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San Francisco

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National Archives and Records Administration

Traditional Music of the NW Coast, "Whale Song"

San Francisco is a California port city on the western coast of the United States of America. In 1776, the Spanish established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi on the site. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, making it into the largest city on the West Coast.

San Francisco is situated in a natural estuary that leads into the Pacific Ocean. The climate is mild, with wet winters and dry summers. Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's weather is influenced by the cool currents of the ocean which tend to moderate seasonal temperature variation.

It was a center of maritime trade and an important port for New England whalers returning with oil and baleen. Passenger steamers traveled between the Port of San Francisco and Los Angeles and Honolulu, while the train began across land. Late in the 19th century, San Francisco surpassed New Bedford as the most important whaling port.

Native tribes north of San Francisco traditionally fished and hunted whales, long before Europeans arrived. Their traditions included music and ceremonies to pray for successful hunting. To hear a clip of a song from the Nootka tribes around Vancouver Island, click on the "play music" button above.

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