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Sparkletack Podcast

Sparkletack Podcast

San Francisco History & Culture

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bite-sized chunks of history and culture from my favourite city, san francisco. from the wild days of the barbary coast to the particularities of modern life -- weekly observations and stories from america's left coast.


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San Francisco Timecapsule: 05.18.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, May 18, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: 1922: Flappers in the newspapers

May 19, 1922
Flappers

flapper_smRight off the bat I have to admit the fact that -- to paraphrase Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck -- what I don't know about San Francisco in the 1920s is a lot.

I did know that all sorts of great Prohibition and gangster stuff must have gone on, though, so I started leafing through a couple of 1922 editions of the Chronicle looking for stories.

And was immediately distracted by the flappers.

You know, flappers.

Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald ...

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 05.11.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, May 11, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1879: Stoddard, Stevenson, and Rincon Hill

Sometime in 1879:
The house on Rincon Hill

Last week I read to you from In the Footprints of the Padres, Charles Warren Stoddard's 1902 reminiscences about the early days of San Francisco.

That piece recounted a boyhood adventure, but this book is full of California stories from the latter years of the 19th century; some deservedly obscure, but some that ring pretty loud bells.

Todays' short text is a great example of the latter, one that dovetails beautifully with two other San Francisco stories, both of which I've talked about at Sparkletack: the story of the Second Street Cut and the visit of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The now all-grown-up Stoddard had returned to San Francisco after the Polynesian peregrinations that would inspire his best-known work, and Stevenson had just arrived from Scotland in hot pursuit of the woman he loved.

The two authors hit it off, and -- as you'll hear at the end of today's Timecapsule -- it's to Stoddard and the house on Rincon Hill that we owe Stevenson's eventual fascination with the South Seas.

charles warren stoddardSouth Park and Rincon Hill!

Do the native sons of the golden West ever recall those names and think what dignity they once conferred upon the favored few who basked in the sunshine of their prosperity?

South Park, with its line of omnibuses running across the city to North Beach; its long, narrow oval, filled with dusty foliage and offering a very weak apology for a park; its two rows of houses with, a formal air, all looking very much alike, and all evidently feeling their importance. There were young people's "parties" in those days, and the height of felicity was to be invited to them.

As a height o'ertops a hollow, so Rincon Hill looked down upon South Park. There was more elbow-room on the breezy height; not that the height was so high or so broad, but it was breezy; and there was room for the breeze to blow over gardens that spread about the detached houses their wealth of color and perfume.

How are the mighty fallen! The Hill, of course, had the farthest to fall. South Parkites merely moved out: they went to another and a better place. There was a decline in respectability and the rent-roll, and no one thinks of South Park now, -- at least no one speaks of it above a whisper.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 05.04.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, May 04, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1854: A future poet's boyhood outing

charles_warren_stoddardSpring 1854
Charles Warren Stoddard

In 1854, the down-on-their-luck Stoddard family set off from New York City to try their luck in that brand new metropolis of the West: San Francisco.

Charles Warren Stoddard was just 11 years old, and San Francisco -- still in the throes of the Gold Rush, a vital, chaotic, cosmopolitan stew pot -- was the most exciting place a little boy could dream of.

Charles would grow up to play a crucial part in San Francisco's burgeoning literary scene. He was just a teenager when his first poems were published in the Golden Era, and his talent and sweet personality were such that he developed long-lasting friendships with the other usual-suspect San Francisco bohemians, Ambrose Bierce, Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte, and Samuel Clemens.

Stoddard is probably best remembered for the mildly homo-erotic short stories inspired by his extensive travels in the South Seas, but in 1902 he published a kind of memoir entitled In the Footprints of the Padres. As the old song goes, it recalls "the days of old, the days of gold, the days of '49" from a very personal point of view.

The reviewers of the New York Times praised the work for Stoddard's "vivid and poetic charm", but I have to admit that I'm mainly in it for his memories.

footprints_of_the_padresIn this piece, Charles and his little gang of pals are about to embark on a day-long ramble along the north-eastern edge of the city. Let's roll the clock back to 1854, and with Charles' help, put ourselves into the shoes of an 11-year-old boy anticipating the freedom of a sunny spring Saturday.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 04.20.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Apr 20, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1906: Hotaling's Whiskey is spared by the Great Fire and Earthquake

hotaling whiskeyApril 20th, 1906
The deliverance of Hotaling's Whiskey

As of Friday the 20th, San Francisco was still on fire. The Great Earthquake had happened two days earlier, but the Fire (or fires) that devastated the city were still well underway.

The eastern quarter of the city -- nearly five square miles -- would be almost completely destroyed. But after the smoke cleared, a few precious blocks would emerged unscathed. Among these survivors would be the two blocks bounded by Montgomery, Jackson, Battery and Washington Streets.

great earthquake and firestorm fradkinOceans of ink have been spilled in documenting the incredible individual heroism and unfathomable professional incompetence displayed in fighting those fires. One of the best books on the subject is "The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906" by Philip Fradkin, from which I've swiped much of today's timecapsule.

This is the story of a single building, but one of vital importance to the delicate Western palette: AP Hotaling & Co.’s warehouse at 451 Jackson Street -- the largest depository of whiskey on the West Coast.

Day One: the first escape

Hotaling's warehouse was threatened on the very first day of the fires, Wednesday, April 18th. This particular blaze was one of the many inspired by rampant and ill-advised dynamiting, in this case by an allegedly drunken John Bermingham, not coincidentally the president of the California Powder Works.

Encouraged by the blast, the fire roared towards the whiskey-packed warehouse. Its cornices began to smoulder, but a quick-acting fireman bravely clambered to the top and hacked them off.

This was Hotaling's first escape.



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San Francisco Timecapsule: 04.13.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Apr 13, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1958: The Giants play the Dodgers in the first major league baseball game on the West Coast

April 15, 1958
Major League Baseball in San Francisco!

ph_history_timeline_art17Exactly fifty-one years ago today, two New York City transplants faced each other for the first time on the fertile soil of the West Coast.

Decades of storied rivalry already under their respective belts, these two legendary New York baseball clubs -- the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers -- were trapped in aging, unsuitable parks. Giants owner Horace Stoneham had been considering a move to Minnesota until Dodger owner Walter O'Malley -- whose plans for a new Brooklyn park were being blocked -- set his sights on the demographic paradise of Los Angeles.

The National League wouldn't allow just one team to make such a drastic geographic move, so O'Malley talked Stoneham into taking a look at San Francisco. To the eternal regret and dismay of their New York fans, following the 1957 season, both teams pulled up stakes and headed for the welcoming arms of California.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 04.06.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Apr 06, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1871: The fall of a hoodlum king

April 9, 1871:
A hoodlum king's power is broken, and all because he hated the sound of music. Apparently.

This isn't going to come as a surprise, but one of my favourite histories of this fair city is Herbert Asbury's Barbary Coast, first published in 1933. That's where I ran into the little story of Billy Smith, one of the most notorious hoodlums that San Francisco ever produced.

In the early 1870s, Billy Smith was the leader of a gang known as the Rising Star Club. This was a group of Barbary Coast thugs about 200 men strong, and Billy ruled them -- and the Coast -- with an iron fist. Literally. Billy was a monster of a man, and scoffed at the notion of using a knife, club or gun. No, Billy's weapon of choice was a gigantic pair of corrugated iron knuckles, which he used to tear his antagonists into shreds.

Bullies

This low-tech weaponry was actually not unusual for San Francisco hoodlums. They rarely used guns, since -- bullies that they were -- they tended to enter battle only when massively outnumbering their opponent ... a lone Chinese laundryman, for example, or a recalcitrant shopkeeper.

I've written about the derivation of the term "hoodlum" in a previous blog post, but what's just as interesting is how proud the Barbary Coast hoodlums were of that appellation. According to Asbury,

"Sometimes when they sallied forth on their nefarious errands, they heralded their progress through the streets of San Francisco by cries of "The Hoodlums are coming!" and "Look out for the Hoodlums"! Many of them had the curious idea that the very sound of the word "hoodlum" terrified the police, and that by so identifying themselves they automatically became immune to arrest."



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San Francisco Timecapsule: 03.30.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Mar 30, 2009


THIS WEEK’S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:The San Francisco “Cocktail Route” 1890-something The Cocktail Route — “Champagne Days of San Francisco” Spring is most definitely in the air right now, which has brought my thoughts back to one of the great phenomena of San Francisco’s pre-earthquake era, the “Cocktail Route”. I know I’ve mentioned the “Cocktail Route” in […]

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 03.23.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Mar 23, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
Slumming the Barbary Coast

1871
"A Barbary Cruise"

I've been thinking about the fact that -- just like our out-of-town guests inevitably insist that we take 'em to Chinatown or Fisherman's Wharf -- in the 1870s, visitors from back in "the States" just had to go slumming in the infamous Barbary Coast.

