How did the 'Tenderloin' get its name? : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

How did the 'Tenderloin' get its name? I am a cab driver and people aske me all the time.

If you have any history of this please let me know.


-- Denis Young (, January 23, 1998



I found this on a travel web site. Here it is in its entirety:

"As for me, my favorite San Francisco attraction is the Tenderloin District, a decaying, somewhat decrepit area that features the city's best taverns,like the ramshackle yet cozy Club Charleston.The Tenderloin's name supposedly derives from the long-ago days when cops patrolling the rough-and-tumble nabe received premium pay for their efforts, and were thus able to afford prime cuts of meat.

"The Tenderloin, of course, won't show up in most Bay Area guidebooks (not as an attraction, anyway  maybe as a place to avoid). But that's the whole point: Sometimes you've got to dig a little deeper if you want to turn your passive tourist experience into an active one."

Paul Lukas, February 27, 1997

However, I think there are other versions of the origin of Tenderloin. I'll keep looking.

The anonymous historian

-- anon (, January 24, 1998.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary, the term originated in New York City: "formerly, a district of NYC, below 42nd Street west of Broadway, in which there was much vice and corruption; so-called because regarded as a choice assignment for police seeking graft. 2. a similar district in any city.

-- Dorothy Leland (, January 25, 1998.

See New York Sun, April 19, 1906 at

"On Portsmouth Square the panic was beyond description. This, the old Plaza about which the early city was built, is bordered now by Chinatown, by the Italian district, and by the "Barbary Coast," a lower tenderloin. A spur of the quake ran up the hill upon which Chinatown is situated and shook down part of the crazy little buildings on the southern edge... The rush to Portsmouth Square went on almost unchecked by the police, who were more in demand elsewhere."

-- fred pitts (, April 04, 2000.

It is called the Tenderloin because the cops that worked the beat were essentially paid to look the other way. This was an attempt to keep illegal things corraled in one area of the city. The idea was the paid officer could then afford to be able to buy the best piece of meat that money could buy. That in a nutshell was how the name came about. If you have more questions feel free to email me!

-- Erin (, October 09, 2001.

when did to be earthquake of sanfrancisco if people were kiled of 2500

-- ramazanerbek (, November 27, 2001.

when did to be earthquake?

-- ramazanerbek (, November 27, 2001.

According to "Police Corruption - a Sociological Perspective," edited by Lawrence W. Sherman, this is how the New York Tenderloin got its name:

"In the late 1800's, a police prencinct in New York could be rated by the number of establishments featuring gambling and prostitution that could be systematically 'assessed' by the police. When Captain Alexander S. Williams was transferred to the Twenty Ninth Prencinct, the city's most fashionable red-light district, he rubbed his hands together and spoke of moving up from "salt chuck" to "tenderloin." Thus the district was christened "the Tenderloin."

-- Olivia Goldberg (, July 25, 2003.

I've heard the name came from the shape of the district which with Van Ness Ave. and Market St. as it's borders, looks like, well, a tenderloin.

-- Dedan H. (, March 28, 2004.

I do not know how the name "Tenderloin" came about, however, I do know that it was not a name exclusive to San Francisco. As a youngster, I heard Edward J. Pawley speak of the "Tenderloin" area of New York City when referring to the gangster/corruption element of the city. Edward J. Pawley was the star of the very popular "Big Town" radio program in the 1940s and early 1950s. Previous to that, he was a character actor in the movies for 12 years, and a leading man in Broadway shows prior to his movie career. He passed away in 1988 in Charlottesville, Virginia just shy of his 87th birthday.

-- Bob Corder (, June 15, 2004.

Fuck Me 1

-- cornelius (, July 09, 2004.

I'm sure that the term was borrowed from New York City, but I have also noticed that the district is laid out like a tenderloin, atop the spine of market street and just behind the head of government in the city.

-- Chris Vaughan (, July 09, 2004.

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