11 Things You Didn't Know About San Francisco

San Francisco is a pretty well-known place. When you think of San Francisco, you might think of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz prison, or the steep streets and rolling hills. This city is also known around the world for countercultural movements of the 1960s.

If you’re a foodie, you might even think about Ghiradelli’s Chocolate, Rice-A-Roni, lobster rolls or sourdough bread! And these days, San Francisco also brings to mind the tech boom and a rising cost of living.

However, the thirteenth largest city in the US also has some pretty interesting historical facts. Check out these 11 interesting facts we’ve gathered–you might be surprised how much you don’t know about SF!


1. Success During The Great Depression

While the rest of America suffered during the Great Depression, every single bank in San Francisco stayed afloat. In fact, the economy was so strong that both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge were both constructed during this era.

2. The 1906 Fire

In 1906, about 75% of the city was destroyed by a combination of earthquake and fire. The 1906 earthquake became the first natural disaster to be documented with photography. After the quake, fires resulted and they burned for over 4 days. Adjusted for inflation, the fire caused about $8 billion in damages.

3. Redwoods Saved the Day

Redwood trees helped to save the city from the 1906 fire! See, Redwood has low resin content and a porous grain. This makes for a wood that is more moist and not as flammable as other woods. When the raging fire reached a building made of Redwood, the structure did not burn as easily.

4. Cable Cars – a Symbol of San Francisco

Did you know that San Francisco’s cable car system is the only National Historical Monument that is mobile? The cables that pull the historic cars run at a constant speed of 9.5 miles per hour!

5. The Emperor of the USA?

Joshua Abraham Norton, a lifelong SF resident, declared himself the Emperor of the United States. Obviously, he was quite a character. You can read about him here. He was an eccentric fellow for sure, but he had a cult following: over 10,000 people attended his funeral.

6. The Birth of the United Nations

The United Nations Charter, which affects the well-being of people worldwide, was drafted and ratified at the 1945 San Francisco Conference.

7. A Farewell to the Beatles

The Beatles gave their final concert at Candlestick Park. John, Paul, George, and Ringo said goodbye on August 29, 1966. The band sold 25,000 tickets, and ended up losing money on the show.

8. A Sailor’s Grave

During The Gold Rush, San Francisco’s port became packed with abandoned ships. The increase in population made for high demand to build the city up. Because of this, many “ghost ships” were torn apart and the materials were repurposed. To this day, many homes, businesses, and banks are made in part from salvaged ships.

9. The Invention of Blue Jeans

Levi Strauss invented denim jeans in San Francisco. The influx of Gold Rush miners were searching for a new type of clothing that was comfortable, yet durable, so they could work easily. That’s right – you have San Francisco to thank for your favorite pair of jeans.

10. How Fortunate!

The first Chinese immigrants to the United States arrived in San Francisco in 1848. The Fortune Cookie was invented in San Francisco around this time, but ironically it was the brainchild of a Japanese family! The Hagiwara family created the “Chinese” fortune cookies for a celebration Golden Gate Park’s Tea Garden.

11. International Orange

The U.S. Navy originally planned to paint the Golden Gate Bridge black with yellow stripes. So you see, the Golden Gate Bridge was almost painted like a giant bumblebee. The famous pattern, dubbed “International Orange,” was intended to be a sealant.

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