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What Sacramento, CA looked like in the 1860s

As the American Civil War began in 1861, Sacramento was strongly pro-Union, although the Confederate States of America also had active supporters there. Sacramento’s population was alarmed when Union forces stationed within the city were drawn eastward for battle in anticipation of an invasion by Confederate forces stationed in Texas. Consequently, volunteers formed military defense forces to counter a possible invasion. Sacramento adopted the Pony Express in 1860 to replace the inefficient ocean-based letter delivery system around Cape Horn in South America. The Great Plains were the first cross-continental communication route and connected California with the east. The Pony Express lasted only 18 months and was rendered obsolete when the First Transcontinental Telegraph arrived. The telegraph lines on the other side of the continent were connected to Sacramento by 1861.

The devastating floods of December 1861 and January 1862 threatened the future of the city. Sacramento residents agreed that additional levee construction was necessary to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, the city was divided between those who supported only a slight grading to raise the city off the crests of the rivers and those who supported substantial grading for basements in the city. After the election of 1863, the level of grading in the city became a primary factor; candidates that supported high-level grading won, and high-level grading renovations began.

In 1865, the burgeoning company acquired the Sacramento Valley Railroad, and in 1867, the Western Pacific Railroad was incorporated to connect Sacramento to Stockton. Due to the joint efforts of the two railroad companies, the Yolo-Sacramento Bridge was built, the first bridge across the Sacramento River.

Here are some stunning historical photos that show Sacramento, California in the 1860s.

#1 Construction of the Sacramento River waterfront near I Street, 1864.

Construction of the Sacramento River waterfront near I Street, 1864.

The old grade of the levee, sloping toward the Sacramento River is just visible below the boardwalk. Sacramento’s first bridge across the Sacramento River, which opened in 1858, also can be seen extending across the river to Yolo County.

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#2 Locomotive No. 162 on tracks at foot of U Street in Sacramento, 1869

Locomotive No. 162 on tracks at foot of U Street in Sacramento, 1869

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#3 The Levee at Sacramento, from the deck of the steamer Capital, 1866

The Levee at Sacramento, from the deck of the steamer Capital, 1866

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#4 The Railroad Depots on the Levee, Sacramento City, 1866

The Railroad Depots on the Levee, Sacramento City, 1866

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#5 K Street, Sacramento, 1868

K Street, Sacramento, 1868

View looking down K Street from the Masonic Hall in Sacramento. The Golden Eagle hotel and a church are seen on the left. Toll's Stable is seen on the right.

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#6 Old Sacramento street scene Wells Fargo Express Office 1863 Post Office Union Hotel Sacramento.

Old Sacramento street scene Wells Fargo Express Office 1863 Post Office Union Hotel Sacramento.

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#7 A Central Pacific Railroad train of the Dry Creek Bridge, located 17 miles east of Sacramento, 1865

A Central Pacific Railroad train of the Dry Creek Bridge, located 17 miles east of Sacramento, 1865

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#8 View of K Street looking west from 6th Street in Sacramento, 1868

View of K Street looking west from 6th Street in Sacramento, 1868

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#9 The Levee Sacramento 1866. The photo shows boats, railroad tracks with train, and men seated on boat in foreground.

The Levee Sacramento 1866. The photo shows boats, railroad tracks with train, and men seated on boat in foreground.

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#10 J Street, Sacramento, 1865

J Street, Sacramento, 1865

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#11 J Street, Sacramento, 1866

J Street, Sacramento, 1866

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#12 Sacramento from the top of the incomplete California State Capitol building while construction, 1867

Sacramento from the top of the incomplete California State Capitol building while construction, 1867

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#13 8th Street, Sacramento, 1865

8th Street, Sacramento, 1865

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#14 Capitol Building Under Construction, 1867

Capitol Building Under Construction, 1867

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#15 L. Kellogg hardware store, 1863

L. Kellogg hardware store, 1863

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#16 Cityscape in Sacramento, 1865

Cityscape in Sacramento, 1865

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#17 The Red House, Sacramento, 1860s

The Red House, Sacramento, 1860s

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#18 Downtown Sacramento, 1865

Downtown Sacramento, 1865

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#19 Pioneer Flour Mill on the Sacramento River, 1865

Pioneer Flour Mill on the Sacramento River, 1865

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#20 Sacramento, J Street east from 3rd Street, 1862

Sacramento, J Street east from 3rd Street, 1862

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#21 Prospect Hill from Camp 21., 1860s

Prospect Hill from Camp 21., 1860s

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#22 Road and Rocks at foot of Crested Peak, 1860s

Road and Rocks at foot of Crested Peak, 1860s

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#23 Antelope Ridge, near New Castle, 30 miles from Sacramento. Alfred Hart image, Golden State Photographic Gallery, Sacramento, 1860s.

