Sunday, September 23, 2012

How and When Did Golden Gate Become the "Official" Name?

drawing of Berkeley and the Golden Gate from Wikimedia Commons
Berkeley and the Golden Gate, between 1890 and 1905, from Wikimedia Commons

During the research for my previous post about the Golden Gate, I wondered how and when the Golden Gate become the “official” name.  What was the process for naming things in the 19th century? Did Fremont's map for the U.S. Senate give "official" status to the name? Did the U.S. Government have a standing panel that approved the names of new parts of the country? Or was this something for the states to handle? Or did explorers lobby mapmakers to include their preferred names on the first editions of maps for new territories, thus giving the name some inertia? Or did names simply work their way onto maps through some kind of diffusion, appearing on one after another until the name becomes the de facto official name?  Of course, different processes applied to different places, with cities and counties requiring some sort of governmental action, while things like straits, rivers and mountains might be less formal.

Lacking the time or skill to look into the process of naming things in the 19th century (that’s something for another day, when I can go to the UC Berkeley library and pester a research librarian), I thought it would be interesting to look at the when part of the initial question.

Early Names for the Strait
Let's first look at some of the earlier names for the strait, via yet another document in the Google Books collection, a 1907 monograph by George Davidson called The Discovery of the Bay of San Francisco and the Rediscovery of the Port of Monterey.  On pp. 137-138, Davidson has a lengthy exposition about the various names and descriptions for the strait (but oddly, for what is a scholarly work under the aegis of a scholarly organization, the Geographical Society of the Pacific, Davidson’s book lacks a bibliography or footnotes, so I don’t know the sources of the quotes below).  For the sake of brevity, I’ll summarize his findings in a table:

Who When What
Comandante Pedro Fagés 1772 “La Bocana de la Enseñada de los Farallones” (the large entrance to the Gulf of the Farallones)
Alexander Dalrymple 1790 “Entrance of the Famous Port of San Francisco”
Captain George Vancouver 1792 “The channel leading into this spacious port”
Langsdorff 1805 “This arm of the sea”
Otto Von Kotzebue 1824 “The channel which leads into this beautiful and spacious bay”
Captain F.W. Beechey 1826 No name given
Sir George Simpson 1841 “Strait about two miles in breadth”
Wilkes 1841 “The entrance to the harbor is striking. Bold and rocky shores confine the rush of the tide…”
Commodore Sloat and Captain Montgomery 1846 No name given after the seizure of the port of San Francisco from Mexico

The records found by Davidson indicate that the strait was nameless when Fremont got there, if we assume that the explorers listed above were familiar with the past and current writing and maps of the area, and therefor would have included things like “the strait was named X by Y in the previously published document Z” in their works, and that Davidson would have mentioned those citations.

To get a sense of when the name was first used, I went digging in the remarkable David Rumsey Map Collection.

The earliest non-Fremont map I found in the collection was Chart of the Farallones and Entrance to the Bay of San Francisco, published by Jno. T. Towers (Washington).  The map is marked 1850 below the title (but dated 1852 in the map collection’s bibliographic information).  This map was published, but by a private publisher -- who was probably trying to get some of their own gold from the Rush -- not by a government body, so we can’t really call it official. (Of course, the mapmaker could have gotten the name from an official document.)

A 1851 map from Cooke and Lecount (San Francisco) called State of California does not have the Golden Gate marked, but it covers the whole state, and with space a premium around San Francisco, they marked things like the points on the coast (“Boneta” [sic, see notes below] and “de los Lobos”) and the cities (including “Saucelita”, now called “Sausalito”). (Also of note is the absence of San Mateo and Alameda counties in the north -- with San Francisco County covering the entire peninsula and Contra Costa County covering the entire east bay region -- and the absence of Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and Imperial counties in the south.)

An 1853 map from the U.S. Coast Survey called Reconnaissance of the Western Coast of the United States from San Francisco to San Diego…(by Lt. Alden) doesn’t denote the strait as “Golden Gate”, but since it covers a wide span of the coast, from Point Reyes in Marin County to Point Loma in San Diego County.

