Social Violence and Conflict
in San Francisco:
A Chronology of the American Era

Textual links lead to Tales from Colma
Watch for further chronologies on Union Activity,
Viglantism, and the 1907 Graft Prosecution
1849 The city catches on fire, after Sydney Ducks allegedly burn down the abode of a merchant who refuses to pay them protection money.
The Hounds raid "Little Chile".
1850 Several more citywide fires are blamed on the Sydney Ducks.
1851 The First Committee of Vigilance is organized to deal with the Hounds and the Sydney Ducks.
1852 State Senator James W. Denver and U.S. Representative and Alta California publisher Edward C. Gilbert row out to Angel Island to settle a dispute over Gilbert's attacks against Governor James Bigler on the field of honor. Only Denver returns alive.
1853 A head, reputed to be of the bandit Joaquin Murietta, is displayed at King's Saloon. A debate ensues in the city's newspapers as to whether the head brought by Captain Harry Love is truly that of Murietta.
War breaks out at Third and Mission as two rival groups lay claim to the same lot. Two men die and five are wounded in the battle over squatter's rights.
1854 The "head of Joaquin Murietta" is displayed by John W. Chiles, a former ranger and companion of Harry Love at Long Wharf. Chiles does this to try to raise money to cover the expenses of himself and the other rangers who produced the trophy.
Landowners hire special private police to protect their property from squatters.
Squatters emplant the galley of a sailing vessel on the west corner of Howard and First. They name their entrenchment "Fort Larkin".
1855 The Sheriff of San Francisco County seizes the alledged head of Joaquin Murietta from its owner, one Wothring, to satisfy a judgement. The head is sold at auction for $36 to a Judge Lyons and a Mr. J.V. Plume. A news writer laments: "Poor Joaquin. A price was set on his head while living, and a price is set upon it now that he is dead. It is a head that seems particularly liable to executions." The head is later resold for $100.
1856 James King of William, editor of the Evening Bulletin, is shot and killed by James Casey.
The Second Committee of Vigilance is organized and hangs supervisor James Casey and, as an afterthought, Charles Cora. Judge Ned MacGowan flees the city to avoid being tried by the Vigilante star chamber for aiding Casey.
General John Wool refuses to help Militia General William Tecumseh Sherman and Governor J. Neely Johnson put down the Vigilante insurrection.
Former U.S. heavyweight champion Yankee Jim Sullivan dies in the Vigilante prison. Vigilantes claim he has committed suicide. An inquiry by the Catholic Church finds that Sullivan has been murdered and allows him to be buried at Mission Dolores Cemetery.
David S. Terry stabs a member of the Vigilance Committee.
1858 San Francisco blacks set up a waterfront patrol to rescue Archy Lee, a slave whose master has attempted to retain possession of him even after settling in California. Lee is ultimately freed by a decision of the United States Commissioner.
1859 David S. Terry fatally shoots Senator David Broderick in a duel at Lake Merced.
On the day of Broderick's funeral, Joshua Norton announces that he will be hereafter known as Norton I.
Alcatraz is first used as a military prison for the Military Department of the Pacific.
1860 G.H. Woodman of Mendocino publishes an appeal in the San Francisco newspapers asking for assistance against Indians who he claims have been murdering and thieving cattle in his area. Woodman is later tried for enslaving thirteen Indian orphans, but is acquitted.
1861 The Committee of Thirty unsuccessfully petitions General Albert Sidney Johnston to turn over all the forts and weapons in the West to the South. Though Johnston resigns his command to join the Southern cause, he refuses to join in the conspiracy.
Pro-Union demonstration in Portsmouth Square.
1862 San Franciscans found an "Anti-Coolie Club" which promotes anti-Chinese feeling and lobbies for restrictive immigration quotas.
1865 The Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science, a thinly disguised peep show, acquires "Joaquin Murietta's" head. It remains on display there for 41 years.
A competitive race between three volunteer fire companies turns to violence as members of each company try to prevent the others from arriving first to a fire. Several dozen men suffer gunshots, bruises, wounds, and broken bones. The incident prompts the State Legislature to authorize paid fire departments.
1867 Anti-Chinese violence. Chinese laborers are driven from their work and their homes are destroyed by angry white laborers.