Antelope Ridge, near New Castle, 30 miles from Sacramento. Alfred Hart image, Golden State Photographic Gallery, Sacramento, 1860s.

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#24 View looking north on Front Street from L Street; shows Central Pacific freight shed, 1869

View looking north on Front Street from L Street; shows Central Pacific freight shed, 1869

The photos shows locomotive and freight cars at left, Adams, Mc. Neill and Co. store and railroad freight cars at right; three men in the street.

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#25 The Government Stanford” engine in Sacramento, 1864

The Government Stanford" engine in Sacramento, 1864

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#26 Steamer “Chin Du Wan” docked on the Sacramento River, 1860

Steamer "Chin Du Wan" docked on the Sacramento River, 1860

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#27 The Levee at Sacramento, from the deck of the steamer Capital, 1866

The Levee at Sacramento, from the deck of the steamer Capital, 1866

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#28 Sacramento Bee Building, 1860

Sacramento Bee Building, 1860

The Sacramento Bee was founded as The Daily Bee in 1857. It is the longest-running and most widely circulated newspaper in the Sacramento area.

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#29 The second Sacramento County Courthouse being raised during the street raising project of the 1860s.

The second Sacramento County Courthouse being raised during the street raising project of the 1860s.

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#30 American River Bridge, 3 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

American River Bridge, 3 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

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#31 Secrettown, 62 miles from Sacramento, 1860s,

Secrettown, 62 miles from Sacramento, 1860s,

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#32 Owl Gap Cut, 80 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

Owl Gap Cut, 80 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

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#33 The Central Pacific snowsheds at Black Butte, near Cisco in 1867. It took three years to build the sheds.

The Central Pacific snowsheds at Black Butte, near Cisco in 1867. It took three years to build the sheds.

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#34 Road above Newcastle, 1860s

Road above Newcastle, 1860s

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#35 Ceremonies at the completion of the transcontintental railroad, 1869

Ceremonies at the completion of the transcontintental railroad, 1869

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#36 Central Pacific R. R. station, 1863

Central Pacific R. R. station, 1863

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#37 Flood, J Street at 3rd Street, looking east, 1863

Flood, J Street at 3rd Street, looking east, 1863

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#38 Store front on J Street with a men and a small boy posing in front of the store, 1868

Store front on J Street with a men and a small boy posing in front of the store, 1868

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#39 Union Boy cannon and Army crew in Plaza Park 1868.

Union Boy cannon and Army crew in Plaza Park 1868.

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#40 Cityscape, Sacramento, 1860s

Cityscape, Sacramento, 1860s

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#41 Cityscape of Sacramento taken from the state capitol building under construction. Taken from the Capitol Building. 10th street L to M street, looking West, 1868

Cityscape of Sacramento taken from the state capitol building under construction. Taken from the Capitol Building. 10th street L to M street, looking West, 1868

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#42 Auburn Depot, 36 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

Auburn Depot, 36 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

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#43 Emigrant Gap Tunnel Wall and Snow Covering, 1860s

Emigrant Gap Tunnel Wall and Snow Covering, 1860s

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#44 Flood of 1862, Sacramento, J Street looking east from levee.

Flood of 1862, Sacramento, J Street looking east from levee.

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#45 Railroad West from Fort Point, 76 miles, 1860s

Railroad West from Fort Point, 76 miles, 1860s

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#46 Sandstone Cut, near Alta, 1860s

Sandstone Cut, near Alta, 1860s

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#47 Tangent below Pino, 23 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

Tangent below Pino, 23 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

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#48 Building Trestle at New Castle, Placer County.1860s,

Building Trestle at New Castle, Placer County.1860s,

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#49 Road above Newcastle, 1860s

Road above Newcastle, 1860s

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#50 Sacramento flood, 1862

Sacramento flood, 1862

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#51 Heath’s Ravine Bank, 82 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

Heath's Ravine Bank, 82 miles from Sacramento, 1860s

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#52 Cement Ridge Old Man Mountain in distance, 1860s,

Cement Ridge Old Man Mountain in distance, 1860s,

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#53 Alta from the north…69 miles from Sacramento, 1860

Alta from the north...69 miles from Sacramento, 1860

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#54 K Street, looking east from near 6th Street Sacramento, 1866

K Street, looking east from near 6th Street Sacramento, 1866

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#55 Sacramento Daily & Weeklyl Union newspaper building, 1860s

