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A Backward Glance at Eighty by Charles A. Murdock

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Ina Coolbrith, and others--a brilliant galaxy for any period. Harte
contributed "San Francisco from the Sea."

Mark Twain, long after, alluding to this period in his life, pays this
characteristic acknowledgment: "Bret Harte trimmed and trained and
schooled me patiently until he changed me from an awkward utterer of
coarse grotesqueness to a writer of paragraphs and chapters that have
found favor in the eyes of even some of the decentest people in the

The first issue of the _Overland_ was well received, but the second
sounded a note heard round the world. The editor contributed a
story--"The Luck of Roaring Camp"--that was hailed as a new venture in
literature. It was so revolutionary that it shocked an estimable
proofreader, and she sounded the alarm. The publishers were timid, but
the gentle editor was firm. When it was found that it must go in or he
would go out, it went--and he stayed. When the conservative and
dignified _Atlantic_ wrote to the author soliciting something like it,
the publishers were reassured.

Harte had struck ore. Up to this time he had been prospecting. He had
early found color and followed promising stringers. He had opened some
fair pockets, but with the explosion of this blast he had laid bare the
true vein, and the ore assayed well. It was high grade, and the fissure
was broad.

"The Luck of Roaring Camp" was the first of a series of stories
depicting the picturesque life of the early days which made California
known the world over and gave it a romantic interest enjoyed by no other
community. They were fresh and virile, original in treatment, with real
men and women using a new vocabulary, with humor and pathos delightfully
blended. They moved on a stage beautifully set, with a background of
heroic grandeur. No wonder that California and Bret Harte became
familiar household words. When one reflects on the fact that the
exposure to the life depicted had occurred more than ten years before,
from very brief experience, the wonder is incomprehensibly great.
Nothing less than genius can account for such a result. "Tennessee's
Partner," "M'liss," "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," and dozens more of
these stories that became classics followed. The supply seemed
exhaustless, and fresh welcome awaited every one.

It was in September, 1870, that Harte in the make-up of the _Overland_
found an awkward space too much for an ordinary poem. An associate
suggested that he write something to fit the gap; but Harte was not
given to dashing off to order, nor to writing a given number of inches
of poetry. He was not a literary mechanic, nor could he command his
moods. However, he handed his friend a bundle of manuscript to see if
there was anything that he thought would do, and very soon a neat draft
was found bearing the title "On the Sinfulness of Ah Sin as Reported by
Truthful James." It was read with avidity and pronounced "the very
thing." Harte demurred. He didn't think very well of it. He was
generally modest about his work and never quite satisfied. But he
finally accepted the judgment of his friend and consented to run it. He
changed the title to "Later Words from Truthful James," but when the
proof came substituted "Plain Language from Truthful James."

He made a number of other changes, as was his wont, for he was always
painstaking and given to critical polishing. In some instances he
changed an entire line or a phrase of two lines. The copy read:

"Till at last he led off the right bower,
That Nye had just hid on his knee."

As changed on the proof it read:

"Till at last he put down a right bower,
Which the same Nye had dealt unto me."

It was a happy second thought that suggested the most quoted line in
this famous poem. The fifth line of the seventh verse originally read:

"Or is civilization a failure?"

On the margin of the proof-sheet he substituted the ringing line:

"We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,"

--an immense improvement--the verse reading:

"Then I looked up at Nye,
And he gazed unto me,
And he rose with a sigh,
And said, 'Can this be?
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor!'
And he went for that heathen Chinee."

The corrected proof, one of the treasures of the University of
California, with which Harte was for a time nominally connected, bears
convincing testimony to the painstaking methods by which he sought the
highest degree of literary perfection. This poem was not intended as a
serious addition to contemporary verse. Harte disclaimed any purpose
whatever; but there seems just a touch of political satire. "The Chinese
must go" was becoming the popular political slogan, and he always
enjoyed rowing against the tide. The poem greatly extended his name and
fame. It was reprinted in _Punch_, it was liberally quoted on the floors
of Congress, and it "caught on" everywhere. Perhaps it is today the one
thing by which Harte is best known.

One of the most amusing typographical errors on record occurred in the
printing of this poem. In explanation of the manner of the duplicity of
_Ah Sin, Truthful James_ was made to say:

"In his sleeves, which were long,
He had twenty-one packs:"

and that was the accepted reading for many years, in spite of the
physical impossibility of concealing six hundred and ninety-three cards
and one arm in even a Chinaman's sleeve. The game they played was
euchre, where bowers are supreme, and what Harte wrote was "jacks," not
"packs." Probably the same pious proofreader who was shocked at the
"Luck" did not know the game, and, as the rhyme was perfect, let it
slip. Later editions corrected the error, though it is still often seen.

Harte gave nearly three years to the _Overland_. His success had
naturally brought him flattering offers, and the temptation to realize
on his reputation seems to have been more than he could withstand. The
_Overland_ had become a valuable property, eventually passing into
control of another publisher. The new owners were unable or unwilling to
pay what he thought he must earn, and somewhat reluctantly he resigned
the editorship and left the state of his adoption.

Harte, with his family, left San Francisco in February, 1871. They went
first to Chicago, where he confidently expected to be editor of a
magazine to be called the _Lakeside Monthly_. He was invited to a
dinner given by the projectors of the enterprise, at which a large-sized
check was said to have been concealed beneath his plate; but for some
unexplained reason he failed to attend the dinner and the magazine was
given up. Those who know the facts acquit him of all blame in the
matter; but, in any event, his hopes were dashed, and he proceeded to
the East disappointed and unsettled.

Soon after arriving at New York he visited Boston, dining with the
Saturday Club and visiting Howells, then editor of the _Atlantic_, at
Cambridge. He spent a pleasant week, meeting Lowell, Longfellow, and
Emerson. Mrs. Aldrich, in "Crowding Memories," gives a vivid picture of
his charm and high spirits at this meeting of friends and celebrities.
The Boston atmosphere as a whole was not altogether delightful. He
seemed constrained, but he did a fine stroke of business. James R.
Osgood & Co. offered him ten thousand dollars for whatever he might
write in a year, and he accepted the handsome retainer. It did not
stimulate him to remarkable output. He wrote four stories, including
"How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar," and five poems, including
"Concepcion de Arguello." The offer was not renewed the following year.

For seven years New York City was generally his winter home. Some of his
summers were spent in Newport, and some in New Jersey. In the former he
wrote "A Newport Romance" and in the latter "Thankful Blossom." One
summer he spent at Cohasset, where he met Lawrence Barrett and Stuart
Robson, writing "Two Men of Sandy Bar," produced in 1876. "Sue," his
most successful play, was produced in New York and in London in 1896.

To earn money sorely needed he took the distasteful lecture field. His
two subjects were "The Argonauts" and "American Humor." His letters to
his wife at this time tell the pathetic tale of a sensitive, troubled
soul struggling to earn money to pay debts. He writes with brave humor,
but the work was uncongenial and the returns disappointing.

From Ottawa he writes: "Do not let this worry you, but kiss the children
for me, and hope for the best. I should send you some money, but there
_isn't any to send_, and maybe I shall only bring back myself." The next
day he added a postscript: "Dear Nan--I did not send this yesterday,
waiting to find the results of last night's lecture. It was a fair
house, and this morning--paid me $150, of which I send you the greater

A few days later he wrote from Lawrence, the morning after an
unexpectedly good audience: "I made a hundred dollars by the lecture,
and it is yours for yourself, Nan, to buy minxes with, if you want to."

From Washington he writes: "Thank you, dear Nan, for your kind, hopeful
letter. I have been very sick, very much disappointed; but I am better
now and am only waiting for money to return. Can you wonder that I have
kept this from you? You have so hard a time of it there, that I cannot
bear to have you worried if there is the least hope of a change in my
affairs. God bless you and keep you and the children safe, for the sake
of Frank."

No one can read these letters without feeling that they mirror the real
man, refined of feeling, kindly and humorous, but not strong of courage,
oppressed by obligations, and burdened by doubts of how he was to care
for those he loved. With all his talent he could not command
independence, and the lot of the man who earns less than it costs to
live is hard to bear.

Harte had the faculty of making friends, even if by neglect he sometimes
lost them, and they came to his rescue in this trying time. Charles A.
Dana and others secured for him an appointment by President Hayes as
Commercial Agent at Crefeld, Prussia. In June, 1878, he sailed for
England, leaving his family at Sea Cliff, Long Island, little supposing
that he would never see them or America again.

On the day he reached Crefeld he wrote his wife in a homesick and almost
despondent strain: "I am to all appearance utterly friendless; I have
not received the first act of kindness or courtesy from anyone. I think
things must be better soon. I shall, please God, make some good friends
in good time, and will try and be patient. But I shall not think of
sending for you until I see clearly that I can stay myself. If worst
comes to worst I shall try to stand it for a year, and save enough to
come home and begin anew there. But I could not stand it to see you
break your heart here through disappointment as I mayhap may do."

Here is the artistic, impressionable temperament, easily disheartened,
with little self-reliant courage or grit. But he seems to have felt a
little ashamed of his plaint, for at midnight of the same day he wrote a
second letter, half apologetic and much more hopeful, just because one
or two people had been a little kind and he had been taken out to a

Soon after, he wrote a letter to his younger son, then a small boy. It
told of a pleasant drive to the Rhine, a few miles away. He concludes:
"It was all very wonderful, but Papa thought after all he was glad his
boys live in a country that is as yet _pure_ and _sweet_ and _good_--not
in one where every field seems to cry out with the remembrance of
bloodshed and wrong, and where so many people have lived and suffered
that tonight, under this clear moon, their very ghosts seemed to throng
the road and dispute our right of way. Be thankful, my dear boy, that
you are an American. Papa was never so fond of his country before as in
this land that has been so great, powerful, and so very hard and

In May, 1880, he was made Consul at Glasgow, a position that he filled
for five years. During this period he spent a considerable part of his
time in London and in visiting at country homes. He lectured and wrote
and made many friends, among the most valued of whom were William Black
and Walter Besant.

A new administration came in with 1885 and Harte was superseded. He went
to London and settled down to a simple and regular life. For ten years
he lived with the Van de Veldes, friends of long standing. He wrote with
regularity and published several volumes of stories and sketches. In
1885 Harte visited Switzerland. Of the Alps he wrote: "In spite of their
pictorial composition I wouldn't give a mile of the dear old Sierras,
with their honesty, sincerity, and magnificent uncouthness, for a
hundred thousand kilometers of the picturesque Vaud."

Of Geneva he wrote: "I thought I should not like it, fancying it a kind
of continental Boston, and that the shadow of John Calvin and the old
reformers, or still worse the sentimental idiocy of Rousseau and the De
Staels, still lingered." But he did like it, and wrote brilliantly of
Lake Leman and Mont Blanc.

Returning to his home in Aldershot he resumed work, giving some time to
a libretto for a musical comedy, but his health was failing and he
accomplished little. A surgical operation for cancer of the throat in
March, 1902, afforded a little relief, but he worked with difficulty.
On April 17th he began a new story, "A Friend of Colonel Starbottle." He
wrote one sentence and began another; but the second sentence was his
last work, though a few letters to friends bear a later date. On May
5th, sitting at his desk, there came a hemorrhage of the throat,
followed later in the day by a second, which left him unconscious.
Before the end of the day he peacefully breathed his last.

Pathetic and inexplicable were the closing days of this gifted man. An
exile from his native land, unattended by family or kin, sustaining his
lonely life by wringing the dregs of memory, and clasping in farewell
the hands of a fancied friend of his dear old reprobate Colonel, he,
like Kentuck, "drifted away into the shadowy river that flows forever to
the unknown sea."