1870 The anti-Chinese "Industrial Reformers" organize.
Rival Chinese cigar makers fight along Battery Street.
1871 Dennis Kearney brags that he need only give the word and the murder of Charles Crocker will be accomplished.
1873 The Chinese Six Companies wires Hong Kong with a request to stop emigration to San Francisco.
William M. Lent travels to Hardin County, Kentucky to sue Phillip Arnold for defrauding Lent, George D. Roberts, and William Ralston in "The Great Diamond Hoax". Friends of Arnold ambush Lent and beat him, forcing the financier to leave town unrecompensed.
"Paiute Tom" becomes the first Indian prisoner on Alcatraz. He is mortally shot by a military guard 2 days later.
Thistleton's Jolly Giant begins its weekly slurs against Catholics, Irishmen and Chinese. It ceases publication nine years later.
1875 Catholics meet to protest the expulsion of the Sisters of Charity from Mexico.
Bank of California magnate William Ralston accidentally drowns or commits suicide after financial opponents force a rush on his bank.
1876 Chinese laborers riot against two shoe manufacturers who back out of their contracts and refuse to return deposits.
Jail officials begin enforcement of short hair styles by cutting off the queue of a Chinese prisoner.
Dennis Kearney leads the "Sandlot Riots" against the city's Chinese.
1879 Chronicle editor Charles de Young shoots and seriously wounds mayoral candidate Isaac Kalloch after Kalloch tells an audience that the libelous editor's mother ran a house of ill repute.
1880 Isaac M. Kalloch, son of the mayor, hunts down Charles de Young in the editor's office. Kalloch is acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
1884 Adolph Spreckels shoots Chronicle editor Michael de Young after de Young defames the Spreckels family. De Young survives to give the city the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Adolph Spreckels is found insane and goes on to give the City the rival Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.
A young chief of the Chiricahua Apache by the name of Kaetena is imprisoned on Alcatraz.
1890 David S. Terry is shot and killed by U.S. Marshall David Neagle after Terry strikes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field. Field has earned Terry's wrath by ruling that documents giving Terry's wife a share of the estate of the late Senator William Sharon are fraudulent. Terry and his wife, Sarah Althea Hill Terry, are enroute to San Francisco for sentencing in a contempt of court case before Judge Field.
1894 Members of the San Francisco contingent of Coxey's Army are harassed by Oakland police.
1895 19 Hopi Indians are imprisoned on Alcatraz by the U.S. Army.
1898 Cowboy Maggie Kelly, the proprietor of a Barbary Coast dive, prevents black soldiers from entering her bar. When asked why she was being so unpatriotic, she says "I hate niggers. I'll blow the head off any nigger that comes into the place."
1899 Presidio soldiers riot. 300 are arrested.
1901 Mayor James Phelan angers both capital and labor when he refuses to call on outside help and uses city police to put down a waterfront strike.
1904 Bulletin publisher R.A. Crothers is mugged by an unknown assailant. A Bulletin editorial charges "Boss" Abe Ruef and the administration of Mayor Eugene Schmitz with engineering the attack to intimidate the Bulletin out of printing stories about Ruef and Schmitz's graft.
1905 The San Francisco Chronicle launches a series which accuses Japanese immigrants of debauching white women, deliberately undermining the school system, and causing crime and poverty in California. The series inspires the founding of The Japanese and Korean Exclusion League with 80,000 members.
1906 General Frederick Funston orders Presidio troops to help with relief activities and deter looting after the Great Earthquake and Fire. Though Funston acts without authorization, he is lauded for his decisive intervention.
A pickled head, exhibited as that of notorious bandit Joaquin Murietta, is believed destroyed when the earthquake and fire demolish the Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science.
A Japanese delegation sent to investigate the earthquake is attacked by angry whites.
The San Francisco School Board orders all students of Oriental descent to attend a segregated school in Chinatown.
1907 Boss Abe Ruef flees the graft prosecution. He is tracked to Trocadero House in Stern Grove, arrested, and imprisoned in a hotel to face justice.
White citizens demonstrate against Japanese residents.
The San Francisco School Board rescinds its decision to segregate Japanese students after the Japanese government puts pressure on President Theodore Roosevelt to respect U.S. treaty obligations.
