Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Blogger - Abigail Markwyn: Researching the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

The San Francisco History Center is pleased to present author and historian Abigail Markwyn speaking about Spectacle, Identity, and Citizenship: Bay Area Ethnic and Racial Communities at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition on Wednesday, March 11 at 6:00pm in the Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room at the Main Library. Dr. Markwyn has written a guest blog post for "What's On the 6th Floor" about doing research for her book in archives.

Researching the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
by Abigail Markwyn
California Invites the World, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
California Invites the World

When I began my research on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition years ago, nothing was digitized. That meant that archives like the San Francisco History Center were absolutely essential to my work. It was in the History Center that I discovered photos and pamphlets, official memos, press releases, and letters that all helped me bring the fair to life. Eventually, this research formed the basis for Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Even today – or rather, especially today – when many historical documents are digitized, there remains much to be learned from visiting the collections of libraries and archives.

The People's Easy Guide to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
The People's Easy Guide to the PPIE

Pamphlets, such as the Exposition City, or the Carnival Spirit of San Francisco offered me insight into just how fair boosters sought to “sell” the city to tourists. They emphasized things like the city’s cosmopolitan population, pleasant climate, and plentiful economic opportunities in the hopes of convincing tourists to consider making the city their home. Other pieces of publicity stressed the fun parts of the fair – the Joy Zone, the restaurants, and the many works of art. Still others reminded visitors of the educational features of the fair. [Archivist's note: these resources are available in the San Francisco History Center's San Francisco Ephemera Collection.]

Photographs, like this one of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition's Woman’s Board revealed to me the extent of these women’s involvement in the fair. Here, they host a dinner for visiting dignitaries and officials, performing an act of cultural diplomacy in their capacity as hostess.
Women's Board Dinner - California Building, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Women's Board Dinner - California Building, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915

Japan Day, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, August 31, 1915. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Japan Day, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, August 31, 1915

Others, such as these of Japan Day at the fair, reveal in full detail the numerous celebrations that occurred on the grounds to celebrate Japan, even as many Californians vehemently spouted anti-Japanese rhetoric and supported anti-immigrant measures aimed at the Japanese.

Dedication of Swedish Building at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Dedication of Swedish Building at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915

Ethnic communities from across the Bay Area gathered on the fair grounds to celebrate their heritage, as this photo of the dedication of the Swedish Building at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition illustrates.

"African Dip" in The Zone at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
"African Dip" in The Zone at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915
Photographs also reveal the full extent of the racial biases present on the fair grounds. African Americans found little to celebrate at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, as the attraction below reveals.  Despite attempts by local blacks to contact fair officials to arrange for exhibits that featured African American accomplishments, blacks remained sidelined at the fair, mainly relegated to demeaning attractions such as the “African Dip,” pictured here.

Historians rely on many kinds of sources for their research, but as these photos reveal, the topic of a World’s Fair lends itself particularly to reliance on the visual record. Collections such as those of the San Francisco Public Library are essential to telling these stories, and I’m forever grateful to those librarians a hundred years ago who carefully collected and cataloged these!

Your invitation to Dr. Markwyn's talk - 

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Spirited Tour of the Grabhorn Collection with Alastair Johnston

Alastair Johnston will present a spirited tour of the Robert Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing and the Development of the Book on Wednesday, March 4th, at 6pm, in the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library. Johnston, of Poltroon Press, is an old friend of the Marjorie G. and Carl W.Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center and has worked extensively with the collections. He promises a lively and fascinating illustrated talk, full of surprises, about one of the most important collections at the San Francisco Public Library. For a preview, we recommend Alastair’s article on the collection, which can be found on our website. 
Here's a taste of what will he'll be discussing:
Grabhorn Collection
Oliver Byrne, The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid.  (Chiswick Press, 1847)

Grabhorn Collection
Libro del Cosmographia. (Pedro Apiano,1548)

Grabhorn Collection
Margaret Rust, The Queen of the Fishes. (Eragny Press, 1894)

 Alastair Johnston is the author of Transitional Faces: The Lives & Work of Richard Austin, Type-cutter and Richard Turner Austin, Wood-engraver (2013), Typographic Tourists: Tales of the Tramping Printer (2012), Alphabets to Order (2000),  A Bibliography of the White Rabbit Press (1985), A Bibliography of the Auerhahn Press (1976), and other works.

 Author's photo courtesy Grace Gomez.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cinematic San Francisco: At the Oscars

It's Oscar season once again, and as we have discussed before, the Academy often nominates films set in San Francisco. This year is no exception. Previous nominees take place in either contemporary (Blue Jasmine, Foul Play, and Bullitt) or historical (Milk and The Pursuit of Happyness) versions of San Francisco. This year, however, two Oscar nominated films are set in San Franciscos of alternate universes.