In his more than forty years of authorship he was both industrious and
prolific. In the nineteen volumes of his published work there must be
more than two hundred titles of stories and sketches, and many of them
are little known. Some of them are disappointing in comparison with his
earlier and perhaps best work, but many of them are charming and all are
in his delightful style, with its undertone of humor that becomes
dominant at unexpected intervals. His literary form was distinctive,
with a manner not derived from the schools or copied from any of his
predecessors, but developed from his own personality. He seems to have
founded a modern school, with a lightness of touch and a felicity of
expression unparalleled. He was vividly imaginative, and also had the
faculty of giving dramatic form and consistency to an incident or story
told by another. He was a story-teller, equally dexterous in prose or
verse. His taste was unerring and he sought for perfect form. His
atmosphere was breezy and healthful--out of doors with the fragrance of
the pine-clad Sierras. He was never morbid and introspective. His
characters are virile and natural men and women who act from simple
motives, who live and love, or hate and fight, without regard to
problems and with small concern for conventionalities. Harte had
sentiment, but was realistic and fearless. He felt under no obligation
to make all gamblers villains or all preachers heroes. He dealt with
human nature in the large and he made it real.

His greatest achievement was in faithfully mirroring the life of a new
and striking epoch. He seems to have discovered that it was picturesque
and to have been almost alone in impressing this fact on the world. He
sketched pictures of pioneer life as he saw or imagined it with
matchless beauty and compelled the interest and enjoyment of all

His chief medium was the short story, to which he gave a new vogue.
Translated into many tongues, his tales became the source of knowledge
to a large part of the people of Europe as to California and the
Pacific. He associated the Far West with romance, and we have never
fully outlived it.

That he was gifted as a poet no one can deny. Perhaps his most striking
use of his power as a versifier was in connection with the romantic
Spanish background of California history. Such work as "Concepcion de
Arguello" is well worth while. In his "Spanish Idylls and Legends" he
catches the fine spirit of the period and connects California with a
past of charm and beauty. His patriotic verse has both strength and
loveliness and reflects a depth of feeling that his lighter work does
not lead us to expect. In his dialect verse he revels in fun and shows
himself a genuine and cleanly humorist.

If we search for the source of his great power we may not expect to find
it; yet we may decide that among his endowments his extraordinary power
of absorption contributes very largely. His early reference to "eager
absorption" and "photographic sensitiveness" are singularly significant
expressions. Experience teaches the plodder, but the man of genius,
supremely typified by Shakespeare, needs not to acquire knowledge slowly
and painfully. Sympathy, imagination, and insight reveal truth, and as a
plate, sensitized, holds indefinitely the records of the exposure, so
Harte, forty years after in London, holds in consciousness the
impressions of the days he spent in Tuolumne County. It is a great gift,
a manifestation of genius. He had a fine background of inheritance and a
lifetime of good training.

Bret Harte was also gifted with an agreeable personality. He was
even-tempered and good-natured. He was an ideal guest and enjoyed his
friends. Whatever his shortcomings and whatever his personal
responsibility for them, he deserves to be treated with the
consideration and generosity he extended to others. He was never
censorious, and instances of his magnanimity are many. Severity of
judgment is a custom that few of us can afford, and to be generous is
never a mistake. Harte was extremely sensitive, and he deplored
controversy. He was quite capable of suffering in silence if defense of
self might reflect on others. His deficiencies were trivial but
damaging, and their heavy retribution he bore with dignity, retaining
the respect of those who knew him.

As to what he was, as man and author, he is entitled to be judged by a
jury of his peers. I could quote at length from a long list of
associates of high repute, but they all concur fully with the
comprehensive judgment of Ina Coolbrith, who knew him intimately. She
says, "I can only speak of him in terms of unqualified praise as author,
friend, and man."

In the general introduction that Harte wrote for the first volume of his
collected stories he refers to the charge that he "confused recognized
standards of morality by extenuating lives of recklessness and often
criminality with a single solitary virtue" as "the cant of too much
mercy." He then adds: "Without claiming to be a religious man or a
moralist, but simply as an artist, he shall reverently and humbly
conform to the rules laid down by a great poet who created the parables
of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, whose works have lasted
eighteen hundred years, and will remain when the present writer and his
generations are forgotten. And he is conscious of uttering no original
doctrine in this, but only of voicing the beliefs of a few of his
literary brethren happily living, and one gloriously dead, [Footnote:
Evidently Dickens.] who never made proclamation of this from the

Bret Harte had a very unusual combination of sympathetic insight,
emotional feeling, and keen sense of the dramatic. In the expression of
the result of these powers he commanded a literary style individually
developed, expressive of a rare personality. He was vividly imaginative,
and he had exacting ideals of precision in expression. His taste was
unerring. The depth and power of the great soul were not his. He was the
artist, not the prophet. He was a delightful painter of the life he saw,
an interpreter of the romance of his day, a keen but merciful satirist,
a humorist without reproach, a patriot, a critic, and a kindly, modest
gentleman. He was versatile, doing many things exceedingly well, and
some things supremely well. He discerned the significance of the
remarkable social conditions of early days in California and developed a
marvelous power of presenting them in vivid and attractive form. His
humor is unsurpassed. It is pervasive, like the perfume of the rose,
never offending by violence. His style is a constant surprise and a
never-ending delight. His spirit is kindly and generous. He finds good
in unsuspected places, and he leaves hope for all mankind. He was
sensitive, peace-loving, and indignant at wrong, a scorner of pretense,
independent in thought, just in judgment. He surmounted many
difficulties, bore suffering without complaint, and left with those who
really knew him a pleasant memory. It would seem that he was a greater
artist and a better man than is commonly conceded.

In failing to honor him California suffers. He should be cherished as
her early interpreter, if not as her spirit's discoverer, and ranked
high among those who have contributed to her fame. He is the
representative literary figure of the state. In her imaginary Temple of
Fame or Hall of Heroes he deserves a prominent, if not the foremost,
niche. As the generations move forward he must not be forgotten. Bret
Harte at our hands needs not to be idealized, but he does deserve to be
justly, gratefully, and fittingly realized.



We are familiar with the romantic birth of San Francisco and its
precocious childhood; we are well acquainted with its picturesque
background of Spanish history and the glorious days of '49; but I doubt
if we are as well informed as to the significant and perhaps equally
important second decade.

It was my fortune to catch a hurried glance of San Francisco in 1855,
when the population was about forty-five thousand. I was then on the way
from New England to my father's home in Humboldt County. I next saw it
in 1861 while on my way to and from attendance at the State Fair. In
1864 I took up my residence in the city and it has since been

That the almost neglected sixties may have some setting, let me briefly
trace the beginnings. Things moved slowly when America was discovered.
Columbus found the mainland in 1503. Ten years later Balboa reached the
Pacific, and, wading into the ocean, modestly claimed for his sovereign
all that bordered its shores. Thirty years thereafter the point
farthest west was named Mendocino, for Mendoza, the viceroy ordering the
expedition of Cabrillo and Ferrelos. Thirty-seven years later came
Drake, and almost found San Francisco Bay. But all these discoveries led
to no occupation. It seems incredible that two hundred and twenty-six
years elapsed from Cabrillo's visit to the day the first settlers landed
in San Diego, founding the first of the famous missions. Historically,
1769 is surely marked. In this year Napoleon and Wellington were born
and civilized California was founded.

San Francisco Bay was discovered by a land party. It was August 6, 1775,
seven weeks after the battle of Bunker Hill, that Ayala cautiously found
his way into the bay and anchored the "San Carlos" off Sausalito. Five
days before the Declaration of Independence was signed Moraga and his
men, the first colonists, arrived in San Francisco and began getting out
the timber to build the fort at the Presidio and the church at Mission

Vancouver, in 1792, poking into an unknown harbor, found a good
landing-place at a cove around the first point he rounded at his right.
The Spaniards called it Yerba Buena, after the fragrant running vine
that abounded in the lee of the sandhills which filled the present site
of Market Street, especially at a point now occupied by the building of
the Mechanics-Mercantile Library. There was no human habitation in
sight, nor was there to be for forty years, but friendly welcome came
on the trails that led to the Presidio and the Mission.

An occasional whaler or a trader in hides and tallow came and went, but
foreigners were not encouraged to settle. It was in 1814 that the first
"Gringo" came. In 1820 there were thirteen in all California, three of
whom were Americans. In 1835 William A. Richardson was the first foreign
resident of Yerba Buena. He was allowed to lay out a street and build a
structure of boards and ship's sails in the Calle de Fundacion, which
generally followed the lines of the present Grant Avenue. The spot
approximates number 811 of the avenue today. When Dana came in 1835 it
was the only house visible. The following year Jacob P. Leese built a
complete house, and it was dedicated by a celebration and ball on the
Fourth of July in which the whole community participated.

The settlement grew slowly. In 1840 there were sixteen foreigners. In
1844 there were a dozen houses and fifty people. In 1845 there were but
five thousand people in all the state. The missions had been disbanded
and the Presidio was manned by one gray-haired soldier. The Mexican War
brought renewed life. On July 9, 1846, Commodore Sloat sent Captain
Montgomery with the frigate "Portsmouth," and the American flag was
raised on the staff in the plaza of 1835, since called Portsmouth
Square. Thus began the era of American occupation. Lieutenant Bartlett
was made alcalde, with large powers, in pursuance of which, on February
27, 1847, he issued a simple order that the town thereafter be known as
San Francisco,--and its history as such began.

The next year gold was discovered. A sleepy, romantic, shiftless but
picturesque community became wide-awake, energetic, and aggressive. San
Francisco leaped into prominence. Every nation on earth sent its most
ambitious and enterprising as well as its most restless and
irresponsible citizens. In the last nine months of 1849, seven hundred
shiploads were landed in a houseless town. They largely left for the
mines, but more remained than could be housed. They lived on and around
hulks run ashore and thousands found shelter in Happy Valley tents. A
population of two thousand at the beginning of the year was twenty
thousand at the end. It was a gold-crazed community. Everything consumed
was imported. Gold dust was the only export.

From 1849 to 1860, gold amounting to over six hundred million dollars
was produced. The maximum--eighty-one millions--was reached in 1852. The
following year showed a decline of fourteen millions, and 1855 saw a
further decline of twelve millions. Alarm was felt. At the same ratio of
decline, in less than four years production would cease. It was plainly
evident, if the state were to exist and grow, that other resources must
be developed.

In the first decade there were periods of great depression. Bank and
commercial failures were very frequent occurrences in 1854. The state
was virtually only six years old--but what wonderful years they had
been! In the splendor of achievement and the glamour of the golden
fleece we lose sight of the fact that the community was so small. In the
whole state there were not more than 350,000 people, of whom a seventh
lived in San Francisco. There were indications that the tide of
immigration had reached its height. In 1854 arrivals had exceeded
departures by twenty-four thousand. In 1855 the excess dropped to six

My first view of San Francisco left a vivid impression of a city in
every way different from any I had ever seen. The streets were planked,
the buildings were heterogeneous--some of brick or stone, others
little more than shacks. Portsmouth Square was the general center of
interest, facing the City Hall and the Post Office. Clay Street Hill was
higher then than now. I know it because I climbed to its top to call on
a boy who came on the steamer and lived there. There was but little
settlement to the west of the summit.

The leading hotel was the International, lately opened, on Jackson
Street below Montgomery. It was considered central in location, being
convenient to the steamer landings, the Custom House, and the wholesale
trade. Probably but one building of that period has survived. At the
corner of Montgomery and California streets stood Parrott's granite
block, the stone for which was cut in China and assembled in 1852 by
Chinese workmen imported for the purpose. It harbored the bank of Page,
Bacon & Co., and has been continuously occupied, surviving an explosion
of nitroglycerine in 1866 (when Wells, Fargo & Co. were its tenants) as
well as the fire of 1906. Wilson's Exchange was in Sansome Street near
Sacramento. The American Theater was opposite. Where the Bank of
California stands there was a seed store. On the northeast corner of
California and Sansome streets was Bradshaw's zinc grocery store.

The growth of the city southward had already begun. The effort to
develop North Beach commercially had failed. Meiggs' Wharf was little
used; the Cobweb Saloon, near its shore end, was symbolic. Telegraph
Hill and its semaphore and time-ball were features of business life. It
was well worth climbing for the view, which Bayard Taylor pronounced the
finest in the world.

