Gilded Footnotes: November 11, 1897 – DRIVES IN THE SPIKE OF GOLD

November 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I still have yet to come down on the official naming of this new series, but let this be the second post in “Gilded Footnotes” an expression of news of the day in 1890s San Francisco and California. The purpose is one part research and one part curatorial.

From the San Francisco Call, November 11, 1897: [1]

DRIVES IN THE SPIKE OF GOLD, reads the headline:

Sierra Railway Christened by Prince Poniatowski – Jamestown Enjoys a Holiday – Five Thousand People Celebrate the Completion of the Line – Oratory, A Dance and Fireworks – Head of the Company Presents a Money Gift to the Terminal City’s School

On November 10, “The golden spike was driven…signaling the completion of the line to” Jamestown, California – some 45 miles northeast of the Central Valley town of Modesto, California. More than 5000 people attend the celebration, and according to the Call, “never before did the streets of Jamestown present such an animated appearance. This would be the first major rail line into the heart of the southern region of Gold Country – just a few miles from the Tuolumne County seat of Sonora. The Sierra Road would connect Oakdale to Emery, Warnerville, Coopertown, Don Pedro, Chinese Camp, Montezuma, all the way to Jamestown. (see map)

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Gilded Footnotes: November 8, 1897: MERCANTILE MEN OPPOSE ANNEXATION

November 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is the inaugural post of a new series which will look at news articles published in San Francisco from the 1890s.

From the San Francisco Call, November 8, 1897: [1]


See No Benefits That Would Accrue to This Country — Protest Against the Opening of Our Gates to Hawaiian Competition — Sugar Industry would Be Imperiled — Nothing to Be Gained by Acquiring Islands So Far From This Continent.

According to “The Call’s correspondent,” few merchants “had given any deep thought to the matter, but those who had, with few exceptions, declared emphatically that they saw few if any advantages….” The Call proclaims that those favorable to annexation were “invariably based on a false pride of country, mistaken for patriotism.” If the present issues were to be solved, the article purports, let the powers of the Monroe Doctrine be employed.

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San Francisco’s “Savage” New Year’s Eve: December 31, 1897

January 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Remembering the Past: Tradition and Temporality

As the New Year approaches, the American tradition of reflecting on the year’s past and one’s own future comes to bear on us all. The ritual of a New Year’s renewal is certainly much older than our own nation. According to historians like Michael Kammen, the New Year had always brought a cultural urge in Americans to take stock in the past, and orient one’s self towards a perceived future existence (and by implication one’s present existence). In relation to my investigation and understanding of San Francisco’s collective identity in the 1890s, public New Year’s celebrations offer a similar window into glimpsing the city’s collective identity as other participatory public events such as California’s Admission Day presents. Observing how the city’s inhabitants celebrate this cultural tradition reveals how individuals and groups understand their shared urban society’s existence in time. Similar to Washington’s Birthday, California’s Admission’s Day, and the Fourth of July, mass public celebrations demonstrated symbolic representations of the society’s social order and collective self-awareness.

"San Francisco New Years Eve, 1898"

Image in The San Francisco Call (January 1, 1898) depicting the celebration of New Years Eve as the procession passes the Claus Spreckels Building (The Call Building)

As the San Francisco’s regional economic and cultural dominance began to be significantly challenged by other Pacific urban centers like Los Angeles and Seattle, the city’s uptick in the 1890s inspired a new debate in the public sphere on the city’s regional status and future. Exemplified in James D. Phelan’s oration on opening day of the 1896 Mechanics’ Fair, San Francisco’s commercial-civic elite saw the dawning of a new era as the ending of the century neared. What was San Francisco’s role within the western most region of the American nation? How did the city’s residents see the New Year in relation to their city? One glimpse of the answer to these questions can be found in observing and analyzing how people participated in these festivities.

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Academia and the Real World

December 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Well it has been some time since my last post. However, this is not for the lack of effort as I have been very busy with the real jobs I have gotten since receiving my degree. However, let me introduce some of the projects I am currently working on as a substitute for substantive posts on San Francisco.

First, I have been given a position as a Library Page/Librarian Assistant at the California Room at San Jose Public Library in California. Many changes will in fact be coming to the California Room as a new Librarian has been appointment with a new plan for outreach to the broader public (academic and popular).

WestoftheWestSecond, I have opened a Google+ Community on California History. I have, as my regular readers might know, have an active presence on Twitter as a member of the #Twitterstorians (under @Calhistorian). The Twitter format however has limited my attempt at creating a social media community focused on California history. My Google+ Community, I hope, will fill this void that I feel. Maybe its simply that those interested in California history are not as web-savy as others, like the Civil War community for instance, but I have a hard time believing this as fact.

Lastly, and more personally, I have been having a rewarding time at a local tutor center, Academic Trainers, in Menlo Park, CA. This has allowed me to not only hone my skills as an educator in history, but along many other subjects as well. The kids have been wonderful.

Gilded Empire still lives on however, and will be updated with new posts shortly. I have been working privately on a complete reformulation of the print version of Gilded Empire and have subsequently made some dramatic changes to my approach. This new approach will be apparent soon as I post these new ideas over the coming months. Christmas vacation, I hope, will provide me with much needed free time to begin this process.

