Stanford University
San Mateo County Bay Ownership 1877-1927
San Mateo County Bay Ownership 1877-1927

Authors: Gabriel Lee, Alec Norton, Andrew Robichaud, and Matthew Booker

These maps show five decades of change in bay ownership in San Mateo County (south of San Francisco), based on official county maps from those years. In 1868, the state of California parceled out the San Francisco Bay tidelands for sale by county, with a variety of owners bidding on and gaining ownership in San Mateo County. Tidelands in San Mateo County, the most desirable and contested in the South Bay, underwent significant ownership changes early on, but between 1886 and 1888 Morgan Oyster Company consolidated most of the eastern San Mateo tidelands under a single owner. Morgan's early purchases show an interest in accumulating productive oyster habitats extensive enough to support a dynamic system of production that provided unique advantages. Those who attempted to compete in the oyster industry never lasted long. Controlling the tidal flats of San Mateo County also enabled Morgan Oyster to sell tracts only on favorable terms, and the company rarely parted with lands even into the late 1920s, fifteen years after the oyster industry had dramatically declined.
Spatial History