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The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld

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The history of the Barbary Coast properly begins with the gold rush to California in 1849. If the precious yellow metal hadn't been discovered . . . the development of San Francisco's underworld in all likelihood would have been indistinguishable from that of any other large American city. Instead, owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamble The history of the Barbary Coast properly begins with the gold rush to California in 1849. If the precious yellow metal hadn't been discovered . . . the development of San Francisco's underworld in all likelihood would have been indistinguishable from that of any other large American city. Instead, owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamblers, thieves, harlots, politicians, and other felonious parasites who battened upon them, there arose a unique criminal district that for almost seventy years was the scene of more viciousness and depravity, but which at the same time possessed more glamour, than any other area of vice and iniquity on the American continent. The Barbary Coast is Herbert Asbury's classic chronicle of the birth of San Francisco -- a violent explosion from which the infant city emerged full-grown and raging wild. From all over the world practitioners of every vice stampeded for the blood and money of the gold fields. Gambling dens ran all day including Sundays. From noon to noon houses of prostitution offered girls of every age and race. (In the 1850s, San Francisco was home to only one woman for every thirty men. It was not until 1910 that the sexes achieved anything close to parity in their populations.) This is the story of the banditry, opium bouts, tong wars, and corruption, from the eureka at Sutter's Mill until the last bagnio closed its doors seventy years later.


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The history of the Barbary Coast properly begins with the gold rush to California in 1849. If the precious yellow metal hadn't been discovered . . . the development of San Francisco's underworld in all likelihood would have been indistinguishable from that of any other large American city. Instead, owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamble The history of the Barbary Coast properly begins with the gold rush to California in 1849. If the precious yellow metal hadn't been discovered . . . the development of San Francisco's underworld in all likelihood would have been indistinguishable from that of any other large American city. Instead, owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamblers, thieves, harlots, politicians, and other felonious parasites who battened upon them, there arose a unique criminal district that for almost seventy years was the scene of more viciousness and depravity, but which at the same time possessed more glamour, than any other area of vice and iniquity on the American continent. The Barbary Coast is Herbert Asbury's classic chronicle of the birth of San Francisco -- a violent explosion from which the infant city emerged full-grown and raging wild. From all over the world practitioners of every vice stampeded for the blood and money of the gold fields. Gambling dens ran all day including Sundays. From noon to noon houses of prostitution offered girls of every age and race. (In the 1850s, San Francisco was home to only one woman for every thirty men. It was not until 1910 that the sexes achieved anything close to parity in their populations.) This is the story of the banditry, opium bouts, tong wars, and corruption, from the eureka at Sutter's Mill until the last bagnio closed its doors seventy years later.