Sacramento Daily & Weeklyl Union newspaper building, 1860s

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#56 Nine members of the California Milita Batter B. An 1841 Howitzer Cannon at left. The men stand in grassy area, bldgs. at rear, Sacramento City Plaza, 1865

Nine members of the California Milita Batter B. An 1841 Howitzer Cannon at left. The men stand in grassy area, bldgs. at rear, Sacramento City Plaza, 1865

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#57 La Grange, moored on the Sacramento River opposite H Street; used as the second Sacramento County prison from 1860s

La Grange, moored on the Sacramento River opposite H Street; used as the second Sacramento County prison from 1860s

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#58 Sacramento County Courthouse, 1865

Sacramento County Courthouse, 1865

It also served as the "Statehouse" where the State Legislature met until 1869 when the Capitol building was finished. This was was the second courthouse in Sacramento, built in 1855.

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#59 Cityscape of Sacramento, 1861

Cityscape of Sacramento, 1861

Cityscape of Sacramento taken from state capitol building under construction. Corner of 11th & L street looking North

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#60 View of the Courthouse located on the northwest corner of 7th and I Streets, 1865

View of the Courthouse located on the northwest corner of 7th and I Streets, 1865

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#61 Sacramento Valley Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad Buildings, 1863

Sacramento Valley Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad Buildings, 1863

In the immediate foreground, with a train stopped at its side, is the Sacramento Valley Railroad depot; to the right of that is the freight depot of the Central Pacific Railroad at 65 Front Street; beyond that, and boasting a double-cupolas roof, is Central Pacific’s passenger depot. At the end of Front Street, near the intersection with I Street, is the Sacramento Water Works building. Visible to the right of the photograph is wholesale grocer Adams, McNeill and Company. To the far left of the photograph and spanning the Sacramento River is the Central Pacific Bridge.

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#62 A View of Sutter’s Fort, 1862

A View of Sutter's Fort, 1862

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#63 K and 3rd Streets, looking south, 1865.

K and 3rd Streets, looking south, 1865.

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#64 Street scene with businesses, 1868

Street scene with businesses, 1868

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#65 Exterior view of the state capitol during its construction. View taken from the southeast side of the building, 1869

Exterior view of the state capitol during its construction. View taken from the southeast side of the building, 1869

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#66 Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 9th Street looking west in 1860. St. Rose of Lima Church is on the right.

Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 9th Street looking west in 1860. St. Rose of Lima Church is on the right.

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#67 Crowd and engines gathered for Transcontinental Railroad Golden Spike completion ceremony, 1869

Crowd and engines gathered for Transcontinental Railroad Golden Spike completion ceremony, 1869

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#68 K Street/9th Street 1868

K Street/9th Street 1868

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#69 Colfax from the South, 1860s

Colfax from the South, 1860s

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#70 Folsom Train Depot, 1860

Folsom Train Depot, 1860

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#71 Union Pacific Railroad train, 1869

Union Pacific Railroad train, 1869

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#72 265 Boca Crossing of Little Truckee, 1860s

265 Boca Crossing of Little Truckee, 1860s

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#73 Golden Spike Ceremony, 1869

Golden Spike Ceremony, 1869

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#74 J Street looking West, Sacramento City 1868,

J Street looking West, Sacramento City 1868,

The big anvil at left center marks E.J. Moore's Hardware store. P.H. Russell's grocery store at right center.

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#75 State Capitol at 7th and I Streets, 1860s

State Capitol at 7th and I Streets, 1860s

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#76 California State Capitol under construction, 1867

California State Capitol under construction, 1867

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#77 Shows Capitol under construction, view from southeast, 1868

Shows Capitol under construction, view from southeast, 1868

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#78 The single-story Henry Fisher Refreshment Saloon and California Candy Factory and Fancy Cake Bakery at 118 J Street, 1869

The single-story Henry Fisher Refreshment Saloon and California Candy Factory and Fancy Cake Bakery at 118 J Street, 1869

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#79 Elevated view of Sacramento taken from the dome of the capitol during its construction looking northeast over the city, 1868

Elevated view of Sacramento taken from the dome of the capitol during its construction looking northeast over the city, 1868

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#80 1212 Sacramento City, from the new Capitol Building— east, 1868

1212 Sacramento City, from the new Capitol Building--- east, 1868

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#81 An elevated view of Sacramento during the great flood of 1862. This view shows “China Slough” and the railroad construction project along I Street

An elevated view of Sacramento during the great flood of 1862. This view shows "China Slough" and the railroad construction project along I Street

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#82 Cityscape of Sacramento taken from the state capitol building under construction. Typed on the back of the image “Corner of 10th & N street in the year 1868.

