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San Francisco History

Artful Players* Artful Players: Artistic Life in Early San Francisco by Birgitta Hjalmarson, William H. Gerdts, 4 1/2 Stars

An engaging account of the rise of culture and the arts in America's great frontier city by the Bay with guest appearances by Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and a host of others.

* After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
(2006) by Mark Klett, Philip L. Fradkin, Rebecca Solnit, Michael Lundgren and Karin Breuer 5 Stars

God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of MedicineGod's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine
by Victoria Sweet 5 Stars
published (April 26, 2012)
San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God's hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves-"anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times" and needed extended medical care-ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years.


* The Balloon Boy of San Francisco by Dorothy Kupcha Leland. 4 1/2 Stars"
Newsboy "Ready" Gates, as his nickname implies, is ready for anything. For starters, the plucky redhead stows away on a riverboat, searches for a lost miner, meets the glamorous Lola Montez, and flies in a runaway balloon. Based on real people and events, the fictionalized story immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and smells of San Francisco at the height of the Gold Rush. Grade 4   "A delightful read for children and adults alike   
more books about San Francisco for Children

The Barbary Coast* The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld
by Herbert Asbury
Owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamblers, thieves, harlots, politicians, and other felonious parasites who battened upon them, there arose a unique criminal district that for almost seventy years was the scene of more viciousness and depravity, but which at the same time possessed
more glamour, than any other area of vice and iniquity on the American continent. From all over the world practitioners of every vice stampeded for the blood and money of the gold fields. Gambling dens ran all
day including Sundays. From noon to noon houses of prostitution offered girls of every age and race. This is the story of the banditry, opium bouts, tong wars, and corruption, from the eureka at Sutter's Mill until the last bagnio
closed its doors seventy years later.

Bohemia by Herbert Gold* Bohemia: Where Art, Angst, Love and Strong Coffee Meet by Herbert Gold
To visit what many consider to be Bohemia’s golden age, there is no better source than Gold.
Herbert Gold was awarded the Sherwood Anderson Prize for fiction in 1989.
Raised in Cleveland, he has lived in various Islands of Bohemia, including Greenwich Village, Paris, Haiti, and South Beach in Miami. He is a longtime resident of San Francisco.
Publisher: Axios Press (Sept. 2007)

* Denial of Disaster: The Untold Story and Photographs of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
by Gladys Hansen, and Emmet Condon 5 Stars  

* Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Frances Dinkelspiel.
Named one of the best books in 2009

S.F.Trivia* The Great San Francisco Trivia & Fact Book by Janet Bailey "Overflowing with juicy tidbits and delicious details about the history, folklore and magic of The City." ... Marin Independent-Journal ~
out of print


Ghost HuntersGhost Hunter's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area by Jeff Dwyer five stars

Haunted San Francisco: Ghost Stories From the City's Pastfive stars

Ghosts of San Francisco five stars

* 920 O'Farrell Street: A Jewish Girlhood in Old San Francisco (California Legacy Book)
 by Harriet Lane Levy 4 stars

  Visit San Francisco History Calendar for this month's dates of interest and many San Francisco History web links.

Bummer and Laz* Bummer & Lazarus: San Francisco's Famous Dogs
5 Stars Revised With New Stories, New Photographs, and New Introduction
A True Story, As Reported in the Newspapers of 1861-1865 by Malcolm E. Barker, Edward Jump (Illustrator)This book brings alive, - the exploits of two of San Francisco's favorite dogs, Bummer and Lazarus as told through old newspaper accounts and great narration. No one owned them, they just roamed around old gold-rush era San Francisco, getting handouts from people at the rowdy saloons. People loved these dogs, as they displayed very loyal bonds to one another, and their antics always made the newspaper columns. Highly recommended!

Historic San Francisco

* Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide by Rand Richards 4 stars
A combination history/guidebook provides background information and shows where to find the historic buildings, sights, and artifacts that make history come alive. The book covers the hours of operation, costs, and a short biographical sketch of a key figure. Four walking tours, a review of the sites, and a chronology of events beginning with 1542 through 1989. Included is a discussion of San Francisco's Victorian architecture.

* Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club by Kathy Sloane, with Preface by Al Young

Univ Of Minnesota Press (January 3, 2011)

Mud Blood and Gold: San Francisco 1849* Mud, Blood, and Gold: San Francisco in 1849
Rand Richards. Heritage House Publishers, San Francisco. 4 1/2 Stars
Based on eyewitness accounts and previously overlooked records, the distinguished author and historian chronicles the explosive growth of a wide-open town rife with violence, gambling, and prostitution
- each fueled by unbridled greed.
Henry Barry's review

San Francisco's Haight Ashbury* San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury (Images of America: California) by Katherine Powell Cohen 5 Stars
Here is the story of a vibrant neighborhood that attracts throngs of visitors, while maintaining a core community of families, young people, and long-timers.
Author,Katherine Powell Cohen, Ph.D., compiled vintage images and stories for her book from individual sources, public collections, and from the interviews she has conducted as a columnist for the Haight Ashbury Beat newspaper. An English professor at San Francisco State and Golden Gate Universities, she has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years. Published: December 8, 2008

* Neighborhoods in Transition: The Making of San Francisco's Ethnic and Nonconformist Communities (University of California Publications in Geography, Vol. 27)
by Brian Godfrey  5 Stars  Explores Latin American immigration into the Mission District and gentrification in the Haight-Ashbury.(1988) out of print but available at

Harlem of the West*Harlem of the West - The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era" by Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts 5 Stars
The author of this fine book, Lewis Watts, a UCSC Art professor and photographer, and Elizabeth Pepin, a photographer, public television producer and former manager of the historic Fillmore Auditorium chronicle the jazz scene in San Francisco’s Fillmore District during its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Two hundred archival photographs accompany a nostalgic look at the San Francisco jazz scene during the 1940s and 1950s, taking a fascinating tour of the city's Fillmore District in its heyday, including its restaurants, theaters, shops, and nightclubs, and the great musical legacy of such performers as Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and others.

The Fillmore - Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco Dvd The Fillmore - Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco
(Documentary) (Actor), Rick Butler (Director)Format:DVD
The Castro - Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco ~
(Documentary) DVD $25.
Sin, Fire & Gold: The Days of San Francisco's Barbary Coast ~ Narrated by Greg Sherwood DVD $19.95

* Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975- 1991 by Richard E. DeLeon 5 Stars
A political scientist’s first-hand analysis of SF progressive politics.

burymybones*Bury My Bones in America: The Saga of a Chinese Family in California, 1852-1996--From San Francisco to the Sierra Gold Mines by Lani Ah Tye Farkas, Edward McAndrews    5 Stars This is true story. Very little information on this subject has been made available.

Orphan Wanted* Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express by Christopher Corbett 4 1/2 Stars
An ad in California newspaper read:
"Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18.Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred

*The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts

Polk Gulch'Polk Gulch' by Blaine Dixon
This new Photographic Essay by master photographer Blaine Cook successfully captures and conveys through stunning Blk/Wht photos the eclectic mixture of people who lived the fun and laughs and also the other side of that time and place, Polk Culch 80's. Sure to become a collectors item, Blaine Cook's new book is a must have for people familar with Polk Gulch at that time as well as those people who may be unaware of this very interesting 'only in San Francisco' chapter of our city's history and the heroes it brought forward that to this day continue the good work. For sale here     preview more photos here

* Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place. from UC Press, 2010; © Mona Caron and Rebecca Solnit.
Rebecca Solnit on wikipedia -- Rebecca Solnit ARTICLES on alternet

imperial* Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, With a New Preface
by Gray A. Brechin
Urban Power,Earthly Ruin
(California Studies in Critical Human Geography) 4 1/2 Stars True although unflattering book of what was reallybehind the myths of the people and events in San Francisco history. An Imperialism that some say is still much in evidence here.

Ishi* Ishi in Two Worlds, 50th Anniversary Edition: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America by Theodora Kroeber 5 Stars
When the gold rush hit California, the white men killed most of the Yahi tribe of the Yana Indians until they hid up in the hills. Ishi was the last one left in 1911. Read of his life as a living exhibit in the Hall of Science. I highly recommend this book.
The Ohlone Way* The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area  by Malcolm Margolin 4 1/2 Stars
"Margolin conveys the texture of daily life, birth, marriage, death, war, the arts, and rituals, and he also discusses the brief history of the Ohlones under the Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes…Margolin does not give way to romanticism or political harangues, and the illustrations have a gritty quality that is preferable to the dreamy, pretty pictures that too often accompany texts like this."—Choice
Included in the San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Non-fiction books of the century.
Mining California An Ecological History* Mining California: An Ecological History by Andrew C. Isenberg
4 starsAn environmental History of California during the Gold Rush
Between 1849 and 1874 almost $1 billion in gold was mined in California. With little available capital or labor, here's how: high-pressure water cannons washed hillsides into sluices that used mercury to trap gold but let the soil wash away; eventually more than three times the amount of earth moved to make way for the Panama Canal entered California's rivers, leaving behind twenty tons of mercury every mile-rivers overflowed their banks and valleys were flooded, the land poisoned. In the rush to wealth, the same chain of foreseeable consequences reduced California's forests and grasslands.

