Online Exhibit: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Online Exhibit: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
Room One

The Growth in Population

Due to increased foreign immigration and the rise of domestic industry, American cities experienced a population boom in the late 19th century. San Francisco was no exception. Its population had been increasing exponentially since the Gold Rush. There were less than 35,000 residents in 1852; by 1900, the US Census counted nearly 343,000. One of the leading factors of that growth was a steady stream of Chinese immigration during the latter half of the century. Not only did this phenomenon raise San Francisco's population, it inspired an anti-Chinese labor movement whose broad charges were illustrated by this lithograph.

Autographed by "C.M." and housed in the Bancroft Library's Robert Honeyman Collection, this piece used the "bird's-eye view" style common at the time. From a contrived vantagepoint on an unidentified hill, it shows San Francisco as caught in a triangle of Chinese immigration Vancouver, BC being one point of entry, the docks of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. the other. The city teems with Chinese who occupy all manner of industrial works, and across the sea looms the threat of China, illustrated as a sun-like visage with Chinese facial features and a queue. The message is clear: hundreds of miles of land and leagues of ocean were not barriers enough to thwart mass Chinese immigration. Moreover, it proved extremely popular, as the political movement culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Yet the Chinese remained an integral part of the city's population and helped San Francisco to become the largest urban center in California.




Poster of Chinese Immigration
[Chinese immigrants coming to San Francisco, California]
Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material
BANC PIC 1963.002:1477—C
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