James D. Phelan: The Golden City will Rise Again

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Duty of Collective Identity:

[Source Transcription]

Mayor Phelan’s Call for a Celebration.

California’s Golden Jubilee is the celebration of an event which meant everything for California, a great deal for the Union, and much for the world.

On January 24, 1898, –fifty years ago–gold was discovered by Marshall. At once–Minerva-like–a State sprang into existence. California and all its subsequent history and development, anticipating ordinary processes by two hundred years, took their inspiration from that day. The world was enriched, and the fame of the new State sounded from pole to pole.

Californians would fail in their duty to themselves, to their State and to their country if they did not fittingly celebrate an event upon which so much depended. A celebration will honor a worthy and patriotic sentiment, recall the fact to the minds of men that this is still “the Golden State,” and at the same time attract the argonauts of 1898, now about to seek the golden fleece in the far North. Bearing in mind that our State’s gold is not only in the hills and streams, but in the sunshine, flowers, fruits, grains and wine,–perennially and inexhaustibly golden,–let us make the Golden Jubilee Celebration commensurate with the golden possessions of California, and the golden promise of the years to come.

James D. Phelan, Mayor

Source Citation:

  • GOLDEN JUBILEE COMMITTEE.OFFICIAL SOUVENIER OF CALIFORNIA’S GOLDEN JUBILEE – HELD AT SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – BEGINNING JANUARY 24, 1898 AND ENDING JANUARY 29, 1898. CONTAINING THE PROGRAMME OF EACH DAY’S EVENTS, WITH MUCH READING MATTER OF INTEREST PERTAINING TO THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD, AND MANY ILLUSTRATIONS.. SAN FRANCISCO: H. S. CROCKER COMPANY, PRINTERS, 1898.

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James D. Phelan declares a “New San Francisco” in 1896

January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Continuing with my series of transcribing San Francisco’s primary sources in the late 19th century, below is a transcription of an address James D. Phelan gave at the opening of the San Francisco Mechanics’ Fair, 1896. These fairs were similar to most industrial exposition across the US in the 19th century. However what was unique about Phelan’s speech was the rhetoric of the City Beautiful Movement, as well as the exposition of a peculiar vision of San Francisco’s collective identity.

More transcriptions to come ~ Click on the “Source Transcription” category on the side-bar to navigate to other sources already presented on Gilded Empire. For more information on the digital trends in history, check out this years AHA Convention, or for links to other projects, check out my first digital transcription post.

“The New San Francisco,” an address by Mayor James D. Phelan, 1896:

[Transcription]

If, long years ago, a Spanish imperial commissioner were directed to visit Central and Northern California and lay the foundation for a great city, what site, judge you, would he have selected? In the light of the present there can be but one answer; but, surprising as it may appear, the eligibility of San Francisco was not only disputed under such circumstances, but condemned as a place even for human habitation.

Don Pedro de Alberni was, in July, 1796, ordered by the Viceroy of Spain to examine and report on the most suitable location for the Villa of Branciforte. He examined the country about Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Francisco, and reported that in and about the Mission and Presidio of San Francisco there was no irrigable, pasture or grain lands, no water, no timber, “and therefore” he adds, “I am convinced that the worst place or situation in California is that of San Francisco.” In spite of this evil report, however, we find the Mission of San Francisco Dolores, thirty years later, in 1825, possessed of over one hundred and fifty thousand head of horses, cattle, and sheep, besides thousands of bushels of wheat. But agricultural pre-eminence is not claimed for San Francisco, and hence we greet the views of Captain Benjamin Morrel, a more sensible and far-seeing person than the Senor Alberni, who visited the port in the same year, and who declared it to be the finest harbor in the world, and that the presence of enlightened men was only necessary to give the landscape “a soul and a divinity.” Between that date and 1835 a new population, small in numbers, must have settled in the cove of Yerba Buena, now the city, for Richard H. Dana, in his “Two Years Before the Mast,” modestly assumes the role of a prophet when he says he beheld at that time a town composed of Yankee-Californians called Yerba Buena, “which promises well.”

After the discovery of gold, the pioneers found in the quiet little hamlet a hospitable welcome and temporarily made it their abode, but such of them who thought at all about the possibility of a large city growing on the Bay of San Francisco gave Yerba Buena little heed. They located cities further up the bay, near the mouth of the San Joaquin River, and General W. T. Sherman, who surveyed many such sites, and confidently took town lots in partial payment for his services, describes, in his Memoirs, the failure of these enterprises. One after another they dissolved, with the hopes of their founders.

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