At this time San Francisco monopolized the commerce of the coast.
Everything that entered California came through the Golden Gate, and it
nearly all went up the Sacramento River. It was distinctly the age of
gold. Other resources were not considered. This all seemed a very
insecure basis for a permanent state. That social and political
conditions were threatening may be inferred when we recall that 1856
brought the Vigilance Committee. In 1857 came the Fraser River stampede.
Twenty-three thousand people are said to have left the city, and
real-estate values suffered severely.

In 1860 the Pony Express was established, bringing "the States," as the
East was generally designated, considerably nearer. It took but ten and
a half days to St. Louis, and thirteen to New York, with postage five
dollars an ounce. Steamers left on the first and fifteenth of the month,
and the twenty-eighth and fourteenth were religiously observed as days
for collection. No solvent man of honor failed to settle his account on
"steamer day."

The election of Lincoln, followed by the threat of war, was disquieting,
and the large southern element was out of sympathy with anything like
coercion. But patriotism triumphed. Early in 1861 a mass meeting was
held at the corner of Montgomery and Market streets, and San Francisco
pledged her loyalty.

In November, 1861, I attended the State Fair at Sacramento as
correspondent for the _Humboldt Times_. About the only impression of San
Francisco on my arrival was the disgust I felt for the proprietor of the
hotel at which I stopped, when, in reply to my eager inquiry for war
news, he was only able to say that he believed there had been some
fighting somewhere in Virginia. This to one starving for information
after a week's abstinence was tantalizing.

After a week of absorbing interest, in a fair that seemed enormously
important and impressive, I timed my return so as to spend Sunday in San
Francisco, and it was made memorable by attending, morning and evening,
the Unitarian church, then in Stockton near Sacramento, and hearing
Starr King. He had come from Boston the year before, proposing to fill
the pulpit for a year, and from the first aroused great enthusiasm. I
found the church crowded and was naturally consigned to a back seat,
which I shared with a sewing-machine, for it was war-time and the women
were very active in relief work.

The gifted preacher was thirty-seven years old, but seemed younger. He
was of medium height, had a kindly face with a generous mouth, a full
forehead, and dark, glowing eyes.

In June, 1864, I became a resident of San Francisco, rejoining the
family and becoming a clerk in the office of the Superintendent of
Indian Affairs. The city was about one-fifth its present size, claiming
a population of 110,000.

I want to give an idea of San Francisco's character and life at that
time, and of general conditions in the second decade. It is not easy to
do, and demands the reader's help and sympathy. Let him imagine, if he
will, that he is visiting San Francisco for the first time, and that he
is a personal friend of the writer, who takes a day off to show him the
city. In 1864 one could arrive here only by steamer; there were no
railways. I meet my friend at the gangplank of the steamer on the wharf
at the foot of Broadway. To reach the car on East Street (now the
Embarcadero), we very likely skirt gaping holes in the planked wharf,
exposing the dark water lapping the supporting piles, and are assailed
by bilge-like odors that escape. Two dejected horses await us. Entering
the car we find two lengthwise seats upholstered in red plush. If it be
winter, the floor is liberally covered by straw, to mitigate the mud. If
it be summer, the trade winds are liberally charged with fine sand and
infinitesimal splinters from the planks which are utilized for both
streets and sidewalks. We rattle along East and intersecting streets
until we reach Sansome, upon which we proceed to Bush, which practically
bounds the business district on the south, thence we meander by a
circuitous route to Laurel Hill Cemetery near Lone Mountain. A guide is
almost necessary. An incoming stranger once asked the conductor to let
him off at the American Exchange, which the car passed. He was surprised
at the distance to his destination. At the cemetery end of the line he
discovered that the conductor had forgotten him, but was assured that he
would stop at the hotel on the way back. The next thing he knew he
reached the wharf; the conductor had again forgotten him. His
confidence exhausted, he insisted on walking, following the track until
he reached the hotel.

In the present instance we alight from the car when it reaches
Montgomery Street, at the Occidental Hotel, new and attractive, well
managed by a New Yorker named Leland and especially patronized by army
people. We rest briefly and start out for a preliminary survey. Three
blocks to the south we reach Market Street and gaze upon the outer edge
of the bustling city. Across the magnificently wide but rude and
unfinished street, at the immediate right, where the Palace Hotel is to
stand, we see St. Patrick's Church and an Orphan Asylum. A little
beyond, at the corner of Third Street, is a huge hill of sand covering
the present site of the Glaus Spreckels Building, upon which a
steam-paddy is at work loading flat steam cars that run Mission-ward.
The lot now occupied by the Emporium is the site of a large Catholic
school. At our left, stretching to the bay are coal-yards, foundries,
planing-mills, box-factories, and the like. It will be years before
business crosses Market Street. Happy Valley and Pleasant Valley,
beyond, are well covered by inexpensive residences. The North Beach and
South Park car line connects the fine residence district on and around
Rincon Hill with the fine stretches of northern Stockton Street and the
environs of Telegraph Hill. At the time I picture, no street-cars ran
below Montgomery, on Market Street; traffic did not warrant it. It was a
boundary rather than a thoroughfare. It was destined to be one of the
world's noted streets, but at this time the city's life pulsed through
Montgomery Street, to which we will now return.

Turning from the apparent jumping-off place we cross to the "dollar
side" and join the promenaders who pass in review or pause to gaze at
the shop windows. Montgomery Street has been pre-eminent since the early
days and is now at its height. For a long time Clay Street harbored the
leading dry-goods stores, like the City of Paris, but all are struggling
for place in Montgomery. Here every business is represented--Beach,
Roman, and Bancroft, the leading booksellers; Barrett & Sherwood,
Tucker, and Andrews, jewelers; Donohoe, Kelly & Co., John Sime, and
Hickox & Spear, bankers; and numerous dealers in carpets, furniture,
hats, French shoes, optical goods, etc. Of course Barry & Patten's was
not the only saloon. Passing along we are almost sure to see some of the
characters of the day--certainly Emperor Norton and Freddie Coombs (a
reincarnated Franklin), probably Colonel Stevenson, with his Punch-like
countenance, towering Isaac Friedlander, the poor rich Michael Reese,
handsome Hall McAllister, and aristocratic Ogden Hoffman. Should the
fire-bell ring we will see Knickerbocker No. Five in action, with Chief
Scannell and "Bummer" and "Lazarus," and perhaps Lillie Hitchcock. When
we reach Washington Street we cross to make a call at the Bank Exchange
in the Montgomery Block, the largest structure on the street. The
"Exchange" is merely a popular saloon, but it boasts ten billiard tables
and back of the bar hangs the famous picture of "Samson and Delilah."

Luncheon being in order we are embarrassed with riches. Perhaps the Mint
restaurant is as good as the best and probably gives a sight of more
prominent politicians than any other resort; but something quite
characteristic is the daily gathering at Jury's, a humble
hole-in-the-wall in Merchant Street back of the _Bulletin_ office.

Four lawyers who like one another, and like good living as well, have a
special table. Alexander Campbell, Milton Andros, George Sharp, and
Judge Dwinelle will stop first in the Clay Street Market, conveniently
opposite, and select the duck, fish, or English mutton-chops for the
day's menu. One of the number bears the choice to the kitchen and
superintends its preparation while the others engage in shrimps and
table-talk until it is served. If Jury's is overflowing with custom,
there are two other French restaurants alongside.

After luncheon we have a glimpse of the business district, following
back on the "two-bit" side of the street. At Clay we pass a saloon with
a cigar-stand in front and find a group listening to a man with bushy
hair and a reddish mustache, who in an easy attitude and in a quaintly
drawling voice is telling a story. We await the laugh and pass on, and I
say that he is a reporter, lately from Nevada, called Mark Twain. Very
likely we encounter at Commercial Street, on his way to the _Call_
office, a well-dressed young man with Dundreary whiskers and an aquiline
nose. He nods to me and I introduce Bret Harte, secretary to the
Superintendent of the Mint, and author of the clever "Condensed Novels"
being printed in the _Californian_. At California Street we turn east,
passing the shipping offices and hardware houses, and coming to Battery
Street, where Israelites wax fat in wholesale dry goods and the clothing
business. For solid big business in groceries, liquors, and provisions
we must keep on to Front Street--Front by name only, for four streets on
filled-in land have crept in front of Front. Following this very
important street past the shipping offices we reach Washington Street,
passing up which we come to Battery Street, where we pause to glance at
the Custom House and Post Office at the right and the recently
established Bank of California on the southwest corner of the two

Having fairly surveyed the legitimate business we wish to see something
of the engrossing avocation of most of the people of the city, of any
business or no business, and we pass on to Montgomery, crossing over to
the center of the stock exchange activities. Groups of men and women
are watching the tapes in the brokers' offices, messengers are running
in and out the board entrances, intense excitement is everywhere
apparent. Having gained admission to the gallery of the board room we
look down on the frantic mob, buying and selling Comstock shares. How
much is really sold and how much is washing no one knows, but enormous
transactions, big with fate, are of everyday occurrence. As we pass out
we notice a man with strong face whose shoes show dire need of patching.
Asked his name, I answer, "Jim Keane; just now he is down, but some day
he is bound to be way up."

We saunter up Clay, passing Burr's Savings Bank and a few remaining
stores, to Kearny, and Portsmouth Square, whose glory is departing. The
City Hall faces it, and so does Exempt Engine House, but dentists'
offices and cheap theaters and Chinese stores are crowding in. Clay
Street holds good boarding-houses, but decay is manifest. We pass on to
Stockton, still a favorite residence street; turning south we pass, near
Sacramento, the church in which Starr King first preached, now proudly
owned by the negro Methodists. At Post we reach Union Square, nearly
covered by the wooden pavilion in which the Mechanics' Institute holds
its fairs. Diagonally opposite the southeast corner of the desecrated
park are the buildings of the ambitious City College, and east of them
a beautiful church edifice always spoken of as "Starr King's Church."

Very likely, seeing the church, I might be reminded of one of Mr. King's
most valued friends, and suggest that we call upon him at the Golden
Gate Flour-mill in Pine Street, where the California Market was to
stand. If we met Horace Davis, I should feel that I had presented one of
our best citizens.

Dinner presents many opportunities; but I am inclined to think we shall
settle on Frank Garcia's restaurant in Montgomery near Jackson, where
good service awaits us, and we may hear the upraised voices of some of
the big lawyers who frequent the place. For the evening we have the
choice between several bands of minstrels, but if Forrest and John
McCullough are billed for "Jack Cade" we shall probably call on Tom
Maguire. After the strenuous play we pass up Washington Street to Peter
Job's and indulge in his incomparable ice-cream.

On Sunday I shall continue my guidance. Churches are plentiful and
preachers are good. In the afternoon I think I may venture to invite my
friend to The Willows, a public garden between Mission and Valencia and
Seventeenth and Nineteenth streets. We shall hear excellent music in the
open air and can sit at a small table and sip good beer. I find such
indulgence far less wicked than I had been led to believe.

When there is something distinctive in a community a visitor is
supposed to take it in, and in the evening we attend the meeting of the
Dashaway Association in its own hall in Post Street near Dupont. It
numbers five thousand members and meets Sunday mornings and evenings.
Strict temperance is a live issue at this time. The Sons of Temperance
maintain four divisions. There are besides two lodges of Good Templars
and a San Francisco Temperance Union. And in spite of all this the city
feels called upon to support a Home for Inebriates at Stockton and
Chestnut streets, to which the supervisors contribute two hundred and
fifty dollars a month.