30 review for The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Spiller

    This book was published in 1933, not all that long after the Barbary Coast was shut down and modern San Francisco took its shape. In that regard, it's clearly drawn from the writer's own experiences as well as some research. I enjoyed the sense of the time that I got, going back to 1848 and as far forward as the 1920s. The book is light on contextual history, heavy on politics and prostitution. I needed a map, so I printed one from GoogleMaps, and taped it to the inside cover. I live in SF, but This book was published in 1933, not all that long after the Barbary Coast was shut down and modern San Francisco took its shape. In that regard, it's clearly drawn from the writer's own experiences as well as some research. I enjoyed the sense of the time that I got, going back to 1848 and as far forward as the 1920s. The book is light on contextual history, heavy on politics and prostitution. I needed a map, so I printed one from GoogleMaps, and taped it to the inside cover. I live in SF, but even so, all the street name-dropping, especially in the first quarter of the book, made me get lost. Someone less familiar with SF would have an even harder time of it. At least a half of the book discusses prostitution, which seems out of proportion somehow. It was clearly a huge way of making money in the region, but I wished for more about legitimate businesses (restaurants, rooming houses, grocery stores, etc.) and perhaps a bit more about the other illegal activities. Mugging is barely covered, and shanghaiing gets only a dozen pages or so. There was a LOT of money in the area (people were making as much as $50,000 a year in mining and mining-related industries in the 1850s and 60s), and I would have liked more about those industrious souls. The upstanding citizens of SF are discussed in their prurient interest in the bawdy houses, and a kind of tourism industry took advantage of their interest. Otherwise, how the rest of the city was affected by the Barbary Coast wasn't mentioned. Also, very little was discussed about the earthquake and fire of 1906, which, for those of us living in SF, provided a "before and after" structure to the city. Asbury focuses on who was mayor and whether that mayor was part of the prostitution problem or not, rather than taking a larger view. I've only just begun researching the area and the time period, so perhaps some of my criticisms are because the information I wanted wasn't important to this author. In general, I enjoyed the book. The writer's style was pleasant, he didn't sound lascivious even though he devotes so much attention to the bawdier side of the Barbary Coast, and I did get a strong sense of which politicians were trying to make SF a better place and which were trying to get rich off the efforts of others. I would recommend this book, even though I gave it a lowish rating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    This book is fantastic. Brilliantly entertaining stories, and most of them close to agreed upon historical consensus. Lurid details of the "Underbelly" of the Barbary Coast. I couldn't get enough of it, and this book launched me into an obsession with the history of San Francisco. At least a particular side of SF. Great to read in tandem with "You Can't Win", by Jack Black ... This book is fantastic. Brilliantly entertaining stories, and most of them close to agreed upon historical consensus. Lurid details of the "Underbelly" of the Barbary Coast. I couldn't get enough of it, and this book launched me into an obsession with the history of San Francisco. At least a particular side of SF. Great to read in tandem with "You Can't Win", by Jack Black ...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Early San Francisco was a profoundly strange city. The Gold Rush exploded a sleepy port into an expensive haven of vice and villainy, designed to separate miners and sailors from their cash with booze, prostitution, and blunt objects. The dense area of houses of ill-repute, named the Barbary Coast, was a real-life version of that Simpsons song about New Orleans. Asbury's book is from 1933, and takes pretty much every lurid newspaper article from the time at face value. There are some interesting Early San Francisco was a profoundly strange city. The Gold Rush exploded a sleepy port into an expensive haven of vice and villainy, designed to separate miners and sailors from their cash with booze, prostitution, and blunt objects. The dense area of houses of ill-repute, named the Barbary Coast, was a real-life version of that Simpsons song about New Orleans. Asbury's book is from 1933, and takes pretty much every lurid newspaper article from the time at face value. There are some interesting anecdotes about such characters as Dirty Tom McAlear, who would eat or drink anything for a few cents and hadn't had a bath in fifteen years, to wars between proprietors of vice and the vigilant Vigilance Committee, or the various ruses used to shanghai sailors onto new ships, but overall this book is just long, early 20th century scandalizing about admittedly very bad vice, without much of an organizing framework.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amina Ahsan

    Great look back at the start and end of the Barbary Coast. The SF underworld. The waterfront district of SF in the 19th century, notorious for its cheap bars, nightclubs, prostitute abs gambling houses abs the high incidence of crime. As an SF resident it bring to life all the neighborhoods and streets that we are so familiar with in the 21st century.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bauer

    "The Little Lost Chicken was a tiny girl in her middle twenties. She knew but one song, a ballad which began: 'The boat lies high, the boat lies low; she lies high and dry on the Ohio.' This she sang in a quavering falsetto, invariably bursting into tears at the last note. She so obviously required protection against the cruel blasts of the world that many gentlemen very chivalrously offer it; but always to their financial distress, for in her artless way the Little Lost Chicken was a first-rate "The Little Lost Chicken was a tiny girl in her middle twenties. She knew but one song, a ballad which began: 'The boat lies high, the boat lies low; she lies high and dry on the Ohio.' This she sang in a quavering falsetto, invariably bursting into tears at the last note. She so obviously required protection against the cruel blasts of the world that many gentlemen very chivalrously offer it; but always to their financial distress, for in her artless way the Little Lost Chicken was a first-rate thief and pickpocket." Herbert Asbury, The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld (1933)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Hertzmann

    Interesting window into the past, but also focused on the lurid and sensational at the expense of broader context. Couldn't sustain interest after 100 pages. Interesting window into the past, but also focused on the lurid and sensational at the expense of broader context. Couldn't sustain interest after 100 pages.

