As a new year begins, it might feel like San Francisco is going through a uniquely baffling time.

History argues otherwise. A look back in the archives of The Examiner, the oldest newspaper in The City, shows headlines remarkably reminiscent of today from 100 years ago, 125 years ago and even 150 years ago.

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

Examiner cartoonist and columnist Fay King lampooned the culture of mask-wearing during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 in a series of “Flu Stories.” The 29-year-old wrote that masks were “just as becoming as a thousand other freak fashions we have fallen for.” She was also very serious on the importance of wearing masks. (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

On Christmas Eve of 1918, San Francisco threw its social life in reverse, as the Spanish Flu circled back. A city weary of masking up and shutting down did not get to party for the holidays, as it longed to do. The Examiner wrote that the Flood family “will not give the big party next Thursday, as their son James is recuperating from the flu.” (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

Here are a triplet of stories from 1896 that might seem familiar today. (They are not collated, they appeared in The Examiner in this cluster.) Mayor Adolph Sutro, a towering historical figure in The City, was at war with the Board of Supervisors, whom he denounced as “wretches.” The school board, lawyers, contractors and a land owner were calling in attorneys to straighten out a new project. And a terrifying out break of cholera was sweeping China with San Franciscan officials warned to “watch for cholera germs that might be brought across the Pacific.” (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

On New Year’s Eve on 1921, San Francisco was filling its streets with celebrants for the first time in years, due to World War I and the Spanish flu. Police were watching for “roughness, rowdyism and hoodlumism.” But they were not picking up people’s still-prohibited alcoholic drinks. “Persons with their own liquor in cafes and hotels will not be held accountable.” That’s akin to the legalization of weed a century later. (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

Fay King was a five-foot giant of San Francisco newspapering. A pioneer in autobiographical comics, she depicted her adventures in The City at the dawn of the 1920s as flappers and dandies began to shape the Jazz Age. She married and divorced a boxing world champion, wrote with bravado and was devoted to her beloved canaries. In other words, a true San Franciscan. (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

The front page of The Examiner on New Year’s Day 1922 features a campy shot of a portly cop directing a young 1922 to his place in the line of history. The paper cheered parties in the streets the night before. “Market Street, the city’s Valley of Pleasure on New Year’s Eve, was congested with merrymakers.” But columnist Arthur Brisbane also despaired for a world that seemed to be “drifting on the stream of time.” (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

In January of 1919, San Francisco began – again – making mask-wearing mandatory, by law. Just two months earlier The City cheered as a siren sounded announcing the end of the Spanish Flu pandemic. That was premature, cases rose, and masks were once again required. But some didn’t like that, and an Anti-Mask League of several thousand – including a member of the Board of Supervisors – gathered for a protest. After heated political debates, San Francisco lifted the mask requirement on Feb. 1, 1919, on the recommendation of the Board of Health. (Examiner Archives)

History repeats itself: A trip through the archives reveals a very similar San Francisco 100 years ago

As a new year dawned 125 years ago, San Francisco had a new electric railroad and a new Cliff House, both built by Mayor Adolph Sutro. The pages of The Examiner were broadly dedicated to yellow journalism supporting a war with Spain at the direction of publisher William Randolph Hearst. But there was also local news, such as reporting on construction of the largest structure in The City: A new ferry depot, which would open in 1898. (Examiner Archives)

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