I shall feel that I am derelict if I do not manage a jaunt to the Cliff
House. The most desirable method demands a span of horses for a spin out
Point Lobos Avenue. We may, however, be obliged to take a McGinn bus
that leaves the Plaza hourly. It will be all the same when we reach the
Cliff and gaze on Ben Butler and his companion sea-lions as they disport
themselves in the ocean or climb the rocks. Wind or fog may greet us,
but the indifferent monsters roar, fight, and play, while the restless
waves roll in. We must, also, make a special trip to Rincon Hill and
South Park to see how and where our magnates dwell. The 600 block in
Folsom Street must not be neglected. The residences of such men as John
Parrott and Milton S. Latham are almost palatial. It is related that a
visitor impressed with the elegance of one of these places asked a
modest man in the neighborhood if he knew whose it was. "Yes," he
replied, "it belongs to an old fool by the name of John Parrott, and I
am he."

We shall leave out something distinctive if we do not call at the What
Cheer House in Sacramento Street below Montgomery, a hostelry for men,
with moderate prices, notwithstanding many unusual privileges. It has a
large reading-room and a library of five thousand volumes, besides a
very respectable museum. Guests are supplied with all facilities for
blacking their own boots, and are made at home in every way.
Incidentally the proprietor made a good fortune, a large part of which
he invested in turning his home at Fourteenth and Mission streets into a
pleasure resort known as Woodward's Gardens, which for many years was
our principal park, art gallery and museum.

These are a few of the things I could have shown. But to know and
appreciate the spirit and character of a city one must live in it and be
of it; so I beg to be dismissed as a guide and to offer experiences and
events that may throw some light on life in the stirring sixties.

When I migrated from Humboldt County and enlisted for life as a San
Franciscan I lived with my father's family in a small brick house in
Powell Street near Ellis. The Golden West Hotel now covers the lot. The
little houses opposite were on a higher level and were surrounded by
small gardens. Both street and sidewalks were planked, but I remember
that my brother and I, that we might escape the drifting sand, often
walked on the flat board that capped the flimsy fence in front of a
vacant lot. On the west of Powell, at Market, was St. Ann's Garden and
Nursery. On the east, where the Flood Building stands, was a stable and

Much had been accomplished in city building, but the process was
continuing. Few of us realize the obstacles overcome. Fifteen years
before, the site was the rugged end of a narrow peninsula, with high
rock hills, wastes of drifting sand, a curving cove of beach, bordered
with swamps and estuaries, and here and there a few oases in the form of
small valleys. In 1864 the general lines of the city were practically
those of today. It was the present San Francisco, laid out but not
filled out. There was little west of Larkin Street and quite a gap
between the city proper and the Mission.

Size in a city greatly modifies character. In 1864 I found a compact
community; whatever was going on seemed to interest all. We now have a
multitude of unrelated circles; then there was one great circle
including the sympathetic whole. The one theater that offered the
legitimate drew and could accommodate all who cared for it. Herold's
orchestral concerts, a great singer like Parepa Rosa, or a violinist
like Ole Bull drew all the music-lovers of the city. And likewise, in
the early springtime when the Unitarian picnic was announced at Belmont
or Fairfax, it would be attended by at least a thousand, and heartily
enjoyed by all, regardless of church connection. Such things are no
more, though the population to draw from be five times as large.

In the sixties, church congregations and lecture audiences were much
larger than they are now. There seemed always to be some one preacher or
lecturer who was the vogue, practically monopolizing public interest.
His name might be Scudder or Kittredge or Moody, but while he lasted
everybody rushed to hear him. And there was commonly some special fad
that prevailed. Spiritualism held the boards for quite a time.

Changes in real-estate values were a marked feature of the city's life.
The laying out of Broadway was significant of expectations. Banks in the
early days were north of Pacific in Montgomery, but very soon the drift
to the south began.

In 1862, when the Unitarian church in Stockton street near Sacramento
was found too small, it was determined to push well to the front of the
city's growth. Two lots were under final consideration, the northwest
corner of Geary and Powell, where the St. Francis now stands, and the
lot in Geary east of Stockton, now covered by the Whitney Building. The
first lot was a corner and well situated, but it was rejected on the
ground that it was "too far out." The trustees paid $16,000 for the
other lot and built the fine church that was occupied until 1887, when
it was felt to be too far down town, and the present building at
Franklin and Geary streets was erected. Incidentally, the lot sold for

The evolution of pavements has been an interesting incident of the
city's life. Planks were cheap and they held down some of the sand, but
they grew in disfavor. In 1864 the Superintendent of Streets reported
that in the previous year 1,365,000 square feet of planks had been laid,
and 290,000 square feet had been paved with cobbles, a lineal mile of
which cost $80,000. How much suffering they cost the militia who marched
on them is not reported. Nicholson pavement was tried and found wanting.
Basalt blocks found brief favor. Finally we reached the modern era and
approximate perfection.

Checker-board street planning was a serious misfortune to the city, and
it was aggravated by the narrowness of most of the streets. Kearny
Street, forty-five and one-half feet wide, and Dupont, forty-four and
one-half feet, were absurd. In 1865 steps were taken to add thirty feet
to the west side of Kearny. In 1866 the work was done, and it proved a
great success. The cost was five hundred and seventy-nine thousand
dollars, and the addition to the value of the property was not less than
four million dollars. When the work began the front-foot value at the
northern end was double that at Market Street. Today the value at Market
Street is more than five times that at Broadway.

The first Sunday after my arrival in San Francisco I went to the
Unitarian church and heard the wonderfully attractive and satisfying Dr.
Bellows, temporary supply. It was the beginning of a church connection
that still continues and to which I owe more than I can express.

Dr. Bellows had endeared himself to the community by his warm
appreciation of their liberal support of the Sanitary Commission during
the Civil War. The interchange of messages between him in New York and
Starr King in San Francisco had been stimulating and effective. When the
work was concluded it was found that California had furnished one-fourth
of the $4,800,000 expended. Governor Low headed the San Francisco
committee. The Pacific Coast, with a population of half a million,
supplied one-third of all the money spent by this forerunner of the Red
Cross. The other states of the Union, with a population of about
thirty-two million, supplied two-thirds. But California was far away and
it was not thought wise to drain the West of its loyal forces, and we
ought to have given freely of our money. In all, quite a number found
their way to the fighting front. A friend of mine went to the wharf to
see Lieutenant Sheridan, late of Oregon, embark for the East and active
service. Sheridan was grimly in earnest, and remarked: "I'll come back a
captain or I'll not come back at all." When he did come back it was with
the rank of lieutenant-general.

While San Francisco was unquestionably loyal, there were not a few
Southern sympathizers, and loyalists were prepared for trouble. I soon
discovered that a secret Union League was active and vigilant. Weekly
meetings for drill were held in the pavilion in Union Square, admission
being by password only. I promptly joined. The regimental commander was
Martin J. Burke, chief of police. My company commander was George T.
Knox, a prominent notary public. I also joined the militia, choosing the
State Guard, Captain Dawes, which drilled weekly in the armory in Market
Street opposite Dupont. Fellow members were Horace Davis and his brother
George, Charles W. Wendte (now an eastern D.D.), Samuel L. Cutter, Fred
Glimmer of the Unitarian church, Henry Michaels, and W.W. Henry, father
of the present president of Mills College. Our active service was mainly
confined to marching over the cruel cobble-stones on the Fourth of July
and other show-off occasions, while commonly we indulged in an annual
excursion and target practice in the wilds of Alameda.

Once we saw real service. When the news of the assassination of Lincoln
reached San Francisco the excitement was intense. Newspapers that had
slandered him or been lukewarm in his support suffered. The militia was
called out in fear of a riot and passed a night in the basement of
Platt's Hall. But preparedness was all that was needed. A few days later
we took part in a most imposing procession. All the military and most
other organizations followed a massive catafalque and a riderless horse
through streets heavily draped with black. The line of march was long,
arms were reversed, the sorrowing people crowded the way, and solemnity
and grief on every hand told how deeply Lincoln was loved.

I had cast my first presidential vote for him, at Turn Verein Hall, Bush
Street, November 6, 1864. When the news of his re-election by the voters
of every loyal state came to us, we went nearly wild with enthusiasm,
but our heartiest rejoicing came with the fall of Richmond. We had a
great procession, following the usual route--from Washington Square to
Montgomery, to Market, to Third, to South Park, where fair women from
crowded balconies waved handkerchiefs and flags to shouting
marchers--and back to the place of beginning. Processioning was a great
function of those days, observed by the cohorts of St. Patrick and by
all political parties. It was a painful process, for the street pavement
was simply awful.

Sometimes there were trouble and mild assaults. The only recollection I
have of striking a man is connected with a torchlight procession
celebrating some Union victory. When returning from south of Market, a
group of jeering toughs closed in on us and I was lightly hit. I turned
and using my oil-filled lamp at the end of a staff as a weapon, hit out
at my assailant. The only evidence that the blow was an effective one
was the loss of the lamp; borne along by solid ranks of patriots I clung
to an unilluminated stick. Party feeling was strong in the sixties and
bands and bonfires plentiful.

At one election the Democrats organized a corps of rangers, who marched
with brooms, indicative of the impending clean sweep by which they were
to "turn the rascals out." For each presidential election drill crops
were organized, but the Blaine Invincibles didn't exactly prove so.

The Republican party held a long lease of power, however. Governor Low
was a very popular executive, while municipally the People's Party,
formed in 1856 by adherents of the Vigilance Committee, was still in the
saddle, giving good, though not far-sighted and progressive, government.
Only those who experienced the abuses under the old methods of
conducting elections can realize the value of the provision for the
uniform ballot and a quiet ballot box, adopted in 1869. There had been
no secrecy or privacy, and peddlers of rival tickets fought for
patronage to the box's mouth. One served as an election officer at the
risk of sanity if not of life. In the "fighting Seventh" ward I once
counted ballots for thirty-six consecutive hours, and as I remember
conditions I was the only officer who finished sober.

During my first year in government employ the depreciation in
legal-tender notes in which we were paid was very embarrassing. One
hundred dollars in notes would bring but thirty-five or forty dollars in
gold, and we could get nothing we wanted except with gold.

My second year in San Francisco I lived in Howard Street near First and
was bookkeeper for a stock-broker. I became familiar with the
fascinating financial game that followed the development of the Comstock
lode, discovered in 1859. It was 1861 before production was large. Then
began the silver age, a new era that completely transformed California
and made San Francisco a great center of financial power. Within twenty
years $340,000,000 poured into her banks. The world's silver output
increased from forty millions a year to sixty millions. In September of
1862 the stock board was organized. At first a share in a company
represented a running foot on the lode's length. In 1871, Mr. Cornelius
O'Connor bought ten shares of Consolidated Virginia at eight dollars a
share. When it had been divided into one thousand shares and he was
offered $680 a share, he had the sagacity to sell, realizing a profit
of $679,920 on his investment of $80. At the time he sold, a share
represented one-fourteenth of an inch. In six years the bonanza yielded
$104,000,000, of which $73,000,000 was paid in dividends.

The effect of such unparalleled riches was wide-spread. It made Nevada a
state and gave great impetus to the growth of San Francisco. It had a
marked influence on society and modified the character of the city
itself. Fifteen years of abnormal excitement, with gains and losses
incredible in amount, unsettled the stability of trade and orderly
business and proved a demoralizing influence. Speculation became a
habit. It was gambling adjusted to all conditions, with equal
opportunity for millionaire or chambermaid, and few resisted altogether.
Few felt shame, but some were secretive.

A few words are due Adolph Sutro, who dealt in cigars in his early
manhood, but went to Nevada in 1859 and by 1861 owned a quartz-mill. In
1866 he became impressed with the idea that the volume of water
continually flowing into the deeper mines of the Comstock lode would
eventually demand an outlet on the floor of Carson Valley, four miles
away. He secured the legislation and surprised both friends and enemies
by raising the money to begin construction of the famous Sutro Tunnel.
He began the work in 1859, and in some way carried it through, spending
five million dollars. The mine-owners did not want to use his tunnel,
but they had to. He finally sold out at a good price and put the most
of a large fortune in San Francisco real estate. At one time he owned
one-tenth of the area of the city. He forested the bald hills of the San
Miguel Rancho, an immense improvement, changing the whole sky-line back
of Golden Gate Park. He built the fine Sutro Baths, planted the
beautiful gardens on the heights above the Cliff House, established a
car line that meant to the ocean for a nickel, amassed a library of
twenty thousand volumes, and incidentally made a good mayor. He was a
public benefactor and should be held in grateful memory.

