The Natural Resources that Built San Francisco
Nature’s Bounty explores how the residents of the Peninsula have used its natural resources.
F resh water, redwood, shrimp and rich soil are among the many natural resources of the Peninsula. From the Ohlone to the Americans, people have used the area’s many natural resources to support their daily life. The exhibit highlights how the Peninsula’s natural resources supported the development of San Francisco, the most important city in the West in the mid-nineteenth century.
Explore the Exhibit
People Who Used the Resources
The local Native Americans were hunters and gatherers. Each season they found many uses for the abundant resources. Plants provided materials for baskets, shelters, clothing and medicine. Shellfish were harvested for food, ornamentation and trade. Woodland animals were hunted for meat for food, bones for tools and hides for clothing.
The fertile soil, fresh water and grazing land of the Peninsula led missionaries to establish farms to support Misión San Francisco de Asis (Misson Dolores). Ohlone and other indigenous people labored on the mission farms to grow food and raise sheep.
Mexican independence led to issuance of large land grants to individuals. Rolling, open hills provided land necessary for grazing large herds of cattle, raised for their hides and tallow. Hides and tallow were traded for items brought by cargo ships from distant ports.
After the Gold Rush, Americans used local resources to develop San Francisco.
Shrimp, oysters, salt and shells for cement were resources taken from the bay. Oysters were the most important consumable marine product during the 19th century, worldwide. The best beds in the West were along the San Mateo County Bayline. (La Peninsula: Summer 2015 on shrimp camps).
Forests of Gold
The redwood forests down the San Francisco Peninsula were harvested to supply building materials for rapidly growing San Francisco and the mining communities of the Mother Lode.
Water for a Thirsty City
Without water San Francisco could not become a great city. The Spring Valley Water Company created a 20,000-acre watershed that was crucial to the growth of the City and the development of the Peninsula. (La Peninsula: Spring 2018)
The fertile valleys of the Peninsula gave rise to a successful agricultural industry, yielding grain, produce, commercial flowers and dairy products. (La Peninsula: Winter 2014)
Rugged Ocean Coast
Hunted for their oil, bone and other byproducts, humpback and grey whales were butchered at stations at Pillar Point and Pigeon Point.
History Museum Quiz
Take our quiz and test your knowledge on Nature’s Bounty.
The Ohlone used tule:
Tule was one of the many plants the Ohlone used in multiple ways.
What did the Spanish bring to California?
The Spanish brought the modern horse to North America. The first Spanish explorers on the Peninsula brought 200 horses and mules.
During the Mexican era, what was called the California Bank Note?
Due to the importance of the hide-and-tallow trade, the cowhide was the California Bank Note (dollar).
This resource was so popular in the late 1800s, "pirates" went to steal it from the San Francisco Bay at night.
Oysters were the most popular seafood in the late 1800s. Author Jack London was one of the many oyster pirates raiding the oyster beds in the San Francisco Bay.
After being cut down, redwood was brought here to be shipped to San Francisco
Simon Mezes laid out the town of Mezesville. However, it earned the name Redwood City for all the lumber passing through on the way to San Francisco.