Alcatraz is officially designated as a military prison.
1908 A bomb explodes in the home of Supervisor James L. Gallagher, a key witness against Abraham Ruef. The conspiracy is traced to Felix Panduvaris who hired Peter and John Claudiannes to bomb Gallagher's homes. Panduvaris flees the country.
Graft prosecutor Francis J. Heney is shot in court by Morris Haas. Heney publically embarassed Haas some months before by revealing Haas's criminal past during jury selection. Heney survives, but Hiram Johnson must continue the prosecution.
1916 Trade Unionists Thomas Mooney and James Billings are framed after a pipe bomb explodes at the Preparedness Day Parade, killing ten.
1918 A San Francisco publishing house releases Dr. Albert Abrams's "Homosexuality: A Military Menance" which tells how to identify gay servicemen.
1934 Bloody Thursday. When scab labor attempts to ram its way through a picket line using heavy trucks, unionists riot. The lines hold at the cost of two lives.
1936 Alcatraz laundry and kitchen workers stop work. Prison authorities march the strikers back to their cells, putting them on bread and water diets. Twenty one prisoners respond by going on a hunger strike: Warden Johnston orders that they be force fed.
1937 132 Alcatraz prisoners refuse to come out of their cells after the noon count. Two days later, Burton Phillips assaults Warden Johnston in the mess hall, knocking him down and kicking him unconscious.
1938 Thomas J. Mooney is pardoned.
1940 Alcatraz prisoners fast to protest prison conditions.
1941 Henry Young defends himself against a charge of murder in the first degree by claiming that he was driven mad by conditions at Alcatraz. A jury finds him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and calls for an investigation of the prison. An angry trial judge sentences Young to the maximum three years for his murder of Rufus McCain, who convicts testify had been out to get Young for alledgedly snitching on Arthur "Doc" Barker. An official investigation of Alcatraz leads to reforms in prisoner housing.
29 Alcatraz laundry workers, most of them recent transfers from Leavenworth where they'd led a massive strike, stop work. Guards lock the strikers in their cells or place them in isolation.
Authorities begin arresting Japanese aliens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By mid-1942, all Japanese aliens and Americans of Japanese descent are removed from the city and relocated in desert concentration camps for the duration of the war.
1946 The Alcatraz Blast-Out: A mutiny of Alcatraz inmates led by Bernard Paul Coy is put down by an invasion of U.S. Marines and bombardment of the island. McCoy is killed before the Marines' arrival by a shotgun blast to the head.
1949 American-born Japanese war propagandist Tokyo Rose, Iva Tuguri d'Aquino, is tried and sentenced for treason.
1950 Attempts by the State Alcoholic Beverage Commission to close down The Black Cat, a gay bar owned by Sol Stuman, end when the California State Supreme Court rules that bars cannot be discriminated against because they choose to cater to gays or lesbians.
1957 The obscenity prosecution of Alan Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the publication of Ginsberg's poem Howl ends with the acquittal of both men.
1960 Demonstrators disrupt a subcommittee hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee being held in the Board of Supervisors' chamber at City Hall. Police Captain Phil Kiley orders firemen to turn hoses on the demonstrators and then arrests them after they are washed down the City Hall steps, thus ending Kiley's career. Following this, Fire Chief Murray stipulates that hoses are never to be again used on people. The order remains in effect at the time of this writing.
1963 Alcatraz prison closes.
1964 A landing party of five Lakota Sioux led by Richard McKenzie arrives at Alcatraz in an attempt to claim it for a Native American university and cultural center.
1965 Police harass attendees of a New Year's Eve costume ball benefit for the Council on Religion and Homosexuality.
1966 Drag queens and gay hustlers protest Compton Cafeteria's refusal to serve them by breaking windows and demonstrating in the neighborhood around Turk and Taylor.
Gays "Rally to Protest Exclusion of Homosexuals from the Armed Forces" on the Federal Building steps.
Vietnam peace march proceeds up Market Street.
1967 Peace demonstrations in Golden Gate Park.
Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury.
1968 San Francisco State College students strike against the Vietnam War.
Private Richard J. Bunch is shot while trying to escape the Stockade at Fort Winfield Scott, the Presidio. Three days later, 27 prisoners sit down and refuse to work. Three later escaped and the other twenty four found guilty of mutiny. Sentences ran up to 15 years. A Court of Review throws out the mutiny offense, but sustains charges of willful disobedience. The longest incarceration is one year.