The memories that cluster around a certain building are often
impressive, both intrinsically and by reason of their variety. Platt's
Hall is connected with experiences of first interest. For many years it
was the place for most occasional events of every character. It was a
large square auditorium on the spot now covered by the Mills Building.
Balls, lectures, concerts, political meetings, receptions, everything
that was popular and wanted to be considered first-class went to Platt's

Starr King's popularity had given the Unitarian church and Sunday-school
a great hold on the community. At Christmas its festivals were held in
Platt's Hall. We paid a hundred dollars for rent and twenty-five dollars
for a Christmas-tree. Persons who served as doorkeepers or in any other
capacity received ten dollars each. At one dollar for admission we
crowded the big hall and always had money left over. Our entertainments
were elaborate, closing with a dance. My first service for the
Sunday-school was the unobserved holding up an angel's wing in a
tableau. One of the most charming of effects was an artificial
snowstorm, arranged for the concluding dance at a Christmas festival.
The ceiling of the hall was composed of horizontal windows giving
perfect ventilation and incidentally making it feasible for a large
force of boys to scatter quantities of cut-up white paper evenly and
plentifully over the dancers, the evergreen garlands decorating the
hall, and the polished floor. It was a long-continued downpour, a
complete surprise, and for many a year a happy tradition.

In Platt's Hall wonderfully fine orchestral concerts were held, under
the very capable direction of Rudolph Herold. Early in the sixties
Caroline Richings had a successful season of English opera. Later the
Howsons charmed us for a time. All the noteworthy lecturers of the world
who visited California received us at Platt's Hall. Beecher made a great
impression. Carl Schurz, also, stirred us deeply. I recall one clever
sentence. He said, "When the time came that this country needed a
poultice it elected President Hayes and got it." Of our local talent
real eloquence found its best expression in Henry Edgerton. The height
of enthusiasm was registered in war-time by the mighty throng that
gathered at Lincoln's call for a hundred thousand men. Starr King was
the principal speaker. He had called upon his protege, Bret Harte, for a
poem for the occasion. Harte doubted his ability, but he handed Mr. King
the result of his effort. He called it the "Reveille." King was greatly
delighted. Harte hid himself in the concourse. King's wonderful voice,
thrilling with emotion, carried the call to every heart and the audience
with one accord stood and cheered again and again.

One of the most striking coincidences I ever knew occurred in connection
with the comparatively mild earthquake of 1866. It visited us on a
Sunday at the last moments of the morning sermon. Those in attendance at
the Unitarian church were engaged in singing the last hymn, standing
with books in hand. The movement was not violent but threatening. It
flashed through my mind that the strain on a building with a large
unsupported roof must be great. Faces blanched, but all stood quietly
waiting the end, and all would have gone well had not the large central
pipe of the organ, apparently unattached, only its weight holding it in
place, tottered on its base and leaped over the heads of the choir,
falling into the aisle in front of the first pews. The effect was
electric. The large congregation waited for no benediction or other form
of dismissal. The church was emptied in an incredibly short time, and
the congregation was very soon in the middle of the street, hymnbooks
in hand. The coincidence was that the verse being sung was,

"The seas shall melt,
And skies to smoke decay,
Rocks turn to dust,
And mountains fall away."

We had evening services at the time, and Dr. Stebbins again gave out the
same hymn, and this time we sang it through.

The story of Golden Gate Park and how the city got it is very
interesting, but must be much abridged. In 1866 I pieced out a modest
income by reporting the proceedings of the Board of Supervisors and the
School Board for the _Call_. It was in the palmy days of the People's
Party. The supervisors, elected from the wards in which they lived, were
honest and fairly able. The man of most brains and initiative was Frank
McCoppin. The most important question before them was the disposition of
the outside lands. In 1853 the city had sued for the four square leagues
(seventeen thousand acres) allowed under the Mexican law. It was granted
ten thousand acres, which left all land west of Divisadero Street
unsettled as to title. Appeal was taken, and finally the city's claim
was confirmed. In 1866 Congress passed an act confirming the decree, and
the legislature authorized the conveyance of the lands to occupants.

They were mostly squatters, and the prize was a rich one. Congress had
decreed "that all of this land not needed for public purposes, or not
previously disposed of, should be conveyed to the persons in
possession," so that all the latitude allowed was as to what "needs for
public purposes" covered. There had been agitation for a park; indeed,
Frederick Law Olmstead had made an elaborate but discouraging report,
ignoring the availability of the drifting sand-hills that formed so
large a part of the outside lands, recommending a park including our
little Duboce Park and one at Black Point, the two to be connected by a
widened and parked Van Ness Avenue, sunken and crossed by ornamental

The undistributed outside lands to be disposed of comprised eighty-four
hundred acres. The supervisors determined to reserve one thousand acres
for a park. Some wanted to improve the opportunity to secure without
cost considerably more. The _Bulletin_ advocated an extension that would
bring a bell-shaped panhandle down to the Yerba Buena Cemetery, property
owned by the city and now embraced in the Civic Center. After long
consideration a compromise was made by which the claimants paid to those
whose lands were kept for public use ten per cent of the value of the
lands distributed. By this means 1,347.46 acres were rescued, of which
Golden Gate Park included 1,049.31, the rest being used for a cemetery,
Buena Vista Park, public squares, school lots, etc. The ordinances
accomplishing the qualified boon to the city were fathered by McCoppin
and Clement. Other members of the committee, immortalized by the streets
named after them, were Clayton, Ashbury, Cole, Shrader, and Stanyan.

The story of the development of Golden Gate Park is well known. The
beauty and charm are more eloquent than words, and John McLaren, ranks
high among the city's benefactors.

The years from 1860 to 1870 marked many changes in the character and
appearance of San Francisco. Indeed, its real growth and development
date from the end of the first decade. Before that we were clearing off
the lot and assembling the material. The foundation of the structure
that we are still building was laid in the second decade. Statistics
establish the fact. In population we increased from less than 57,000 to
150,000--163 per cent. In the first decade our assessed property
increased $9,000,000; in the second, $85,000,000. Our imports and
exports increased from $3,000,000 to $13,000,000. Great gain came
through the silver production, but greater far from the development of
the permanent industries of the land--grain, fruit, lumber--and the
shipping that followed it.

The city made strides in growth and beauty. Our greatest trial was too
much prosperity and the growth of luxury and extravagance.



In a brief chapter little can be offered that will tell the story of
half a century of life of a great city. No attempt will be made to trace
its progress or to recount its achievement. It is my purpose merely to
record events and occurrences that I remember, for whatever interest
they may have or whatever light they may throw on the life of the city
or on my experience in it.

For many years we greatly enjoyed the exhibits and promenade concerts of
the Mechanics' Institute Fairs. The large pavilion also served a useful
purpose in connection with various entertainments demanding capacity. In
1870 there was held a very successful musical festival; twelve hundred
singers participated and Camilla Urso was the violinist. The attendance
exceeded six thousand.

The Mercantile Library was in 1864 very strong and seemed destined to
eternal life, but it became burdened with debt and sought to extricate
itself by an outrageous expedient. The legislature passed an act
especially permitting a huge lottery, and for three days in 1870 the
town was given over to gambling, unabashed and unashamed. The result
seemed a triumph. Half a million dollars was realized, but it was a
violation of decency that sounded the knell of the institution, and it
was later absorbed by the plodding Mechanics' Institute, which had
always been most judiciously managed. Its investments in real estate
that it used have made it wealthy.

A gala day of 1870 was the spectacular removal of Blossom Rock. The
early-day navigation was imperiled by a small rock northwest of Angel
Island, covered at low tide by but five feet of water. It was called
Blossom, from having caused the loss of an English ship of that name.
The Government closed a bargain with Engineer Von Schmidt, who three
years before had excavated from the solid rock at Hunter's Point a dry
dock that had gained wide renown. Von Schmidt guaranteed twenty-four
feet of water at a cost of seventy-five thousand dollars, no payment to
be made unless he succeeded. He built a cofferdam, sunk a shaft, planted
twenty-three tons of powder in the tunnels he ran, and on May 25th,
after notice duly served, which sent the bulk of the population to
view-commanding hills, he pushed an electric button that fired the mine,
throwing water and debris one hundred and fifty feet in the air. Blossom
Rock was no more, deep water was secured, and Von Schmidt cashed his

On my trip from Humboldt County to San Francisco in 1861 I made the
acquaintance of Andrew S. Hallidie, an English engineer who had
constructed a wire bridge over the Klamath River. In 1872 he came to my
printing office to order a prospectus announcing the formation of a
small company to construct a new type of street-car, to be propelled by
wire cable running in a conduit in the street and reached by a grip
through a slot. It was suggested by the suffering of horses striving to
haul cars up our steep hills and it utilized methods successfully used
in transporting ores from the mines. On August 2, 1873, the first
cable-car made a successful trial trip of seven blocks over Clay Street
hill, from Kearny to Leavenworth. Later it was extended four blocks to
the west. From this beginning the cable-roads spread over most of the
city and around the world. With the development of the electric trolley
they were largely displaced except on steep grades, where they still
perform an important function. Mr. Hallidie was a public-spirited
citizen and an influential regent of the University of California.

In 1874 there was forced upon the citizens of San Francisco the
necessity of taking steps to give better care and opportunity to the
neglected children of the community. A poorly conducted reform school
was encouraging crime instead of effecting reform. On every hand was
heard the question, "What shall we do with our boys?" Encouraged by the
reports of what had been accomplished in New York City by Charles L.
Brace, correspondence was entered into, and finally The Boys and Girls
Aid Society was organized. Difficulty was encountered in finding any one
willing to act as president of the organization, but George C. Hickox, a
well-known banker, was at last persuaded and became much interested in
the work. For some time it was a difficult problem to secure funds to
meet the modest expenses. A lecture by Charles Kingsley was a flat
failure. Much more successful was an entertainment at Platt's Hall at
which well-known citizens took part in an old-time spelling-match. In a
small building in Clementina Street we began with neighborhood boys, who
were at first wild and unruly. Senator George C. Perkins became
interested, and for more than forty years served as president. Through
him Senator Fair gave five thousand dollars and later the two valuable
fifty-vara lots at Grove and Baker streets, still occupied by the Home.
We issued a little paper, _Child and State_, in which we appealed for a
building, and a copy fell into the hands of Miss Helen McDowell,
daughter of the General. She sent it to Miss Hattie Crocker, who passed
it to her father, Charles Crocker, of railroad fame. He became
interested and wrote for particulars, and when the plans were submitted
he told us to go ahead and build, sending the bills to him. These two
substantial gifts made possible the working out of our plans, and the
results have been very encouraging. When the building was erected, on
the advice of the experts of the period, two lockups were installed, one
without light. Experience soon convinced us that they could be dispensed
with, and both were torn out. An honor system was substituted, to
manifest advantage, and failures to return when boys are permitted to
visit parents are negligible in number. The three months of summer
vacation are devoted to berry-picking, with satisfaction to growers and
to the boys, who last year earned eleven thousand dollars, of which
seven thousand dollars was paid to the boys who participated, in
proportion to the amount earned.

William C. Ralston was able, daring, and brilliant. In 1864 he organized
the Bank of California, which, through its Virginia City connection and
the keenness and audacity of William Sharon, practically monopolized the
big business of the Comstock, controlling mines, milling, and
transportation. In San Francisco it was _the_ bank, and its earnings
were huge. Ralston was public-spirited and enterprising. He backed all
kinds of schemes as well as many legitimate undertakings. He seemed the
great power of the Pacific Coast. But in 1875, when the silver output
dropped and the tide that had flowed in for a dozen years turned to ebb,
distrust was speedy. On the afternoon of August 26th, as I chanced to be
passing the bank, I saw with dismay the closing of its doors. The death
of Ralston, the discovery of wild investments, and the long train of
loss were intensely tragic. The final rehabilitation of the bank brought
assurance and rich reward to those who met their loss like men, but the
lesson was a hard one. In retrospect Ralston seems to typify that
extraordinary era of wild speculation and recklessness.

