Monday, September 8, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years Spotlight: SF History Center Maps

Maps of San Francisco form a substantial part of the San Francisco History Center collections. Formerly the town of Yerba Buena, the city blossomed from a single residence built by William Richardson in 1835 to a population of over 825,000 sharing 49 square miles. The Center’s map collection is a rich source for historians, artists, and others curious about the development of San Francisco.

While street maps predominate, the collection includes topographic maps, fanciful picture maps, and property maps. Sanborn fire insurance maps and various “block books” complement property maps formerly held by the City Recorder. Views of the entire city, as well as distinct neighborhoods and aspects, can be found here. Maps are stored in various ways: rolled, folded, flattened and encapsulated, or framed. Some are still bound into the books in which they were originally published.

The Commercial, Pictorial and Tourist Map of San Francisco, created by lithographer August Chevalier and printed by Galloway Litho in 1904, is one of the special maps which are located in the San Francisco History Center. The map combines a fairly accurate representation of streets, but highlights significant landmark buildings of the time, as well; in 1904, high-rises were new to the landscape.

Chevalier followed up this map with the Chevalier Illustrated Map Guide of San Francisco, “The Exposition City” in 1913, in preparation for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, to be held two years later.

San Francisco History Center librarians can help patrons locate these and other materials, including specific maps, whether searching by date, subject or publisher. Many of the materials in the Center are rare or fragile and most are kept in closed stacks. Not all items are catalogued, so please ask for help if you are unable to find a specific item.

50 years of special collections

Monday, August 25, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years: Spotlight on the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor

Nat Schmulowitz reading in the Rare Book Room,
Old Main Library, circa 1960s

This week the spotlight is on the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor (SCOWAH), which is actually sixty-seven years old! One of the earliest special collections to be included in the newly formed Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in 1964, SCOWAH began with ninety-three jest books, presented to the Library on April 1, 1947 by attorney and Library trustee Nat Schmulowitz, as a measure of his interest in the library and the people of San Francisco. His bibliophilic activities began considerably earlier, though, perhaps by chance. In a letter to the Saturday Review's Jerome Beatty (2 June 1958), Nat wrote: “You have asked how I happened to get involved in ‘this business of humor.’ It started with a reading excursion in which I was engaged about thirty years ago, when I happened to note in Much Ado About Nothing that Beatrice said “I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales.” --(Act II, Scene I).

Nat Schmulowitz letter to Jerome Beatty, June 2, 1958

"I became curious about the reference and decided to discover whether Shakespeare was engaged in an inventive literary allusion or whether there really was a book of anecdotes entitled Hundred Merry Tales.”  

Indeed there was, and so the Hundred Merry Tales was practically the first book in Nat’s collection and among the first to be presented to the San Francisco Public Library. Throughout his lifetime, Nat took a lively interest in the collection, acquiring for the Library more than 13,000 books on the many facets of wit and humor. By the end of 2013, the collection numbered more than 23,600 items, and is considered the largest collection of its kind in the world.
Comedian Phyllis Diller and Nat Schmulowitz, circa 1962

50 years of special collections

Monday, August 11, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years Spotlight: Grabhorn Collection

While Edwin Grabhorn was still printing in Indiana under the press name The Studio Press, he began using a pressmark featuring a horn and dolphin which was designed by Mark Harvey Liddell. It wasn’t until 1924—several years after the move to San Francisco and after Robert had joined Edwin in the venture--that they began referring to themselves as The Grabhorn Press. The Grabhorn Press used many different pressmarks over the years and various versions of the horn and dolphin theme--this featured image is just one example. It is from The Discovery of Florida printed in 1946 for The Book Club of California with type set by Robert and Jane Grabhorn, press work by Edwin Grabhorn and Sherwood Grover, and initials and decorations by Malette Dean. This book is part of the Robert Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing and the Development of the Book on the 6th floor of the Main Library.

