November 14, 1860: San Francisco
[Today] we sailed into the Golden Gate, as the entrance to the harbor is called. It is a narrow strait between steep rocks, with a crooked channel. Inside, the broad bay spreads out, a calm placid lake, so large that all the ships of the world might ride there at anchor with room to spare, and yet so placid that it seemed like a mere pond. It is by far the most beautiful harbor I have ever seen, not even excepting New York.
As we had instruments to carry we did not hurry on shore, so it was nearly noon before we were fairly at our hotel, and our journey of nearly 6,000 miles brought to an end. It is over 2,000 from New York to Panama, and about 3,300 from Panama to San Francisco. And on the whole of this journey we had fine weather, indeed lovely weather; twenty days out of the twenty-three were as fine as our finest Indian summer.
This place I will not speak of now—it has astounded me. First, after our long trip by sea and by land we are still in the United States; second, a city only about ten years old, it seems at least half a century. Large streets, magnificent buildings of brick, and many even of granite, built in the most substantial manner, give a look of much greater age than the city has.
The weather is perfectly heavenly. They say this is a fair specimen of winter here, yet the weather is very like the very finest of our Indian summer, only not so smoky—warm, balmy, not hot, clear, bracing—in fact I have not words to describe the weather of these two days I have been here. In the yards are many flowers we see only in house cultivation: various kinds of geraniums growing of immense size, dew plant growing like a weed, acacia, fuchsia, etc., growing in the open air in the gardens.
Our arrival was anticipated by the Pony Express. All the papers had announced that the members of the Geological Survey were on their way, and yesterday and today all the city papers have noticed our arrival. Whitney and I get most of the puffs, some of which are quite complimentary. I have been introduced to many prominent citizens, tendered the use of libraries, etc. The Coast Survey offers many facilities, free passage on its vessels along the coast, etc. This afternoon Judge Field and the Governor of the State leave Sacramento to come down here to see us; we shall see them tomorrow.
We found the news of Lincoln’s election when we landed, an unprecedented quick trip of news. I have been out to see fire-works, processions, etc., in the early part of the evening, so now it is late. Good night.
More photos here