No glance at old San Francisco can be considered complete which does not
at least recognize Emperor Norton, a picturesque figure of its life. A
heavy, elderly man, probably Jewish, who paraded the streets in a dingy
uniform with conspicuous epaulets, a plumed hat, and a knobby cane.
Whether he was a pretender or imagined that he was an emperor no one
knew or seemed to care. He was good-natured, and he was humored.
Everybody bought his scrip in fifty cents denomination. I was his
favored printer, and he assured me that when he came into his estate he
would make me chancellor of the exchequer. He often attended the
services of the Unitarian church, and expressed his feeling that there
were too many churches and that when the empire was established he
should request all to accept the Unitarian church. He once asked me if I
could select from among the ladies of our church a suitable empress. I
told him I thought I might, but that he must be ready to provide for her
handsomely; that no man thought of keeping a bird until he had a cage,
and that a queen must have a palace. He was satisfied, and I never was
called upon.

The most memorable of the Fourth of July celebrations was in 1876, when
the hundredth anniversary called for something special. The best to be
had was prepared for the occasion. The procession was elaborate and
impressive. Dr. Stebbins delivered a fine oration; there was a poem, of
course; but the especial feature was a military and naval spectacle,
elaborate in character.

The fortifications around the harbor and the ships available were
scheduled to unite in an attack on a supposed enemy ship attempting to
enter the harbor. The part of the invading cruiser was taken by a large
scow anchored between Sausalito and Fort Point. At an advertised hour
the bombardment was to begin, and practically the whole population of
the city sought the high hills commanding the view. The hills above the
Presidio were then bare of habitations, but on that day they were black
with eager spectators. When the hour arrived the bombardment began. The
air was full of smoke and the noise was terrific, but alas for
marksmanship, the willing and waiting cruiser rode serenely unharmed and
unhittable. The afternoon wore away and still no chance shot went home.
Finally a Whitehall boat sneaked out and set the enemy ship on fire,
that her continued security might no longer oppress us. It was a most
impressive exhibit of unpreparedness, and gave us much to think of.

On the evening of the same day, Father Neri, at St. Ignatius College,
displayed electric lighting for the first time in San Francisco, using
three French arc lights.

The most significant event of the second decade was the rise and decline
of the Workingmen's Party, following the remarkable episode of the Sand
Lot and Denis Kearney. The winter of 1876-77 had been one of slight
rainfall, there had been a general failure of crops, the yield of gold
and silver had been small, and there was much unemployment. There had
been riots in the East and discontent and much resentment were rife. The
line of least resistance seemed to be the clothes-line. The Chinese,
though in no wise responsible, were attacked. Laundries were destroyed,
but rioting brought speedy organization. A committee of safety, six
thousand strong, took the situation in hand. The state and the national
governments moved resolutely, and order was very soon restored. Kearney
was clever and knew when to stop. He used his qualities of leadership
for his individual advantage and eventually became sleek and prosperous.
In the meantime he was influential in forming a political movement that
played a prominent part in giving us a new constitution. The ultra
conservatives were frightened, but the new instrument did not prove so
harmful as was feared. It had many good features and lent itself
readily to judicial construction.

While we now treat the episode lightly, it was at the time a serious
matter. It was Jack Cade in real life, and threatened existing society
much as the Bolshevists do in Russia. The significant feature of the
experience was that there was a measure of justification for the
protest. Vast fortunes had been suddenly amassed and luxury and
extravagance presented a damaging contrast to the poverty and suffering
of the many. Heartlessness and indifference are the primary danger. The
result of the revolt was on the whole good. The warning was needed, and,
on the other hand, the protestants learned that real reforms are not
brought about by violence or even the summary change of organic law.

In 1877 I had the good fortune to join the Chit-Chat Club, which had
been formed three years before on very simple lines. A few high-minded
young lawyers interested in serious matters, but alive to
good-fellowship, dined together once a month and discussed an essay that
one of them had written. The essayist of one meeting presided at the
next. A secretary-treasurer was the only officer. Originally the papers
alternated between literature and political economy, but as time went on
all restrictions were removed, although by usage politics and religion
are shunned. The membership has always been of high character and
remarkable interest has been maintained. I have esteemed it a great
privilege to be associated with so fine a body of kindly, cultivated
men, and educationally it has been of great advantage. I have missed few
meetings in the forty-four years, and the friendships formed have been
many and close. We formerly celebrated our annual meetings and invited
men of note. Our guests included Generals Howard, Gibbons, and Miles,
the LeContes, Edward Rowland Sill, and Luther Burbank. We enjoyed
meeting celebrities, but our regular meetings, with no formality, proved
on the whole more to our taste and celebrations were given up. When I
think of the delight and benefit that I have derived from this
association of clubbable men I feel moved to urge that similar groups be
developed wherever even a very few will make the attempt.

In 1879 I joined many of my friends and acquaintances in a remarkable
entertainment on a large scale. It was held in the Mechanics' Pavilion
and continued for many successive nights. It was called the "Carnival of
Authors." The immense floor was divided into a series of booths,
occupied by representative characters of all the noted authors,
Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, Irving, Scott, and many others. A grand
march every evening introduced the performances or receptions given at
the various booths, and was very colorful and amusing. My character was
the fortune-teller in the Alhambra, and my experiences were interesting
and impressive. My disguise was complete, and in my zodiacal quarters I
had much fun in telling fortunes for many people I knew quite well, and
I could make revelations that seemed to them very wonderful. In the
grand march I could indulge in the most unmannered swagger. My own
sister asked in indignation: "Who is that old man making eyes at me?" I
held many charming hands as I pretended to study the lines. One evening
Charles Crocker, as he strolled past, inquired if I would like any help.
I assured him that beauty were safer in the hands of age. A young woman
whom I saw weekly at church came with her cousin, a well-known banker. I
told her fortune quite to her satisfaction, and then informed her that
the gentleman with her was a relative, but not a brother. "How
wonderful!" she exclaimed. A very well-known Irish stock operator came
with his daughter, whose fortune I made rosy. She persuaded her father
to sit. Nearly every morning I had met him as he rode a neat pony along
a street running to North Beach, where he took a swim. I told him that
the lines of his hand indicated water, that he had been born across the
water. "Yes," he murmured, "in France." I told him he had been
successful. "Moderately so," he admitted. I said, "Some people think it
has been merely good luck, but you have contributed to good fortune. You
are a man of very regular habits. Among your habits is that of bathing
every morning in the waters of the bay." "Oh, God!" he ejaculated, "he
knows me!"

Some experiences were not so humorous. A very hard-handed, poorly
dressed but patently upright man took it very seriously. I told him he
had had a pretty hard life, but that no man could look him in the face
and say that he had been wronged by him. He said that was so, but he
wanted to ask my advice as to what to do when persecuted because he
could not do more than was possible to pay an old debt for which he was
not to blame. I comforted him all I could, and told him he should not
allow himself to be imposed upon. When he left he asked for my address
down town. He wanted to see me again. The depth of suffering and the
credulity revealed were often embarrassing and made me feel a fraud when
I was aiming merely to amuse. I was glad again to become my undisguised

It was in the late eighties that Julia Ward Howe visited her sister near
the city, and I very gladly was of service in helping her fill some of
her engagements. She gave much pleasure by lectures and talks and
enjoyed visiting some of our attractions. She was charmed with the
Broadway Grammar School, where Jean Parker had achieved such wonderful
results with the foreign girls of the North Beach locality. I remember
meeting a distinguished educator at a dinner, and I asked him if he had
seen the school. He said he had. "What do you think of it?" I asked him.
"I think it is the finest school in the world," he said. I took Mrs.
Howe to a class. She was asked to say a few words, and in her beautiful
voice she gained instant and warm attention. She asked all the little
girls who spoke French in their homes to stand. Many rose. Then she
called for Spanish. Many more stood. She followed with Scandinavian and
Italian. But when she came to those who used English she found few. She
spoke to several in their own tongue and was most enthusiastically
greeted. I also escorted her across the bay to Mills College, with which
she was greatly pleased. She proved herself a good sport. With true
Bohemianism, she joined in luncheon on the ferryboat, eating ripe
strawberries from the original package, using her fingers and enjoying
the informality. She fitted every occasion with dignity or humor. In the
pulpit at our church she preached a remarkably fine sermon.

Mozoomdar, the saintly representative of the Brahmo Somaj, was a highly
attractive man. His voice was most musical, and his bearing and manner
were beautiful. He seemed pure spirit and a type of the deeply religious
nature. Nor was he without humor. In speaking of his visit to England he
said that his hosts generally seemed to think that for food he required
only "an unlimited quantity of milk."

Politics has had a wide range in San Francisco,--rotten at times, petty
at others, with the saving grace of occasional idealism. The
consolidation act and the People's Party touched high-water mark in
reform. With the lopping off of the San Mateo end of the peninsula in
1856, one board of supervisors was substituted for the three that had
spent $2,646,000 the year before. With E.W. Burr at its head, under the
new board expenditures were reduced to $353,000. The People's Party had
a long lease of power, but in 1876 McCoppin was elected mayor. Later
came the reigns of little bosses, the specter of the big corporation
boss behind them all, and then the triumph of decency under McNab, when
good men served as supervisors. Then came the sinister triumph of Ruef
and the days of graft, cut short by the amazing exposure, detection, and
overthrow of entrenched wickedness, and the administration of Dr.
Taylor, a high idealist, too good to last.

Early in 1904 twenty-five gentlemen (five of whom were members of the
Chit-Chat Club) formed an association for the improvement and adornment
of San Francisco. D.H. Burnham was invited to prepare a plan, and a
bungalow was erected on a spur of Twin Peaks from which to study the
problem. A year or more was given to the task, and in September, 1905, a
comprehensive report was made and officially sanctioned, by vote and
publication. To what extent it might have been followed but for the
event of April, 1906, cannot be conjectured, but it is matter of deep
regret that so little resulted from this very valuable study of a
problem upon which the future of the city so vitally depends. It is not
too late to follow its principal features, subject to such modifications
as are necessary in the light of a good deal that we have accomplished
since the report. San Francisco's possibilities for beauty are very

The earthquake and fire of April, 1906, many San Franciscans would
gladly forget; but as they faced the fact, so they need not shrink from
the memory. It was a never to be effaced experience of man's littleness
and helplessness, leaving a changed consciousness and a new attitude.
Being aroused from deep sleep to find the solid earth wrenched and
shaken beneath you, structures displaced, chimneys shorn from their
bases, water shut off, railway tracks distorted, and new shocks
recurring, induces terror that no imagination can compass. After
breakfasting on an egg cooked by the heat from an alcohol lamp, I went
to rescue the little I could from my office, and saw the resistless
approaching fire shortly consume it. Lack of provisions and scarcity of
water drove me the next morning across the bay. Two days afterward,
leaving my motherless children, I returned to bear a hand in relief and
restoration. Every person going up Market Street stopped to throw a few
bricks from the street to make possible a way for vehicles. For miles
desolation reigned. In the unburned districts bread-lines marked the
absolute leveling. Bankers and beggars were one. Very soon the mighty
tide of relief set in, beginning with the near-by counties and extending
to the ends of the earth.

Among our interesting experiences at Red Cross headquarters was the
initiation of Dr. Devine into the habits of the earthquake. He had come
from New York to our assistance. We were in session and J.S. Merrill was
speaking. There came a decidedly sharp shake. An incipient "Oh!" from
one of the ladies was smothered. Mr. Merrill kept steadily on. When he
had concluded and the shock was over he turned to Dr. Devine and
remarked: "Doctor, you look a little pale. I thought a moment ago you
were thinking of going out." Dr. Devine wanly smiled as he replied: "You
must excuse me. Remember that this is my first experience."

