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San Francisco's Top 10 > Moments in History

Moments in History


More on historic sites.

  1. Native Americans

    There were settlements in the Bay as early as the 11th century BC, made up of hunters and gatherers who enjoyed a rich diet of seeds, shellfish, and game. Historians group these peoples into the Coast Miwok, the Wintun, and the Ohlone.

  2. Sir Francis Drake

    In 1579, the English privateer landed near Point Reyes and claimed Alta California for Queen Elizabeth I. Along with other early explorers of the area, he failed to notice the marvelous bay just inside the straits. England didn’t follow up its claim to Northern California, leaving it to the Spanish to conquer.

  3. Spanish Control

    About 200 years after Drake’s wanderings, Spain got serious about establishing a presence in Alta California. In 1776, an expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza arrived at San Francisco Bay and established the Presidio (fort). A mission was also founded by Father Junipero Serra (see Mission Dolores).

    Statue of Father Junipero Serra
  4. American Takeover

    Impending war with Mexico in the 1840s inspired US leaders to arouse the interest of Bay Area settlers in joining the Union. In 1846, a party of Yankees in Sonoma declared California’s independence from Mexico, christening it the Bear Flag Republic. Shortly after, Commodore John Sloat claimed California as US territory.

  5. Gold Rush Days

    In 1848 landowner John Sutter noticed a curious glitter in the sediment of the American River in the Sierra Nevada foothills and realized it was gold. Despite attempts to keep the discovery quiet, word leaked out, and businessman Sam Brannan displayed a bottle of gold dust and nuggets for the whole city to see. The subsequent stampede of ‘49ers turned the city into a boom town overnight.

  6. Wells Fargo

    Stagecoaches of Wells Fargo & Co began carrying freight and passengers in 1852, taking full advantage of the momentum set up by the Gold Rush. It was also instrumental in the development of the Pony Express (see Wells Fargo History Museum).

  7. Panama-Pacific Exposition

    Held in 1915 to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, the real raison d’être for the festivities was that San Franciscans had resurrected their city after the 1906 disaster (see Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium).

  8. Bay and Golden Gate Bridges

    The Bay Bridge’s inauguration in 1936 heralded the end of the age of ferryboats by linking the city to the East Bay. The inauguration of the Golden Gate Bridge took place a year later.

  9. ”Summer of Love”

    San Francisco counterculture burst forth in the summer of 1967. Suddenly, hippies were everywhere, and the eerie, poetic music that embodied a new way of thinking filled the air. It was a socio-political shift that affected the whole world.

  10. Senators Feinstein and Boxer

    California has always been several steps ahead of the rest of the country. In 1992 it became the first state to send two women Senators to the US Congress, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.


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