Cityscape of Sacramento taken from the state capitol building under construction. Typed on the back of the image "Corner of 10th & N street in the year 1868.

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#83 Flood of 1862 in Sacramento. This view shows J Street from Front Street looking east.

Flood of 1862 in Sacramento. This view shows J Street from Front Street looking east.

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#84 View of Sacramento from atop of the California State Capitol building under construction, 1868

View of Sacramento from atop of the California State Capitol building under construction, 1868

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#85 The S.S. Grace Dollar unloading lumber at the W.F. Knox lumber yards in Sacramento, 1860s. Shown are approximately 50 people watching from the dock.

The S.S. Grace Dollar unloading lumber at the W.F. Knox lumber yards in Sacramento, 1860s. Shown are approximately 50 people watching from the dock.

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#86 A view down J Street, showing, to the right, both the Metropolitan Baths and B.F. Hastings and Company, 1868

A view down J Street, showing, to the right, both the Metropolitan Baths and B.F. Hastings and Company, 1868

Hastings was a long standing bank in Sacramento and held distinction as the western terminus of the Pony Express which ran from 1860 to 1861. Hastings operated until November of 1871, when it failed. The Metropolitan was one of many bath houses in Sacramento. A much earlier Capital City bath house was the Eureka, which sat on Second Street, between I and J Streets.

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#87 Trestle and Crossing of the American River near Sacramento-5145 feet long. 866, 1865

Trestle and Crossing of the American River near Sacramento-5145 feet long. 866, 1865

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#88 Last Act, 690 Miles from Sacramento, 1869

Last Act, 690 Miles from Sacramento, 1869

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#89 View of the Central Pacific depot at the foot of J Street Sacramento, 1869.

View of the Central Pacific depot at the foot of J Street Sacramento, 1869.

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#90 Named after Collis P. Huntington was the “C.P. Huntington” locomotive, 1864

Named after Collis P. Huntington was the "C.P. Huntington" locomotive, 1864

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#91 Central Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1868

Central Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1868

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#92 Looking east, of a deluged J Street near Fourth Street captures the scale of the flood of December 1861.

Looking east, of a deluged J Street near Fourth Street captures the scale of the flood of December 1861.

In the foreground is a sign for dentist W.H. Thomas, and the dry goods store of Patrick O'Connell and Jonathon Ryan. Just across the street is the St. George Drugstore. The winter of 1861-1862 saw two different levee breaks for Sacramento, one at 31st Street on Dec. 9 and one at Rabel's tannery on the American River a month later. In 1863, the city's business district was raised by 18 feet to avoid further flooding.

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#93 Group of young Sacramento women playing croquet, 1867.

Group of young Sacramento women playing croquet, 1867.

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#94 At the foot of Front & Jay street, looking East, in 1865.

At the foot of Front & Jay street, looking East, in 1865.

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#95 Sacramento River and Levee, from Front street, Sacramento City, 1860

Sacramento River and Levee, from Front street, Sacramento City, 1860

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#96 First machine shop CPRR 6th & D Sts Sac 1864

First machine shop CPRR 6th & D Sts Sac 1864

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#97 Central Pacific engine, A.A. Sargent, at J and Front Streets, 1865

Central Pacific engine, A.A. Sargent, at J and Front Streets, 1865

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#98 Front & L street looking North in 1865

Front & L street looking North in 1865

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#99 1862 Sacramento flood

1862 Sacramento flood

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#100 A rainy day in 1868 is viewed from on high upon the unfinished dome of the California State Capitol building. N Street and 12th Street intersect in the upper portion of the photograph.

A rainy day in 1868 is viewed from on high upon the unfinished dome of the California State Capitol building. N Street and 12th Street intersect in the upper portion of the photograph.

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#101 California State Capitol under construction, 1868

California State Capitol under construction, 1868

The photographer is standing near 10th and L streets, facing southeast. The shear detail of the undertaking was enough to push one of the building's architects, Reuben Clark, to insanity.

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#102 Central Pacific Railroad Locomotive “A.A. Sargent”, 1865

Central Pacific Railroad Locomotive “A.A. Sargent”, 1865

A. A. Sargent,” also known as Number Seven, at the foot of J Street, facing east from Front Street. The locomotive’s namesake, Aaron Augustus Sargent, served as U.S. Senator from California from 1873 to 1879. In the foreground, two rail workers look toward the camera while the locomotive’s tender is packed with wood.

