sutter's, James Marshall, on January 24, 1848, found several flakes of gold that would begin the transformation of California from a sleepy outpost to a bustling center of activity. It brought people from many different cultures to the "Golden" state. The first document on the discovery of the gold was in Henry Bigler's diary. He and several other people working at the mill were discharged veterans of the Mormon Battalion.

The site of the mill is located in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and is registered as California Historical Landmark #530.


San Francisco Chinatown

While there are many Chinatowns across the United States and around the globe, San Francisco's Chinese community is the oldest, largest, and most visually recognizable urban Chinese American enclave.

As more and more Chinese immigrants migrated into northern California in search of fortune and work, San Francisco Chinatown served as their home away from home, a comfortingly familiar place in an alien and oftentimes hostile land.

Chinatown during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a vibrant and resilient community. Everything that a Chinese person needed or wanted was available within its dozen or so square blocks: work, food, benevolent associations, entertainment, newspapers, education, and religious houses were some of the many accessible amenities.


Gold Rush Diversity  
 Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, 
the world rushed in. Eager gold seekers headed south 
from Oregon; north from Mexico, Chile, and Peru; east 
from China and the islands of the Pacific; and west 
from every state in the union and countries throughout
Europe. This richness of intersecting frontiers produced 
the most ethnically diverse region in the nation.

Gold-rush California also became a region noted for its 
ethnic conflict. Frustrated ambitions of unsuccessful 
gold seekers were vented in an almost unending round of 
ethnic hostilities. Scapegoats were eagerly sought, 
identified with lightning speed, and dispatched with 
little regret. 



Red Light District

A red-light district is a neighborhood where prostitution and other businesses in the sex industry flourish. The term "red-light district" was first recorded in the United States around 1890, and derives from the practice of placing a red light in the window to indicate to customers the nature of the business. The color red has been associated with prostitution for millennia: in the Biblical story of Rahab a prostitute in Jericho aided the spies of Joshua and identified her house with a scarlet rope.

Some say the origin of the red light comes from the red lanterns carried by railway workers, which were left outside brothels when the workers entered, so that they could be quickly located for any needed train movement.


Sutter's Fort

Completed in 1839, Sutter's Fort, which was originally called "New Helvetia" (New Switzerland) by its builder, John Sutter, was a 19th century agricultural and trading colony in California. The compound was built near the junction of the American and Sacramento Rivers and is located at what is now the intersection of 27th and L Streets in the Midtown neighborhood of the city of Sacramento. The fort is famous for its association with the Donner Party, the California Gold Rush and with establishment of Sacramento. The adobe structure has been restored to its original condition and is listed as a California State Historic Park. Sutter's Fort is also the end of the California Trail and near the southern end of the Siskiyou Trail.




A vigilante is someone who takes enforcement of law or moral code into their own hands. The term vigilante stems from the name "Vigiles Urbani" given to the nightwatchmen of Ancient Rome who were tasked with fighting fires and keeping a lookout for runaway slaves and burglars. In modern Western society, the term is frequently applied to those citizens who "take the law into their own hands," meting out "frontier justice" when they perceive that the actions of established authorities are insufficient. Vigilantism is sometimes vilified when it gives way to criminal behavior on the part of the vigilante.



Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara was the first mission founded by Father Fermin 
Francisco de Lasuen, Father Serra's successor as President 
of the California missions. Although Father Serra dedicated
the site of the Santa Barbara presidio (fort) in April of 1782, 
he did not have permission at that time to found a mission in 
Santa Barbara. The Governor at that time, Filipe de Neve, was 
jealous of the power he believed the Franciscans gained with 
each new mission. Through his superior, the Viceroy in Mexico, 
he was able to delay the necessary funding for new missions.



Shew's Daguerreian Saloon,
  San Francisco, 1851

William Shew's traveling studio sits next to the Alta California newspaper office in the midst of construction following the fire of 22 June 1851. The wagon's location no doubt drew the attention of the daily, which wrote, "A good deal of curiosity has been expressed in regard to the object and intention of the big wagon which fills up a large portion of the plaza, and which was yesterday being covered with a frame. Some suppose that 'the elephant' which so many people come here to see was to be caged up in it and exhibited to greenhorns at a quarter a sight. . .It seems, however, that it is to be a traveling daguerreotype establishment, with which the proprietor intends to travel around the city and country, taking views and portraits." (San Francisco Alta California, July 22, 1851.)


Batchelder's Daguerrian Saloon, c. 1851

Perez Mann Batchelder (1818-1873), a daguerreotypist, arrived in California in 1851 and operated a travelling daguerreian studio/wagon in Sonora. He grew convinced that the best way to take advantage of the miners' increased appetite for photography was to take the studio into the field, so he managed a series of portable photographic ventures over the next several years. Isaac Wallace Baker, an important California photographer and one of Batchelder's business partners and protégés, here poses in front of his mentor's "Daguerrian Saloon."