A very early official map of California called the Approved and declared to be the official map of the State of California by an act of the Legislature passed March 25th 1853 (California was admitted to the Union on September 9, 1850).  Here's a detail of that map with Golden Gate marking the strait:

Detail of 1853 map of California from David Rumsey Map Collection
Detail of 1853 official map of California from the David Rumsey Map Collection

In Davidson's The Discovery of the Bay..., he also reviews some early maps of the San Francisco Bay, noting that “Golden Gate” was used in an 1850 survey of the approaches and entrance to San Francisco by Commander Cadwalader Ringgold, U.S.N., but not in several documents published in 1851 and 1853.
So it looks like the Golden Gate name had seeped into an official nautical map in 1850 and was in a very early official map of published by the California government in 1853.  Whatever the actual earliest official mention happens to be, Fremont's name was prophetic, preceding the nation-changing gold rush by just a few months, which forever associated San Francisco with gold.   
Regarding "Point Boneta", on page 139, in The Discovery of the Bay of San Francisco and the Rediscovery of the Port of Monterey, Davidson writes:
It may be mentioned in this connection that for a while after the occupation of California by the United States the spelling of the name of the north head of the Golden Gate was undecided but the United States Coast Survey finally settled upon Point Bonita. The proper name is Bonete the hat worn by some of the clergy When a vessel was approaching the north point she would see three heads each of which resembled the bonete and the point is referred to in old Spanish documents under that designation. The southern of the three has been cut down to give a lower position for the light house because the fogs sometimes lie well above the surface of the sea.

Image Credits

Random link from the archive: Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Monday, September 17, 2012

How the Golden Gate Got Its Name

Golden Gate Bridge by Ray Strong (1934), from the Smithsonian Institution

During the weeks leading up to the big 75th birthday party for the Golden Gate Bridge, I listened to a few podcasts about the bridge's history (like a Commonwealth Club panel, an hour of KQED's Forum, to name two).  During one of these, I learned how the Golden Gate got its name.  

With the tremendous political, social, and economic effects of the gold rush that started in 1849 – massive migration, generation of wealth, rapid development of political and economic institutions, California statehood – I had always assumed that the Gate was named because of the Rush.  But that's not the case.  (And my readers agree, with 100% of the respondents to the poll in my previous post saying the the Gate doesn't owe its name to the Gold Rush.)

The name was given by John C. Fremont, one of those larger-than-life men of the 19th century:  explorer, military governor of California, one of California's first U.S. Senators, a Major General for the Union in the Civil War, and so on.  During the mid-1800s, he went on tremendous journeys around western North America – the Rocky Mountains; Oregon and California; the Great Basin; the Sierra Nevada mountains; the Mojave Desert– often traveling in lands were few white people had been (careful inspection of this map in the David Rumsey collection will show some routes of Fremont’s groups during 1843,1844, 1845, and 1846).

One of the journeys began in 1845, when Fremont headed a team of surveyors, other science experts, and several Native American guides (but no soldiers – remember that in these days the areas he was visiting were theoretically part of Mexico, and often controlled by Native American tribes).  They had been sent by Fremont's father-in-law, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri.  Benton hoped that explorations like these would enable procurement of more land for the nation – and more land for his slave-owning allies in the South (If my history is correct, the 1840s were a time when the Missouri Compromise was in effect, which specified that whether slavery would be allowed in new states admitted to the Union would be decided by popular vote in that state. It sounds simple, but in reality was much more complicated, as Professor David Blight masterfully explains in this lecture archived at Academic Earth, which is also available as video+audio or audio-only from iTunes U and other podcasting services).

In 1846, they reached California and spent some time exploring the state, visiting the Sacramento Valley, San Jose, Monterey (the seat of Mexico’s government in Alta California), and as far north as Klamath Lake – but, interestingly, not San Francisco.  After returning to the East, Fremont and colleagues wrote an official report of their journey and submitted it to the U.S. Senate.  In this report††, Fremont christened the Bay's inlet "Chrysopylae", Greek for golden gate.