The piece I'm about to read to you was written by Mr. Albert Evans, a reporter from the good ol' Alta California. The Barbary Coast was part of his beat, and this gave him connections with the hardnosed cops whose duty it was to maintain some kind of order in that "colorful" part of town.

As romanticized as it has become in popular memory, the Coast was a "hell" of a place -- filthy, violent and extremely dangerous for greenhorns.

When some visitors came to town in about 1871, Albert asked one of his policeman buddies to join them on the tour. His account of this "Barbary Cruise" is a remarkable firsthand snapshot of the territory bounded by Montgomery, Stockton, Washington and Broadway. But what's almost more interesting is the way he reports it; the purple prose, the pursed-lip moralizing, and -- though I've skipped the Chinatown part of the tour -- the absolutely matter-of-fact racism on display.

This is the Barbary Coast seen through the eyes of white, bourgeois, and extremely Victorian San Francisco -- prepare to be both educated and annoyed.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 03.09.09

Author: Richard Miller
Tue, Mar 10, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
America's "Master Birdman" makes his final flight

lincoln_beachey_in_looper_1914March 15, 1915:
"The Man Who Owns the Sky"

It was the year of the legendary Panama-Pacific International Exposition. San Francisco had once again earned that phoenix on her flag by rising from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire -- and just nine years later, the city celebrated its rebirth by winning the right to host the World's Fair. Visitors from every point on the compass swarmed towards California to visit the resurgent city.

You probably know that the site of the Fair was the neighborhood now called the Marina, that acres of shoreline mudflats were filled in to create space for a grand and temporary city, and that the mournfully elegant Palace of Fine Arts is its lone survivor. The exhibits and attractions on offer were endless and famously enchanting, but one of the most spectacular events took place in the air above the Fair.

On March 15, a quarter of a million people gathered in the fairgrounds and on the hills above them to see a man in an ultra-modern experimental airplane perform unparalleled feats of aeronautical acrobatics.

That man was Lincoln Beachey, and in 1915 he was the most famous aviator in the country -- known from coast to coast as "The Man Who Owns the Sky".

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 03.02.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Mar 02, 2009


THIS WEEK’S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: 1956: Gold medals or Gold records? An athletic crooner makes a life-changing choice 1956: “Send blank contracts” Of course you know Johnny Mathis. The velvet-voiced crooner is a fixture of the softer side of American pop culture, providing reliably romantic background music for cuddling couples for over sixty years. He’s sold […]

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 02.23.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Feb 23, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1852: English adventurer Frank Marryat pays a visit to a San Francisco Gold Rush barbershop.

more-san-francisco-memoirs1852: A Gold Rush shaving-saloon

I love personal accounts of the goings-on in our little town more than just about anything. The sights, the smells, the daily routine ... I want the nuts and bolts of what it was like to live here THEN!

It's even better when the eyeballs taking it all in belong to an outsider, a visiting alien to whom everything's an oddity.

For my birthday a couple of years ago my Lady Friend gave me a book that's packed to the gills with this kind of first-person account. It's called -- aptly enough -- San Francisco Memories. And because I'm kind of a dope, it's only just occurred to me that this stuff is the absolute epitome of what a timecapsule should be -- and that I really ought to be sharing some of this early San Francisco gold with you.

Ahem. So share it I will.

Our correspondent: Frank Marryat

Frank Marryat was the son of Captain Frederick Marryat, famous English adventurer and author of popular seafaring tales. A chip off the old block, young Frank had himself already written a book of traveler's tales from Borneo and the Indian archipelago. Looking for a new writing subject, he set his sights on an even more exotic locale -- Gold Rush California.

mountains-and-mole-hillsIn 1850, with manservant and three hunting dogs in tow, Frank left the civilized shores of England behind, crossed the Atlantic and the Isthmus of Panama, and made his way towards the Golden Gate.

The book that resulted, California Mountains and Molehills, would be published in 1855 -- ironically the year of Marryat's own demise from yellow fever.

He covers a phenomenal amount of oddball San Francisco and early California history, all neatly collected to satisfy the curiousity of his English reading public -- the Chinese question, the Committee of Vigilance, squatter wars, bears, rats, oysters, gold, even the pickled head of Joaquin Murieta -- and to top it off, Marryat sailed into the Bay just as San Francisco was being destroyed (again) by fire, this one the Great June Fire of 1850!

Don't worry. They'll have the city rebuilt in a couple of weeks, in plenty of time for Frank to spend some quality months slumming in the Gold Country, and then, like the rest of the Argonauts, ride down into the big city for supplies -- and a shave.

That's right -- put your feet up and relax -- in today's Timecapsule, we're going to visit a Gold Rush barber shop.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 02.16.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Feb 16, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1921: the cornerstone of the Palace of the Legion of Honor is laid ... but what was underneath?

legion-of-honor-1923February 19, 1921
Ghosts of Lands End

On this date the cornerstone for San Francisco's spectacular Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum was levered into place.

The Museum was to be a vehicle for the cultural pretensions of the notorious Alma Spreckels. This social-climbing dynamo envisioned her Museum as a far western outpost of French art and culture. Drawing on the vast fortune of her husband -- sugar baron Adolph Spreckels -- she constructed a replica of the Palace of Versailles out at Lands End. Alma would stock the place with art treasures from her own vast collection -- including one of the finest assemblages of Rodin sculpture on the planet.

I've already talked myself hoarse on the subject of Alma Spreckels' rags-to-riches clamber up the social slopes of Pacific Heights, but what's really interesting me today is not what's inside her museum, but what lay underneath that cornerstone in 1921. read on ...



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San Francisco Timecapsule: 02.09.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Feb 09, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1869: the fashionable neighborhood of Rincon Hill is sliced in two.

2nd-street-rincon-hill-1865February, 1869
The battle for Rincon Hill is over

There aren't too many people living who remember this now, but Rincon Hill was once the fanciest neighborhood in San Francisco. You know the place, right? It's south of Market Street, an asphalt-covered lump of rock with the Bay Bridge sticking out of the north-east side and Second Street running by, out to the Giants' ballpark. That's Rincon Hill. What's left of it, anyway.

Exactly 140 years ago this month, the California Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to a scheme which would destroy it.

San Francisco's first fashionable address

As San Francisco's Gold Rush-era population explosion of tents and rickety clapboard started to settle down, the bank accounts of merchants and lucky miners started to fill up. Men were becoming civilized, acquiring culture, and the sort of women known as "wives" were moving into town. This led to a demand for a neighborhood that was distinctly separate from the barbarous Barbary Coast, and with its sunny weather, gentle elevation, and spectacular views of the Bay, Rincon Hill filled the bill.

According to the Annals of San Francisco, by 1853 Rincon Hill was dotted with "numerous elegant structures" -- including the little gated community of South Park. By the 1860s, the Hill was covered with mansions in a riot of architectural styles, and had become the social epicenter of the young city.

And then in 1968 (cue evil-real-estate-developer music here) a San Franciscan named John Middleton got himself elected to the California State Legislature. According to some sources, his elevation was part of a conspiracy to push through a specific radical civic "improvement".

2nd-street-rincon-hill-1869The Second Street "Cut"

Here's the situation that required "improving": at the time, there was a high volume of heavy commercial horse cart traffic to the busy South Beach wharves from Market Street. Second Street provided a direct route, but -- since it went up and over the highest part of Rincon Hill -- horse carts were obliged to take the long way around via Third Street.

Middleton's plan was simplicity itself: carve a deep channel through the heart of the hill, right along Second Street. He just happened to own a big chunk of property at Second and Bryant Streets, and couldn't wait to see his property values go through the roof.

"But wait," you're saying, "what about the owners of those lovely homes up on fashionable Rincon Hill? Won't they object to having their front doors open up to a 100-foot canyon instead of a sidewalk? Do they even have the technology to pull this off? And what about the horrific mess the construction is going to make? We are talking high society here, right?"

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 02.02.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Feb 02, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1849: As the fateful year of 1849 begins, a newspaper editor scrutinizes San Francisco's gold rush future.

gold rushFebruary 1, 1849
The eye of the Gold Rush hurricane

The spring of 1849 -- dawn of a year forever branded into the national consciousness as the era of the California Gold Rush.

And so it was -- but that was back East, in the "States". In San Francisco, the Gold Rush had actually begun an entire year earlier.

I'd better set the scene.

The United States were at war with Mexico -- it's President Polk and "Manifest Destiny" time. San Francisco (then Yerba Buena) was conquered without a shot in July of 1847.

In the first month of 1848, gold was quietly discovered in the foothills east of Sutter's Fort. Days later, the Mexican war came to an end, and Alta California became sole property of the United States.

