James Lick Bust at the Mechanics’ Institute

One of the first things one sees upon entering the beautiful landmark building of the Mechanics’ Institute is the bronze bust of James Lick. Lick, a wealthy land owner, carpenter, and millwright had come to the aid of the Mechanics’ Institute several times between 1855 and his death in 1876. His remembrance of the Institute in his will, $10,000, so impressed our Board of Directors that in 1896 they commissioned the bust, designed by local sculptor Francis Marion Wells and cast by Messrs. Louis De Rome and Neil Whyte of the Globe Brass and Bell Foundry, to hang in our lobby as a memorial and testament to Lick’s generosity and commitment to the mechanics of this city. This was not the first time Wells had sculpted Lick’s likeness. In 1890 when the James...

Someone made a mess on the way to the Forum, bring a sponge!

Ever since the 6th grade, after a particularly enthralling section on ancient Egypt, I’ve been fascinated by the ancient Mediterranean.  Due to circumstance and good sense, I studied a “practical” subject in graduate school, but a work of Classical literature or history is always at my bedside. I am lucky enough to be able to indulge this vice during working hours by buying the new books in that subject area.  One such purchase was Blood in the Forum by Pamela Marin.  Don’t let the salacious title and blood spattered book-jacket fool you – this is a serious work of scholarship about the tumultuous last decades of the Republic. The author, who studied at Oxford and University College in Dublin Ireland, organizes her research in a unique manner.  First she...

African American Memoirs from the Civil War Era

I’m reading a lot of Civil War era histories and novels these days, trying to immerse myself in the period so that I can get a feel for the heavy politics of the time. When my mother said she was going to see the new film Twelve Years a Slave, I immediately ordered myself the e-book to read on my Kindle. The narrative was mesmerizing and while I was forced to put my Kindle down to work and sleep I found it hard to focus on my daily tasks – eager to know what happened to Solomon Northup. Two days later I read the final chapters sitting on my toilet whilst my three year old happily splashed in the bath with her toy fish. When I got to the scene where Solomon is found, working in the cotton fields, by a delegation of men who were there to liberate him, I cried out...