1969 Indians of All Tribes begin a 19 month occupation of Alcatraz Island, beginning a national political movement of Native Americans.
Peace marchers congregate in Golden Gate Park.
Zodiac begins his reign of terror with murders in Vallejo and San Francisco.
1970 Mayor Joseph Alioto receives several death threats.
1971 United States Marshalls recapture Alcatraz Island.
Many are arrested when peace demonstrators attempt to shut down the city's financial district.
1973 The Zebra murders begin. The name comes from the radio channel which police use to coordinate the manhunt.
1974 The Zebra murders end with the arrest of four suspects.
1975 FBI informer Sara Jane Moore attempts to win the confidence of the group she is infiltrating by shooting at President Gerald Ford. She misses and is quickly apprehended.
City newspapers reveal that Billy Sipple, who rescued Gerald Ford, is gay.
City police and firemen strike.
1976 City workers strike. Walkout shuts down Muni.
The Zebra murders trial ends after 376 days with the conviction of the four "Death Angels", members of a Black Muslim splinter group. Twenty-five white persons have been killed or wounded in the course of their jihad.
Former Mayor Alioto's home is bombed.
Supervisors Quentin Kopp, John Barbagelata, and Dianne Feinstein receive packaged bombs which do not explode.
1977 Juan Cordova and three other attackers corner Robert Hillsborough and his lover in a dark alley. The lover escapes, but Hillsborough dies of fifteen stab wounds. His death galvanizes the gay community into political action.
Protestors repel Sheriff Richard Hongisto attempts to evict residents of the International Hotel.
The car of District Attorney Joe Freitas is bombed. Freitas is not hurt.
Shots are fired at the Watsonville beach house of Dianne Feinstein.
A gunman penetrates City Hall security and enters Mayor Moscone's office.
1978 Representative Leo Ryan is killed when he goes to Guyana to investigate People's Temple prophet Jim Jones. Jones orders his followers to join him in a mass suicide.
Dan White assassinates Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk after Moscone, prodded by Milk, refuses to reappoint White to the supervisorial seat from which he'd recently resigned. This happens only days after Jonestown.
1979 White Night Riots: Gay demonstrators clash with police after Dan White is found guilty only of manslaughter. Police counterattack with a riot of their own until stopped by Deputy Police Chief Kevin Mullins. It is thereafter known as "Mullin's Retreat."
1981 A U.S. sailor stationed at Mare Island is arrested after Mayor Dianne Feinstein receives an extortion letter. The letter threatens the detonation of a nuclear device on 15 July if the City does not pay a ransom of $100 million in industrial diamonds.
1985 Dan White commits suicide after returning to the Excelsior District following the end of his parole.
1989 Eighty ACT-UP (Aids Coalition To Unleash Power) block the Golden Gate Bridge.
Progressive Mayor Art Agnos angers well-to-do Marina District residents when he informs them that they have fifteen minutes to remove personal belongings before demolition of their earthquake damaged homes.
1990 ACT-UP protestors hold a sit-in at the Marriot Hotel.
Police arrest Lynn Faske after she makes death threats against six supervisors who voted to demolish the Embarcadero Freeway following the Quake of '89.
Texas Televangelist Larry Lea brings 10,000 followers to San Francisco to "slay the demon" through prayer while gays gather in the Castro to celebrate Halloween.
1991 Tens of thousands march down Market Street in protest against the Gulf War.
1992 Mayor Frank Jordan announces a state of emergency and a curfew after looters and vandals hit downtown following the Rodney King beating verdict.
Police Chief Hongisto is fired after he orders his officers to clear the racks of 2000 copies of an issue of the gay Bay Times which criticizes his tactics against King demonstrators.
1993 City police begin persecuting Food Not Bombs organizers who hand out meals to the homeless in city parks and plazas.

Thanks to Dave Fowler of the Museum of the City of San Francisco and National Park Service staff of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for their help with this page.
Photos taken during January 1991 demonstrations against the Gulf War by Joel GAzis-SAx. Copyright 1991 by Joel GAzis-SAx. All rights reserved.