Sam Brannan kick-starts things in '48

San Francisco was skeptical about the gold strike, but in May of '48, Sam Brannan made his famous appearance on Market Street brandishing a bottle of gold dust. His shouts of "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River" triggered the first wave of the Gold Rush.

The village of about 500 souls was emptied almost overnight as its inhabitants hotfooted it for the hills. Among the many businesses left completely in the lurch was Sam Brannan's own newspaper, the California Star.

While the entrepreneurial Brannan was busy becoming a millionaire selling shovels to gold miners, by June his entire staff had abandoned the paper and set off to make their own fortunes.

Edward Kemble publishes the Alta California

>Brannan sold what was left of his newspaper to a more civic-minded businessman, Mr. Edward Cleveland Kemble. Kemble resuscitated the Star (along with San Francisco's other gold rush-crippled paper, the Californian) as a brand spanking new paper he called the Alta California. The first issue appeared at the tail end of 1848.

That brings us right up to today's timecapsule.

The editorial on the front page of issue #5 of the new paper is a treasure trove of contemporary San Francisco perspectives.

As editor Kemble was composing this piece -- a retrospective of the previous year, and a peek into the uncertain future -- it was the dead of winter, and the first wave of the Rush had crested and broken back towards the city.

Kemble was first and foremost a businessman, and he was concerned with the civic and financial future of San Francisco. He points out that the city is poorly governed, a little short on law and order, already swelling with gold-seekers from Mexico and Oregon, and -- to sum it up -- is woefully unprepared for the onslaught of humanity, the avalanche of "49ers" already looming on the horizon.

But though he's aware that the next wave is going to be a doozy, with 20-20 historical hindsight we know that he doesn't really have a clue.

What Kemble doesn't know ... yet.

By the end of 1849, the village of San Francisco will have burst at every seam, with a population exploding from 2000 to 25,000. Tens of thousands of gold seekers will flow through the port and even more will stagger in overland from the East, all in all 100,000 strong.

The beautiful harbour will be choked with hundreds of deserted, rotting ships, and the local government will prove to be ineffectual and almost totally corrupt. By the end of '49 San Francisco will have become a wild, sprawling, lawless shanty boomtown, and the soul and future of our City by the Bay will be permanently transformed.

Kemble's observations give us ground-level insight into the concerns of the village of San Francisco in the winter of 1848 -- a priceless peek into the eye of the gold rush hurricane.

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 01.26.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Jan 26, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1847: Thanks to a Spanish noblewoman and the quick thinking of Yerba Buena's first American alcalde, San Francisco gets its name.

early-yerba-buenaJanuary 30, 1847:
Yerba Buena becomes San Francisco

Yerba Buena

That was the name given to the tiny bayside settlement back in 1835, a name taken from the wild mint growing on the sand dunes that surrounded it. And if it hadn't been for the lucky first name of an elegant Spanish noblewoman, that's what the city of San Francisco would still be called today.

Our magnificent bay had already worn the name of San Francisco since 1769 -- but though some in Yerba Buena apparently used it as a nickname, it never occurred to its motley population to make "San Francisco" official.

In July of 1846 Yerba Buena was just 11 years old, a sleepy hamlet in Mexican territory with just about 200 residents. The place woke up some when Captain John B. Montgomery sailed into the harbour, marched into the center of town and raised the Stars and Stripes.

The Mexican alcalde and other officials split town before Montgomery's marines arrived, so -- at least as far as Yerba Buena was concerned -- the annexation of California in the Mexican-American war took place without a fight.

mariano-vallejorobert-sempleDon Mariano Vallejo, Dr. Robert Semple and the Bear Flag connection

A couple of weeks earlier up in Sonoma, the rancho of Comandante General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo had been invaded by a ragtag collection of American frontiersman. They were attempting to strike a blow for California's independence from Mexico. Don Vallejo, one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the Mexican territory of Alta California, was arrested -- kidnapped, perhaps -- and transported to Sutter's Fort on the Sacramento River.

You'll undoubtedly recognize this as a scene from the infamous "Bear Flag Revolt" -- a terrific story, but I'm in grave danger of digressing here. In fact, I mention it only because the route taken by Vallejo's captors led them across some of the General's considerable Mexican land-grant holdings, specifically those around the convergence of the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay. read on ...



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San Francisco Timecapsule: 01.19.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Jan 19, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1890: Nellie Bly blows through town; 1897: "Little Pete" (the King of Chinatown) is murdered in a barbershop.

nellie blyJanuary 20, 1890
Miss Nellie Bly whizzes past San Francisco

I got a hot tip that this was the anniversary of the day Miss Nellie Bly stopped by on the home stretch of her dash around the world. But as it turns out, well ... some background first, I guess.

For starters, who the heck was Nellie Bly?

Sixteen years old in 1880, Miss Elizabeth Jane Cochrane of Pittsburgh was a budding feminist. When a blatantly sexist column appeared in the local paper, the teenager fired off a scathing rebuttal. The editor was so struck by her spunk and intellect that he (wisely) hired her, assigning a nom de plume taken from the popular song: "Nellie Bly".

Her early investigative reportage focused on the travails of working women, but the straitjacket of Victorian expectations soon squeezed her into the ghetto of the women's section -- fashion, gardening, and society tea-parties.

Nellie despised this, and tore off to Mexico for a year to write her own kind of stories. Back in the States, she talked her way into a job at Joseph Pulitzer's legendary New York World. Her first assignment was a doozy -- going undercover as a patient into New York's infamous Women's Lunatic Asylum. Her passionate reporting of the brutality and neglect uncovered there shook the world, and Nellie Bly became a household name.

More exposés followed -- sweatshops, baby-selling -- but then, in 1888, Nellie was struck by a different idea. read on ...



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San Francisco Timecapsule: 01.12.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Jan 12, 2009


THIS WEEK'S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1861: the notorious countess Lola Montez dies in New York; 1899: a small boy defends himself in a San Francisco courtroom.

lola montezJanuary 17, 1861
Countess Lola Montez -- in Memorium

As was undoubtedly marked on your calendar, San Francisco's patron saint Emperor Norton died last week, January 7, 1880.

But his was not the only January passing worthy of note. Ten days later (and nineteen years earlier), we lost perhaps the most notorious personage ever to grace the streets of our fair city.

I speak, of course, of Countess Lola Montez . Yes, that's the one -- "whatever Lola wants, Lola gets".

You already know Lola's story, of course. You don't? The breathtakingly gorgeous Irish peasant girl with the soul of a grifter and the heart of a despot? How she -- with a few sexy dance steps, a fraudulent back story involving Spanish noble blood and the claim of Lord Byron as her father -- turned Europe upside down and provoked a revolution in Bavaria?

Still doesn't ring a bell, hmm? Well, Lola's whole story is a little too large for this space. She'd already lived about three lifetimes' worth of adventure -- and burned through romances with personalities from King Ludwig the First to Sam Brannan -- before conquering Gold Rush-era San Francisco with her scandalous "Spider Dance".

If you missed the Sparkletack podcast about this amazing character, you might want to rectify that little omission.

After her European escapades, Lola found that freewheeling San Francisco suited her tempestuous eccentricity to a T. Brandishing the title of "Countess" -- a Bavarian souvenir -- she drank and caroused and became the absolute center of the young city's attention.

It's said that men would come pouring out of Barbary Coast saloons to gawk at the raven-haired vision sashaying through the mud with a pair of greyhounds at her heels, a white cockatoo perched on one shoulder, and a cigar cocked jauntily from her lips ... and do I even need to mention her pet grizzly bears?

read on ...

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San Francisco Timecapsule: 01.05.09

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Jan 05, 2009


THIS WEEK: San Francisco's notorious "Demon of the Belfry" goes to the gallows.

January 7, 1898:
The execution of Gilded Age San Francisco's most notorious criminal

durrant early prison photo

Sure, Jack the Ripper had set a certain tone for serial killing just a few years earlier, but the crimes of Theodore Durrant were even more shocking. See, Jack's victims had been prostitutes, but San Francisco's "Demon of the Belfry" had murdered a pair of girls who were respectable churchgoers. In his very own church.

On the day before Easter Sunday, 1896, a group of women held a meeting at the Emmanual Baptist Church in the Mission District. As they bustled about the small kitchen preparing tea, one woman reached towards a cupboard, looking for teacups. As the door swung open, she shrieked in horror and fainted. Crammed inside was the butchered and violated body of Miss Minnie Williams.

Minnie had been a devoted church-goer, and the police quickly connected her death with the case of another young woman who'd gone missing two weeks earlier. The vivacious Blanche Lamont had also been a member of the church, so the grounds were searched from bottom to top. The body was found in the dusty, disused bell tower -- two weeks dead, arranged like a medical cadaver, and brutalized in an equally horrifying way.

