—from Annals of San Francisco, 1855
El Dorado Gambling House 1853
Residents of a few years standing--the landmarks, by turns, of the ancient village, town and city, began now to disappear. These perhaps had made a fortune, and sown their "wild oats" in the place. They now retired to the Atlantic States or Europe--to home, in short--to enjoy their gains at ease, astonish quiet neighbors with their wondrous tales, speculate on the future of San Francisco, and become disgusted and ennuied with the slowness, tameness, decorum and insipidity of the conventional mode of existence they were leading. New faces and new names were rising into importance, in place of the earliest pioneers and the "forty-niners." The majority, however, of the first settlers had faith in the place; they relished its excitements, as well of business as of pleasure; they had no family or fond ties elsewhere, or these had been long rudely broken; and so they adhered to San Francisco. Many of these persons had waxed very rich, in spite of themselves, by the sudden rise in the value of real estate, or by some unexpected circumstance, while others, after expending a world of ingenuity, wickedness and hard work, remained almost as poor as when, hopeful and daring, they landed in the ship's boat at Clark's Point, or when the tide was high, at the first rude wharf that ran a short distance out from the beach at Montgomery street.
There is a fascination in even the loose, unsettled kind of life at San Francisco. Of many who have left the city, after a residence of years, and when they have accumulated a handsome fortune, a considerable number have gladly returned. For many months, perhaps for even a year or two, the immigrant thinks he can never worthily or rationally enjoy existence in such a place; so he determines to make a fortune as soon as possible, and decamp forever. But fortunes are now made more slowly, and the old citizen--a few years here make one old in sensation, thought and experience--changes his sentiments, and he begins to like the town and people for their own sake. The vices and follies, the general mode of living--that frightened and shocked him at first--seem natural to the climate, and, after all, are by no means so very disagreeable. If he returned to settle in ultra or pseudo-civilized and quiet States, he would surely feel himself but a "used-up" man; so he continues where he made his money, still to feel, speculate and enjoy, to work and contend with real men, in their keenest and strongest characters.
<iframe src="https://archive.org/embed/HarryHayOn19thCenturyRemittanceMen" width="640" height="480" frameborder="0"></iframe>
Harry Hay, founder of the first gay rights organization the Mattachine Society, describes the 19th century phenomenon of the "remittance men."
Video: Shaping San Francisco, 1996