Charge of the “Tight Brigade”

I spent Friday – about five hours – sitting in front of a microfilm reader sifting through issues of a rare newspaper, the Placer Herald. Most of what I found was not helpful save this delightful poem: Charge of the “Tight Brigade”  There has been a most alarming quantity of poetic agonizing over the piece of sublime stupidity perpetrated at the Balaklava called the Charge of the Light Brigade. The versus which Tennyson, an English poet, wrote upon the rash act, are happily imitated by “Vennison Stalk, Esq.,”  of the Ohio Statesman, who being charged with having no genius for writing on the fiercer themes of war, penned the following “spirit-stirring lyric” in brilliant refutation of the slander:   At the bar, at the bar, At the bar thundered;...

2014, a year of many books

In 2014 I read 65 books – my experiment of tracking everything that I read has paid off. Most importantly, I read the entire Outlander series – if you haven’t tried this time-travel, historical romance series please do. If you love a great hero you need to meet Jamie Fraser. In my opinion, he’s one of the most memorable characters in fictional history – right up there with Emma Bovary, Julien Sorel, Bigger Thomas, and Humbert Humbert – tragic, warm, flawed, and certainly sexier. While many of the books were just for fun, they all have added something in my research quest. Below are some highlights from the past year.   January Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin I read the Game of Thrones series in 2011-2013. By January 2014 I was dying for more but...

A Fair to Remember and Relive

How many times have you rolled your eyes and sighed when someone starts telling you about his great grandfather? When you ask Lee Bruno about his, he is surprisingly circumspect – perhaps too much so. Lee Bruno’s gorgeous volume Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition is a testament to “the City that knows how”, the Exposition, and the remarkable vision of Ruben Brooks Hale, the author’s great grandfather. Hale was a far sighted entrepreneur, president of the Merchants’ Association, who planted the idea of hosting a grand Exposition – timed with the opening of the Panama Canal – in the minds of San Francisco’s civic leaders in 1904. Unfortunately, the earthquake and fire of 1906 naturally put plans on hold. As the city...

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...