  7. 5 out of 5

    E.

    Beh. This is one of those books I'll pick up and put down for years to come when I'm bored or in the can or something. Someday I might finish it, or not. I don't really care either way. This isn't to say it's not interesting. It is. But it's hard to tell what is true and what is conjecture. Some interesting history in here though. SF! Beh. This is one of those books I'll pick up and put down for years to come when I'm bored or in the can or something. Someday I might finish it, or not. I don't really care either way. This isn't to say it's not interesting. It is. But it's hard to tell what is true and what is conjecture. Some interesting history in here though. SF!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    "Informal history" means that legend is mixed in with fact. Most legends are based on fact anyway.... "Informal history" means that legend is mixed in with fact. Most legends are based on fact anyway....

  9. 5 out of 5

    Farrah

    SF is still fucked up. But now everyone has ironic haircuts and iphones.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    When I first started reading this, I didn't realize that it had been written in 1933 and that the author also wrote Gangs of New York and other books detailing crime in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. But as I started to read this, it became rather obvious that the book was written in a less politically correct era when Chinese were referred to as Celestials or Chinamen and some of the words used such as bagnio (bordello or brothel) are little used today. But overall, this is a very exten When I first started reading this, I didn't realize that it had been written in 1933 and that the author also wrote Gangs of New York and other books detailing crime in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. But as I started to read this, it became rather obvious that the book was written in a less politically correct era when Chinese were referred to as Celestials or Chinamen and some of the words used such as bagnio (bordello or brothel) are little used today. But overall, this is a very extensive history of San Francisco and its vices from the time of the gold rush in the 1840s up until about 1917 when the city closed most of the "bagnios" that thrived in the section of the city known as the notorious Barbary Coast. I lived in the Bay Area for about 13 years during the 80s and 90s but I was really unaware of most of its wild past. A lot of this was fascinating and perverse. Included in the history were immigrants from Australia who started some of the earliest gangs in the city and targeted much of the Latino population. The gangs were called the "Hounds" and the "Sydney Ducks" and they were instrumental in the forming of the Committee of Vigilance in 1851 to rid the city of their presence. A lot of the book focuses on the brothels and prostitutes of the era including young Chinese girls who were smuggled from China and forced to work in small "cribs" in the city. It also tells of the Chinese gangs called tongs and their wars with each other. And then there was the plight of the sailors who embarked in the city and were taken for anything they had. There was a lot of detail about various personages who played a part in the story including brothel owners, gamblers, dance-hall girls and performers, etc. Some of this in the later chapters became a little tedious and I ended up skimming some of it. Overall, I would only mildly recommend this if you are interested in the history of San Francisco when it was its wickedest...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Fesmire

