Timeline of San Francisco History
Barbary Coast, San Francisco, California from Wikipedia encyclopedia
Barbary Coast is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California.
Historically, Barbary Coast was known for gambling, prostitution and crime. It was a popular hangout for people who became
rich during the California Gold Rush (1848 - 1858).The Barbary Coast is now a residential and commercial district, no different
than other areas of the city.
The Barbary Coast was an outgrowth of Sydney town, the area at the foot of Broadway and Pacific Street formerly inhabited
by the Sydney Ducks. The neighborhood acquired its new name sometime around 1860 from the name of the coast of North Africa
(Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt) where Arab pirates attacked Mediterranean ships. The name Barbary is derived
from the Berbers which itself comes from Barbarian, although the majority of the Berbers lived simple, rural lifestyles.
Pacific, one of the earliest streets to be cut through the hills, led directly from the wharf at Clark's point to the
center of town, near Portsmouth Plaza.
Barbary Coast was the haunt of the low and vile of every kind. The petty thief, the house burglar, the tramp, the whoremonger,
lewd women, cut-throats and murderers, all are found there. Dance-houses and concert saloons, where bleary-eyed men and faded
women drink vile liquor, smoke offensive tobacco, engage in vulgar conduct, sing obscene songs, and say and do everything
to heap upon themselves more degradation, unrest and misery.
Numerous, low gambling houses thronged with riot-loving rowdies in all stages of intoxication were there. Opium dens,
women and men were sprawled in miscellaneous confusion, disgustingly drowsy, or completely overcome by inhaling the vapors
of the nauseous narcotic, are there. Licentiousness, debauchery, pollution, loathsome disease, insanity from dissipation,
misery, poverty, wealth, profanity, blasphemy and death, werre rampant in the Barbary Coast.
The Barbary Coast rose from the massive infusion of treasure seeking argonauts during the Gold Rush. Men from Europe,
Asia, South America, and the eastern United States sailed into San Francisco Bay bound for the Mother Lode, many only staying
in the gold fields briefly before returning to San Francisco with saddle bags full of nuggets and gold dust.
At the end of 1849, out of a population of between 20,000 and 25,000, only about 300 were women and almost two-thirds
of those were available for a price. Miners, sailors, and sojourners hungry for female companionship and bawdy entertainment
continued to stream into San Francisco in the 1850s and 60s becoming the Barbary Coast's primary clientele. As The City exploded
with the new arrivals, some with shady pasts, soon a wide variety of land sharks, con artists, pimps, and prostitutes staked
out an area designed to pluck the gold and silver from the pockets of men through liquor, lust, laudanum-laced libations,
or just a hard knock on the noggin.
Sailors in particular had cause to dread the area because it was there the the art of shanghaiing was perfected. Many
a sailor woke up after a night's leave to find himself unexpectedly on another ship bound for some faraway port. When there
was a shortage of sailors for departing ships any able-bodied man who wandered into the wrong saloon, or drank with the wrong
companion, could wake up with a mysterious hangover and a a rolling deck beneath him.* Shanghaied! Crime in the streets and
corruption in the government offices plagued San Francisco in the 1850's.
Panoramic view of San Francisco