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Maps of San Francisco

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The Voyage from New York to San Francisco upon the Union Pacific Railroad.  Unattributed, likely Union Pacific Railroad.  Place of publication unknown: ca. 1870

The game board of this unusual game based on the "new Union Pacific Railroad" shows forty-five views of places along the Union Pacific route arranged in a clockwise spiral, starting with "Rail road depot in New-York" in the upper left corner, and ending with "San Francisco, the metropolis of California, with churches, palaces, theatres, newspapers &c. with 245000 inhabitants, 700 hours from Omaha and 1300 hours from New-York" at the center of the board.


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Multum in Parvo or San Francisco in the Pocket, Miniature Map with Compendium of Reliable Information. McDonald & Williams. San Francisco: 1879
This miniature map of San Francisco features an interior view of the McDonald & Williams “clothing house” as well as a street view placing it at 14 Montgomery, adjacent to Pacific Publishing, the map’s publisher, at 22 Montgomery. The back cover lists “Points of Interest and Information,” including Alcatras (sic) and the U.S. Mint. Timetables for ferries, local trains, and bay and river steamers are listed on the back of the map.
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Paradise Found! (Looking South). Mertens & Lang. San Francisco: 1893
This illustrated broadsheet advertises lots for sale on May 15, 1893, in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco adjacent to the Golden Gate Park Panhandle. Its bird's eye view and plat map show street car lines and reveal still-­forested hillsides as well as areas cleared for building. Note the ballpark, now residential.
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Official Map of Chinatown in San Francisco, in Report of the Special Committee of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco on the Condition of the Chinese Quarter and the Chinese in San Francisco. Willard B. Farwell; John E. Kunkler; E.B. Pond. San Francisco: 1885
The map included in the Board of Supervisors report, above, shows San Francisco's Chinatown, bordered by California, Stockton, Broadway, and Kearny Streets, color-­coded to show businesses, gambling parlors, houses of white and Chinese prostitution, opium "resorts," joss houses, etc. In 1885, at the height of the anti-­Chinese hysteria in California, this map and the inflammatory report that it was part of was used to turn public opinion against the Chinese American population in the city.
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Worlds Fair 1904: California, Celluloid Pinback Button. F.F. Pulver Co. F.F. Pulver Co., Makers of Celluloid Novelties that Advertise, Rochester, N.Y. Rochester: 1904
Souvenir of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, put together by three officers of the Merchants’ Exchange of Oakland as part of an apparent effort to promote Oakland business at the fair. The button, adorned with California poppies, names these officers as commissioners in minuscule type, shows Alameda County and Bay Area cities with ferry locations and railroads, and places the University of California, Berkeley and Mills College along the upper rim.

The maps in this case illustrate San Francisco’s explosive growth, which transformed the natural environment and turned the city into a global center for trade and immigration during the late nineteenth century. The changes in the environment were visible locally as San Franciscans laid out streets, cleared trees and brush, and even filled in the bay to create developable property. The city’s environmental impact echoed across the continent, too, as Leland Stanford’s Central Pacific Railroad facilitated logging, the near extermination of bison, and (ironically) early forms of eco-tourism.

The city’s development made it a hub for retail trade, banking, transportation, and other industries. Bay Area boosters vaunted the city’s role as a global entrepôt and a center of commerce with Asia. Yet many white San Franciscans resented the presence of Chinese immigrants, thousands of whom had helped to build the very railroad that was key to the city’s commercial success. Here, too, the city’s influence reverberated across the country, resulting in both local anti-Chinese legislation and helping to prompt the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

—Narrative by Michael Kahan, Urban Studies Associate Director