In Fremont’s Words 
Thanks to the expansive collection of old books in Google Books, I was able to find an 1849 reference to the Golden Gate from Fremont himself (and his deputy, Major Emory), in the Notes of Travel in California: comprising the geographical, agricultural, geological and biological features of the country, from the official reports of Col. Fremont and Maj. Emory (full text available at Google Books).  Here Fremont and Emory describe San Francisco Bay and its surrounding lands and waters, with the origin of the term Golden Gate in a footnote:
The bay of San Francisco is separated from the sea by low mountain ranges. Looking from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the coast mountains present an apparently continuous line, with only a single gap resembling a mountain pass. This is the entrance to the great bay and is the only water communication from the coast to the interior country. Approaching from the sea, the coast presents a bold outline. On the south, the bordering mountains come down in a narrow ridge of broken hills, terminating in a precipitous point against which the sea breaks heavily. On the northern side, the mountain presents a bold promontory, rising in a few miles to a height of two or three thousand feet. Between these points is the strait – about one mile broad, in the narrowest part, and five miles long from the sea to the bay. Passing through this gate,* the bay opens to the right and left, extending in each direction about 35 miles, having a total length of more than 70, and a coast of about 275 miles. It is divided, by straits and projecting points, into three separate bays, of which the northern two are called San Pablo and Suisoon [sic] bays. Within, the view presented is of a mountainous country, the bay resembling an interior lake of deep water, lying between parallel ranges of mountains. Islands which have the bold character of the shores – some mere masses of rock and others grass-covered rising to the height of three and eight hundred feet – break its surface and add to its picturesque appearance. Directly fronting the entrance mountains a few miles from the shore rise about 2,000 feet above the water, crowned by a forest of the lofty cypress, which is visible from the sea, and makes a conspicuous landmark for vessels entering the bay. Behind the rugged peak of Mount Diavolo [sic] nearly 4,000 feet high (3,770) overlooks the surrounding country of the bay and San Joaquin. [Ed. Note: this is on pp 22-23]

*Called Chrysopylae (Golden Gate) on the map on the same principle that the harbor of Byzantium (Constantinople afterwards) was called Chrysoceras (golden horn). The form of the harbor and its advantages for commerce (and that before it became an entrepot of eastern commerce), suggested the name to the Greek founders of Byzantium. The form of the entrance into the bay of San Francisco, and its advantages for commerce, (Asiatic inclusive) suggest the name which given to this entrance. [Ed. Notehere is an old map with a clear view of the Istanbul waterway known as the Golden Horn] 
Below is a detail of the map that Fremont and his associates produced for the U.S. Senate, the “Map Of Oregon And Upper California From the Surveys of John Charles Fremont And other Authorities.”  In this detail, you can see that "Chrysopylae or Golden Gate" marks the entrance into San Francisco Bay.

Detail of 1848 map from the David Rumsey Map Collection
  Another Description
For another description of the naming, we turn to History of California, Volume 1, by Theodore Henry Hittell (published in 1898, full text available at Google Books), which has this as a footnote on pages 391-392, during a discussion of the travels of Juan de Ayala, a lieutenant in the Spanish royal navy, in 1775: 
The name Golden Gate as applied to the entrance to San Francisco bay first appeared in John C. Fremont's map of Oregon and California. That map was published at Washington in 1848. In the accompanying “Geographical Memoir upon Upper California in illustration of his Map of Oregon and California,” published at the same time, Fremont called the strait “about one mile broad, in the narrowest part, and five miles long from the sea to the bay” a gate. In an explanatory note to the word “gate,” he wrote, "Called Chrysopylae (Golden Gate) on the map on the same principle that the harbor of Byzantium Constantinople afterwards was called Chrysoceras (Golden Horn)." He added that, as the form of the harbor of Byzantium and its advantages for commerce suggested the name of the Golden Horn to the Greek founders of that city, so the form of the entrance into San Francisco bay and its advantages for commerce had suggested the name of the Golden Gate which had thus been given. – Senate Doc. 30 Con 1 Sess. Misc. No. 143, p. 32. 

So that’s the story, as far as I can tell:  the men that wrote the official reports chose the name – even though they certainly weren't the first Americans to visit the area,  an area that had plenty of names from the Spanish, who had been there for almost 100 years (but not many from the Native Americans, who had been there for thousands of years).  This leads to other questions, like “What else did Fremont name on this trip?” and "When and how did Golden Gate become official?"  I’ll take a look at the second question in a future post.

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill occurred in early 1848, and news of the discovery didn’t hit the rest of the world until late in the year, so it’s likely that Fremont’s crew had no idea about the discovery.  PBS's American Experience has an informative documentary about the California Gold Rush and the significant social impact of the mass migration, available on DVD.
†† With the limited resources of Google Books, I haven't been able to nail down the first time the Golden Gate was used, and so I'll settle on the 1848 report to the Senate with the following biographical citation: "Geographical Memoir upon Upper California in illustration of his Map of Oregon and California" Senate Doc. 30 Con. 1 Sess. Misc No. 143, p. 32, 1848. (Someday I'll pester the reference librarians in the UC Berkeley libraries to see if they can find the document in the University’s collections so I can see it for myself.  Or perhaps there are some other books about Fremont that reveal an earlier use of Golden Gate.)