I think I never saw a little thing give so much pleasure as when a man
who had been given an old coat that was sent from Mendocino County found
in a pocket a quarter of a dollar that some sympathetic philanthropist
had slipped in as a surprise. It seemed a fortune to one who had
nothing. Perhaps a penniless mother who came in with her little girl was
equally pleased when she found that some kind woman had sent in a doll
that her girl could have. One of our best citizens, Frederick Dohrmann,
was in Germany, his native land, at the time. He had taken his wife in
pursuit of rest and health. They had received kindly entertainment from
many friends, and decided to make some return by a California reception,
at the town hostelry. They ordered a generous dinner. They thought of
the usual wealth of flowers at a California party, and visiting a
florist's display they bought his entire stock. The invited guests came
in large numbers, and the host and hostess made every effort to
emphasize their hospitality. But after they had gone Mr. Dohrmann
remarked to his wife: "I somehow feel that the party has not been a
success. The people did not seem to enjoy themselves as I thought they
would." The next morning as they sought the breakfast-room they were
asked if they had seen the morning papers. Ordering them they found
staring head-lines: "San Francisco destroyed by an earthquake!" Their
guests had seen the billboards on their way to the party, but could not
utterly spoil the evening by mentioning it, yet were incapable of
merriment. Mr. Dohrmann and his wife returned at once, and though far
from well, he threw himself into the work of restoration, in which no
one was more helpful. The dreadful event, however, revealed much good in
human nature. Helpfulness in the presence of such devastation and
suffering might be expected, but honor and integrity after the sharp
call of sympathy was over have a deeper meaning. One of my best
customers, the Bancroft-Whitney Company, law publishers, having accounts
with lawyers and law-booksellers all over the country, lost not only all
their stock and plates but all their books of accounts, and were left
without any evidence of what was owing them. They knew that exclusive of
accounts considered doubtful there was due them by customers other than
those in San Francisco $175,000. Their only means of ascertaining the
particulars was through those who owed it. They decided to make it
wholly a matter of honor, and sent to the thirty-five thousand lawyers
in the United States the following printed circular, which I printed at
a hastily assembled temporary printing office across the bay:

_To Our Friends and Patrons_:

_a_--We have lost all our records of accounts.

_b_--Our net loss will exceed $400,000.


_First_--Will each lawyer in the country send us a statement of
what he owes us, whether due or not due, and names of books covered
by said statement on enclosed blank (blue blank).

_Second_--Information for our records (yellow blank).

_Third_--Send us a postal money order for all the money you can now


May 15, 1906.

Returns of money and of acknowledgment were prompt and encouraging. Some
of those considered doubtful were the first to acknowledge their
indebtedness. Before long they were able to reproduce their books and
the acknowledged balances nearly equaled their estimated total of good
accounts. Remittances were made until over $170,000 was paid. Of this
amount about $25,000 covered accounts not included in their estimate of
collectible indebtedness. This brought their estimated total to
$200,000, and established the fact that over eighty-five per cent of all
that was owed them was acknowledged promptly under this call on honor.

Four years later they were surprised by the receipt of a check for $250
from a lawyer in Florida for a bill incurred long before, of which they
had no memory. Let those who scoff at ideals and bemoan the dishonesty
of this materialistic age take note that money is not all, and let those
who grudgingly admit that there are a few honest men but no honest
lawyers take notice that even lawyers have some sense of honor.

Some few instances of escape are interesting. I have a friend who was
living on the Taylor Street side of Russian Hill. When the quake came,
his daughter, who had lived in Japan and learned wise measures,
immediately filled the bathtub with water. A doomed grocery-store near
by asked customers to help themselves to goods. My friend chose a dozen
large siphon bottles of soda water. The house was detached and for a
time escaped, but finally the roof caught from flying embers and the
fire was slowly extending. When the time came to leave the house a
large American flag was raised to a conspicuous staff. A company of
soldiers sent from the Presidio for general duty saw the flag several
blocks away, and made for the house to save the colors. Finding the
bathroom water supply, they mixed it with sand and plastered the burning
spots. They arrested the spreading flames, but could not reach the fire
under the cornice. Then they utilized the siphon bottles; one soldier,
held by his legs, hung over the roof and squirted the small stream on
the crucial spot. The danger was soon over and the house was saved with
quite a group of others that would have burned with it.

While many individuals never recovered their property conditions or
their nerve, it is certain that a new spirit was generated. Great
obstacles were overcome and determination was invincible. We were forced
to act broadly, and we reversed the negative policy of doing nothing and
owing nothing. We went into debt with our eyes open, and spent millions
in money for the public good. The city was made safe and also beautiful.
The City Hall, the Public Library, and the Auditorium make our Civic
Center a source of pride. The really great exposition of 1915 was
carried out in a way to increase our courage and our capacity. We have
developed a fine public spirit and efficient co-operation. We need fear
nothing in the future. We have character and we are gaining in

Vocation and avocation have about equally divided my time and energy
during my residence in San Francisco. I have done some things because I
was obliged to and many others because I wished to. When one is fitted
and trained for some one thing he is apt to devote himself steadily and
profitably to it, but when he is an amateur and not a master he is sure
to be handicapped. After about a year in the Indian department a change
in administration left me without a job. For about a year I was a
bookkeeper for a stock-broker. Then for another year I was a
money-broker, selling currency, silver, and revenue stamps. When that
petered out I was ready for anything. A friend had loaned money to a
printer and seemed about to lose it. In 1867 I became bookkeeper and
assistant in this printing office to rescue the loan, and finally
succeeded. I liked the business and had the hardihood to buy a small
interest, borrowing the necessary money from a bank at one per cent a
month. I knew absolutely nothing of the art and little of business. It
meant years of wrestling for the weekly pay-roll, often in apprehension
of the sheriff, but for better or for worse I stuck to it and gradually
established a good business. I found satisfaction in production and had
many pleasant experiences. In illustration I reproduce an order I
received in 1884 from Fred Beecher Perkins, librarian of the recently
established free public library. (He was father of Charlotte Perkins


[Handwritten: Dec 19 1884

C.A. Murdock & Co Gent.

We need two hundred (200) more of those blue chex. Please make and
deliver same PDQ and oblige

Yours truly

F.B. Perkins


P.S. The _substance_ of this order is official. The _form_ is slightly
speckled with the spice of unofficiality.



In 1892, as president of the San Francisco Typothetae, I had the great
pleasure of cooperating with the president of the Typographical Union in
giving a reception and dinner to George W. Childs, of Philadelphia. Our
relations were not always so friendly. We once resisted arbitrary
methods and a strike followed. My men went out regretfully, shaking
hands as they left. We won the strike, and then by gradual voluntary
action gave them the pay and hours they asked for. When the earthquake
fire of 1906 came I was unfortunately situated. I had lately bought out
my partner and owed much money. To meet all my obligations I felt
obliged to sell a controlling interest in the business, and that was the
beginning of the end. I was in active connection with the printing
business for forty-seven years.

I am forced to admit that it would have been much to my advantage had I
learned in my early life to say "No" at the proper time. The loss in
scattering one's powers is too great to contemplate with comfort. I had
a witty partner who once remarked, "I have great respect for James
Bunnell, for he has but one hobby at a time." I knew the inference. A
man who has too many hobbies is not respectable. He is not even fair to
the hobbies. I have always been overloaded and so not efficient. It is
also my habit to hold on. It seems almost impossible to drop what I have
taken up, and while there is gain in some ways through standing by
there is gross danger in not resolutely stopping when you have enough.
In addition to the activities I have incidentally mentioned I have
served twenty-five years on the board of the Associated Charities, and
still am treasurer. I have been a trustee of the California School of
Mechanical Arts for at least as long. I have served for years on the
board of the Babies Aid, and also represent the Protestant Charities on
the Home-Finding Agency of the Native Sons and Daughters. It is an
almost shameful admission of dissipation. No man of good discretion
spreads himself too thin.

When I was relieved from further public service, and had disposed of the
printing business, it was a great satisfaction to accept the field
secretaryship of the American Unitarian Association for the Pacific
Coast. I enjoyed the travel and made many delightful acquaintances. It
was an especial pleasure to accompany such a missionary as Dr. William
L. Sullivan. In 1916 we visited most of the churches on the coast, and
it was a constant pleasure to hear him and to see the gladness with
which he was always received, and the fine spirit he inspired. I have
also found congenial occupation in keeping alive _The Pacific
Unitarian_. Thirty years is almost venerable in the life of a religious
journal. I have been favored with excellent health and with unnumbered
blessings of many kinds. I rejoice at the goodness and kindness of my
fellow men. My experience justifies my trustful and hopeful
temperament. I believe "the best is yet to be."

I am thankful that my lot has been cast in this fair city. I love it and
I have faith in its future. There have been times of trial and of fear,
but time has told in favor of courage not to be lost and deep confidence
in final good. It cannot be doubted that the splendid achievement of the
Panama-Pacific Exposition gave strong faith in power to withstand
adverse influences and temporary weakness. When we can look back upon
great things we have accomplished we gain confidence in ability to reach
any end that we are determined upon. It is manifest that a new spirit,
an access of faith, has come to San Francisco since she astonished the
world and surprised herself by creating the magnificent dream on the
shores of the bay.

At its conclusion a few of us determined it should not be utterly lost.
We formed an Exposition Preservation League through which we salvaged
the Palace of Fine Arts, the most beautiful building of the last five
centuries, the incomparable Marina, a connected driveway from Black
Point to the Presidio, the Lagoon, and other features that will
ultimately revert to the city, greatly adding to its attractiveness.

Fifty years of municipal life have seen great advance and promise a rich
future. Materially they have been as prosperous as well-being demands or
as is humanly safe--years of healthy growth, free of fever and delirium,
in which natural resources have been steadily developed and we have
somewhat leisurely prepared for world business on a large scale. In
population we have increased from about 150,000 to about 550,000, which
is an average advance from decade to decade of thirty-three per cent.

Bank clearances are considered the best test of business. Our clearing
house was established in 1876, and the first year the total clearances
were $520,000. We passed the million mark in 1900, and in 1920 they
reached $8,122,000,000. In 1870 our combined exports and imports were
about $13,000,000. In 1920 they were $486,000,000, giving California
fourth rank in the national record.

The remarkable feature in all our records is the great acceleration in
the increase in the years since the disaster of 1906. Savings bank
receipts in 1920 are twice as large as in 1906, postal receipts three
times as large, national bank resources four times as large, national
bank deposits nine times as large.

There can be no reasonable doubt that San Francisco is to be a very
important industrial and commercial city. Every indication leads to this
conclusion. The more important consideration of character and spirit
cannot be forecast by statistics, but much that has been accomplished
and the changed attitude on social welfare and the humanities leave no
doubt on the part of the discerning that we have made great strides and
that the future is full of promise.



At twenty-two I found myself Register of the Humboldt Land Office, with
offices on the first floor of a building at Eureka, the second story of
which was occupied by a school. An open veranda extended across the
front. When I first let myself into the office, I carelessly left the
key in the lock. A mischievous girl simply gave it a turn and I was a
prisoner, with a plain but painful way of escape--not physically
painful, but humiliating to my official pride. There was nothing for it
but ignominiously to crawl out of the window onto the veranda and
recover the key--and that I forthwith did.

The archives of the office proved interesting. The original Register was
a Missouri Congressman, who had been instructed to proceed to Humboldt
City and open the office. Humboldt City was on the map and seemed the
logical location. But it had "died aborning" and as a city did not
exist. So the Register took the responsibility of locating the office at
Eureka, and in explanation addressed to the President, whom he
denominated "Buckhannan," a letter in which he went at length into the
"hole" subject. The original draft was on file.

