Thursday, May 04, 2006

California's first gang was a mob of Aussies

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1851 California's first known gang, the Sydney Ducks (from Sydney, Australia), were blamed by some San Franciscans for a fire in their city which followed an earthquake on May 1. Both events occurred during the California Gold Rush (1848 - '58).

It might well have been arson, and might well have been arson by an Australian: San Francisco had already been devastated by fire on December 24, 1849, and in 1850 on May 4, June 14, and September 17 -- and it was alleged a man recognized as a Sydney-Towner was seen running from a paintshop on the southern side of Portsmouth Square, just before building burst into flames. Hordes of Australians started looting once the fire took hold ...

In San Francisco's gold rush days on the 'Barbary Coast', some of the Australian gold diggers (mostly ex-convicts) had formed tribes or gangs with names such as the 'Sydney Ducks' and 'Sydney Coves'. There were so many of them that the district in which they congregated, along the waterfront at Broadway and Pacific Street, and on the slopes of Telegraph Hill, had come to be known as Sydney-Town, on Sydney Cove. In June, a Vigilance Committee of 400 influential men was established. Many Aussies left the district after the June 10, 1851 lynching of John Jenkins, and the lynching of two Sydney Ducks named Samuel Whittaker and Robert McKenzie on August 24, and the vice and crime of the district petered out, but there was a Sydney-Town of sorts for half a century ...

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