Maps of San Francisco
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.
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