Image Credits
Painting of Golden Gate Bridge by Ray Strong, 1934, from Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery.

San Francisco Bay map showing “Chrysopylae” is a detail of map from the David Rumsey Map Collection, “Map Of Oregon And Upper California From the Surveys of John Charles Fremont And other Authorities.” Drawn By Charles Preuss Under the Order of the Senate Of The United States, Washington City 1848. Lithy. by E. Weber & Co. Balto.

Random link from the archive: My chocolate adventure

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th at Fort Point

photo of camera obscura image by Abelardo Morell
Photo of the camera obscura image in Abelardo Morell's "Vertigo" at International Orange. (The bridge is upside down in the photo because of the behavior of light passing through the aperture of the camera obscura.)

Blood is running International Orange in the San Francisco Bay Area this year because its most famous structure, the Golden Gate Bridge, turned 75 in May.  Celebrations and commemorations are all over the place, including a multi-artist show called International Orange at Fort Point National Historical Site.*  In the historic 19th century fort, sixteen artists offer their impressions of the bridge's aesthetics, history, and social impact.  The exhibits are scattered throughout the fort, allowing you to explore the building, take in the views, and see the artists' interpretations in many small steps.  Much more coverage of the show, which runs until October 28, 2012, can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo of International Orange store by Stephanie Syjuco
International Orange 'store' by Stephanie Syjuco
On an upper level, Stephanie Syjuco set up a fake store ("A Proposition," is what she calls it) that displays goods in the International Orange hue, a commentary on the need to take something physical away from a place. I found the store to be deeply moving, as seeing this magical color in so many shapes hit something inside me. 

A small room near the former living quarters holds Anandamayi Arnold's remarkable "Fiesta Queen" dresses honoring the residents of the seven counties that put up the money to build the bridge.  They are even more dramatic because they are made from colored crepe paper.  (More coverage of Arnold in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Abelardo Morell's camera obscura room was rather dark — it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust (too bad I didn't bring a pirate eyepatch) — and so the images are much less bright than my digital camera made it out to be (hooray for the low-light performance of the Canon S95!). The room has two images, one as shown above, the other looking east across the Bay to Alcatraz Island. As it was sunny, windy day (and the last day of the super-boat races), there were plenty of boats on the projected image. As the boats moved across the upside-down Bay, now and then the image would contain a small, bright light — a reflection that directly penetrated the camera obscura's aperture. Looking directly at the same scene, I'm sure the same reflections hit the back of my eye, but outside of that dark room they aren't noticeable. Reorientation of my perspective were features of other artists' work too.

David Liittschwager took a painstakingly detailed look at the diversity of life beneath the bridge. He collected samples of water from the Bay, brought it back to his lab/studio, and photographed the creatures he found in the water, often under high magnification, as much of the life in the Golden Gate's waters are microscopic shrimp, protozoa, algae and so on.  He also photographed more charismatic Gate dwellers like seals and fish.  Photos are mounted on five sides of one-cubic-foot cubes, with the creature on a sharp white background.  Some of the photos of algae, in which dozens of organisms are in the frame, take on a mosaic-like quality, or — to my eyes — have a feeling of a slightly off-kilter work by Sol Lewitt.

Finality for a Primer
The title of the show is a reference to the bridge's color**.  The color of the bridge was hotly debated at the time. The U.S. Navy wanted a color that would stand out in the often foggy conditions and the Army Air Corps (the predecessor of the Air Force) needed visibility for its fliers, so the usual grey was thrown out pretty quickly. One design proposal from the Navy suggested a black and yellow striping. The Army Air Corps liked a red and white combination.  The final color, International Orange — a color that both stands out and successfully fits into its surroundings — came almost by accident.  During construction, the bridge was coated with an International Orange-hues primer paint to protect it against the elements until completion. Eventually, the color 'clicked' with the decision makers, and the primer became the final color.

History Quiz
To help me prepare for a future post on the Golden Gate Bridge, I'd appreciate it if you could answer the question in the poll below:

*  Even without the show, Fort Point is a great place to visit. It was built before the Civil War and is located directly underneath the southern end of the bridge, and is right on the water, with amazing views of the bridge, Bay and City.
** There is more than one International Orange.  The one specified by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District is close to PMS 173, PMS 174 and Pantone 180.

Random link from the archive: Another No Knead Bread