Mail Call in San Francisco

“As early as the 1840s President Polk had acknowledged that mail service between the East and California was ‘indispensable for the diffusion of information, for the binding together [of] the different portions of our extended Confederacy.’ This hunger for mail was almost palpable in the early 1850s. When the monthly steamer arrived from Panama bearing mail from the East, a canon was fired on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill., followed by bedlam throughout the city.

The physician William S. McCollumn, writing in 1850, described men waiting in line for days; men paying other men to stand in line for them; miners paying with gold dust to but places in line from other men; men who expected no mail but stood in line anyway, to sell their position to someone else; men sleeping overnight in blanket rolls, all to hold their place in the hope of news from home.”