"I have seen purer liquors, better seegars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier cortezans, here in San Francisco than in any place I have ever visited." The correspondent was one Hinton Helper and the year was 1855, only six years after talk of gold in California had circled the globe and an army of argonauts had turned the sleepy hamlet of Yerba Buena into a rollicking cosmopolis. A dozen newspapers, round-the-clock casinos, a thriving theater scene, and several hundred saloons catered to the booming citizenry, as did an array of eating houses — French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Italian — that reflected the origins of... More >>>