Wines, Brandies, and Vinous Products – Part 3

Meanwhile, in 1878 the Mechanics’ Institute was conducting special research on the wine industry with the help of a wine expert from Australia, Rev. John J. Bleasdale.

John Jacob Bleasdale Courtesy Wikipedia

John Jacob Bleasdale
Courtesy Wikipedia

Bleasdale visited vintners up and down the state taking samples of their wines for scientific analysis. In blind trials the wines were judged according to a 20 point system by Date of vintage, Color of sample, Condition, Flavor, Bouquet, Body, and Acidity felt to the palate.

The wines were then given a final score of 3, 2 or 1 with 1 being the best.

A report was drawn up in time for the 1878 Exhibition that explained each wines’ merits and how the properties of the soil, water, and variety of grapes affected the final product.

This is the standard by which future Exhibitions would judge wine.

Illustration probably from the Wasp Magazine, 1878 Courtesy of the Bancroft Library

Illustration probably from the Wasp Magazine, 1878
Courtesy of the Bancroft Library

The cherub on the left is carrying a bottle of Gundlach wine.

The 1878 Exhibition was notable for something else – see that camera at the top left? Eadward Muybridge in a special display showed his horse photographs. The following year he would “stitch” them together to form one of the first “moving pictures” in existence.

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Eadward Muybridge’s “horse series” Courtesy Mechanics’ Institute Archives

At the same time a cure for the scourge of phylloxera was being researched by a professor from the University of California. Eugene Hilgard came from a wine making family and was an expert on soil and its affects on agricultural flora.  He had participated in the 1878 wine study sponsored by the Mechanics’ Institute, probably brought on board at the behest of the Institute’s President Andrew Hallidie (you know him as the inventor of the cable car) who was a Regent of the University. Hilgard spent a good decade researching phylloxera and wrote a report on the issue that he submitted to the University.

Eugene Hilgard (1833-1916) Professor of Agriculture & Botany Courtesy Bancroft Library

Eugene Hilgard (1833-1916) Professor of Agriculture & Botany
Courtesy Bancroft Library

Moving on in time, in 1882 the Exhibitions moved to its permanent location of Larkin and Grove in the space now occupied by the Civic Auditorium – kitty corner to City Hall.

Mechanics’ Pavilion located kitty corner to City Hall directly on the plot now occupied by the Civic Auditorium. Mechanics’ Institute Archives

Mechanics’ Pavilion located kitty corner to City Hall directly on the plot now occupied by the Civic Auditorium.
Mechanics’ Institute Archives

The 1887 Exhibition was a banner year for wine. There were 71 displays of wines and brandies at this fair including many that still exist today – Beringer Bros., Chauvet, DeTurk, Gundlach, Buena Vista, Krug, Niebaum, Schram, and Treadwell. The vintners included wine from Napa, Sonoma, Nevada, San Benito, Stanislaus, Contra Costa, and Placer Counties. This exhibition was huge – each county had enormous displays of all its notable and profitable products, especially wine. 2 concerts per day each with 43 musicians entertained the ¾ of a million people that would attend this fair. There was a display of 300 different varieties of wine and table grapes arranged attractively in the shape of 4 pyramids. People from all over the state were encouraged to attend – the railroads offered special “excursion rates” so that residents from other counties could visit.

Three lady vintners would also exhibit in 1887. Kate Warfield of Ten Oaks Winery, Eliza Hood from Glen Ellen, and Hannah Weinberger from St. Helena. Regrettably I don’t have a picture for Ms. Warfield.

Hannah Weinberger and Eliza Hood Courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Library Association and Sonoma County Library

Hannah Weinberger and Eliza Hood
Courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Library Association and Sonoma County Library

At the close of the 19th century, women made up roughly 10% of the wine makers in the state. Women were encouraged to take part in Mechanics’ Institute affairs most especially the Exhibitions. In 1889 the former president of the Mechanics’ Institute – Mr. Andrew Hallidie would represent California at the Paris Exposition of 1889 and bring with him a large collection of wines and brandies.

Wine exhibit at 1889 Paris Exposition Courtesy of Library of Congress

Wine exhibit at 1889 Paris Exposition
Courtesy of Library of Congress

 

I can’t tell if this picture is of California’s display but you can form an impression as to the size of the displays. There was one for each of the participating countries just for wines. 35 gold, silver and bronze medals would be awarded to California wines.

The fairs would go on through the 1890’s and one starts to see representation from some of the heritage wineries that are still around like DeTurk, Kohler & Frohling, Crabb (land now owned by Mondavi), Italian Swiss Colony, Berenger, Gundlach, Cresta Blanca (now owned by Wente). By the 1890’s however public interest in the Expositions started to wane and the last few were financial disappointments. The last of the Mechanics’ Institute Expositions was held in 1899 and there is no accompanying fair report to show who exhibited what. The Pavilion was rented out for other activities however like dances, political rallys, ice and roller skating and indoor and outdoor bicycle races. This particular photo is of a girl who won a diamond ring for being the Queen of the Rollers – this photo was taken on April 17 1906 mere hours before the great quake.

 

Courtesy Mechanics' Institute Archives

Courtesy Mechanics’ Institute Archives

And this is one of the last photos of the Pavilion. On April 18, 1906 San Francisco suffered a massive earthquake. The Mechanics’ Pavilion survived the quake and was used as a hospital. When it became clear that the fire that was eating up the City was headed towards the Pavilion, the Army evacuated the building and just before it succumbed to the flames. The Institute for a few years planned to rebuild but eventually decided to sell that block of land to the city so that they could erect the Civic Auditorium – one of the venues for the Panama Pacific Exposition slated to open in February 1915.

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I wouldn’t be a good librarian if I didn’t tell you my sources. Please contact me if you have specific questions about how I came to my conclusions or which sources I used.

Sources

Mechanics’ Institute Industrial Fair Reports 1857-1899

California Digital Newspaper Collection

Daily Alta

The Call

The Chronicle

Pacific Rural Press

The Resources of California by John S. Hittell (1863, 1879)

The Resources of California a monthly magazine

edited by P. H. Wentworth

San Francisco Municipal Reports

Transactions of the California State Agricultural Society

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