1542 Juan Cabrillo sails up the California coast.
1579 Sir Francis Drake lands near San Francisco, missing the entrance to the bay.
1769 Members of the Spanish expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá become the first Europeans to see San Francisco Bay.
1775 The San Carlos is the first European ship to sail into San Francisco Bay.
1776 Captain Juan Bautista de Anza establishes a presidio (military fort); San Francisco de Asís Mission opens.
1821 Mexico wins independence from Spain and annexes California.
1835 The town of Yerba Buena develops around the port; the United States tries unsuccessfully to purchase San Francisco Bay from Mexico.
1846 Mexican-American War.
1847 Americans annex Yerba Buena and rename it San Francisco.
1848 Gold is discovered in Coloma, near Sacramento.
1849 In the year of the gold rush, San Francisco's population swells from about 800 to 25,000.
1850 Congress swiftly grands California statehood, in hopes that the U.S. can control Gold Rush profits.
1851 Lawlessness becomes acute before attempts are made to curb it.
1857 California's first winery, Buena Vista, was founded in Sonoma by Hungarian-born "Count" Agoston Haraszthy.
1869 The transcontinental railroad reaches San Francisco.
1873 Andrew S. Hallidie invents the cable car.
1906 The Great Earthquake strikes, and the resulting fire levels the city.
1915 The Panama Pacific International Exposition celebrates San Francisco's restoration and the completion of the Panama Canal.
1936 The Bay Bridge is built.
1937 The Golden Gate Bridge is completed.
1945 The United Nations Charter is drafted and adopted by the representatives of 50 countries meeting in San Francisco.
1950 The Beat Generation moves into the bars and cafes of North Beach.
1967 A free concert in Golden Gate Park attracts 20,000 people, ushering in the Summer of Love and the hippie era.
1974 BART's high-speed transit system opens the tunnel linking San Francisco with the East Bay.
1976 “The Judgment of Paris” puts Napa Valley on the world’s wine map when two Napa wines—a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon—beat out the French competition in a blind tasting in Paris.
1978 Harvey Milk, a city supervisor and America's first openly gay politician, is assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, by political rival Dan White.
1989 An earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale hits San Francisco during a World Series baseball game, as 100 million watch on TV; the city quickly rebuilds.
1991 Fire rages through the Berkeley/Oakland hills, destroying 2,800 homes.
1993 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opens.
1995 New San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opens.
1996 Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown becomes San Francisco's first African-American mayor.
2000 Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park), the new home to the San Francisco Giants, opens.
2002 The San Francisco Giants make it to the World Series but lose to the Anaheim Angels in Game 7.
2004 Thirty-six-year-old supervisor Gavin Newsom becomes the city’s 42nd mayor and quickly makes headlines by authorizing City Hall to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Six months later, the state supreme court invalidates 3,955 gay marriages.
2005 The new, seismically correct $202-million de Young Museum opens in Golden Gate Park.
2006 The 100-year anniversary of the Great Earthquake and fire of 1906, the greatest disaster ever to befall an American metropolis, is commemorated.
2007 A tiger escapes from its pen at the San Francisco Zoo, killing one man and injuring two others before the police shoot and kill it.
2008 The California Supreme Court overturns the ban on same-sex marriage, touching off short-lived celebrations at San Francisco City Hall. The ban is reinstated in an election later that year, added to the ballot as “Proposition 8.”
2009 The economic downturn puts San Francisco in a financial tailspin. Although tourism dollars keep pouring in, small businesses struggle, battling high rents and a cash-strspped public.
2010 The San Francisco Giants baseball team wins the World Series against the Texas Rangers; thousands of fans fill Civic Center Plaza for the parade and celebration.
2011 Ed Lee is elected San Francisco’s 43rd mayor.
2012 The San Francisco Giants beat the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, again.
2013 California Governor Jerry Brown instructs county clerks to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down “Prop 8.”
2014 The San Francisco Giants win the world series. Yes, again.
2017 Dry conditions and extremely high winds contribute to the deadliest wildfires in California history, primarily tearing through Napa and Sonoma counties. The weeklong firestorm destroyed more than 245,000 acres, 8,400 structures, and killed at least 42 people.