 50 years of special collections

Saturday, August 2, 2014

And to Think I Saw it on Gough Street

House number, 194 Gough Street

The email arrived at 3:30pm on Thursday afternoon: "Go see this today!" The message included a link to a short piece from the San Francisco Chronicle and a video. The article announced an open house at 194 Gough Street in Hayes Valley, the flat where Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970), aka Rube Goldberg--contraption king, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist (creator of comic strip characters Bobo Baxter, Boob McNutt, Mike and Ike, Professor Butts, and Lala Palooza), author of such notable works as Foolish Questions, How to Remove Cotton from a Bottle of Aspirin, The Rube Goldberg Plan for the Post-War World, and sometime sewer worker--once hung his hat while visiting his father Max in the city.

Reuben Lucius Goldberg was born in San Francisco on July 4, 1883 to Max and Hannah Goldberg. He was one of three boys and a girl. Rube graduated from Lowell High School in 1900, and the University of California, Berkeley in 1904 with a degree in Mining and Engineering (he cartooned for the Pelican while a student there). After graduation he was hired by Thomas P. Woodward, the Engineer for the City of San Francisco, where he "mapped sewer pipes and water mains." (Peter C. Marzio, Rube Goldberg: His Life and Work). He was a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and The Bulletin, eventually leaving San Francisco for New York and success as one of America's greatest humorists.

But Rube always remembered his roots. According to the San Francisco Call, Rube purchased a lot on the southeast corner of Oak and Gough Streets from Johanna F. Lutz, sometime around November 19, 1910. Architect Bernard J. Joseph designed the building with shop space on the ground level, and two flats on the second floor. It was completed in 1911, and subsequently named the R.L. Goldberg Building.
Entry 6053, Building Contract for R.L. Goldberg

It is described by the San Francisco Planning Department as "A two part commercial block with a glass base and upper story with angled pilasters and doubled brackets supporting the simple cornice; the parapet above the bays rises in gentle peaks. The windows between the bays have handsome molded surrounds with peaked keystone ornament. This building was owned by the celebrated cartoonist and "inventor" Rube Goldberg as income property." The building style is described as "Eclectic."

R.L. Goldberg Building, 182-198 Gough Street

Picture Snapping Machine, Inventions! (1996)
With less than an hour and a half  before closing, I grabbed my picture snapping machine and a cartoon enthusiast/San Francisco History Center colleague and the two of us ran down the street and up the stairs to 194 Gough Street, where we met Rube's granddaughter Jennifer George, along with Jacqui Naylor, resident for the last twenty-five years of Rube's old flat. Exploration was encouraged: we rambled through the front rooms, with their original wavy glass windows and remnants of Goldberg-era wallpaper. We were told that Rube drew his cartoons in the corner front room, where the light was just right. We wandered down the hallway with its original lighting fixtures and front door opener (a Goldberg-esque contraption itself), the bathroom with wonderful free-standing bathtub, and finally the kitchen, from where we spied the old tin roof.

Up the stairs to Rube Goldberg's flat
Rube Goldberg era wallpaper in a front room

The front room where Rube drew his cartoons

Original hallway light fixture
How to open the front door from the top of the stairs

Our chance to take a peek at possibly the last residence in San Francisco connected with the great Rube Goldberg was over in an hour. We were grateful to see many of its original fixtures still intact and preserved, and to learn some of its history from family and friends. Here now, but for how long?

Detail, The Art of Rube Goldberg (2013)

For historical information about the city's buildings, readers can start with "How to Research a San Francisco Building," and visit the San Francisco History Center, especially for in-depth research. The department is also the City Archives for the City and County of San Francisco, and includes the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, The collection has at least two photos of Rube Goldberg, which may be viewed in the digital photo collection.

The Schmulowitz Collection of  Wit & Humor holds a number of books by and about the marvelous Rube Goldberg. All materials are accessible through our online catalog.

The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley houses Rube Goldberg's papers.

In addition, Rube's granddaughter Jennifer George has published The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius (2013).

Rube Goldberg, [1914]

Thanks to Jennifer George, Jacqui Naylor, and Beverly Upton.