In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, nominated for visual effects, Marin County apes swing across the Golden Gate Bridge to challenge the last remaining humans living in the overgrown ruins of post-Simian Flu San Francisco.

via 20th Century Fox
via Walt Disney
Animation Studios
In contrast, the Japanese-influenced landscape of San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6, nominated for animated feature, is bright and modern.

The San Francisco History Center is no stranger to imaginative concepts of San Franciscos that might-have-been. Our 2013 exhibition for "Unbuilt SF" included plans for a Twin Peaks monument, an alternative City Hall, a freeway that would have run the length of the Panhandle, alternative sites for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and renovated Sutro Baths. More alternate San Franciscos can be found in the History Center's stacks and ephemera files. Come up to the sixth floor of the Main Library to study Daniel Burnham's 1905 plans for the city, which included extending the Panhandle to Hayes Valley. Or look into our vertical files: SF.BRIDGES.PROPOSED CROSSINGS for alternate plans of SF Bay crossings such as the Butterfly Bridge.
Image of proposed San Francisco Butterfly Bridge from Pacific Road Builder and Engineering Review, June 1953. SF.BRIDGES.PROPOSED CROSSINGS.BUTTERFLY BRIDGE (SF Public Library)

While we like San Francisco just the way it is, there are several books and movies that imagine an alternate-universe or alternate-history San Francisco. Along with the recent Planet of the Apes film and Big Hero 6, you might want to check out these titles:

Previous "Cinematic San Francisco" posts: Noir City, Big Eyes
Coming soon: San Andreas

Friday, February 13, 2015

It Came From the (Photo) Morgue!: Beer Week

We hope you are enjoying the last weekend of SF Beer Week as these ladies are.

Caption:  These New York girls are believed to be pioneers of their sex in the recently-resumed vocation of beer-tasting. They are shown tasting the golden brew at the Lion Brewery, 108th Street and Columbus Avenue, and apparently are convinced that they may sip beer and still not have to worry about 18-day diets for reducing. Left to right: Ann Schindler, Loretta Kelly, and Rose Hesman. [March 29, 1933; International News Photo] [PS 17 BEER]
The San Francisco Public Library owns the photo morgue of the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin, a daily newspaper that covered the time period from the 1920s to 1965. Much of the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection comes from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue. However, the morgue also includes statewide, national, and international subjects and people that have not been digitized or cataloged. When researchers order scans from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue,selections are cataloged and added to the online database.

Looking for a historical photograph of San Francisco? Try our online database first. Not there? Come visit us at the Photo Desk of the San Francisco History Center, located on the sixth floor at the Main Library. The Photo Desk hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. You may also request photographs from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Beatrix Sherman: “The Girl Who Cuts Up”

“The Girl Who Cuts Up”

Beatrix Sherman, Silhouettist

Mlle. Beatrix Sherman, the Silhouette Artist. 
She cut this portrait of herself by the aid of a double mirror.

Digging into the archives for our Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE) display turned up a small collection of hand-cut silhouette portraits that were made during the fair in 1915 and later donated to the library by Eliot Evans of Orinda. Two of those portraits were cut by Beatrix Sherman, otherwise known as “The Girl Who Cuts Up" -- a woman who piqued our interest.

Beatrice Sherman was born on January 10, 1894 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to George and Josephine Sherman. Her father was a printer and author of Practical Printing, and watching her mother cut intricate lace designs was an early influence. She began taking Saturday art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago at age 11 and later studied at Henderson College in Arkansas. By 1912, she was back in Chicago taking classes at the Art Institute, and it was around this time that the aspiring artist began spelling her first name with an “x.”

Her career as an artist was launched when she was included in the Twenty-Sixth Annual Exhibition of Water Colors, Pastels and Miniatures at the Art Institute in 1914. Then in 1915, when she was 21 years old, she set off for San Francisco and the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, where she made her professional debut as a silhouette artist. She secured a spot at the entrance to the Palace of Food Products, where she could be found “cutting up” from 9am to 6pm every day during the fair. She made it clear to attendees that she was “not connected in any manner with other concessions purporting to be of a similar nature.” Promotional materials described her as “an American miniature and silhouette artist; the first since August Edouard (1789–1861) to place shadow-cutting on the plane of a consummate art.” 

Paper silhouette of Charlie Chaplin by Beatrix Sherman

Paper silhouette of Mary Pickford by Beatrix Sherman
While in San Francisco, she also cut portraits for society ladies at their parties and charity events. By 1915, she had registered a copyright for her portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford--presumably cut at the fair. 