Suspicion fell upon a young medical student and assistant Sunday School superintendent who had been close to both women -- Theo Durrant. News of the police's interest in Durrant spread through the Mission and then infected all of San Francisco. By the time he was actually picked up, only a massive police presence prevented the angry mob from stringing him up on the spot.

San Francisco's "Crime of the Century"

Bankers, judges, hack drivers and bootblacks gossiped about little else, and people lined up for blocks to view the victims' identical white coffins at a local funeral parlor. The City's many newspapers were absolutely thrilled with the story, of course -- during the next couple of years, well over 400 articles about it would appear in the San Francisco Chronicle alone.

It wasn't just that the two young women were such "upstanding citizens" -- the angle that made it horrifying and captivating to San Francisco was the fact that Theo Durrant was such a nice, normal guy. He was a handsome young man, friendly and open in demeanour, well-liked, of excellent reputation, and (again) the assistant superintendent of a Sunday School. Our modern cliché of the serial killer as the "guy next door who wouldn't hurt a fly" was still a long way off. It seemed absolutely incredible to San Francisco that such a -- well, such a 'gentleman' could be capable of such bestial and savage acts.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, December 22-31

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Dec 22, 2008


THIS WEEK: the fiery fate of the first Cliff House, and the case of a parrot who would not sing. Click the audio player above to listen in, or just read on ... cliff-house-c1890

December 25, 1894:
First San Francisco Cliff House burns

On Christmas Day, 1894, the first San Francisco Cliff House burned to the ground.

As the Chronicle poetically reported the next morning,

San Francisco's most historic landmark has gone up in flames. The Cliff House is a smouldering ruin, where the silent ghosts of memory hover pale and wan over the blackened embers.

Ah, yes. We discussed this first incarnation of the Cliff House a few weeks ago -- its novel location at the edge of the world, its singular popularity with San Francisco's beautiful people, and its subsequent decline into a house of ill-repute.

Well, before it could rise from that undignified state to the status of a beloved landmark, San Francisco's original "destination resort" needed a white knight to ride to the rescue. That knight would be Mr. Adolph Sutro, who -- in 1881 -- purchased not only the faded Cliff House, but acres of land surrounding it.

adolph sutro

Mining engineer millionaire and future San Francisco mayor, the larger-than-life Sutro had already established a fabulous estate on the heights above the Cliff House, and by the mid-1880s could count 10% of San Francisco as his personal property.

Unlike the robber barons atop Nob Hill, though, Adolph believed in sharing his good fortune -- you can hear more about his eccentric philanthropy in the "Adolph Sutro" podcast right here at Sparkletack.com.

Sutro's first order of business upon making acquiring the property was to instruct his architect to turn the Cliff House into a "respectable resort with no bolts on the doors or beds in the house."

This was just a small part of Sutro's grand entertain-the-heck-out-of-San-Francisco scheme. The elaborate gardens of his estate were already open to the public, and the soon-to-be-famous Sutro Baths were on the drawing board. His goal was to create a lavish and family safe environment out at Land's End, and that's just how things worked out.

With streetcar lines beginning to move into the brand new Golden Gate Park, and the City's acquisition of the Point Lobos Toll Road (now Geary Boulevard), the western edge of the City was becoming more attractive and accessible, and over the next decade, families did indeed flock to Adolph's resuscitated resort.

And then in 1894, it happened.

About 8 o'clock on Christmas evening, after most of the holiday visitors had gone home for the day, a small fire broke out in a kitchen chimney. As the flames shot up inside the walls, the horrified staff quickly learned that none of the fire-extinguishers around the place actually worked. Within minutes, the entire building was engulfed in flames.

The resort burned so quickly, in fact, that its famous guest book, inscribed by such notables as Mark Twain, Ulysses S Grant, and Rutherford B. Hayes, was lost along with the building itself.

As the Chronicle went on to report, the Cliff House

"... went up as befitted such a shell of remembrances, in a blaze of glory. Fifty miles at sea the incinerating fires easily shone out, reflected from the high rocks beyond."
sutro-cliff-house

Sutro hadn't taken out insurance on the place, but he was so determined to rebuild -- and so damned rich -- that it just really didn't matter. And in fact, the burning of Cliff House number one was a sort of blessing in disguise. That fire cleared the decks -- so to speak -- for Cliff House number two, which would rise from the ashes like a magnificent 8-story Victorian phoenix.

Cliff House mark 2 would become everybody's favourite, an opulent monstrosity as beloved by San Franciscans in the Gilded Age as it still is today, frankly -- but guess what happened to that one? The fate of Sutro's Gingerbread Palace coming up in a future Sparkletack Timecapsule.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, December 15-21

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Dec 15, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history. THIS WEEK:a couple of items from the newspaper files, and an escape from Alcatraz -- perhaps!

December 15, 1849:
The London Times looks west

alta california newspaper building

As I perused the pages of an 1849-era copy of the Alta California this week, I ran across a little item reprinted from the venerable London Times.

I'd been on the hunt for, you know, colorful "Gold Rush-y" stuff, but sandwiched between reports on the progress of the new Mormon Settlement at the Great Salt Lake and a cholera epidemic in Marseilles, was a piece nicely showcasing British condescension towards their American cousins, particularly the slightly barbarous variety found out West.

I assume it was reprinted here because the Alta California took it as a compliment, but the author responsible is probably best pictured wearing a frock coat, a monocle, and a supercilious expression.

The London Times has received a copy of the Alta California of June last and ruminates thereon as follows:

"Before us lies a real California newspaper, with all its politics, paragraphs, and advertisements, printed and published at San Francisco in the 14th of last June. In a literary or professional point of view, there is nothing very remarkable in this production. Journalism is a science so intuitively comprehended by American citizens, that their most rudimentary efforts in this line are sure to be tolerably successful. Newspapers are to them what theatres and cafés are to Frenchmen.

In the Mexican war, the occupation of each successive town by the invading (American) army was signalized by the immediate establishment of a weekly journal, and of a "bar" for retailing those spirituous compounds known by the generic denomination of "American drinks".

The same fashions have been adopted in California, and the opinions of the American portion of that strange population are already represented by journals of more than average ability and intelligence."

Alta California -- 12.15.1849
read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, December 8-14

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Dec 08, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history. THIS WEEK: a hanging from 1852, and a Miss Goldie Griffin wants to become a cop in 1912.

December 10, 1852:
San Francisco's first official execution

san francisco hanging 1852

It certainly wasn't for any lack of local mayhem that it took so long for San Francisco to order its first "official" execution.

The sleepy hamlet of Yerba Buena had ballooned from fewer than 500 to over 36,000 people in 1852 -- and the famous camaraderie of the '49ers notwithstanding, not all of them had the best interests of their fellow men at heart. During the first few years of the Gold Rush, San Francisco managed to average almost one murder per day.

The murders that made it to court in these semi-lawless days were seen by sympathetic juries mostly as cases of "the guy had it coming". And concerning executions of the un-official variety, Sam Brannan's Committee of Vigilance -- that would be the first one -- had taken matters into their own hands and lynched four miscreants just a year earlier.

As the San Francisco Examiner would describe the event 35 years later,

"The crime which inaugurated public executions was of a very commonplace character. A Spaniard named José (Forner) struck down an unknown Mexican in (Happy) Valley, stabbing him with a dagger, for as he claimed, attempting to rob him. ... after a very prompt trial, (Forner) was sentenced to be hanged two months later."

Was it because he wasn't white? Lack of bribery money? Some secret grudge? José had claimed self defense just like everybody else, and turns out to have been a man of relatively high birth in Spain, oddly enough a confectioner by trade -- and we can only speculate as to the reason he ended up the first victim of San Francisco's official rope.

The execution was to take place up on Russian Hill, at the oldest cemetery in the young city -- a cemetery which, due to the fact that a group of Russian sailors had first been buried there back in '42, had actually given the hill its name. If you've heard the Sparkletack "Moving the Dead" episode, you know that this burial ground is long gone now -- and in fact, its remote location up on the hill had already caused it to fall out of use by 1850.

I guess that made it seem perfect for an early winter hanging.

Let's go back to the Examiner's account:

"(The location) did not deter some three thousand people from attending, parents taking children to see the unusual sight, and women on foot and in carriages forcing their way to the front.

Between 12 and 1 o’clock the condemned man was taken to the scaffold in a wagon drawn by four black horses, escorted by the California Guard. The Marion Rifles under Captain Schaeffer kept the crowd back from the scaffold. The man died game, after a pathetic little farewell speech, in which he said:

“The Americans are good people; they have ever treated me well and kindly; I thank them for it. I have nothing but love and kindly feelings for all. Farewell, people of San Francisco. World, farewell!”

A dramatically chilling engraving of the scene can be seen by clicking the thumbnail above. If you'd like to pay your respects in person, the Russian Hill Cemetery was located in the block between Taylor, Jones, Vallejo and Green Streets.

