4th Grade, Part II, Lesson 2: San Francisco Explodes
Time allotment:

Three to four class periods. Please note that there are three activities in this lesson (with procedure; wrap-up activities and/or extensions in each activity). 


For Activity #2: 

a. Resource 2-1:
Map, A Correct Map of Alta California and the Gold Region, 1849 

b. Resource 2-2:
Current map of California 

For Activity #3: 

c. Resource 1-1:
Transparency of painting, San Francisco Bay, Thomas A. Ayres and San Francisco in July, 1849, by George Henry Burgess  

d. Resources 1-1a, 1-1b, 1-1c, 1-1d:  
Four details of San Francisco in July, 1849 

e. Resources 2-3
Current photo of San Francisco showing Telegraph Hill 

f. Resources 2-4
Sketch, Town and Port of Yerba Buena, San Francisco Bay, 1843 

(Materials continued on next page) 

Goals of this Lesson:

Students will understand how the Gold Rush contributed to rapid population growth in San Francisco. 

Students will learn why the geographical location of San Francisco contributed to its rapid growth. 

Students will understand how the landscape of San Francisco changed during this time. 


daguerreotype, painting, Alta California, seaport, population, physical feature, ocean, Gold Country, time line, flowchart, chronological order, bay, river 


From 1849 through most of the 1850s, San Francisco was one of the most rip-roaring cities on Earth. Each day San Francisco built an average of 30 new houses and witnessed two murders and one fire. Its young, heavily armed, largely male populace drank at more than 500 bars and placed bets at 1,000 gambling dens. Eggs went for six dollars a dozen and landlords collected a mother lode of rentals for canvas shanties, abandoned ship's hulls and rooms in tinderbox houses. Fed on a diet of gold from the Sierra mines, San Francisco burgeoned into a major seaport in one year, bringing a wealth of both population and cargo that is still evident today. 

Activity #1 - Procedure:

1. Students develop a three-part KWL chart to record: K=What We Know prior to studying a topic; what they want to know (W=What We Want to Find Out); and what they ultimately have learned (L=What We Have Learned). Ask students, Why did San Francisco grow so quickly during the Gold Rush? Write this information in the first column of the class chart. Distribute Post-it Notes or something similar, and ask students what they want to learn about why San Francisco exploded. Stick these on the middle part of the chart (W), and move Post-its to the K side as students demonstrate new knowledge. 

2. Display population-growth chart on overhead or chalkboard: 

 *Population numbers are approximate because historical references vary.

3. Ask students, in pairs or groups, to make a time line with the year and population written on the bottom, and to predict (using words or pictures) what they think could have happened to cause the population to vary. (For example, in 1849 many of the people living in San Francisco left to go to the gold fields.) 

Part II, Lesson 2
Page 19