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Liquor flows easily 1853 San Francisco

San Francisco 1853
San Francisco 1853

1853 was a boom year for the new city growing rapidly along the San Francisco Bay. About seven hundred and forty-five thousand tons of goods were imported that year, worth in those days more than thirty-five million dollars. Exports for the year included fifty-five million dollars in gold and seven hundred thousand dollars in mercury or quicksilver, as it was commonly known then. One thousand and twenty eight ships arrived in the port, six hundred and thirty-eight of which were American and three hundred and ninety-four foreign. Meanwhile one thousand six hundred and fifty-three ships departed.

Among the imports were one hundred million pounds of flour and meal worth five million dollars; twenty million pounds of butter at four million dollars; twenty-five million pounds of barley at a half million dollars; eighty million feet of lumber worth four million dollars; and immense quantities of pork, beef, sugar, soap, candles, coffee, tea, rice, footwear, dry goods, coal and many other unspecified provisions and merchandise.

But of all the imports that flooded into San Francisco the amount of alcoholic beverages, including brandy, whiskey, rum, gin, wine, porter and beer, were simply enormous. In the middle of the year in 1853, by actual count, there were five hundred and thirty-seven places in the city where liquor was sold, including forty-two wholesale liquor stores. There were five hundred and fifty-six full time bartenders and when the part timers were added in the total number came to seven hundred and forty-three, or one bartender for every sixty-eight people in the city. The people of early San Francisco, and those all across the mining regions, drank and they drank a lot.

John Putnam is the author of Hangtown Creek, a thrilling saga of the early California gold rush available in paperback, kindle and nook formats.