December 9, 1912:
Miss Goldie Griffin wants to become a cop!

Another item culled directly from the pages of our historical newspapers, this one from the period in which California women had just won the right to vote -- something for which the country as a whole would need to wait seven more years.

This hardly made San Francisco a bastion of progressive feminist thought. I scarcely need to point it out, but note the amusement and disdain in this articles' treatment of the first female applicant to the San Francisco Police Department, December 9, 1912:

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, December 1-7

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Dec 01, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history. THIS WEEK: In 1856, the birth of a great newspaper; and in 1896, a legendary gunfighter referees a boxing match.

December 1, 1856:
Birthday of the "San Francisco Call"

San Francisco Call cover

One of San Francisco's Gilded Age newspaper giants begins its life today: the San Francisco Call.

San Francisco was lousy with newspapers in the Gold Rush era -- by 1858 there were at least a dozen -- but the Call, with its conservative Republican leanings and working class base, quickly nosed to the front of the pack to become San Francisco's number one morning paper. It would stay there for nearly half a century.

By the summer of 1864, the Call already claimed the highest daily circulation in town, and it was this point that the paper famously gave employment to a busted gold miner and trouble-making journalist from Nevada by the name of Samuel Clemens -- er, Mark Twain. The Call had published a few of his pieces from Virginia City, but upon Twain's arrival in the Big City the paper employed him full time as a beat reporter and general purpose man.

In just a few months at the Call's old digs at number 617 Commercial Street, Mark Twain cranked out hundreds of articles on local crime, culture, and politics.

I don't know that Twain was cut out for newspapering. Years later he spoke of those days as

"... fearful, soulless drudgery ... (raking) the town from end to end, gathering such material as we might, wherewith to fill our required columns -- and if there were no fires to report, we started some."

Twain's attempts to liven up the work with the occasional wildly fictitious embellishment were frowned upon -- the conservative Call was apparently interested in just the facts, thank you very much.

Twain also had a few problems with the Call's editorial policy. In a common sort of incident, notorious only because he'd witnessed it, Twain observed a gang of hoodlums run down and stone a Chinese laundryman -- as a San Francisco city cop just stood by and watched.

"I wrote up the incident with considerable warmth and holy indignation. There was fire in it and I believe there was literature."

Twain was enraged when the article was spiked, but his editor -- and this can't help but remind you that some things never really change -- his editor made it clear that "the Call ... gathered its livelihood from the poor and must respect their prejudices or perish ... the Call could not afford to publish articles criticizing the hoodlums for stoning Chinamen." A campaign of passive-aggressive resistance to doing any work at all was Twain's response -- perhaps better described as "slacking" -- and he was fired shortly thereafter.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, November 24-30

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Nov 24, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

November 24, 1899:
Collars, ties, and Butchertown mayhem

butchertown, san francisco

Our first item flowed from the pen of some long-forgotten San Francisco Chronicle beat writer, a piece in which a neighborhood dispute is lovingly detailed.

Butchertown was a tough old San Francisco neighborhood on the edge of today's Bay View district, around the mouth of Islais Creek. It was comprised mostly of German and Irish immigrants -- ballplayer Lefty O'Doul was probably its most famous son -- and it was absolutely packed with slaughterhouses, meat packers and (here's a shocker) butchers.

Without further ado, a dash of local color circa 1899:

Haberdashery Issue Stirs Butchertown

Whether William Beckman and Thomas O'Leary quarreled over a love affair or over collars and neckties is a mooted question.

Beckman is a butcher employed in one of the many abattoirs of South San Francisco. A few months ago he married the former Mrs. O'Leary, and when O'Leary, after a three years absence, returned to town two weeks ago and found that his divorced wife had become Mrs. Beckman, there was trouble in Butchertown. It all resulted in the arrest of O'Leary on a charge of making threats against life, and the case came up yesterday in Police Judge Conlan's Court.

Beckman told of a long knife with which O'Leary threatened to perform an autopsy on (him). There was also a dispute, Beckman said, as to whether the wearing of collars and neckties was proper form in Butchertown.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, November 17-23

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Nov 17, 2008


read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, November 10-16

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Nov 10, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

November 10, 1849:
Gold Rush ships choke Yerba Buena Harbor

san francisco harbor 1851 san francisco harbor 1849

In the closing days of 1848, President Polk sent a message to Congress confirming the discovery of gold in California. This marked the beginning of the gold rush from the east coast.

By June of 1849 there were already about 200 ships floating deserted in the harbor, abandoned by gold-seeking crews. On this date -- November 10, 1849 -- the Collector of the Port of San Francisco filed an official report stating that since April 1st, 697 ships had already arrived. For the record, 401 of these were American vessels and the remaining 296 had sailed in from foreign shores.

This brings to mind the famous daguerreotypes of Yerba Buena Harbor looking like a burned-out forest of ship masts, but searching for that little item led me serendipitously to another. This next piece is a far more interesting story, and one that took place just seven years later.

November 15, 1856:
Mary Ann Patten, Heroine of Cape Horn

It was the era of the tall-masted clipper ship, an era of speed, adventure and danger, with every trip around the Horn a race against time, other ships, and the odds. In late June of 1856, three clippers cleared New York Harbour and set off for the race to San Francisco Bay.

One of these -- Neptune's Car -- was captained by Joshua Patten. This was to be Captain Patten's second voyage on this vessel, the first having been a memorable one.

It had been his maiden command, and he'd made the 15,000-mile trip from New York Harbour round the Horn to the Golden Gate in a mere 100 days, 23 1/2 hours -- a time as good or better than the fastest clippers on the water. Even more interesting, the promising young sailor had refused to accept the command until the shipping company allowed him to sail with his new wife, Mary.

Though no one yet knew it, this was to be Mary's story.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, November 3-9

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Nov 03, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

November 7, 1595:
The accidental naming of San Francisco Bay

Spanish galleon - Cermeno

All right. Let's get serious about going back in time, way, way, WAY back, 413 years into the past. How can this even be related to San Francisco, you ask? Well, it isn't, but then again, yes it is -- the first of a long chain of events leading up to the naming of our fair city.

Here's how it began: Captain Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño was dispatched by the Spanish to sail up the coast of Alta California and find a safe harbour for the pirate-harassed galleons sailing between New Spain and the Philippines.

A violent storm off of what would one day be named Point Reyes forced him to head for shore -- yup, "any port in a storm" -- and his ship fetched up in Drake's Bay. He'd missed discovering the Golden Gate by just a few miles.

Cermeño's ship, the "San Agustin", ran aground, destroying it -- and the loyal captain claimed that ground for Spain. Not knowing that Sir Francis Drake had shown up in the same spot 16 years earlier -- or so we think -- Cermeño named the bay "Puerto de San Francisco".

The industrious Cermeño and his crew salvaged a small launch from the wreckage and sailed it all the way back down to Baja California, incidentally discovering San Diego's bay along the way.

But how does this relate to our bay?

Well, almost 200 years later, scouts from the Spanish mission-building expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá and Fray Junipero Serra discovered the Golden Gate from the land side. Mistaking it for the body of water named by Cermeño, they called it San Francisco Bay -- and this time, the name stuck.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast: San Francisco, October 27-November 2

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Oct 27, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

October 28, 1881:
A murder in Chinatown

chinese man with queue

A murder in Chinatown.

Newspapers, particularly the often very nasty San Francisco Chronicle, were full of anti-Chinese propaganda in the last decades before the turn of the century. Stories dealing with Chinese people were usually over-heated, pretty racist, and sometimes hard to even get through.

This item was short and straightforward, though, and I might have even skipped over it if I hadn't noticed an article about the very same case in a legal journal. The tiny bit of testimony from the victim in that piece helps capture the flavour of the parallel world of 1880s Chinatown.

CHINESE CRIME
Shooting of a Courtesan in Kum Cook Alley

Between 7:30 and 8 o'clock last evening, while Choy Gum, a Chinese courtesan, was bargaining with a fruitdealer in her room on Kum Cook Alley, a Chinaman named Fong Ah Sing walked up to her door and fired a shot at her ... read on ...



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Timecapsule podcast — San Francisco, October 20-26

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Oct 20, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

October 24, 1861

transcontinental telegraph utah

The transcontinental telegraph line is finished, literally uniting the United States by wire just as the country was disintegrating into Civil War.

Just before the shooting started, Congress had offered a substantial bribe (known as a subsidy) to any company agreeing to take on the seemingly impossible project -- a hair-brained plan to hang a thin wire on poles marching hundreds of miles across the Great Plains, up the Rockies, and into the Wild West.

