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Research Inquiries
Please direct any research inquiries you may have
to the San Francisco History Center at the Main Public Library.
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2016 meeting dates

January 26
February 23
March 29
April 26
May 31
June 28
July 26
August 30
September 27
October 25
November 29
December no meeting

Glamorous Depravity: History of San Francisco Crime, Part 1 


Tuesday, April 26

guest speaker: Paul Drexler

Paul Drexler is a crime historian and writer and has a regular column, “Notorious Crooks” in the San Francisco Examiner, Sunday edition. Paul collaborated with the late Kevin Mullen, retired SFPD deputy police chief and expert on San Francisco crime, to develop Crooks Tours of San Francisco. Paul designed and co-produced “SFPD Homicide,” an award-winning true-crime interactive video game that has been used to teach accident investigations and police procedures. He has also appeared as a crime expert on The Discovery ID Network show, Deadly Women.

Visit the meetings page for more details.


Finding the Freshet* that Foiled François 


Tuesday, May 31

guest speaker: Joel Pomerantz 

When Joel Pomerantz looks at the old “mammoth” print by Carleton Watkins, he sees something most people don’t see: the house that is not there because it was crushed and washed away from this spot just before the photo was taken. In his research on the history of San Francisco waterways, Joel came across evidence of extreme flooding, misfortune, and mistaken storytelling, leaving him fascinated by the way early history comes to us quite differently than in most cities. He’ll tell the story of F.L.A. Pioche’s bad luck, a new view of the Watkins photo, and connections to overflowing and destructive dune ponds in March 1862. The narrative includes intrigue, murder, wealth, railroads, pianos, suicide, philanthropy, innovative technology, insanity, and natural history (oh, and water). Joel received a research gift from SFHA and this program will describe what his research uncovered.

* An old term that refers to a surge of water. In the 19th century, it was common vocabulary denoting any potentially destructive gush.


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The 1871 San Francisco City Hall


Tuesday, June 28

guest speaker: Glenn Lym

The collapse of this City Hall during the 1906 earthquake was widely assumed to reflect shoddy construction and political corruption  But in fact it was conceived at a time when city government was viewed more idealistically. The City Hall was designed as a monument to the entire city. Its public entrance was built on axis with the emerging, working-class South of Market district, which it faced and towered over. An elegant carriage entrance to the north was provided for the upper classes on Nob Hill and along Van Ness Avenue. 

A minor food riot that broke out at its groundbreaking foretold the intense class and race struggles that would engulf the city after the late 1870s. An effective coup d’état following the 1906 earthquake ended the rule of labor politicians who were independent of the established Republican and Democratic political parties. The Civic Center that we now know, was based on the urban political values of this post-earthquake outlook.

This documentary was partially funded by a grant from the San Francisco History Association.

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