An abbreviated listing of San Francisco history resources that I use in researching and writing the show. These are a few of my favourites, my go-to sites when I’m sitting in front of the Infernal Machine.

It goes without saying that I’ll be adding to this list in the days, months and years to come — and I’d love to get suggestions from you. Just drop me a line at richard (@) sparkletack.com.

» San Francisco History
» San Francisco Photo & Map Archives

History Resources

  • “What’s on the 6th floor?”
    The official blog of the San Francisco Public Library’s San Francisco History Center and Book Arts & Special Collections!

  • April 18, 1906
    “Exploring San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and fire through the photographic archive” — A new and interesting project, which pulls out individual period photos and digs in deep.

  • Bay Time Reporter
    A series of smart, funny and insightful columns on a staggering array of Bay Area historical (and contemporary) subjects, written by the inimitable Paul Potocky. Highly recommended… the man can write.

  • California Business History
    Don’t be put off by the awkward design; this site is actually packed with timelines, photographs and histories of California (and San Francisco) businesses.

  • California Historical Society
    The grand-daddy of California history in its physical incarnation, the Society’s website features an online guide to over 300 years of California history. This resource includes over 400 images from their fine arts, library, and photography collections.

  • Library of Congress
    The “American Memory Project” — just type “San Francisco” into the search bar and jump back at the flood of photos and historical artifacts… this is the Library of Congress, after all!

  • Market Street Railway
    All things “streetcar”, packed with historical articles and photos — the home of the brand new “San Francisco Railway Museum”

  • Mister SF
    Long time chronicler of the city’s faces and places. This website features countless short takes on aspects of life in our favourite city — local joints, the vanishing of favourite haunts, literary/cinematic history and more.

  • Noehill – San Francisco Historic Landmarks
    A mixed bag, featuring a great photographic listing of San Francisco registered historical landmarks, as well as some nice stuff on the Eureka Valley, Russia Hill, & Alta Plaza neighborhoods. (California historical landmarks also have listings here)

  • Online Archive of California
    A part of the “Digital Library of California” — over 1,000 texts available. These include transcripts of oral histories, personal narratives, letters, press releases, newspaper articles, and other types of documents.

  • Russian Hill Neighbors
    Small site — couple of nice walking tours and a guide to neighborhood architectural styles, run by a non-profit neighborhood association.

  • San Francisco Genealogy
    An incredibly rich and comprehensive collection of historical sources — always my first stop on quests for information. Many primary sources, maps, and a forum where host Ron Filion helps answer your San Francisco history questions.

  • San Francisco Memories
    A loving tribute to our fair city from a passionate collector of San Francisco ephemera — photo intensive and quite lovely.

  • San Francisco Pier 70
    The story of the historic shipyard at Potrero Point

  • San Francisco Virtual Museum
    A long running and deep archive dedicated to historical accuracy, curated by the energetic Gladys Hanson. A terrific source for primary texts & photos, currently featuring major exhibits on the Gold Rush, Golden Gate Bridge, and ’06 Quake.

  • SF Genealogy’s Research Resource List
    This list is not comprehensive, but seems pretty close to it! A fantastic resource for researchers.

  • The Western Neighborhoods Project
    “Preserving the history of San Francisco’s West side” — An excellent site featuring photos, memories, and passionately in-depth essays documenting the lesser-known half of San Francisco.

  • Up from the Deep: The Hotel Project
    San Francisco’s downtown SRO hotels – past, present, and future

  • Western history and genealogy blog – Denver Public Library
    I know it isn’t San Francisco, but the West is the West! (don’t miss the link to their image galleries)

Historical Photo & Map Archives

  • America Hurrah!
    A little treasure trove of California historiana with a San Francisco slant — click on a link and a map, reminiscence, or who knows what may result. Good fun…

  • April 18, 1906
    “Exploring San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and fire through the photographic archive” — A new and interesting project, which pulls out individual period photos and digs in deep.

  • Calisphere – University of California
    A part of the “Digital Library of California” — More than 150,000 digitized items, including photographs, documents, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, advertising, and more…

  • Central Pacific Railroad – Photographic History Museum
    Not only photos — there’s all kinds of great stuff here, essays, articles, and historical data too — but what great photos! A sprawling site, and a joy to get lost in.

  • Charles Cushman Photograph Collection
    Charles Cushman, amateur photographer, bequeathed 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to Indiana University. Hundreds are of San Francisco in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s.

  • National Archives at College Park, MD
    These National Archives holdings cover the whole history of photography, and a few subjects are well represented in their digital collection.

  • Old SF
    Interactive map of the SF Public Library’s Historical Photograph Collection, which contains 40,000 digitized images from San Francisco’s past.

  • Online Archive of California
    A part of the “Digital Library of California” — access to tens of thousands of photographs, paintings, graphical materials and other images, which can be organized by topic.

  • Rails Around the Bay
    Frank Caron is an Amtrak engineer and passionate rail buff. His website focuses on railroads operating in and around the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including the history of operations in the area, maps, drawings and historical diagrams.

  • Rumsey Historic Map Collection
    This stunning collection of cartographic ephemera from the 18th and 19th centuries includes atlases, globes, school geographies, books, maritime charts, and more. Insanely cool.

  • San Francisco Public Library Historical Photo Collection
    Searchable collection featuring more than 250,000 photographs of San Francisco and California, from 1850 to the present day. Wow.

  • SF Images
    Images of the past and present day, people and places, structures and landscapes. Large collection of historical photographs, from pre-Gold Rush times to today, all digitally mastered at high resolution.

  • SF Library Sanborn Maps
    1867-1970 Sanborn Insurance maps — San Francisco Library card required!

  • SFGate.com “The Great Quake 1906-2006″
    Multimedia and photo galleries from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle

  • Shorpy – The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog
    Not San Francisco-centric, but a wonderful and growing user-driven collection of visual treasures from the previous century.

  • Zpub – Historical Map Collection
    Random collection of scans of historical maps

  • Zpub – San Francisco History Archive
    Photo-intensive collection of San Francisco-related material — collected generally from other online sources.