Commemorating Regional Empire, Part II: “A Pacific Metropolis,” San Franciscan Visions of Urbane Grandeur

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Imagining an Urban Utopia

(Part I @ “Commemorating Regional Empire“)

In Part I, we introduced the concepts of the Pioneer Myth and its interpretive framework. According to much of the historiography, San Francisco as the “Pacific Metropolis” was not codified in local and popular rhetoric until after the turn of the century and especially in the wake of the Panama-Pacific Exposition (1915).[1] However, in the 1890s this urban identity seemed to already dominate many of the leading civic, business, and cultural elites’ rhetoric, including the largest newspapers of de Young and Spreckles. In 1897, the rush to the Klondike Gold Rush in particular, as well as European and Asian imperial conflicts, dominated the foreign media coverage in the papers. The reporting of these stories and the editorials that followed revealed an entrenched awareness of San Francisco as the regional metropolis of the Pacific coast. As I had mentioned in a previous post, “Commemorating Regional Empire, Part I,” San Francisco’s commercial-civic elite were especially vocal about their city’s regional dominance on the Pacific coast. What was it that the commercial-civic elite were so eager to express? What was it about San Francisco and its past that they thought was so exceptional? How did they explain the roots of their present success? And how did these ideas relate to the understanding of American Exceptionalism expressed in national politics and the media of the late 19th century?

New Era Edition

Image of California’s Minerva in “New Era Edition” of The San Francisco Call (December 19, 1897).

Throughout the headlines of the San Francisco Chronicle, Call, and Examiner, the rush north to the Yukon Territory was framed and seemingly appropriated as what they saw as a naturally Californian and particularly San Franciscan event. Their understanding of San Francisco’s dominance over the Pacific Coast region led them to think it was only natural that the city would encapsulate and integrate the emerging markets into its urban grasp.[2] The city’s dominance in western mining, and its advantages as a supply route of the explosive Klondike market were expressed very forthrightly and implicitly in editorials, reports, and published opinions throughout November and December, 1897. The crisis in the Yukon Territory at Dawson City during the winter of 1897-98 becomes, for example, an opportunity for the editors of the Call and Chronicle to demonstrate not only their superior coverage of an event in a distant land, but also the logistical abilities of the city to come to the starving community’s aid. Only San Francisco, they argued, had the ability to mount and successfully outfit such a grand humanitarian operation to rescue the starving miners at Dawson City.

This understanding of the city’s significance was also expressed at the expense of other regional hubs like Seattle and Los Angeles.[3] One troubled relief effort for Dawson City by western regional competitor Seattle, for instance, leads to a media discussion of how the San Franciscan effort will be much more successful due to its superior people and natural urban advantages. Daily and weekly updates of ships in and out of the bay bolstered their claims of the superiority of San Francisco’s port and her sister city, Oakland with its supporting role. Interestingly, this urban identity demonstrated by the pages of the Chronicle and Call silences the fact that many of the migrants to the Arctic Circle were of many nations and ethnicities and in fact did not travel through San Francisco. Yet since many, and according to their claims the vast majority, would consume products transported by San Francisco on their way to the Klondike, these migrants would be commercial surrogates for San Francisco’s imperial grandeur in expanding markets.[2]

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The San Francisco Call: “New Era Edition,” Part I

September 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Call’s New Era of San Francisco


Published on December 19, 1897 to commemorate the paper’s move into its new headquarters, the “New Era Edition” of the San Francisco Call was distributed across the state and the nation. By 1897, the San Francisco Call had been a longstanding institution in San Francisco since 1856. The front-page of this massive 80pg issue displayed a full illustration of the new structure christened the ‘Claus Spreckels Building.’ The image depicts an imposing steel and stone structure which stands in stark contrast to the pedestrian human landscape in its shadow, a clear vision of urban grandeur. Throughout the paper’s headlines the Call reports a “New Era” has come for not only the newspaper but for the city itself. The migration of the paper into the one of the largest and imposing structures in the city declared their own confidence and evaluation of San Francisco’s significance in the West.

All through the pages in the fall of 1897, the Call reported an economic resurgence in the city and across the state. The chaos of the 1870s and the stagnation of the 1880s, they argued, were behind them. Bolstered by positive economic reports in local, regional, and national markets, the editors presented a vision of the city as the Pacific metropolis. From articles on culture, arts, manufacturing, and agriculture, the Call argued for the continued dominance of the city in the region and downplayed competitors like Seattle and Los Angeles. Reporting on December 21, the Call was not at all disappointed by the overwhelmingly positive response from much of the state’s leading newspapers for the New Era Edition paper. In a way the reviews expressed a general consensus in the Call’s assessment of the region’s progress from its rough mining past. The trajectory of the region would not be slowed, according to the Call:

The earliest mode of travel to the Golden Gate was that known as coasting, for in no other way could California then be reached. San Francisco’s first settlers came hither by water, and although the pony express and overland stage which followed later were succeeded by railroad facilities for passenger and freight transportation, the coast trade of California has always been of vast importance to the people and the State, and will continue to occupy a position of steadily increasing value in the world of commerce as time goes on.[1]

"San Jose Corruption"

The San Francisco Call cartoon depicting the defeat of civic corruption in San Jose, California in the winter of 1897.

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