* The Making of "Mammy Pleasant": A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco (Women in American History) by Lynn M. Hudson
Mary Ellen Pleasant is a symbol of the African American women of the 19th century who challenged societal constraints and established their identity in a society fraught with racism. Pleasant, a one-time domestic, took advantage of the Gold Rush in San Francisco and became a popular restaurateur, accountant and private entrepreneur. Pleasant’s success and eminence was not appreciated by American society; the press portrayed her as a woman of low morals. Pleasant's legacy is steeped in scandals and lore. Was she a voodoo queen who traded in sexual secrets? a madam? a murderer? In The Making of "Mammy Pleasant," Lynn M. Hudson examines the folklore of Pleasant's real and imagined powers. Emphasizing the significance of her life in the context of how it has been interpreted or ignored in American history, Hudson integrates fact and speculation culled from periodicals, court cases, diaries, letters, Pleasant's interviews with the San Francisco press, and various biographical and fictional accounts.
San Francisco / A day for 'mother of civil rights' / Entrepreneur sued to desegregate streetcars in 1860s

Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906 Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906 
by Barbara Berglund 5 Stars  (published by Univ Press of Kansas, February 9, 2010)
"A great book and surprising history. Berglund finds the beginnings of the city's life in unexpected
places--in the boarding houses, hotels, fairs, tourist shops, and restaurants where ordinary San Franciscans from all over the world met and mingled to create an American city."--Ann Fabian,
author of The Unvarnished Truth: Personal Narratives in Nineteenth-Century America
Man Behind the Miracle* The Man Behind the Miracle: The Story of Alfred Boeddeker, O.F.M.
by Madeline Hartmann 4 1/2 Stars
This book recounts the life of Fr. Alfred Boeddeker, O.F.M., who at almost 50 took on the greatest undertaking of his life. Fr. Alfred served by caring 'passionately for the poor, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the unloved, the forgotten' as the founder of St. Anthony's Dining Room and Foundation.

Name Droppin- Barnaby Conrad* Name Dropping: Tales from My San Francisco Nightclub
by Barnaby Conrad 5 Stars
Conrad's blend of autobiography and West Coast cultural expose covers his night club, the El Matador, which for ten years hosted stars like Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. Conrad's memoir of these years and his encounters with stars presents a lively slice of San Francisco life. A fine leisure choice...Midwest Book Review  out of print

* 9 1/2 Years Behind the Green Door: : A Mitchell Brothers Stripper Remembers her Lover Artie Mitchell, Hunter S. Thompson, and the Killing that Rocked San Francisco 5 Star by Simone Corday

* The Madams of San Francisco: An Irreverent History of the City By the Golden Gate by Curt Gentry
This fascinating book on the irreverent history of our city's Madams
out of print (available at Amazon)

Jazz on the Barbary Coast* Jazz on the Barbary Coast
by Tom Stoddard
Times of Jazz on the Barbary Coast


* The Magnificent Rogues of San Francisco: A Gallery of Fakers and Frauds, Rascals and Robber Barons, Scoundrels and Scalawags
by Charles F. Adams originally published 1998

Nowhere Except San Francisco Tro Harper* Nowhere Except San Francisco : Memoirs of a Resident Tourist by Tro Harper
Tro Harper has been writing about northern California, off and on, for fifty years. As a writer-producer for KSFO-CBS he covered every place from Mt. Shasta in the north to Sequoia National Park in the South.
He hunted whales off Eureka, watched the harvesting of giant redwoods, and described the construction of Shasta Dam.
As owner of Tro Harper, Books for many years, he met the people of his city up close and personal. This book is a wonderful read. Vignettes on all the things we here so often take for granted.

