A conversation with the University of Alberta about Mechanics’ Institutes of course!

I was cordially invited to offer my thoughts about the Mechanics’ Institute of San Francisco to the graduate class Foundations of Adult and Higher Education at the University of Alberta. Via Skype I delivered the following lecture last night. The audio file includes the Q& A. Thanks so much! Hi thank you for having me. I’m Taryn Edwards, I’m one of the 8 librarians on staff at the San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute. I’ve worked here 8 years and have spent the last four intensively analyzing our history – searching for themes and practices that we can capitalize upon today in order to chart a path forward. Let me tell you a bit about the circumstances surrounding our founding. The SF MI’s birth is closely tied to the aftermath of the California...

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. 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. The...

Wines, Brandies, and Vinous Products – Part 2

As you can see by 1869 the grape crop was huge in comparison to the other fruits grown in California. Even the State’s signature fruit, the orange is surpassed by the grape. 1869 would see the consumption of wine grow to 5,000,000 gallons and brandy’s consumption would grow to 200,000 gallons. At the fairs, we start to see wines from Nevada City, Sonoma, Martinez, Napa, Santa Clara. The 1868 and 1869 fairs looked like this inside, again taken by our favorite photographer Eadward Muybridge. Note the central fountain, it was a wonderful place to people watch. 600,000 people would attend the 1868 fair.  Right next to the fountain in the back is Martinelli’s Cider display – always a party pleaser, back then his cider was even more fun, it was alcoholic! The fair...

Wines, Brandies, and Vinous Products at the Mechanics’ Institute’s Industrial Expositions, 1857-1899 – Part 1

On October 23, 2014 I gave a talk at the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society’s Grapes of Past event about the wine industry of San Francisco as it was reflected in 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 industrial output. The following posts will be the text of Wines, Brandies, and Vinous Products at the Mechanics’ Institute’s Industrial Expositions, 1857-1899. Thanks for having me tonight. I’m Taryn Edwards, I’m one of the Librarians on staff at the Mechanics’ Institute of San Francisco – one of the oldest libraries in the West, the oldest chess club in the United States, and...

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...