San Francisco Stories During the 1800s

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Without ships, pioneers would have lacked many items needed (and desired). Sailing vessels brought everything imaginable from around the world: billiard tables, brandy, bricks, buggies, champagne, chandeliers, cherries, cooking utensils and ranges, garden chairs, grape vines, hay forks, iron shutters, lace, lumber, nails, olive oil, oysters, pears, peas, pianos, pineapples, ploughs, porcelain, putty, rubber, safes, serapes, shingles . . . even Havana Cigars and Smoking Opium. Strange are the Unclaimed Goods, which makes one wonder of the fate of the owners of those packages.

July 1, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

FROM CENTRAL AMERICA

Guatemala, January 1, 1853

Everything which tends to the development of commerce and new trade on the Pacific coast, must always be interesting to your California readers. There are few countries so little known to Americans as this; and in fact there is not one in a thousand that has an idea of the immense advantages Central America possesses for traffic and trade with California.

Guatemala imports annually goods to the amount of $3,000,000. Her exports of cochineal, sarsaparilla &., equal in amount three and a half millions of dollars. Salvador exports rice, sugar, cochineal, segars &. Costa Rica exports coffee which is the finest in the world; her exports amounted last year to two hundred thousand quintals.

Costa Rica is more advanced than any other of the Central American provinces. The inhabitants are wealthy, the finances of the Republic are in a healthy condition, the people are industrious, and such a thing as a beggar is not known in the whole Republic. The imports of Central America may be put down at ten millions of dollars.

Nicaragua is the poorest of the whole five republics, but it is occasioned by continual revolutions. The present administration, however, is liberal and has the support of the people, and if they progress as they have lately done it will not be many years before she will be marked as an enterprising State.

There have lately great improvements taken place both in the policy of the Government, and general change of feelings towards foreigners. It is strange that in Guatemala, Salvador and Costa Rica, there is not more than ten Americans. All the trade is carried on by English and German merchants, and they are terribly afraid that the Yankees will come in and molest them in their lucrative businesses. And, in fact, a blow has been struck by an American, which will make a great revolution in trade and business here, and the poco poco way of doing business will in some measure be done away with.

A gentlemen from California, Capt. Thomas Wright, son of the well-known and enterprising steamboat man, Capt. J. T. Wright, has just concluded a contract with the Central American Republic for the exclusive privilege of the coasting trade for the term of ten years. The Captain gets five hundred thousand dollars bonus to carry the mails once a month to Panama during the term of contract. The company is called the Central American Steam Navigation Company. The first steamer will commence running on the 15th of October. If all the Californians are of the same stripe as the Captain you must have a great country up there. He astonished the natives in this part of the world, and the cry is now viva, viva lost Americanos.

The soil and climate of the interior of the republic is the finest in the world; fruit of all descriptions grow in abundance. Fine woolen cloth is manufactured which is generally worn by the natives. They are very partial to the American cotton goods which is introduced by the English merchants by the way of Europe.

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Daily Alta California, January 17, 1853

Clipper Ships and California -- The high rates which clipper ships are getting for freight to California are yielding large profits. A first class clipper about full has a cargo which will pay $80,000 freight. The cost of the vessel was only $90,000. It is said all cost and charges on the vessel on her voyage to China via California and back will be about $40,000, which leaves a net profit of $40,000 exclusive of the freight on the return cargo from China. These returns have greatly stimulated the business of shipbuilding and especially in the construction of this class of sharp, tall-masted, fast sailers. Every new clipper, like a new race horse, is expected to be a little better and faster than its predecessors. Baltimore first started in clipper-ship building, turning out small vessels for the African coast trade. These the new Pacific trade has greatly enlarged and improved, until our present fleet of clipper ships outstrips all others in every part of the world.

Daily Alta California, January 7, 1863
Exports of Leading Articles of Domestic Produce, from 854 to 1863, adclusive.

Editor's Note: The totals listed in the Daily Alta California as noted below are difficult to read; some may be off. We also removed "cents" on the top chart in order to fit this onto one page. While this is an excellent general source to give you an idea of exports, if you are planning on citing these figures, we advise checking the source and/or another source.)

