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Rich, Fast-Growing, and Convinced It Would Never End: San Francisco in 1924 Was Almost Exactly Like Today

What we learned from a Chamber of Commerce report on the state of the city more than 90 years ago.

Postcard of Market Street in the 1920s.

Postcard of Market Street in the 1920s. 


This weekend, at an antiques show in the Golden Gate Park, we found a copy of this amazing economic report from 1923 titled "What's Ahead for San Francisco?'" (Yes, we were at an antiques fair on Sunday. Don't judge—it was next door to the Keith Haring show at the De Young.)

Printed by a business boosters group called Californians Inc., it's a surprisingly data-rich look at San Francisco's economic boom at the dawn of the Roaring 20s. We were amazed at how much had changed—and how little. For instance, it turns out that in 1924, according to Californians Inc., San Francisco had the richest per capita average income of any city—not just in the United States, but in the world.

First, eight things we learned from the study and then, on page two, the full text, along with data tables on telephone connections, automobile ownership, and new construction permits. Because if there's one thing you can learn by studying the 1920s, it's that the good times never end. 



"The transformations that have come about in the last five years [1918-1923] present the most dramatic chapter in all the history of our progress."

"Something is happening fast. Bank examiners’ reports show in nine months ending June 30, 1924, an increase of 187 million dollars in commercial and savings deposits in California."

"In 1923 alone, 3,707 new industries and business enterprises were established in San Francisco. The payrolls of these plants aggregate $3,000,000 a year."

"Building permits for 1923 in the San Francisco Bay district were five times as great as in 1918; in San Francisco they were approximately six times as great."

"In 1923, approximately 2,500 new homes were built in San Francisco at a [total!] cost of $9,500,000."

"In property values, San Francisco advanced from a one-and-a-half billion dollar in 1918 to a TWO BILLION DOLLAR CITY IN 1924."

"The average per capita wealth of San Franciscans, $3,400, makes him the richest average buyer to be found in any city in the world."

"The maps and data here so briefly shown are supported by more than sixty similar studies, and are typical of them. Together they show a fast growing population headed easily toward the one million mark in 1930."

Read the full text of the report.