    What an incredible look at San Francisco history! From the earliest days of the California Gold Rush in 1848 until the final doors were forced shut in 1921, the Barbary Coast district of San Francisco was home to extreme crime and debauchery. Many of the city's most memorable historical figures profited from the Barbary Coast. Between it, Chinatown, and the Upper Tenderloin district, San Francisco has perhaps the most colorful history of any U.S. city. This account of that infamous district, first What an incredible look at San Francisco history! From the earliest days of the California Gold Rush in 1848 until the final doors were forced shut in 1921, the Barbary Coast district of San Francisco was home to extreme crime and debauchery. Many of the city's most memorable historical figures profited from the Barbary Coast. Between it, Chinatown, and the Upper Tenderloin district, San Francisco has perhaps the most colorful history of any U.S. city. This account of that infamous district, first published in 1933, is an entertaining and sometimes shocking read. "The Barbary Coast" is one of the books I've read as research for the next book in my steampunk zombie western series, which will take place in San Francisco in late 1876 and will involve this district and many of its more dangerous inhabitants from that time. I wish I could thank Herbert Asbury for this detailed resource.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Historical book about the Barbary Coast in San Francisco from the Gold Rush in 1849 to its demise in 1917. The first half of the book is more about the history of San Francisco itself than just the Barbary Coast—and it is a horrible history, filled with lawlessness and horrendous crimes. Early San Francisco was inhabited primarily by men, most of whom were violent and not held accountable for their crimes since the police and politicians were corrupt. Examples include young Chinese girls sold i Historical book about the Barbary Coast in San Francisco from the Gold Rush in 1849 to its demise in 1917. The first half of the book is more about the history of San Francisco itself than just the Barbary Coast—and it is a horrible history, filled with lawlessness and horrendous crimes. Early San Francisco was inhabited primarily by men, most of whom were violent and not held accountable for their crimes since the police and politicians were corrupt. Examples include young Chinese girls sold in China and shipped to prostitution houses as slaves; sailors kidnapped from their ships and drugged, then put on near-pirate ships to sail across the Pacific; houses of prostitution called cribs and cow-yards forcing girls and women to service as many as 30 to 80 men a night. Very well researched, written and detailed—including the 1906 earthquake and fire. Though, due to the intense subject matter, it was very difficult to read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    A fascinating, salacious read, paints early San Francisco out to be a mix of the Wild West and a Capone-esque gangster world, with at times a Dickensian black-humored twist. Caveat: the book is a time capsule of the period it describes, but also of the period in which it was written. The author puts forth what in his time must have been a notably progressive take on his subject matter, but ultimately can't help sounding like a product of his time. Just something to be aware of. Summary: recommende A fascinating, salacious read, paints early San Francisco out to be a mix of the Wild West and a Capone-esque gangster world, with at times a Dickensian black-humored twist. Caveat: the book is a time capsule of the period it describes, but also of the period in which it was written. The author puts forth what in his time must have been a notably progressive take on his subject matter, but ultimately can't help sounding like a product of his time. Just something to be aware of. Summary: recommended reading if you enjoy true crime, mob, or wild west stories. I wish Scorsese would make a movie out of this like he did the author's other book, Gangs of New York.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    I love Asbury’s books. Critics have said he embellished his works, but it appears he researched them. No doubt many of the tales grew with the telling and were magnified by the time Asbury got to them. He chronicles the vice of San Francisco from the Gold Rush days up to ten years past the 1906 earthquake. He writes of racism, child exploitation, violence...all fascinating and tragic accounts of the era that explode “Golden Age” myths of modern times. Sometimes the stories are darkly funny as well. I love Asbury’s books. Critics have said he embellished his works, but it appears he researched them. No doubt many of the tales grew with the telling and were magnified by the time Asbury got to them. He chronicles the vice of San Francisco from the Gold Rush days up to ten years past the 1906 earthquake. He writes of racism, child exploitation, violence...all fascinating and tragic accounts of the era that explode “Golden Age” myths of modern times. Sometimes the stories are darkly funny as well. No spoilers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eugene

    It's not a big surprise that this book is hard to read since it was written in 1933 and consist of a very thorough analysis and list of all the establishments, personalities, and activities it also shows the reason why San Francisco is such a weird city. Homelessness, crimes, corruption, lawlessness, and lack of proper management were always present in this city in much bigger amounts, so it's not a big surprise that the spirit of Barbary Coast is still present here, just maybe changed the neighb It's not a big surprise that this book is hard to read since it was written in 1933 and consist of a very thorough analysis and list of all the establishments, personalities, and activities it also shows the reason why San Francisco is such a weird city. Homelessness, crimes, corruption, lawlessness, and lack of proper management were always present in this city in much bigger amounts, so it's not a big surprise that the spirit of Barbary Coast is still present here, just maybe changed the neighborhood.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leila Kern

