San Francisco is one of the most populous cities in the US, but it wasn't always that way. About 170 years ago, the city was relatively empty. Then the California Gold Rush led its population to balloon by a factor of 25 in a single year.
For the most part, the city has continued to grow ever since.Advertisement
Vintage postcards from the last century and a half showcase this evolution. While some of the city's celebrated attractions, like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf, are still around, others depicted in postcards have been lost to time.
Take a look at the popular San Francisco sites printed on postcards during each decade.
San Francisco was relatively uninhabited before the Gold Rush. In 1846, the city only had around 200 residents.
Starting in the 1850s, many Chinese citizens immigrated to the neighborhood now known as Chinatown.
By the turn of the 20th century, San Francisco was the largest city on the West Coast. It was also quickly becoming a hub for maritime trade.
In 1904, the US began constructing the Panama Canal, which created a faster route for ships between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
An amusement ride known as "The Chutes" was popular among San Francisco residents in the early 1900s.
A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco in 1906. The disaster ignited a series of fires that destroyed 80% of the city.
As the city rebuilt, many of the new buildings were designed to mimic the old ones. The Palace Hotel, for instance, re-opened as the "New Palace Hotel" in 1909.
San Francisco hosted the 1915 world's fair. The event celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, but it was also an opportunity to show off the newly rebuilt city.
After the earthquake, San Francisco lost some of its population and trade activity to Los Angeles, so local officials toyed with the idea of expanding the city.
During Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, many San Franciscans took their drinking underground.
Until the late 1930s, most East Bay residents traveled to San Francisco by ferry. They'd arrive at the Ferry Building, then could take streetcars to other destinations.
After bridges like the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge opened in the 1930s, the number of ferry passengers sharply declined.
In 1935, Sicilian immigrant Mike Geraldi built the first restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf.
Bowling alleys became popular throughout the city in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary operated as a high-security prison from 1934 to 1963. It appeared on postcards well before it became a tourist destination.
By 1945, ridership on the city's cable cars had declined, and there were only five lines in operation.
One of the city's oldest surviving nightclubs, Bimbo's 365, opened in 1951.
From 1955 until 1961, San Francisco residents could take a sky tram from the Point Lobos nature reserve to an oceanfront restaurant called the Cliff House.
In the 1960s and 1970s, San Francisco became a hub for the counterculture movement.
In the 1980s and '90s, the TV sitcom "Full House" popularized a row of Victorian homes called the "Painted Ladies."