Healthful Fermented Liquors at the Mechanics’ Institute Expositions – Part 2

The Eighth Fair (1871) had an international flavor featuring exhibits from Australia, China, Japan and Hawaiian islands. It was nearly double the size of the first with 1100 different exhibits. By this time there were 35 breweries according to the San Francisco Municipal Reports, producing 160,000 barrels of beer. Australian beer featured heavily at this fair and was eagerly sampled by all. R. F. Tooth & Co. – Exhibited Two hogsheads Tooth & Co.’s No. 3 Ale. Pale and XXX Ale, awarded a Diploma for best foreign Ale   In 1882, the exhibition building was moved to the newly purchased block of land that now contains the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – kitty corner to City Hall. This building was intended to be a permanent structure and hosted...

Healthful Fermented Liquors at the Mechanics’ Institute’s Industrial Expositions – Part 1

On July 24, 2014 I gave a talk about the beer industry of San Francisco as it was reflected at the 31 Industrial Expositions of the Mechanics’ Institute. These expositions took place between the years of 1857 and 1899 and were marvelous “snapshots” of the city and state’s burgeoning industry all types. What does this have to do with my biography project? Well, my subject was heavily involved with the Industrial Expositions and learning about them – has helped enormously with understanding his times. The following posts will be the text of that speech. The Mechanics’ Institute of San Francisco was founded in December of 1854. It aimed to be a school of technology, a library and lecture hall for the educational advancement of the...

Librarian Horace Wilson

It was a typical day at work last March when a young librarian from Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum knocked on the door of the 3rd floor of the Mechanics’ Institute. “Have you heard of Horace Wilson?” he asked. “Of course I have,” I replied in astonishment, “How do YOU know about him?” Taku Chinone, a librarian himself, was here to see the place where his hero, Hall of Famer Horace Wilson, worked for sixteen years. Never heard of Horace Wilson? Well, Horace Wilson was responsible for bringing the sport of baseball to Japan.  What brought Mr. Chinone to San Francisco was the World Baseball Classic Championship. As baseball is a national obsession, Wilson was inducted into the Tokyo Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. This experience so dazzled my...

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...

San Francisco Music and the WPA

You’re undoubtedly familiar with many of the WPA (Works Projects Administration) endeavors in San Francisco: the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, the murals at Coit Tower and Rincon Center; but you may not be aware of how much the WPA accomplished in encouraging and preserving our musical heritage. The largest agency of President Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda, the WPA, employed millions of people from all walks of life and focused on such civic improvement as the construction of public buildings, roads and parks; and the commission of cultural undertakings such as works of art, and theatrical and musical performances.   The branch of the WPA that handled its musical ventures, the Federal Music Project, had an office in San Francisco and was directed by composer,...