Work began in June of 1861. Just like the transcontinental railroad a few years later, one section started in the east, one in the west, with the goal of linking up in Utah.

pony express telegraph

The two crews worked their ways toward Salt Lake City for six long months, following the route established less than a year and a half earlier by the Pony Express. It was an epic struggle. Thousands of poles were planted in scorching heat and freezing snow, and the workers negotiated not only with the hostile elements, but with Native Americans and Mormons.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast — San Francisco, October 13-19

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Oct 13, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

October 18, 1851

san francisco 1851

On this date, after endless politicking and interminable delay, the mail ship Oregon steamed into San Francisco harbor with the news that California had been admitted to the Union.

The reaction of San Francisco's 25,000 citizens is something I'll allow the Daily Alta California to report:

"Business of almost every description was instantly suspended, the courts adjourned in the midst of their work, and men rushed from every house into the streets and towards the wharves, to hail the harbinger of the welcome news. When the steamer rounded Clark's Point and came in front of the city, her masts literally covered with flags and signals, a universal shout arose from ten thousand voices on the wharves, in the streets, upon the hills, house-tops, and the world of shipping in the bay.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast — San Francisco, October 6-12

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Oct 06, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

October 9, 1776

Saint Francis

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago this week, the original "Mission San Francisco de Asis" -- better known as Mission Dolores -- was officially dedicated on the banks of Dolores Lagoon, in today's aptly named Mission District.

I'm not talking about the graceful white-washed adobe that stands at 16th and Dolores streets today -- it would be some 15 years before the good padres, in an early chapter of the church's "problematic" relationship with native Americans, would draft members of the Ohlone to construct that edifice. No, this was more like a cabin, a temporary log and thatch structure hacked together a little over a block east of the present Mission, near the intersection of Camp and Albion Streets.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast — San Francisco, September 29-October 5

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Sep 29, 2008


A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.

October 1, 1938

blackie swims the golden gate in 1938

On a foggy Saturday in 1938, a swaybacked, 12-year-old horse named Blackie swam -- dog-paddled, really -- completely across the choppy waters of the Golden Gate. The horse not only made aquatic history with that trip, but he soundly defeated two human challengers from the Olympic Club, and won a $1000 bet for his trainer Shorty Roberts too.

It took the horse only 23 minutes, 15 seconds to make the nearly mile-long trip, and the short film made of the adventure shows that Blackie wasn't even breathing hard as he emerged from the waters at Crissy Field.

His trainer Shorty couldn't swim, but he made the trip, too -- and this was part of the bet -- by hanging onto Blackie's tail. A rowboat led the way, with Shorty's brother offering a handful of sugar cubes from the stern to keep the sweets-lovin' horse on track.

read on ...

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Timecapsule podcast — San Francisco, September 22-28

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Sep 22, 2008


September 24, 1855

joaquin murieta - the Mexican Robin Hood

The preserved head of Joaquin Murieta and the hand of Three-Fingered Jack were sold at auction today to settle their owner's legal problems. Joaquin Murieta was a notorious and romantic figure in the early history of California.

With Jack, his right-hand man, Murieta led a gang of Mexican bandits through the countryside on a three-year rampage, brutally "liberating" more than $100,000 in gold, killing 22 people (including three lawmen), and outrunning three separate posses. After posse #4 tracked him down and chopped off his head -- or at least the head of someone who might possibly have maybe looked like him -- Murieta's story entered California folklore.

read on ...

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Something new: weekly Time-capsule podcast, September 15-21

Author: Richard Miller
Thu, Sep 18, 2008


A little explanation is in order

So. The schedule of Sparkletack production has fallen off a bit during the past year, and for that I apologize. I miss the show myself, so I've decided to tweak the format a bit.

Here's my new plan. I started to think about the fact that every time the planet spins around its axis, it's the anniversary of some interesting, odd, or somehow notable happening in the history of our fair city.

I'm going to select a handful of these every week, and put together a short piece just to remind you -- and myself -- of the marvelous and wacky things that have taken place all around us during the past 170 years or so.

The format is far from settled yet -- this is officially an experiment, and I'm open to suggestions.

The longer, more in-depth shows won't disappear -- the plan is to keep producing them as well, at a more comfortable pace. They'll just appear when they appear. The Sparkletack blog won't change at all, and I should mention here that I really love the tips and info that you constantly send me, dear listeners ... thanks, and keep 'em coming.

San Francisco's Emperor Norton read on ...

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#66: Alma de Bretteville Spreckels

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Feb 03, 2008


It’s one of San Francisco’s best-loved monuments — the figure of a heartbreakingly beautiful girl balancing lightly atop a granite column high above Union Square. She soars above both pedestrians and pigeons, gracefully clutching trident and victory laurels, lifting her shapely arms in triumph over the city of San Francisco. It was intended to memorialize […]

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#65: Memories of an Argonaut

Author: Richard Miller
Tue, Sep 25, 2007


To many of the thousands of gold-seekers pouring through the Golden Gate back in 1849, the word “Argonaut” was already a familiar one, drawn from the ancient myth of “Jason and the Golden Fleece”. “Argonaut” was the name applied to Jason’s band of heroic companions, combining the name of his ship — the “Argos” — […]

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#64: San Francisco’s Treasure Island (pt. 2)

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Aug 27, 2007


What is Treasure Island? Why is it there? And where is it going? In the second episode of this 2-part podcast series, San Francisco’s plan for a mid-bay international airport is abruptly derailed by World War II. The US Navy seizes the island, transforming the former World’s Fair location into “Naval Station Treasure Island”. The […]

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#63: San Francisco’s Treasure Island (pt. 1)

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Aug 05, 2007


Treasure Island is easily visible from San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a low-lying front porch jutting out towards the Golden Gate from Yerba Buena Island. Palm trees in a silhouetted row set off massive white buildings, dwarfed by the towering silver Bay Bridge marching across the water towards Oakland. That bridge carries over 130,000 people a day […]

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“mr. summers’ 1941 vacation” — prelinger archive


Tue, Jul 17, 2007


I’m addicted to the “moving images” section of the Internet Archive — particularly the Prelinger Archives, recently absorbed into the Library of Congress. This massive collection of “ephemeral films”, a term which covers just about anything not made for commercial entertainment (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) is a fantastic source for unexpected historical treasures. I’ve […]

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#62: Samuel Holladay, Pioneer Squatter of Lafayette Park

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Jun 22, 2007


On a recent Pacific Heights walking tour I found myself standing atop Lafayette Park. As I admired the spectacular view, the guide told an unfamiliar story about a mansion that once occupied this hill. The building is long gone now, of course, but its history is a wild one. Here’s the story: Samuel Holladay, respectable […]

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#61: Lefty O’Doul — The Man in the Green Suit

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, May 28, 2007


You’ve seen the green and white signs in front of the “Lefty O’Doul Restaurant and Piano Bar” down on Geary Street, but who is Lefty O’Doul? Just another phony Irish name invented to sell beer? Absolutely not! The silhouette of that left-handed slugger on the sign is a clue. Lefty O’Doul was a baseball player, […]

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#60: Starr King and the California Civil War (pt. 2)

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Apr 27, 2007


At the end of the Part One of this two part series, Abraham Lincoln had been elected president, the Civil War had broken out, and the question of California’s loyalty to the Union was in grave doubt. The youthful Unitarian minister from Boston was a newcomer to the scene, but his powerful voice had been […]

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#59: Starr King and the California Civil War (pt. 1)

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Apr 09, 2007


Over 100,000 people a day travel the Geary Street corridor. But how many glance over and notice the grey statue standing watch at Franklin Street? Only a very few look even further, and notice the low, stone sarcophagus nestled in front of the gothic Unitarian Church. Walk right up to it and you’ll discover that […]

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#58: The Crocker Spite Fence

Author: Richard Miller
Wed, Feb 21, 2007


History is rife with bizarre confrontations and grand feuds, but in San Francisco none were more bizarre than the showdown between Charles Crocker (bellicose railroad robber baron) and Nicholas Yung (unassuming German undertaker). Call it “a tale of two egos”. It was over a very small piece of land, but this property was located on […]

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#56: Lotta Crabtree — the San Francisco Favourite

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Apr 30, 2006


In this week’s podcast we’ll marvel at beautiful Lotta Crabtree, quintessential star of the late 1800s. She was the protege of Lola Montez, the highest paid performer on Broadway, the darling of the entire nation, and the most popular comedienne of her era. As you may already suspect, her story begins right here in California, […]

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#55: Caruso, the Palace, and the 1906 earthquake

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Apr 16, 2006


This week’s podcast chooses just one of the many thousands of individual stories to emerge from the catastrophe, following the eccentric Italian superstar and the storied hotel through their respective trials and tribulations. One survives… but the other does not. For further edification: » “The San Francisco Earthquake” – Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan Witts » […]

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#54: The Notorious Lola Montez

