The Gambling Boom Of San Francisco

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Although, there weren’t as many tales of quick draw disputes over card games in San Francisco as the city had a reputation for fair games. In fact, the gambling establishments of San Francisco had an air of refinement as the card dealers were required to wear professionally attire. Also, San Francisco was one of the first cities in the west to feature female card dealers. According to the Annals of San Francisco: “Gambling was the essential amusement -- the grand occupation of many classes. Judges and clergymen, physicians and advocates, merchants and clerks, tradesmen, mechanics, laborers, miners, and farmers, all adventurers in their kind--everyone elbowed his way to the gaming table, and unblushingly threw down his golden or silver…show more content…
The San Francisco Stock Exchange opened in 1862, just blocks away from the formerly legal gambling houses. This was an era of “stock jobbing,” in which unsophisticated investors made speculative short term bets on volatile mining and railroad stocks. These early era markets were notorious for rampant price manipulations duping many naïve “investors” out of all of their money. The portrayal of gamblers in popular culture began to shift after the Civil War. After all, poker was a common pastime among the troops. Thus, gamblers were no longer automatically typecast as lowlifes, according to Thomas Ruys Smith, author of Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men: Nineteenth-Century Mississippi River Gambling Stories. Smith noted that some novelists even started presenting their lead character as a charismatic professional gambler. This was a cultural shift and that dynamic was vehemently opposed by the most aggressive moral crusader of his generation, Anthony Comstock. Comstock was to vice what Joseph McCarthy was to communism. He was a postal inspector who lobbied Congress to pass the “Comstock Laws” in 1873, which made it illegal to send any “obscene” article, literature, or personal letter through the mail. The interpretation for “obscene” was very broad and the law was used for anything referencing contraception, abortion, prostitution, gambling, etc. Comstock was responsible the censorship of thousands of books and instigated
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