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#103 Central Pacific Railroad and China Slough. 1868

Central Pacific Railroad and China Slough. 1868

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#104 Original Central Pacific Depot, 1863

Original Central Pacific Depot, 1863

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#105 Central Pacific Railroad Locomotive “A.A. Sargent”, 1865

Central Pacific Railroad Locomotive “A.A. Sargent”, 1865

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#106 L Street circa 1865 is depicted with unpaved streets and wooden sidewalks, 1865

L Street circa 1865 is depicted with unpaved streets and wooden sidewalks, 1865

The shops are not easily identified although the words "Drugs," "Oils," "Paints," and, faintly, "Merchants Hotel" can be seen on a building on the right. To the left, a banner has the words "Coal Yard" on it.

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#107 Second Street Between J and K Streets, 1863

Second Street Between J and K Streets, 1863

The Union Hotel dominates view of the west side of Second Street, between J and K Streets. Several people stand in front of the hotel while some stand on the balcony overlooking the street.

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#108 Flood 1861-1862; K Street near Front Street.

Flood 1861-1862; K Street near Front Street.

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#109 A sketch of Sutter’s Fort as it appeared in 1862, fourteen years after its abandonment by John Sutter.

A sketch of Sutter’s Fort as it appeared in 1862, fourteen years after its abandonment by John Sutter.

The land formerly belonging to Sutter was contested in the years preceding this image with the City of Sacramento seeking to claim the former Mexican land grant. Decades before the restoration spearheaded by the Sons of the Golden West, in this image the fort lacks walls and consists of a single central building flanked by two smaller structures and surrounded by vegetation.

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#110 Sacramento River, from the Bridge at Sacramento City, 1860

Sacramento River, from the Bridge at Sacramento City, 1860

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#111 Steamers for the Upper Sacramento River, at Sacramento, 1860s

Steamers for the Upper Sacramento River, at Sacramento, 1860s

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#112 Union Hotel and Wells Fargo Express, 2nd Street between J & K Streets, 1863

Union Hotel and Wells Fargo Express, 2nd Street between J & K Streets, 1863

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#113 An elevated view looking west on K Street from 7th Street is Street, 1869. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

An elevated view looking west on K Street from 7th Street is Street, 1869. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

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#114 An early Central Pacific view of “Camp Victory” on the Utah plain, April 28, 1869.

An early Central Pacific view of "Camp Victory" on the Utah plain, April 28, 1869.

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#115 St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 1869

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 1869

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#116 State capitol under construction, 1867

State capitol under construction, 1867

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#117 The Monarch From the West, 1869

The Monarch From the West, 1869

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#118 Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 7th Street looking east in 1869. The Golden Eagle Hotel is on the left and St. Rose of Lima Church is across 7th Street further on the left.

Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 7th Street looking east in 1869. The Golden Eagle Hotel is on the left and St. Rose of Lima Church is across 7th Street further on the left.

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#119 Main Street of Cisco, California, 1866

Main Street of Cisco, California, 1866

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#120 1063. The Levee and Steamers at Sacramento City, 1860s

1063. The Levee and Steamers at Sacramento City, 1860s

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#121 1064. Sacramento City, K Street, Masonic Hall and Catholic Church, 1860s

1064. Sacramento City, K Street, Masonic Hall and Catholic Church, 1860s

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#122 Sixth Street, Sacramento City, Grammar School, Baptist Church, Masonic Hall, 1860s

Sixth Street, Sacramento City, Grammar School, Baptist Church, Masonic Hall, 1860s

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#123 The Levee and Central Pacific Railroad Freight Trains, Sacramento, 1860s

The Levee and Central Pacific Railroad Freight Trains, Sacramento, 1860s

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#124 Steamer Landing, and Pacific Railroad Depot, Sacramento City, 1860s

Steamer Landing, and Pacific Railroad Depot, Sacramento City, 1860s

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#125 The River and Steamers at Sacramento City, 1860s

The River and Steamers at Sacramento City, 1860s

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#126 A group of men sitting by the woodpiles on the back of an engine, 1869

A group of men sitting by the woodpiles on the back of an engine, 1869

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#127 American River, from Green Bluffs, 1860s,

American River, from Green Bluffs, 1860s,

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#128 Sacramento, 1865

Sacramento, 1865

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#129 Central Pacific Railroad. View from Bloomer Cut, 1866

Central Pacific Railroad. View from Bloomer Cut, 1866

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#130 Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 5th Street looking west in 1868.

Street scenes of businesses on K Street from 5th Street looking west in 1868.

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#131 Long Vavine Bridge near Colfax, 1860s

Long Vavine Bridge near Colfax, 1860s

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#132 State Capitol Under Construction, 1867

State Capitol Under Construction, 1867

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