I was authorized to receive homestead applications, to locate land
warrants, to hear contests, and to sell "offered land." The latter was
government land that had been offered for sale at $1.25 an acre and had
not been taken. Strangely enough, it embraced a portion of the redwood
belt along Mad River, near Arcata.

But one man seemed aware of the opportunity. John Preston, a tanner of
Arcata, would accumulate thirty dollars in gold and with it buy fifty
dollars in legal-tender notes. Then he would call and ask for the plat,
and, after considerable pawing, he would say, "Well, Charlie, I guess
I'll take that forty." Whereupon the transaction would be completed by
my taking his greenbacks and giving him a certificate of purchase for
the forty acres of timber-land that had cost him seventy-five cents an
acre, and later probably netted him not less than three hundred dollars
an acre for stumpage alone. Today it would be worth twice that. The
opportunity was open to all who had a few cents and a little sense.

Sales of land were few and locations infrequent, consequently
commissions were inconsiderable. Now and then I would hold a trial
between conflicting claimants, some of them quite important. It was
natural that the respective attorneys should take advantage of my youth
and inexperience, for they had known me in my verdant boyhood and
seemed to rejoice in my discomfiture. I had hard work to keep them in
order. They threatened one another with ink-bottles and treated me with
contempt. They would lure me on when I rejected evidence as
inadmissible, offering slightly changed forms, until I was forced to
reverse myself. When I was uncertain I would adjourn court and think it
over. These were trying experiences, but I felt sure that the claimants'
rights would be protected on appeal to the Commissioner of the General
Land Office and finally to the Secretary of the Interior. I was glad
that in the biggest case I guessed right.

One occurrence made a strong impression on me. It was war-time, and
loyalty was an issue. A rancher from Mendocino County came to Eureka to
prove up on his land and get a patent. He seemed to me a fine man, but
when he was asked to take the oath of allegiance he balked. I tried my
best to persuade him that it was harmless and reasonable, but he simply
wouldn't take it, and went back home without his patent.

My experiences while chief clerk in the office of the Superintendent of
Indian Affairs are too valuable to be overlooked. I traveled quite
freely and saw unfamiliar life. I had a very interesting trip in 1865,
to inspect the Round Valley Indian Reservation and to distribute
clothing to the Indians. It was before the days of railroads in that
part of California. Two of us drove a light wagon from Petaluma to
Ukiah, and then put saddles on our horses and started over the mountains
to the valley. We took a cold lunch, planning to stay overnight at a
stockman's ranch. When we reached the place we found a notice that he
had gone to a rodeo. We broke into his barn to feed our horses, but we
spared his house. Failing to catch fish in the stream near by, we made
our dinner of its good water, and after a troubled night had the same
fare for breakfast. For once in my life I knew hunger. To the nearest
ranch was half a day's journey, and we lost no time in heading for it.
On the way I had an encounter with a vicious rattlesnake. The outcome
was more satisfactory than it might have been. At noon, when we found a
cattleman whose Indian mate served venison and hot bread of good quality
and abundant quantity, we were appreciative and happy. The remainder of
the trip was uneventful.

The equal division of clothing or supplies among a lot of Indians throws
helpful light on the causes of inequality. A very few days suffice to
upset all efforts at impartiality. A few, the best gamblers, soon have
more than they need, while the many have little or nothing.

The valleys of Mendocino County are fascinatingly beautiful, and a trip
direct to the coast, with a spin along ten miles of perfect beach as we
returned, was a fine contrast to hungry climbing over rugged heights.

Another memorable trip was with two Indians from the mouth of the
Klamath River to its junction with the Trinity at Weitchpec. The whole
course of the stream is between lofty peaks and is a continuous series
of sharp turns. After threading its winding way, it is easy to
understand what an almost solid resistance would be presented to a
rapidly rising river. With such a watershed as is drained by the two
rivers, the run-off in a storm would be so impeded as to be very slow.
The actual result was demonstrated in 1861. In August of that year, A.S.
Hallidie built a wire bridge at Weitchpec. He made the closest possible
examination as to the highest point the river had reached. In an Indian
rancheria he found a stone door-sill that had been hollowed by constant
use for ages. This was then ninety-eight feet above the level of the
flowing river. He accepted it as absolutely safe. In December, 1861, the
river rose thirty feet above the bridge and carried away the structure.

The Indians living on lower Mad River had been removed for safety to the
Smith River Indian Reservation. They were not happy and felt they might
safely return, now that the Indian war was over. The white men who were
friendly believed that if one of the trusted Indians could be brought
down to talk with his friends he could satisfy the others that it would
be better to remain on the reservation. It was my job to go up and bring
him down. We came down the beach past the mouth of the Klamath, Gold
Bluff, and Trinidad, to Fort Humboldt, and interviewed many white
settlers friendly to the Indians until the representative was satisfied
as to the proper course to follow.

In 1851 "Gold Bluff" was the first great mining excitement. The Klamath
River enters the ocean just above the bluff that had been made by the
deposit of sand, gravel, and boulders to the height of a hundred feet or
more. The waves, beating against the bluff for ages, have doubtless
washed gold into the ocean's bed. In 1851 it was discovered that at
certain tides or seasons there were deposited on the beach quantities of
black sand, mingled with which were particles of gold. Nineteen men
formed a company to take up a claim and work the supposedly exhaustless
deposit. An expert report declared that the sand measured would yield
each of the men the modest sum of $43,000,000. Great excitement stirred
San Francisco and eight vessels left with adventurers. But it soon was
found that black sand was scarce and gold much more so. For some time it
paid something, but as a lure it soon failed.

When I was first there I was tremendously impressed when shown at the
level of the beach, beneath the bluff and its growing trees, an embedded
redwood log. It started the imagination on conjectures of when and where
it had been clad in beauty as part of a living landscape.

An interesting conclusion to this experience was traveling over the
state with Charles Maltby, appointed to succeed my friend, to turn over
the property of the department. He was a personal friend of President
Lincoln, and he bore a striking resemblance to him and seemed like him
in character.

In 1883 a nominee for the Assembly from San Francisco declined the
honor, and it devolved on a group of delegates to select a candidate in
his place. They asked me to run, and on the condition that I should
solicit no votes and spend no money I consented. I was one of four
Republicans elected from San Francisco. In the entire state we were
outnumbered about four to one. But politics ordinarily cuts little
figure. The only measure I introduced provided for the probationary
treatment of juvenile delinquents through commitment to an unsectarian
organization that would seek to provide homes. I found no opposition in
committee or on the floor. When it was reached I would not endanger its
passage by saying anything for it. It passed unanimously and was
concurred in by the Senate. My general conclusion is that the average
legislator is ready to support a measure that he feels is meritorious
and has no other motive than the general good.

We were summoned in extra session to act on matters affecting the
railroads. It was at a time when they were decidedly in politics. The
Central Pacific was generally credited with controlling the legislative
body of the state. A powerful lobby was maintained, and the company was
usually able to thwart the passage of any legislation the political
manager considered detrimental to its interests. The farmers and country
representatives did all in their power to correct abuses and protect the
interests of the people of the state, but the city representatives, in
many instances not men of character, were usually controlled by some
boss ready to do the bidding of the railroad's chief lobbyist. The hope
for decency is always in free men, and they generally are from the

It was pathetic at times to watch proceedings. I recall one instance,
where a young associate from San Francisco had cast a vote that was
discreditable and pretty plainly indicated corrupt influence. The
measure he supported won a passage, but a motion for reconsideration
carried, and when it came up the following day the father of the young
man was seated by his side as the vote was taken. He was a
much-respected plasterer, and he came from his home on a hurried call to
save his son from disgrace. It was a great relief when on recall the son
reversed his vote and the measure was lost.

Of course, there were punitive measures, unreasonable and unjust, and
some men were afraid to be just if the railroad would in any way be
benefited. I tried to be discriminating and impartial, judging each
measure on its merits. I found it was a thankless task and bred
suspicion. An independent man is usually distrusted. At the end of the
session a fine old farmer, consistently against the railroad, said to
me: "I couldn't make you out for a long time. Some days I gave you a
white mark, and some days a black one. I finally give you a white
mark--but it was a close shave."

I was impressed with the power of the Speaker to favor or thwart
legislation. At the regular session some Senator had introduced a bill
favoring the needs of the University of California. He wanted it
concurred in by the Assembly, and as the leading Democrats were pretty
busy with their own affairs he entrusted it to me. The Speaker favored
it, and he did not favor a bill in the hands of a leader of the house
involving an appropriation. He called me to his seat and suggested that
at the reassembling of the Assembly after luncheon I should take the
floor to move that the bill be placed on the first-reading file. He knew
that the leader would be ready with his pet bill, but he would recognize
me. When the gavel fell after luncheon three men leaped for the floor. I
arose well at the side of the chamber, while the leader stood directly
in front, but the Speaker happened (?) to see me first, and the
entrusted bill started for speedy success.

It is always pleasant to discover unsuspected humor. There was a very
serious-appearing country member who, with the others of a committee,
visited the State Prison at San Quentin. We were there at the midday
meal and saw the prisoners file in to a substantially laden table. He
watched them enjoy the spread, and quietly remarked, "A man who wouldn't
be satisfied with such food as that deserves to be turned out of the
State Prison."

Some reformer had introduced a bill providing for a complete new code of
criminal procedure. It had been referred to the appropriate committee
and in due time it made its report. I still can see the committee
chairman, a country doctor, as he stood and shook a long finger at the
members before him, saying: "Mr. Speaker, we ask that this measure be
read in full to the Assembly. I want you to know that I have been
obliged to hear it, and I am bound that every member of the house shall
hear it."

My conclusion at the end of the session was that the people of the state
were fortunate in faring no worse. The many had little fitness; a few
had large responsibility. Doubtful and useless measures predominate, but
they are mostly quietly smothered. The country members are watchful and
discriminating and a few leaders exercise great power. To me it was a
fine experience, and I made good friends. I was interested in proposed
measures, and would have willingly gone back the next term. Some of my
friends sounded the political boss of the period and asked if I could be
given a place on the ticket. He smiled and said, "We have no use for
him." When the nominating convention was held he sent in by a messenger
a folded piece of paper upon which was inscribed the name of the man for
whom they had use--and my legislative career was at an end.

I went back to my printing business, which never should have been
neglected, and stayed mildly by it for eleven years. Then, there being a
vacancy on the Board of Education, I responded to the wish of friends
and accepted the appointment to help them in their endeavor to better
our schools.

John Swett, an experienced educator, was superintendent. The majority of
the board was composed of high-minded and able men. They had turned over
the selection of teachers to the best-fitted professors of the
university and were giving an economical and creditable administration.
If a principalship was vacant, applications were apt to be disregarded,
and the person in the department considered most capable and deserving
was notified of election. There were, however, some loose methods. All
graduates of the high schools were privileged to attend a normal class
for a year and then were eligible without any examination to be
appointed teachers. The board was not popular with the teachers, many of
whom seemed to consider that the department was mainly for their
benefit. At the end of the unexpired term I was elected a member of the
succeeding board, and this was continued for five years.

When the first elected board held a preliminary canvass I naturally felt
much interest as to my associates, some of whom were entire strangers.
Among them was Henry T. Scott, of the firm of shipbuilders who had built
the "Oregon." Some one remarked that a prominent politician (naming him)
would like to know what patronage would be accorded him. Mr. Scott very
forcibly and promptly replied: "So far as I am concerned, not a damned
bit. I want none for myself, and I will oppose giving any to him or
anyone else." I learned later that he had been elected without being
consulted, while absent in the East. Upon his return a somewhat
notorious woman principal called on him and informed him that she was
responsible for his election--at least, his name had been submitted to
her and received her approval. He replied that he felt she deserved no
thanks for that, as he had no desire to serve. She said she had but one
request to make; her janitress must not be removed. He gave her no
assurances. Soon afterward the matter of appointments came up. Mr. Scott
was asked what he wanted, and he replied: "I want but one thing. It
involves the janitress of Mrs. ----'s school. I want her to be removed

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