ARTICLES 1854 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859 1860 1861 1862
Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value Quantity $Value
Abalones, pkgs.
--
--
--
--
--
--
-- -- -- -- -- -- 3,200 15,512 4,888 27,814 1,426 7,574
Barley, sacks
15,000
28,409
73,1600
80,280
4,884
12,000
182,602 196,700 182,570 205,291.25 114,059 195,513 133,495 205,879 73,862 366,224 98,239 133,500.31
Beans, sacks
--
--
---
--
--
--
4,708 28,248 20,770 31,155 12,599 18,898 7,414 18,983 4,945 12,487 8,053 36,622.51
Bread, pkgs
--
--
2,280
44,000
--
--
4,708
28,248
4,036
32,689
3,443
19,034
7,956
29,203
12,184
41,566
8,336
33,314
Flour, bbls.
58,115
522,085
115,716
925,728
77,260
583,089
9,005
90,080
16,330
179,630
25,274
164,231
114,936
590,733.85
170,563
894,462
105,357
75,182
Hay, tons
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
905
11.201.45
439
5,786
636
13,140
Hides, No.
43,000
107,508
112,770
383,8110
147,889
443,517
170,447
681,788
168,938
549,032
151,364
454,092
200,350
100,750
181,166
544,951
381,583
1,033,873
Horns, No.
--
--
--
--
--
--
114,00
4,469
77,381
1.934
19,224
480
68713
1,717.82
44,437
850
61,610
1,168
Lumber (assorted) feet
4,5000
90,000
--
--
8,9000
175,000
16,660
266,250
6,326,000
158,142
3,780,508
86,948
3,445,731
75,806.08
3,337.839
78,748
9,197,631
175,139
Oats, sacks
3,184
6,388
49,306
123,265
9,428
22,500
68,811
137,622
176,476
198,836.50
170,740
258,158
69,303
76,292
163,045
172,727
53,705
97,568
Onions, sacks
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
2,606
3,352.69
986
2,532.16
577
3,348
Ore (silver) value
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
407,339.17
--
188,845
--
52,800
Potatoes, sacks and boxes
25,910
51,820
16,771
33,342
--
--
10,080
10,000
16,049
16,049
4,227
9,468
39,260
44,111.10
15,857
17,969.31
10.044
22,896
Quicksilver, flask
20,963
648,817
25,965
975,621
3,024
883,185
27,262
954,100
26,212
870,500
3,367
126,262
8,962
338,329
35,219
1,112,654
35,707
1,169,107
Salmon, pkgs
2,500
12,480
447
2,235
--
--
2,141
19,269
1,612
20,956
3,296
32,750
4,422
32,476
3,318
28,833
1,692
11,228
Shingles, No.
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
1,635,250
5,723
2,498,600
8,570.50
3,2500
3,715
Skins and Furs, pkgs
--
--
--
--
--
--
37,000
15,00
1,480
26,805
942
50,463
1,150
17,201
965
29,742.31
2,741
54,831
Tallow, pkgs
--
--
539
21,560
1,700
67,660
1,668
35,00.09
918
21,901.59
1,577
37,848
2,125
49,697
2,192
65,982.72
2,351
77,089
Wheat, sacks
4,967
14,901
86,413
172,826
22,840
57,00
3,781
11,343
--
--
131,540
282,311
1,136,096
1,957,765
1,350,783
2,647,655
720,378
1,395,150
Wine, pkgs
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
1,230
13,700
1,849
35,582
858
27,619
774
12,399
1,122
28,635.40
Wool, lbs.
175,000
14,000.60
360,000
36,000
600,000
80,000
1,100,000
165,000
1,428,551
199,969
2,378,250
356,737
5,055,325
397,192
3,721,998
507,297
5,990,300
1,068,487
Sundries, value
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
42,080.37
--
223,298
--
480,004
TOTAL VALUE
--
1,496,761
--
2,753,147
--
2,279,942
--
2,319,266
--
2,526,790
--
2,129,330
--
4,948,921
--
4,988,375
--
6,578,779

July 7, 1863, Daily Alta California
The Imports and Exports of Treasure, and Value of Merchandise exported during the first half-years of 1862 and 1863, respectively, were as follows:

Treasure Imports.
From 1862 1863
Mexico
$390,733.65
$1,431,197.58
Panama
4,350
5,630
Honolulu
4,965.46
24,774.50
China
6,200
--
Japan
482.50
--
TOTAL
$406,731.61
$1,462,572.08
In the imports of Treasure from Mexico, during the present six months, is included $710,543.77 recovered from the wreck of the steamer Golden Gate.

Treasure Exports.
To 1862 1863
New York
$11,290,866.57
$5,650,876.49
Great Britain
4,215,814.13
15,068,456.68
Central America
232,587.29
363.548.35
China
1,009,584.85
1,651,440.80
East Indies
73,005.61
66,200
Japan
4,500
7,306.19
Mexico
--
59,488.67
Honolulu
8,000
5,106.60
TOTAL
$16,834,388.48
$22,812,423.78
Gross Merchandise Exports.
To 1862 1863
Boston
$263,244.12
$644,389.58
New York
1,336,204.75
1,131,815.41
Australia
49,521.18
181,628.43
Cape of Good Hope
--
46,450.25
Central America
51,879.68
110,787.19
Chile
108,113.89
79,298.94
China
301,957.59
658,104.87
East Indies
8,294.44
24,950.60
France
--
12,202.10
Great Britain
377,966.99
724,687.50
Japan
13,016.50
33,017.28
Mexico
425,687.41
1,007,247.98
New Zealand
44,176
59,051.47
Pacific Russia
137,843.92
181,144.32
Peru
145,338.51
145,431.96
Sandwich Islands
169,794.46
167,584.45
Society Islands
20,112.18
8,283.43
Vancouver and Br. Col.
1,178,593.80
954,609
TOTALS
$4,631.745.42
$6,167,684.76

Shipment of Treasure

In addition to bringing passengers and goods into port, when ships left the Port of San Francisco, they also carried passengers, goods and gold! Passengers and goods were delivered up and down the West Coast from Alaska to the tip of South America, some enroute to Eastern seaboards, some carrying on commerce along Pacific shores. The gold, however, was taken to England and New York for the most part, as indicated in the table below.

July 8, 1868, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Per Steamer Golden Age, July 8, 1868

B. Davidson & Berri
$235,858.88
Wells, Fargo & Co.
151,992.88
Sather & Church
113,157
Parrott & Co.
95,202.96
Hentsch & Berton
58,944.93
H. Colin & Co.
51,800
J. Seligman & Co.
42,600
Wm. T. Coleman & Co.
88,850
Scholle & Bros.
35,000
Jno. B. Newton & Co.
32,242.53
Reynolds, Reis & Co.
11,193.57
Stevens, Baker & Co.
9,000
Other shippers
82,079.58
TOTAL
$1,048,573.80
RECAPITULATION
To England
$765,898.68
To New York
279,680.12
To Panama
5,000
TOTAL
$1,048,573.80
 

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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