City of Vice


City of Vice

Transience and San Francisco's Urban History, 1848–1917

James Mallery

342 pages
12 photographs, 16 illustrations, 9 maps, index


June 2024


$60.00 Pre-order

About the Book

San Francisco’s reputation for accommodating progressive and unconventional identities can find its roots in the waves of transients and migrants that flocked to San Francisco between the gold rush and World War I. In the era of yellow journalism, San Francisco’s popular presses broadcast shocking stories about the waterfront, Chinatown, Barbary Coast, hobo Main Stem, Uptown Tenderloin, and Outside Lands. The women and men who lived in these districts did not passively internalize the shaming of their bodies or neighborhoods. Rather, many urbanites intentionally sought out San Francisco’s “vice” and transient lodging districts. They came to identify themselves in ways opposed to hegemonic notions of whiteness, respectability, and middle-class heterosexual domesticity. With the destabilizing 1906 earthquake marking its halfway point, James Mallery’s City of Vice explores the imagined, cognitive mapping of the cityscape and the social history of the women and men who occupied its so-called transient and vice districts between the late nineteenth century and World War I.

Author Bio

James Mallery is a licensed architect specializing in existing and historical buildings in Los Angeles. He has a PhD in history and has taught architectural history and U.S. history at various institutions. 


“A fascinating account of San Francisco’s past. Packed with sharp historical insights from rich archival research, the book will appeal to scholars, students, and general readers alike. It will change the way readers view the city’s physical and imaginary landscapes.”—Clare Sears, author of Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco

“A vibrant history of San Francisco’s multiracial transient living and entertainment districts that unravels urban myths and offers cautionary tales of crusades against vice and crime.”—Nayan Shah, author of Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown

“A lively, thoroughly researched, and necessary corrective to the history of cities.”—Jessica Ellen Sewell, author of Women and the Everyday City: Public Space in San Francisco, 1890–1915

“Mallery’s study of San Francisco’s districts of the demimonde and ‘the dangerous classes,’ where tourists and residents enjoyed their illicit pleasures, is a fascinating addition to the historiography of the Pacific Coast metropolis from the gold rush to the Great War.”—William Issel, coauthor of San Francisco, 1865–1932: Politics, Power, and Urban Development

“Urban historians and historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era will welcome James Mallery’s deeply researched history of the parts of San Francisco that the city’s dominant white middle- and upper-classes defined as different—different by race, or class, or marital status, or violations of the dominant classes’ morality.”—Robert W. Cherny, coauthor of San Francisco, 1865–1932: Politics, Power, and Urban Development

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Gold Rush and the Walking City, 1850s
2. Waterfront and the New Fulton House, 1893
3. Main Stem and the Industrial Army, 1894
4. Chinatown and Quarantine, 1900
5. Earthquake and Firestorm, 1906
6. Outside Lands and Residence Parks, 1912–13
7. Barbary Coast and the Anti-“vice” Campaigns, 1913
8. Uptown Tenderloin and the Anti-“vice” Campaign, 1917

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