When the writer first landed in San Francisco, in the autumn of 1862,
he soon found that it was not the "Frisco" of his imaginings and readings, nor
that of common belief. He found himself in the heart of a highly civilised
community, where there were neither paupers, beggars, nor crossing sweepers;
where labourers smoked 10c cigars, where servant girls still obtained wages of £3
to £6 a month, and where there are all the evidences of general prosperity.
Numbers of particularly well dressed citizens, from merchants to mechanics,
hurried about on their daily avocations; numbers of ladies - ladies blooming as
the rose, and infinitely more like English mothers and sisters than are those
of the Atlantic states - were out promenading and shopping in the principle
streets, which themselves were quite gay and Parisian in character. Although
from the universal deference shown these dames in the street, or store, or car,
it was obvious that they reigned supreme, it was equally clear that they were
not quite such rare curiosities as in those early days when a miner would
walk twenty miles to catch a glimpse of a petticoat; when the steamboat companies
advertised "four lady passengers tonight," as a sure bait to travellers; or
when a crowd was known to collect and dance round some relic - a ribbon or a
crinoline -(which was it?) which someone had found - the nearest approach to a
female they had seen for a long time.
High civilisation is not possible in the absence of the gentler sex;
lovely women and the Vigilance Committee did more for San Francisco in a few
years than any other power brought to bear upon it. The capital, the "Queen City
of the Pacific," has now no lack of imposing public buildings. Two Cathedrals
- Episcopal and Roman Catholic - churches and chapels, to say nothing of
Synagogues and Chinese Temples; schools innumerable; theatres and other places of
amusement; government and municipal edifices; an immense dry dock hewn from
the solid rock, 450 feet in length, by 120 feet in breadth; other docks in
progress; a grand sea wall now in course of construction, and a population of
140,000 people, are tolerable proofs that there is a wonderful vitality in the
country and that San Franciscans have some reason for belief in their future.
Twenty years ago all this did not exist; there was then but an embryo
disorderly village of shanties and tents on the sandhills and wastes now
covered by handsome streets. And then those San Francisco hotels. Five or six
storeys high, kept al' Americane, fitted up with more than usual luxuriance, where
the table set affords a sufficient proof of the richness of the country.
Things elsewhere luxuries on account of their rarity - game, from wild fowl to
antelope and elk; fish - salmon, sturgeon, and almost every other known variety;
fruit - grapes, peaches, melons, and green figs, are in the market, as cheap
and plentiful as the commonest meats or fruits elsewhere.
As the writer has shown in another place, the carte at the first class
San Francisco Hotel contains, in one harmonious whole, the delicacies of
London, Paris, New York and New Orleans. The Verdant foreigner an, till dyspepsia
brings him back to sanity and plain living, revel in waffles, buckwheat and
flannel cakes, fried and boiled mush, hominy, corn bread, French and Spanish
Omelettes, the National Fishball, gumbo soup, terrapin stews, clam and codfish
chowders, potato salad, sweet potatoes, oyster plants, green corn, elk meat,
Californian Quails, quash pie, floating island, ice creams, and rose candy
(candies and sweet meats often figure in the dessert of a dinner bill of fare.)"
-From "CASSELL's Illustrated Travels."