Fact or Fiction?

I keep telling people that this work is historical fiction with emphasis on the historical.  Hopefully, if I write things correctly, the line between them will be a bit faint and blurry.

Here are some fun tidbits to get your inner history geek excited!

Fact:  The J. W. Seaver did arrive in San Francisco, from Honolulu, on November 22, 1873.  Her cargo was Hawaiian cane sugar, and it took her 22 days to sail from Honolulu.

Fact:  Alcatraz was a military fort protecting the entrance of San Francisco Bay before it was converted to a high security prison.  Between its guns and batteries at Angel Island, Lime Point, and Sausalito, any enemy ship attempting to enter the Bay would have been an easy target for the overlapping firing ranges.

Fact:  US Customs Officials on the west coast were mainly concerned with cargo, not passengers, prior to 1880 and the passsage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Fact:  Andrew Hallidie built and tested the first cable car railway in San Francisco during the summer of 1873.  It ran up the Clay Street hill from Kearny Street at the bottom up to Leavenworth Street at the crest of Nob Hill – right through Chinatown.

Fact:  Joshua A. Norton, self-proclaimed “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico,” did commonly wander in the vicinity of Chinatown inspecting the cable car tracks.  He was often accompanied by a pair of stray dogs named Bummer and Lazarus.  I have described him based on existing photographs.

Fact:  The Hall of Justice for San Francisco used to stand on the north side of Portsmouth Square in San Francisco, prior to the earthquake and fire in 1906.

Fact:  Sacramento Street is insanely steep west of Kearney.

Fact:  Japanese people did commonly leave their sandals on train platforms by accident in the 1800s – Japanese railway companies had employees whose job was to collect them from the platform and pass them into the train before departure.

Fact:  William Ralston, San Francisco millionaire, often raced his prize teams against the train.  Belmont, his country estate, was 25 miles from the city (and is still there as part of the campus of Notre Dame University; look up “Ralston Hall”).  He would change horses along the way – and usually beat the train full of his guests.

Fact:  The Central Pacific Railroad tracks extended only as far as Soledad by the end of 1872.  They would not be continued to Los Angeles for several more years.

Fact:  Tiburcio Vasquez, Monterey County’s most famous bandit, made a raid on Hollister, CA in the summer of 1873 which resulted in several deaths.  An amateur manhunt was conducted for him for some time afterward throughout the surrounding counties.

Fact:  The United States nearly went to war with Spain over the Virginius Affair in late November 1873.

I’ll be adding more of these as I go along, so stay tuned!