San Francisco! Writers' Houseparty!

San Francisco!

I've spent a few hours researching the city in 1859--1860 for the upcoming writers' houseparty!

Among other things, this has involved perusing newspaper articles of the period.

I'd forgotten that 1859 was the year that Emperor Norton first declared himself “Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico”...

Items directly related to my assigned research topic will appear in the related thread on the Forum. In the meantime, here are a few other related tidbits I discovered:

1860 was a leap year!

The telegraph connection to New York only began operating in 1861, but the Pony Express began its first run on 3 April 1860.

The San Francisco Olympic Club was established in May 1860, making it the oldest athletic club in the country. “23 charter members founded the San Francisco Olympic Club, turning their informal gymnastics training sessions held in the backyard of Arthur and Charles Christian Nahl into a lasting institution. The by-laws stated that the purpose of the Club was 'to strengthen and improve the body by gymnastic exercises.'”

A letter from Australia, January 1860.

A letter from Hong Kong, also in 1860.

Adulterated tea and willow tea were apparently making the rounds...

If you dropped by the newspaper offices, you could see a sample of cashmere from a real cashmere goat, brought in from Calcutta following a 4 to 5 month journey (a cashmere shawl cost $1,000).

Over at the Opera, the 1860s’ version of David Copperfield was performing: John Henry Anderson, an influence on Houdini. The Daily Alta editors seemed less than impressed.
He was over in Marysville (north of Sacramento) on 1 March, appearing “as both magician and actor [as Rob Roy] on the same evening”!

A “passenger elevator” was installed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, “by means of which the inmates of the house are transported to the various floors on which their rooms are located... Of course, the upward propelling power is steam”! Click on the link for a full description of how an elevator works.

The “anniversary of the birthday of Scotia's glorious bard, poor Bobby Burns, was celebrated in this, and the neigboring cities, in a highly praiseworthy manner last night [26 February].”

The amount of work that went into typesetting these newspapers is mindboggling. News from Europe arrived with some delay (compared to even 100 years later) and little analysis. This throwaway line is interesting: “The free trade ideas of Napoleon will be read with much interest, indicating as they do the sagacity of the French Emperor”, as is the urge for caution upon the announcement of some new mines (as the gold rush was winding down) in this issue. I’m not sure where the ideas of Napoleon were to be read, since they are not printed in the paper itself.

Here's a neat article about vineyards in Switzerland:

California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences Vol 12 No 4, 12 August 1859

And here's a panorama of the city on a postcard (for sale on Zazzle):

Which time periods and what items have you been researching lately?


USNessie said…
Ah... research!
It is SO easy to fall down the rabbit hole, and it can be SO worth it!
Hopefully this fall I'll be enrolled at UCCS finishing my bachelors in history. Also hopefully, I can pick classes that mesh well with what I'm writing.
Olivia Rose said…
Yes, research is so much fun and enlightening.
A steam elevator? That doesn't sound safe.
I agree with Alex, I'm not getting into a steam elevator.

I can't picture an athletics club such a long tim ago.

What was the last thing I researched? I think some present info about Harvard and Cambridge, MA. Less interesting than your San Francisco research.
Hi Deniz - I read your post and am now back to comment ... so much research - and so much happening in San Francisco at that time ... a frenzied period, without too much law and order ... Is your Writer's Houseparty going to be safe to attend?

Type setting was/is an art - but I bet many are glad it's no longer a manual job ... Emperors seem to be a popular occupation!

Cheers and enjoy the weekend - Hilary
sage said…
I haven't been researching much, but here are a few tidbits about SF in 1860:

WIlliam Anderson Scott, founding pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church was still preaching in 1860. But he has had his share of conflict. In 1856, he was hanged in effigy for speaking out against the work of a vigilance committee. He was again hanged in effigy in 1861, when he insisted on praying for both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederate States). Deciding it was safer to be gone, he headed to Europe for a few years, to wait out the Civil War.

Another pastor of note is Thomas Starr King at the Unitarian Church. He was a well known lecturer and would later have two mountains named for him--one in the Sierras and another in New Hampshire
Deniz Bevan said…
Hope you all get a chance to come by and check out our story on the Forum!

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