    This book took a long time for me to read. Not because the story was not interesting but the writing rambled somewhat. This book was an interesting read; history I had not heard or read about. And, having been born and raised in San Francisco, I was extremely interested in reading about San Francisco's early history. I did not realize that the Barbary Coast existed for so long. I would recommend this book as an addition to other history written about San Francisco. This book took a long time for me to read. Not because the story was not interesting but the writing rambled somewhat. This book was an interesting read; history I had not heard or read about. And, having been born and raised in San Francisco, I was extremely interested in reading about San Francisco's early history. I did not realize that the Barbary Coast existed for so long. I would recommend this book as an addition to other history written about San Francisco.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I enjoyed this nearly as much as Gangs of New York. San Francisco is a port city and was for a time closest in its cultural flavors to New Orleans, surprisingly enough. It was helpful also to read the more accurate account of the murders of Theodore Durant, after reading the atrocious nonsense of Robert Graysmith's The Bell Tower, which bordered on demented in its incoherence and absurdity. I enjoyed this nearly as much as Gangs of New York. San Francisco is a port city and was for a time closest in its cultural flavors to New Orleans, surprisingly enough. It was helpful also to read the more accurate account of the murders of Theodore Durant, after reading the atrocious nonsense of Robert Graysmith's The Bell Tower, which bordered on demented in its incoherence and absurdity.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susy

    I did enjoy finding out some history I did not know about my home town of 22 years but this book was often painful to read. Granted it was written in the early 1930s but it was so full of racism and sexism - ouch.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kat Cui

    Very um... lurid as advertised/promised? I feel like Herbert would b hella mad that Chesa Boudin is DA now. I was happy to have reached the end of this book which is never a good sign. Literally the only humanizing excerpt from this book comes three pages to the end

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

    It was written in 1933 so you have to keep that in mind, but I appreciated the non-fiction account of life in early San Francisco. It added much to a historical fiction story I just finished.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo Ann

    Wow! When I'm in San Francisco in a few weeks, I'd like to check out some of the addresses where the historical underground of this magnificent city began! Recommended to me by Wes Egan... Wow! When I'm in San Francisco in a few weeks, I'd like to check out some of the addresses where the historical underground of this magnificent city began! Recommended to me by Wes Egan...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Its an older book. But still fascinating. I think the last third or so was repetitive and didn't really carry to story along as well as the first ⅔ did. But still worth the time. Its an older book. But still fascinating. I think the last third or so was repetitive and didn't really carry to story along as well as the first ⅔ did. But still worth the time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    So. Much. Prostitution. An interesting history, but recounting the history of every single bar and brothel in the city got old.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Well researched. highlights the dangerous characters and bawdy times of early SF

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan McGirt

    A colorful and entertaining informal history of San Francisco's criminal underworld and vice dens from the days of the gold rush to the early 20th century. A colorful and entertaining informal history of San Francisco's criminal underworld and vice dens from the days of the gold rush to the early 20th century.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Reads like an encyclopedia but there's some interesting tidbits Reads like an encyclopedia but there's some interesting tidbits