She was also cutting miniature “engagement silhouettes in 1915.” What are those, you ask?  They were substitutes for engagement rings and supposed to be glued to your left cheek to indicate that you were “taken.” They were “Dan Cupid’s latest fad,” and Sherman suggested that men wear them too, in order to avoid “all possible confusion.” It was supposed to usurp the beauty spot in popularity-- a clever marketing concept and vehicle for her talent. [see: Substitute for Engagement Ring Expected to Become All the Rage below] By the early 1920s, she had also patented and was selling “Silhouette Stick-on-Figures: A Thousand Designs for Decorative Purposes, No Paste Necessary.” [see advertisement below]

Advertisement, circa 1920
Advertisement, circa 1920
She set up shop in NYC cutting silhouette portraits in New York through the 1930s and 1940s and continued finding work at society and charity events. In the early 1930s, she was advertising in the New York Times classified section, and Wanamaker’s Department store was advertising her services as a great idea for Christmas gifts or Valentine’s Day cards. She traveled extensively, cutting portraits at six World's Fairs in 25 years. She was notable for cutting, by 1937, all “the Presidents from T.R. to F.D.R.”

Silhouetteof Theodore Roosevelt by Beatrix Sherman.1918. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.
Over the years, she studied art in London, Paris, and Mexico; by 1949, she had returned to New York, after a three year stay in Paris, to reestablish a shop at 24 East 64th Street. She referred to herself in a newspaper feature at the time as “the greatest little cut-up in the country.” She reported making her start as a silhouettist when she was 13 years old and that it took her approximately two minutes to make a portrait. She estimated that she had completed 10,000 portraits, including those of Henry Ford, Thomas A. Edison, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lillian Russell, and William Jennings Bryan. John F. Kennedy was her 10th presidential silhouette, done in 1961, from the sidelines of his press conference in Florida. 

Sherman, an entrepreneurial and talented woman, lived out the last 18 years of her long life in Palm Beach, Florida, where she had lived with her husband Jerome E.D. Montesanteau for many years. She reportedly spoke often about writing a book but apparently never did. She died, just before her 81st birthday, on January 1, 1975 in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Her guestbooks, all believed to be in private collections, document her life’s work, complete with portraits and autographs of some of the most famous people of the day. But her comments about people, and what she learned from a lifetime of studying their profiles, tell a truth about humanity.  “Men are just as vain as women…and just as sensitive about being portrayed realistically...The middle-aged spread and the double chin are the chief bogeys for women, and the prominent nose and paunch, the tender spots for men." In general, Sherman "found men who have accomplished things…are less demanding and more willing to accept themselves as others see them.”

And by the way, one of Sherman's silhouettes was the inspiration for our Valentine this year. Come by on February 14th to see it and for the rare opportunity to experience letterpress printing at the library. Everyone is welcome but broadsides are limited to the first 100 people. 

Advertisements: Wanamaker’s, The New York Times, 13 February 1932, p. 14 and 11 November 1932, p. 20. 
Advertisement: New York Times, 7 December 1930, p. 62.
Art Show Planned for Welfare Fund, New York Times, 31 March 1935, p. N7
Beatrix Sherman, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia article
Bricks Without Straw, American Printer, v. 63, 5 July 1916, p. 49
Catalog of Copyright Entries, New Series, 1918, v. 13, No. 1, p. 75, GPO (Google Books)
Democrats Honor Mrs. J. Roosevelt, New York Times, 18 February 1934, p. 20
Famous Persons in Silhouette, The Green Book, November 1916, p. 929
Local Artist Beatrix Sherman To Exhibit at Flagler Museum, Palm Beach Daily News, 30 January 1966, p. 42
Press Club Dinner - "Hawaiian Night", The Press, v. 1, #2, p. 14-15, December 1915, The Press Club of San Francisco
Reporting Washington With a Pair of Scissors, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 June 1918, p. SM5
Silhouette Artist to Exhibit Works, New York Times, 9 October 1949, p. 81.
Local Artist Beatrix Sherman To Exhibit at Flagler Museum, Palm Beach Daily News, 30 January 1966, p. 42
Many Anecdotes Reveal Commoner’s Career, New York Times, 2 August 1925, p. XX3
Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Silhouettes, Framed artwork collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
The Press Club of San Francisco Has an "Hawaiian Night", The Pacific Printer, v. XV, #1, January 1916, p.36
Silhouettes Popular in Decorative Art Works, The Bush Magazine, Vol VIII, #2, February 1920
Substitute for Engagement Ring Expected to Become All the Rage, San Francisco Examiner Clippings, “Sherman, B.” envelope, April 1915. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
2-Day Bazaar to Aid Projects of Church, New York Times, 29 March 1949, p. 32
Work By Women Artists, New York Times, 7 November 1937, p. 191