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Apr 08, 2006


This week’s podcast grapples with the unbelievable legend of Lola Montez, the gorgeous Irish peasant girl with the soul of a grifter and the heart of a despot. She lived about three lifetimes’ worth of adventure, turning Europe upside down and provoking a revolution in Bavaria before conquering Gold Rush-era San Francisco with her scandalous […]

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#52.5: The Trolls of San Francisco

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Apr 01, 2006


The history of one of these hidden layers is, however, little known and rarely spoken of – I refer of course to the San Francisco trolls. Though some hold that the trolls are a primitive people original to this area, and were in the hills even before the native american Ohlone, other, more reputable sources […]

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#52: Adolph Sutro, the Populist Millionaire

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Mar 25, 2006


This week’s podcast explores the history of the millionaire philanthropist who gave so much to our city and whose story is — amazingly — almost forgotten. For further edification: » The Western Neighborhoods Project- outsidelands.org » Sutro bio from 1898 - sfmuseum.org » Sutro Baths - National Park Service » Sutro Baths - San Francisco […]

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#51: The Columbarium and the Caretaker

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Mar 19, 2006


In an attempt to answer the oft-voiced question "what is that thing, anyway?", in this week’s podcast a visit is finally paid to this sumptuous Victorian repository for cremated remains, the baroque center of what was once a 167 acre cemetery in the center of San Francisco. It’s a spectacular building, but the real discovery […]

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#50: The Balclutha and the Chantey Sing

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Mar 11, 2006


The Park Service website reads simply "sing traditional working songs aboard a floating vessel." The songs? Sea chanteys. The vessel? A majestic iron-hulled squarerigger called the "Balclutha". I had no idea how inspiring the experience could be, nor how powerful. It turned out I had inadvertently wandered into a 25 year old San Francisco tradition: […]

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#49: Sam Clemens and the Celebrated Jumping Frog

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Mar 04, 2006


Though the rest of the country thinks of Samuel Langhorne Clemens as a southerner, it was a spell in San Francisco and the wilds of California which turned young Sam into "Mark Twain". This week’s podcast tells the story of how a misfired duel, a bungled gold-mining claim, a suit for libel — and yes, […]

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#48: Mark Twain and the Great Earthquake of 1865

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Feb 25, 2006


By now just about every San Franciscophile has been alerted to the fact that April 18th of this year will mark the centennial of the 1906 earthquake — the Big One which destroyed the city that once was, and gave rise to the one which we inhabit today. But the “Great Quake” of 1906 was […]

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#47: Robert Louis Stevenson — Chinatown Treasure

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Feb 18, 2006


San Francisco has a long-standing reputation as a literature-loving town, as evidenced by government statistics ranking us as having the highest per-capita spending on books in the country. Over the decades this city has nurtured a number of notable writers from Mark Twain to Dashiell Hammett. However, there’s one literary memorial in town that has […]

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#46: San Francisco Fortune Cookie

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Feb 11, 2006


On a tour of the alleyways of Chinatown last week I learned something that I hadn’t heard before — namely, that the world-famous Chinese fortune cookie was invented right here in San Francisco. That’s right — the fortune cookie is just about as Chinese as french toast is French. Which is to say, not at […]

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#45: Frank Chu Just Shows Up

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Feb 04, 2006


Downtown San Francisco on a Tuesday afternoon, and every businessman’s face looks the same. Whatever happened to eccentric and iconic characters like Emperor Norton and Oofty Goofty? You search the streets, hoping desperately for a flicker of life or a flash of the eccentricity that once shaped our city. Then you spot something out of […]

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#44: Moving the Dead — San Francisco Cemeteries

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jan 28, 2006


There are only three cemeteries left within the city limits of San Francisco. Note the phrase carefully: “left” in San Francisco. There were once far more than just three, which makes perfect sense — after all, thousands upon thousands of San Franciscans have passed away since the establishment of Yerba Buena 170 years ago, and […]

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#43: San Francisco Motorcycle Club — Since 1904

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jan 21, 2006


Established at the dawn of the century, the San Francisco Motorcycle Club has thrived for over a hundred years.There are plenty of fossils in this town, relics of another age, but the SFMC represents living history, from the days when motorcycles were little more than heavyweight bicycles with engines squeezed into their frames — suspension […]

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#42: Alexander Leidesdorff — The Black Millionaire

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jan 14, 2006


It was 1841, and like so many of those who have washed up on these shores, then or since, William Alexander Leidesdorff was a man on the run from his past — a man trying desperately to reinvent himself on the blank canvas of the western coast. Though hardly anyone remembers his name these days, […]

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#41: The Golden Gate Bridge, a Modest Proposal

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jan 07, 2006


“So what do you think of that beautiful bridge?” I started to say, but she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, an odd, wistful look in her eyes. “what is it?” I asked. She turned to me with a grave expression and said — “at the risk of sounding crazy, is there a reason that […]

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#40: Luisa Tetrazzini and Christmas eve

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Dec 31, 2005


“I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing in the streets, for I know that the streets of San Francisco are free.” It was 1910. San Francisco was still in a bad way following the great earthquake and conflagration of 1906, and in fact, the whole decade had been kind of rough. […]

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#39: The Great Diamond Hoax

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Dec 17, 2005


It was 1871. William Ralston had become one of the richest and most powerful men in California, partly on the strength of his shrewd business maneuverings, but largely on the fact that he was an incorrigible gambler, a exemplar of his optimistic age. He lived so largely, and spent so lavishly, on his beloved city […]

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#38: Rudyard Kipling in San Francisco

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Dec 10, 2005


In 1889 this talented young writer, the son of a British colonial schoolteacher and future winner of the Nobel prize for literature, visited San Francisco on his way from India to England. It was not only his first visit to the city, but his first time in America — he was on assignment to record […]

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#37: Philo T. Farnsworth

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Dec 03, 2005


Riding around the chilly streets of San Francisco this week I spotted a bumpersticker that I hadn’t seen for some time: “kill your television”. The rich irony of seeing that particular message displayed in San Francisco struck me as it always does. Why? Because television was invented right here in fog city, a fact most […]

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#36: Birth of San Francisco #3

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Nov 26, 2005


Part three of the pre-history of San Francisco, the early life of the village of Yerba Buena. (if you missed ‘em, listen to part one and part two first.) This is the concluding episode on this theme, taking you right up to the edge of 1848. in this episode: goats, bears, and Mormons! For further […]

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#35: Birth of San Francisco #2

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Nov 19, 2005


Part two of the pre-history of San Francisco, the early life of the village of Yerba Buena. The epic sweep of Mexico’s revolution and the annexation of California to the United States for all intents and purposes passed the town by. Monterey, Sonoma, and the great Californio ranchos were where most of the action was, […]

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#34: The San Francisco Twins

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Nov 12, 2005


Ask anyone, the twins are just “The Twins”. They walk alike. They talk alike. But most of all, they look and dress exactly alike, and would not have it any other way. Vivian and Marian Brown are always ready to stop and chat, always ready with a pair of matching smiles and wrist-up hand-waves worthy […]

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#33: Andrew Smith Hallidie — Father of the Cable Car

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Nov 05, 2005


Many people who came to seek their fortune in the gold country failed to strike it rich, but ended up contributing their unique abilities and energies in much more interesting ways. This show is dedicated to just such a man — Andrew Hallidie, the inventor of San Francisco’s world famous cable cars. He was a […]

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#32: Letter from the Gold Rush, 1850

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Oct 28, 2005


There have been a great number of letters written from and about San Francisco through the decades, some by visitors and some by citizens, some known around the world, others anonymous. It is fascinating to hear voices from the past brought temporarily back to life, to see the city and its environs through the pens […]

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#31: Carville — A Lost Neighborhood

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Oct 22, 2005


San Francisco is famously made up of an eccentric patchwork of neighborhoods. What is less known is that some of the most interesting and unusual have come and gone, leaving very little trace of a once vigorous existence. One of these was Carville, an eccentric community made up of abandoned streetcars converted into clubs, restaurants […]

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#30: Streets of San Francisco #2

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Oct 15, 2005


Show number two in the “Streets of San Francisco” series, still walking westwards, one street at a time. Today’s show moves from Powell street to Polk, with a couple of historical detours along the way. If you missed the first one, have a listen here. For further edification: » Buena Vista irish coffee » San […]

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#29: The Legend of Black Bart

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Oct 07, 2005


Summer of 1875, and the Wells Fargo stagecoach is slowly rattling through a mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada gold country, bearing a cargo of passengers, U.S. mail, and gold. The driver pulls the horses to an abrupt halt at the sight of a man standing confidently on the side of the road. He wears […]

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#28: Birth of San Francisco #1

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Sep 30, 2005


By the time I arrived, San Francisco was already a city — and had been one for the previous century and a half. But what went on before that time? What was San Francisco before it was San Francisco? I’ve decided to look into the story of the pre-city peninsula, and the birth of the […]

