Waiting in line for your daily newspaper

William Endicott, lithographed after a drawing by H. F. Cox, Post Office, San Francisco, California. A Faithful Representation of the Crowds Daily Applying at that Office for Letters and Newspapers. Lithograph. New York: William Endicott & Co., [ca. 1850]. Graphic Arts GA2010- In process

The California Gold rush began in January 1848, bringing nearly 300,000 people to California. On November 9, 1848, the first San Francisco branch of the United States Post Office opened at the corner of Clay and Pike Streets. During the height of the gold rush, there was no delivery of mail to the mines or to the tent cities of Sacramento and Stockton. Miners had to come to San Francisco, where lines began forming early each morning for the 7:00 a.m. opening.

Notice that there are four lines. On the left, where the sign says “Espanol”, the branch offered Spanish speaking service. In the middle was general delivery and on the right box delivery. Around the corner to the far right was a door where daily newspapers were collected. By October 1849, more than 45,000 letters had piled up undelivered in this post office and the clerks had to barricade themselves in to protect themselves from the crowd.

Harry Twyford Peters (1881-1948), California on Stone (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, inc., 1935). Graphic Arts: Reference Collection (GARF) Oversize NE2310.C2 P4 1935q

Ted Morgan, A Shovel of Stars: the Making of the American West, 1800 to the Present (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995). Firestone Library (F) F591 .M865 1995