The Paris of the West

Leta E. Miller

in Music and Politics in San Francisco

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268913
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950092 | DOI:
The Paris of the West

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By the 1870s, San Francisco had become known as the Paris of the West—a must-visit destination for tourists, mariners, sightseers, and fortune seekers, a city of mystery and intrigue, a gathering place for the world's adventurers. The city had grown up haphazardly—with little or no urban planning—as the locus of the gold rush, and it boasted a fiercely independent population of adventurers hailing from Europe, Asia, and the eastern United States. These immigrants brought with them not only their material possessions but also their musical cultures, fostering a fascinating, if at times unrefined, sonic diversity. At 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, San Francisco residents were shaken by a massive earthquake that lasted for nearly a minute. The earthquake marked a watershed in San Francisco's political, social, and cultural history. 4.7 square miles of the city center was in ruins, the town's utilities were disabled, its financial institutions dysfunctional, its political infrastructure discredited by graft, its cultural institutions deprived of their homes, and its inhabitants scattered to Oakland, to Marin, to the peninsula, and to refugee camps in Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. San Francisco was in sorry shape indeed.

Keywords: San Francisco; musical cultures; immigrants; earthquake

Chapter.  11915 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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