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Crouch

    Junk history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine Jeffords

    There was a time when San Francisco was called "the wickedest, most corrupt and godless city on the face of the Earth—even more wicked than Marseilles or Port Said." This classic study shows you why. Following up on "The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld," which Asbury had written five years earlier (still to come were "French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld" (1936) and "Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld" (1940)), There was a time when San Francisco was called "the wickedest, most corrupt and godless city on the face of the Earth—even more wicked than Marseilles or Port Said." This classic study shows you why. Following up on "The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld," which Asbury had written five years earlier (still to come were "French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld" (1936) and "Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld" (1940)), it traces the bawdier side of life in the City by the Bay from its roots when "the world rushed in" in 1849; around the early '50's a flood of ruffianly veterans of the frontier towns of Australia, joined by escaped convicts and ticket-of-leave men from New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, began to arrive, and the more enterprising spirits among them took over the flimsy frame and brick building of the old Chilean neighborhood and began opening lodging houses, dance halls, groggeries, and taverns there. After describing the character (or lack thereof) and crimes of the "Hounds" and "Sydney Ducks," whose activities led to the founding of the Committee of Vigilance in 1851, as well as the political corruption in which these groups flourished, and the "Second Cleansing" of 1856 as inspired by the shooting of James King of William, Asbury goes on to show how the Coast "settled" into its best-known and most modern incarnation, including the semi-legitimate businesses (auction houses, secondhand-clothing shops) that flourished there, the reluctance of the police to intervene in its affairs, and many of the most prominent criminal characters who called the district their home. Some of the Coast's "traps" weren't too bad, especially by modern standards, and Asbury introduces us to the best of them, the famous concert saloon known as the Bella Union, which was one of the goals of the earliest "slummers," and one of whose advertising sheets, dated 1862, ballyhooed "a constantly varied entertainment...fun and frolic...song and dance...grace and beauty...eccentricity...laughter for millions...dramatic, terpsichorean and musical talent..." Then he explores the vices of Chinatown, where bordellos and cribs staffed by Chinese slave girls (which they literally were) and opium dens abounded, even though this wasn't strictly a part of the Coast, and provides a look at the how and why of the infamous practice of shanghaiing, the various types of (mostly non-Chinese) prostitution, the effect of the Fire of 1906, and the decline of the district as San Francisco grew up and tried to forget how it had begun. Some of what you'll find in these pages may shock you (though none of it is terribly graphic; the book was, after all, written in 1933), and judging by what I've been able to discover in most of a lifetime researching the social history of the 19th Century, San Francisco customs shouldn't be taken as being followed in the smaller towns and villages that dominated the country till well into the 20th. The chief fault of the book is that it doesn't always clarify when certain things happened or certain people and resorts were a part of the picture; if you're reading it for factual background, as I was, you'll find you have to go online and do some backup searching to get a clear idea of chronology. On the other hand, it shows as few other books do just how corrupt the city's government was for nearly 60 years, and why. It's a superior example of what it is, and a necessary read for those who wonder just how bad the biggest cities of the US were in their early years.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louise Carlson Stowell

    My grandmother had told me many stories about San Francisco when I was growing up there. So many mysteries remained about certain areas she would briefly gloss over...and about a house "For Sale" she and her mother had been shown back in the 1930's close to Telegraph Hill. In the basement were numerous tiny cells, bars on the windows, and a couple of padlocked small doors in the otherwise vacant three story house. My grandmother said she had always wondered about the history of the place. It was My grandmother had told me many stories about San Francisco when I was growing up there. So many mysteries remained about certain areas she would briefly gloss over...and about a house "For Sale" she and her mother had been shown back in the 1930's close to Telegraph Hill. In the basement were numerous tiny cells, bars on the windows, and a couple of padlocked small doors in the otherwise vacant three story house. My grandmother said she had always wondered about the history of the place. It was "spooky." Her mother probably knew and never said...Grandma was a bit of a prude...her Norwegian immigrant mother, not so much having come to America on a sailing ship. Now I know the possible history of the "mystery house" due to this book. More than likely it had been one of the hundreds of houses of prostitution owned by one of the numerous San Francisco Madams. The tiny cells probably being cribs. What's a crib? It's not what you think in todays slang terms! It was fascinating to find out about the notorious Shanghai dives and the openly corrupt political scenes of 1840 and up to the then present writing of the book which was 1933 (currently reissued as a glossy paperback but retaining it's original type font). I received more history about the Ralston's, Kearney's, Meigg's Wharf, the San Francisco Police Department and the various mayors and Vigilante groups. It also gave me an insight into one of the roughest gangs around back in the late 1800's...the Sydney Ducks, which I had formally not known about. It discussed the ill treatment and extreme prejudice toward the early San Francisco Latinos and Chinese in fairly good depth. It also described the life, ill treatment, and political control of the pimps and prostitutes in the Barbary Coast area, and the various "entertainment" to be found west of Union Square and in the infamous alley, humorously now known as the trendy, upscale "Maiden Lane." I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is curious about the history of North Beach, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill and the Tenderloin as the Barbary Coast encompassed all of these areas at one time. The author wrote this, as I said in 1930's, and the writing is as fresh and captivating as anything in this present era. He holds your fascination and gives a human face to this area in a way that often was glossed up and rarely spoken of in realistic terms by other authors of that time. Fascinating reading and well worth the time, but if you are easily shocked, it is definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

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