Alexandria Digital Research Library

City Fathers: Social Change, Economic Transformation, and the Lives of Fathers in San Francisco, 1849--1920

Wood, Warren Courtney
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. History
Degree Supervisor:
Patricia Cline Cohen
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Gender Studies and History, United States
Gold Rush
American West
Nineteenth Century
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2011

This dissertation addresses the critically under-studied topic of fatherhood in U.S. History. Using an array of evidence from newspapers, demographic data (including California's controversial 1852 state census), and a variety of eyewitness accounts, it describes the experiences of San Francisco's nineteenth and early twentieth-century fathers and demonstrates how the ambitions and actions of fathers as fathers helped stimulate historical change. Along the way it re-evaluates historians' understanding of gender demographics in early San Francisco, including the misperception that a large number of women were prostitutes.

The dissertation employs portrayals of two archetypal San Francisco fathers as paradigms to illuminate the lives of most fathers in San Francisco during the period. James King of William was a crusading newspaper editor whose aggressive editorial voice demanded reform so that Gold Rush era San Francisco could become a place where families could prosper in safety. His influence stimulated the revolution fomented by the 1856 San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, a revolution that influenced the city's political and social order into the twentieth century. Hubert Howe Bancroft was a businessman and noted historian. His activities as a businessman helped shape the economy of California, while his activities as a historian literally made the history of the region. The study shows that Bancroft linked all his activities to his ambitions for the welfare of his family.

King and Bancroft were burgher patriarchs, men who built their lives around their roles as protectors of and providers for their families. Much more than mere breadwinners, such men occupied an active and influential position at the heart of their families. The changes burgher patriarchs wrought in nineteenth-century San Francisco on behalf of their families led to social and economic shifts at the beginning of the twentieth century that turned fathers away from burgher patriarchy. These changes included a growing consumer culture, the bureaucratization of enterprise, and the expropriation of many parental duties by state and social organizations. Increasingly, fathers gained status strictly from their success as breadwinners. Their focus became work and career. Their influence within the family faded, and the dominance of burgher patriarchy ended.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (476 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Warren Wood
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