Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge (June 1, 2011): The economics of south San Francisco bay landings

It's time to up the level of our game and tackle not just a query problem, but a real sensemaking problem.  Note that I have not yet solved this problem, but I hope that we'll be able to do some kind of collective sensemaking operations on this together.  

Here it is.... 

In the southern parts of San Francisco bay there was (historically at least) an extensive marsh & slough system.  And in days of yore, there grew a number of landings where boats could sail up and dock to onload / offload goods.  

Something I've wondered about for a while is how well this all worked.  In particular, WHAT came on and off those boats, and how long did the whole "landings" economy work out?  

To get you started, one of the best known landings was Rengstorff Landing in Mountain View.  (Yes, it' was very close to the Googleplex.)  Another was Cooley's Landing in Palo Alto... but there were many more.  I'll leave it to you to find them out.  

Modern aerial view of Cooley's landing

To succeed at this challenge, you don't need to write a thesis about the economics of the south bay, just sketch the merest outlines of how the landings worked.  

To make sense of the challenge, you'll need to find a few of the landings, and determine the inflow/outflow from the landing--what, when, who, and for what price... 


Search (and make sense!) on! 


  1. I don't know if this is exactly what you are looking for, but I found several details on the two landings (with the help of Google):

    * Cooley’s landing

    Its history includes some ship-building and being a shipment point for about 40 million bricks sent north to build the big cities of the Bay Area.

    By 1876, more than 21,500,000 bricks had been shipped out of the port

    From 1874 to 1876, Hunter and Shackleford sent most of their bricks to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. From 1876 to 1884, the bricks continued to be sold in San Francisco.
    View of Cooley's Landing on the bayshore where schooners transported bricks to San Francisco.

    * Rengstorff Landing

    The Rengstorff Landing played a significant role in the economic development of Mountain View and the Peninsula. Prospering farmers exported their lumber, fruits and grains. Returning ships brought hardware and building supplies for the growing region. An original journal from the Rengstorff Landing was discovered in the house during its restoration.

    The recently restored accounting record of shipments from the landing includes the June 1880 entry, "Shipped per Schooner Mountain View ... 53 sacks of Delmas & Briggs barley and 100 sacks of [their] wheat."

    In 1859 he commenced business at the Landing, where he erected large and substantial buildings, and was soon ranked among the leading business men of that part of Santa Clara County. The shipments of grain from his landing in the early years were enormous. All kinds of produce raised in the valley in those years found its way to market by water, and a large district on the west side of the valley made its shipping-point at Rengstorff's Landing. The principal articles of shipment are now hay and lumber, though grain is still handled to some extent. Storage for 3,000 tons of hay and large quantities of grain and lumber is among the facilities found at the Landing.

    It consisted of 100 pages of bookkeeping for shipments to and from Rengstorff's Landing on Stevens Creek where that stream empties into San Francisco Bay. Covering four years starting in 1879, it listed each outgoing shipment of hay and grain by the name of the farmer, the weight, the destination, and the name of the scow schooner carrying the cargo. Incoming shipments of hardware and related items were also detailed. Informal copies were made and the original was locked up.

    An entry for September 1881: "Shipped per schooner Mtn View ... 354 sacks of Hotaling barley per order of J.A. Hornberger." The destination of the shipment presumably was A.P. Hotaling & Co. a whiskey distiller

    The purpose of the landings was to avoid high railroad charges by shipping the crop to San Francisco by vessels.
    (Jagel's Landing became Port Sunnyvale).

  2. Second part of my post:

    And with this “Jagel's landing" I found in Google the following very interesting document:
    South Bay landscape through time:

    Where the channels came close to land, or where the band of marshland was particularly narrow, entrepreneurs established landings. From these sites at the bay's edge, grain, fruit, vegetables, animal products, redwood timber, and other materials were shipped to San Francisco and beyond. While the importance of these natural access points declined rapidly following the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, many of the roadways to the landings became major roads in our current transportation network.
    Named landings:
    Roberts’ Landing
    Hayward’s Landing
    Guth’s Landing
    Cooley’s Landing
    Soto’s Landing
    Wilson’s / Clarke’s Landing
    Rengstorff’s Landing
    McCubbin’s Landing
    Jagel’s Landing
    Plummer’s Landing
    Patterson’s Landing
    Mt. Eden Landing
    Mayhew’s Landing
    Mowry’s Landing
    Warm Springs Landing
    Dixon’s Landing