Mark Twain's San Francisco --1864-1867 : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I'm very interested in what Mark Twain would have seen when he came to San Francisco in the 1860's. What, in the city, would he have seen that is still around now? Could you suggest a Mark Twain walking tour, with places to see, that have remained unchanged--or drastically changed--since then? Are there any resourced that I could get in a good local library that would have information about these questions? Thank you very much.

-- Lauren Groff (, August 18, 2003


There is an available book of photos of SF in the 1850s that might be good for a start. It is: San Francisco Album: Photographs, 1854-1856 By G. R. Fardon, Rodger C. Birt, Fraenkel Gallery, Jr. Hans P. Kraus, Hans P. Kraus, Jeffrey Fraenkel Hardcover  /  Chronicle Books  /  August, 1999  /  0811826309 There was of course changes due to new construction and fires, but a lot would be the same.

-- Don Martinich (, August 21, 2003.

I've wracked my brain trying to think of areas that haven't changed since the 1860s but I'm coming up cold. The City has changed so drastically that Mark Twain would never recognize it. Here are a few landmarks that are "relatively" unchanged, although the surroundings may be drastically altered:

Fort Point. The fort was completed in 1861 and has remained substantially unchanged since the Civil War. Except for the Golden Gate Bridge overhead, that is. Twain visited here and wrote a story about the soldiers carrying out target practice.

Fort Mason. The houses on the bluff of Fort Mason overlooking Aquatic Park date from the 1850s, but were substantially rebuilt by the army in the next 150 years. They still look like 19th century homes, though, and their park-like setting is relatively unchanged since the 1860s when the area was known as Black Point.

Mission Dolores. To get an idea of the mission during Twain's era, erase everything surrounding the original adobe church and add a seedy hotel on the site of the modern basicilica. In the 1860s a carriage ride out to the mission and back was considered a fine day's outing.

Cliff House. Another 1860s destination, a "Cliff House" has stood on this site since 1864. Although the present building only dates from 1909, the exposed bluff it stands on and Seal Rocks offshore are unchanged. The views from the bar would be immediately recognizable to Twain, who visited there at least once.

Fort Funston dunes. Much of San Francisco was composed of rolling sand dunes, and early citizens complained bitterly about the blowing grit that penetrated everywhere and every orifice. To get a feeling for the natural world of SF, visit the dune areas of Fort Funston. Of course, you'll have to ignore the exotic ground cover (mostly introduced iceplant from Africa) and the bounding dogs and ever- present dog poop that now dominate most of the dunes.

-- John Martini (, August 21, 2003.

I have a rather biased recommendation: check out the new book from Heyday Press: Mark Twain's San Francisco, edited by Bernard Taper. (ISBN 1-890771-69-4, $14.95). Anything you could want to know about San Francisco as Twain saw it...from the man himself. Find out more by visiting the Heyday website:

I hope that helps!

-- Zachary Nelson (, November 20, 2003.

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