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Rare Historical Photos of Sacramento, CA in the 1850s

The history of Sacramento dates back to 1839 when John Sutter arrived near the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. Sutter’s Fort was established to develop an agricultural community, and it soon attracted businessmen seeking opportunities. As gold was discovered in the nearby foothills at a sawmill in 1848, Sutter’s Fort became the epicenter of the gold rush due to its proximity to the river. Sacramento was primarily made up of hastily built wooden structures covered with canvas during the gold rush. After devastating fires in the West, a group of citizens founded the first volunteer fire department. Mutual Hook and Ladder No. 1 was formed on February 5, 1850, marking the beginning of the Sacramento Fire Department.

Flooding was a significant threat to Sacramento because of its waterfront location. A major flood devastated the City in January 1850. Due to heavy rains, the American and Sacramento rivers crested simultaneously, flooding the grounds on which Sacramento was built. As a result of the flood, merchandise stationed at the Embarcadero washed away and had a significant economic impact. Hardin Bigelow led efforts to implement emergency measures to protect Sacramento from another disaster of that nature. The construction of protective levees and dams won him support, and he was elected the City’s first mayor. Bigelow prevented a second major flood in March 1850. The city suffered its first major fire in April of the same year. In November, several commercial establishments in the city were destroyed by a second fire. Citizen volunteers founded California’s first fire protection organization in response to growing fears of a catastrophe. To combat wind drafts and the spread of fires, the city installed iron window shutters. Three devastating floods made this proposal a reality, and thousands of cubic yards of dirt were brought in by wagon to raise the entire city one story. Some basements and boardwalks in Old Sacramento still show the original street level.

#1 North [West] side of Montgomery street, from California to Sacramento, 1855

North [West] side of Montgomery street, from California to Sacramento, 1855

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#2 St. Francis Hook and Ladder Fire Company,1856

St. Francis Hook and Ladder Fire Company,1856

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#3 Empire no. 1 Engine Company, 1853

Empire no. 1 Engine Company, 1853

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#4 Fort Vigilance (or “Fort Gunnybags”), the headquarters of San Francisco’s second Vigilance Committee, on Sacramento Street between Davis and Front Streets, 1856

Fort Vigilance (or "Fort Gunnybags"), the headquarters of San Francisco's second Vigilance Committee, on Sacramento Street between Davis and Front Streets, 1856

Sandbag fortifications are in front of the building, armed guards are on the sandbags and on the roof, and the bell of the Monumental Engine Co. is mounted on the roof, as are small cannons. Cora and Casey had been hanged here some weeks previously.

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#5 View over the City, containing the portions between California and Bush streets. May 1855

View over the City, containing the portions between California and Bush streets. May 1855

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#6 View down Stockton street, May 1855

View down Stockton street, May 1855

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#7 Exterior view of John Breuner Furniture Warerooms showing the delivery wagon and six men posing next to the wagon in front of the store, 1856

Exterior view of John Breuner Furniture Warerooms showing the delivery wagon and six men posing next to the wagon in front of the store, 1856

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#8 Sacramento, 1859

Sacramento, 1859

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#9 Early day mining camp as seen from a distance in its mountain setting, 1855

Early day mining camp as seen from a distance in its mountain setting, 1855

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#10 View of man, possibly James Marshall, standing in front of Sutter’s Mill sometime after the discovery of gold, 1850

View of man, possibly James Marshall, standing in front of Sutter's Mill sometime after the discovery of gold, 1850

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#11 Cal. Stage Co. 1851

Cal. Stage Co. 1851

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#12 View of Weinstock and Lubin’s first store, the Mechanic’s Store, located at 4th and K Sts., 1855

View of Weinstock and Lubin's first store, the Mechanic's Store, located at 4th and K Sts., 1855

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#13 Sacramento, 1857

Sacramento, 1857

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#14 J. G. Clark & Co., furniture warehouse, 1857

J. G. Clark & Co., furniture warehouse, 1857

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#15 Stanford Bro’s. Wholesale Warehouse, 1857

Stanford Bro's. Wholesale Warehouse, 1857

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#16 Southern Pacific Railroad Shops, 1858

Southern Pacific Railroad Shops, 1858

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#17 Freeman & Co. Express, 1851

Freeman & Co. Express, 1851

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#18 First Congregational Church, 1857

First Congregational Church, 1857

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#19 Sacramento Daily & Weeklyl Union newspaper building, 1851

Sacramento Daily & Weeklyl Union newspaper building, 1851

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#20 A Birds-eye view of Sacramento Capitol of the State of California.Carriage and wagon in street in front building, 1857

A Birds-eye view of Sacramento Capitol of the State of California.Carriage and wagon in street in front building, 1857

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#21 View of front of the Masonic Hall building containing the “Red House” for lodging and a hardware store with groceries and miners supplies, Sacramento, 1859

View of front of the Masonic Hall building containing the "Red House" for lodging and a hardware store with groceries and miners supplies, Sacramento, 1859

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#22 Reproduction from the George Baker lithograph of Sacramento in 1857

Reproduction from the George Baker lithograph of Sacramento in 1857

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#23 Exterior view of the Masonic Hall on J Street between Front and Second Streets. This was the second home of the lodge in Sacramento, 1850

Exterior view of the Masonic Hall on J Street between Front and Second Streets. This was the second home of the lodge in Sacramento, 1850

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#24 Property of J.P. Dyer (Mayor of Sac.); Property of J.R. Hardenburg (Ex-Mayor of Sac.); Property of Jas. Birch, 1857

Property of J.P. Dyer (Mayor of Sac.); Property of J.R. Hardenburg (Ex-Mayor of Sac.); Property of Jas. Birch, 1857

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#25 Chinese Chapel, Sixth Street, 1855

Chinese Chapel, Sixth Street, 1855

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#26 McConnell home. Built in 1850, this brick home in colonial style at McConnell Station, near the Cosumnes River out of Elk Grove.

McConnell home. Built in 1850, this brick home in colonial style at McConnell Station, near the Cosumnes River out of Elk Grove.

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#27 California Centennial Historical Caravan, 1850s

California Centennial Historical Caravan, 1850s

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#28 McConnell home. Built in 1850, this brick home in colonial style at McConnell Station, near the Cosumnes River out of Elk Grove

McConnell home. Built in 1850, this brick home in colonial style at McConnell Station, near the Cosumnes River out of Elk Grove

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#29 Empire Ranch, Thomas Mooney Property, 1850s

Empire Ranch, Thomas Mooney Property, 1850s

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#30 Front Street, Sacramento, 1850s

Front Street, Sacramento, 1850s

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#31 Steamboat “New World” docked on the Sacramento River in Sacramento from the Yolo County side, 1850

Steamboat "New World" docked on the Sacramento River in Sacramento from the Yolo County side, 1850

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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