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#27: Patty Hearst, revolutionary sweetheart

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Sep 23, 2005


The cool evening of February 4th, 1974. Nineteen-year-old Patricia Hearst, heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was relaxing in a rented apartment on campus with her fiancee. The front door burst open and three armed people rushed into the house, dragging Patricia away in her nightgown and stuffing her violently into the trunk of their […]

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#26: Streets of San Francisco #1

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Sep 16, 2005


As I was riding around town this weekend, I was suddenly struck by a thought: stopped at the intersection of Broadway and Battery Streets, I suddenly wondered to myself: “Broadway? Battery? Where did those names actually come from? Does anyone still remember?” These names must reveal something about the character, history, and essential nature of […]

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#25: Charles Cora and the 2nd Vigilance Committee

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Sep 09, 2005


Charles Cora must have been a happy man as he arrived in San Francisco in 1852 with Arabella Ryan on his arm. And why not? He was a professional gambler of the highest reputation, and would have been delighted by the wide open nature of the town in the gold rush years — a perfect […]

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#24: Alcatraz

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Sep 03, 2005


The very name gives one chills, doesn’t it? On a sunny day it seems almost unbelievable that such a lovely little island could have once been such an menacing symbol of power. It’s just over a mile from the San Francisco shore, and yet according to official records, none of the hundreds of men incarcerated […]

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#23: The Wave Organ

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Aug 26, 2005


It’s one of San Francisco’s strange and secret treasures, hidden in plain sight at the edge of the Bay. As you stroll along the jetty you suddenly spy the… wait, what is that? A fragment of the ruins of a lost city? No, not this time… it’s a collision between nature and architecture, the fruits […]

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#22: The China Clipper

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Aug 20, 2005


I’ve just returned from a short vacation to a distinctly un-San Francisco like location… Hawaii! It took me a little while to come up with a San Francisco connection, but on the flight home I recalled that San Francisco was once home to the “China Clipper”, the first trans-Pacific airline service to those gorgeous islands. […]

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#21: Emperor Norton

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Aug 12, 2005


We’ve had our fair share of peculiar citizens over the last 150 years, but in my judgement none compare to the “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico”, his excellency Norton the First! Whether or not he was truly a secret descendent of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette or not is, to say […]

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#20: Fog City

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Aug 05, 2005


There’s a strange atmospheric phenomenon peculiar to our location halfway up the North-American coastline, something that has shaped the romantic atmosphere of San Francisco since the very moment that it truly became a city. poems have been written about it, as well as songs and stories, and I aim to celebrate it too. You’ve probably […]

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#19: The Mission Burrito

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jul 30, 2005


After a few days in san francisco, you’ll begin to notice a strange proliferation of fat silvery cylinders sprouting from the hands and faces of the local population. Is it an alien invasion? A new kind of cellphone? No. You’ve discovered the secret passion of San Francisco, the vital fuel source of artists, students, plumbers […]

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#18: Firebelle Lil — Elizabeth “Lillie” Coit

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Jul 22, 2005


Elizabeth “Lillie” Hitchcock Coit was one of the prototypically colorful characters of San Francisco history. A daughter of high society, she was a tomboy who developed an unusual obsession with fire and firemen, and was associated with them throughout her life. Though much sought after by the young men of the city, she cheerfully ignored […]

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#17: The San Francisco “Conversation”

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, Jul 15, 2005


Everybody’s having it. at home, at work, on the bus… everywhere in San Francisco the same question… and what are we asking each other about? “Sooo…. how much rent are YOU paying?” We don’t normally discuss things like this. Just as our social mores dictate that questions about sexual habits or body weight are off-limits, […]

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#16: San Francisco Pyramid

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jul 09, 2005
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What is that THING looming above the San Francisco skyline? Almost a thousand feet tall, covered in stone, with a bright red beacon at the top… okay, I guess even though we’re not in Egypt or Central America the answer is pretty obvious: it’s a pyramid. but why? Is it because the citizens of San […]

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#15: The Golden Gate Bridge and Suicide

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jul 02, 2005


The Golden Gate Bridge is the no. 1 suicide landmark in the world. It opened proudly in 1937, but less than two years — and 11 jumpers later — a local newspaper reported that the California Highway Patrol had already begun looking for ways to prevent “further suicidal leaps from the bridge.” An officer was […]

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#14: The Golden Fire Hydrant of San Francisco

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jun 25, 2005


The “fact” that San Francisco was completely destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1906 is widely known, of course — but less well known is the actual fact that it was the subsequent fire, raging for three days, that did almost all of the damage. I stumbled across a little piece of this history several […]

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#13: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Jun 19, 2005


I can clearly remember the first time I saw the wild parrots of San Francisco flying through the air over my neighborhood. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Or my ears, for that matter…their voices sound like a thousand tin cans rolling down a hill. Where had these bright green strangers come from, and why were […]

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#12: San Francisco Blue Jeans

Author: Richard Miller
Wed, Jun 15, 2005


Well, I always thought that I knew the story of Levi’s jeans, how the Bavarian Levi Strauss showed up in Gold Rush San Francisco with a ton of heavy canvas for tent-making, met a miner who needed a pair of pants strong enough to withstand the rigors of gold mining, and the rest was history. […]

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#11: Straight Razor Morning

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, Jun 12, 2005


A nightmare week of computer mayhem and chaos has stimulated the nostalgic, anti-digital-technology side of my brain, and inspired me to talk about my newest old-school adoption: the straight razor! In short: I bought a vintage German razor, it’s an absolute beauty, and I risk my life every morning as I step in front of […]

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#10: The Ruination of Fatty Arbuckle

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, Jun 06, 2005


Think celebrity trials and sensationalist journalism were born yesterday? Think again. The ongoing trial of Michael Jackson has put me in mind of the murder trial of international celebrity Fatty Arbuckle in 1921 — the sexual details printed in the daily press titillated a moralistic nation and ended in the ruin of one of the […]

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#9: Schadenfreude and San Francisco High Society

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, Jun 04, 2005


“Schadenfreude” is a lovely German word that means “the joy we take in observing the misfortunes of others” — more or less — and that’s what today’s podcast is all about. “Oh The Glory of It All” is the name of the new memoir from Sean Wilsey, a young man who grew up in the […]

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#8: Corpseflower at San Francisco Conservatory

Author: Richard Miller
Thu, Jun 02, 2005


What a day! Computer problems got you down? I can personally recommend a trip to visit the super-stinky corpseflower to put things in perspective! It only blooms for a day or two, but the scent of rotting flesh and tropical flowers will certainly rearrange your senses. The setting is fantastic… the San Francisco Conservatory of […]

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#7: San Francisco Shanghai

Author: Richard Miller
Fri, May 27, 2005


Oh, for the life of a sailor in Gold-Rush San Francisco! Those hard-luck men and boys were lucky enough to witness the birth of a brand new wild west verb up close and personally: Shanghai! Well, maybe not so lucky after all… the results were perhaps picturesque, but not at all pleasant. Here are a […]

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#6: Where’s The Food?

Author: Richard Miller
Wed, May 25, 2005


So that’s what San Francisco is missing — good street food! We’ve got some of the greatest restaurants in the world, but for a cheap, greasy meal on the sidewalk, there’s a serious void to be filled. (Yes, yes, burritos, i know… but that’s a whole different story! more on that later….)

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#5: San Francisco Fireworks – On The Air

Author: Richard Miller
Mon, May 23, 2005


Fireworks over San Francisco Bay make me feel like a kid again! the annual waterfront “Kaboom” celebration and a little Bay Area radio history. Take a look at the KFOG website for pictures and video of the fireworks. The KSAN logo will take you to a brief history of radio – underground and otherwise – […]

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#4: Steam Beer – The Authentic San Francisco Style

Author: Richard Miller
Sat, May 21, 2005


Tonight’s podcast features a special method of German homework avoidance: brew up a batch of beer, breathe in the delicious aroma of malt and hops, and ruminate over the history of America’s first authentic native style: Steam Beer from San Francisco. Visit the Anchor Brewing Company, the only brewery in the country still brewing this […]

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#3: Street Flowers

Author: Richard Miller
Wed, May 18, 2005


Spinning junk into art — is a smile returning to the face of San Francisco? I haven’t been carrying my digital camera, just got a couple of shots today. This kind of ephemeral street art tends to disappear, but I’ll try to catch it fresh!

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#2: Dogs In The Pharoah

Author: Richard Miller
Tue, May 17, 2005


San Francisco memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, Egyptian architecture, and a dog lovin’ apartment building.

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Sparkletack #1

Author: Richard Miller
Sun, May 15, 2005


Podcast the first…thoughts on the venerated San Francisco tradition of “sidewalk recycling”, and I don’t mean cans and bottles!

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More Details

  • Published: 2002
  • LearnOutLoud.com Product ID: S006933