Gables and Fables* Gables and Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco's Pacific Heights by Arthur Bloomfield 5 Stars
Gorgeous houses with 'soul' ~Author's walks in ritzy Pacific Heights lead to new book on the history of stately homes whose magnificent architecture has stood test of time.Pacific Heights means Old Money, especially along the blocks of Broadway and Pacific Avenue. Here there are mansions based on fortunes made in 19th century California, from gold and silver, from sugar, and the homes of merchant princes.
*Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture (A City Lights Anthology) by James Brook, Chris Carlsson, Nancy J. Peters 4 stars
"This book celebrates the fact that we live in the most glorious of all human creations, a city, with living streets, more like ancient Athens or Samarkhand or Calcutta than like the aggregate office block/parking lot/shopping malls that once were modern American cities and still bear their names. Read it to understand why San Francisco is still alive --and how we have to defend it." .. Joan Holden, San Francisco Mime Troupe

sfhamlet* San Francisco, 1846-1856: FROM HAMLET TO CITYS by Roger W. Lotchin, Kathleen Gregory Klein
This book examines the urbanizing influences in San Francisco and compares these to other urban centers, doing so against acolorful backdrop of opium dens and other sinful institutions. out of print

*San Francisco: A Natural History (Images of America) (2006)by Greg Gaar 5 Stars

San Francisco Lost Landmarks*San Francisco's Lost Landmarks (California/Old West)
5 Stars Not just a list of places, facts, and dates, this pictorial history shows why San Francisco has been a legendary travel destination and one of the world's premier places to live and work for more than one hundred and fifty years. It not only tells of the lost landmarks, but also dishes up the flavor of what it was like to experience these past treasures. Over 150 evocative photos and graphic representations.
San Francisco Cultural Literary history*
San Francisco: A Cultural and Literary History (Cities of the Imagination)
by Mick Sinclair 4 stars

The Author's sixth book on San Francisco. Unlike the other five, it is less a travel guide and more a historical exploration of the city. The author presents an in-depth cultural, historical, and literary guide to this beautiful city renowned for its artists, eccentrics, visionaries, and activism.
Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-1978 Chris Carlsson  5 Stars(2011)
A collection of essays spans the tumultuous decade from 1968, the year of the San Francisco State University strike, to 1978 and the twin traumas of the Jonestown massacre and the assassinations of mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk
*A Short History of San Francisco by Tom Cole
A good short general history including material on the city's leftist political movements.

Vintage San Francisco* Vintage San Francisco
by Peter Beren 5 Stars
A unique portrait of America's favorite city--from the building of the Golden Gate to the classic images of the City by the Bay. Chronicled in dramatic duotone photographs, taken by three generations of gifted San Francisco photographers from Moulin Studios, this indelible portrait of the cool, gray, city of love, comes alive in history, legend, and lore. Quotations will be included from such San Francisco writers as: Jack London, Frank Norris, Mark Twain, and Rudyard Kipling, 10,000 first printing.

Tales of San Francisco: Comprising 'San Francisco Is Your Home,' 'San Francisco Kaleidoscope,' 'The Streets of San Francisco'by Samuel Dickson,originally published in 1949 5 Stars These classics tell about people and times in old SF -- all the famous personalities (Emperor Norton, etc.) and what SF was like back then.

Street Soldier * Street Soldier: One Man's Struggle to Save a Generation - One Life at a Time
by Joseph Jr Marshall 5 Stars

Joe Marshall serves as an inspiring reminder of the power of one. Every man in America should read this book, and then do something." -Spike Lee

"Joe Marshall's Street Soldier is a revelation." -Denzel Washington

"Street Soldier is the cookbook for peace in this country, and Joe Marshall is the man with the recipe. Black, or white, young or old, this is the food we've all been craving." -Sinbad out of print

* San Francisco Uncovered by Larenda Lyles Roberts 5 Stars

Behind bay windows of Victorian houses angled along steep streets, beyond flowering lawns of Pacific Heights mansions, and where Ding Dong Daddies clang out their unique rhythm on cable car bells, there exists the world's favorite city by the bay.
Roll away the fog and layers of time and you will uncover such colorful characters as the "King of Pain" and the "Pet of the Prostitutes" who frequented San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast.
San Francisco Uncovered is full of history and surprises, but most of it' s fun to read

* San Francisco Memoirs, 1835-1851: Eyewitness Accounts of the Birth of a City by Malcolm E. Barker

* More San Francisco Memoirs 1852-1899: The Ripening Years


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