Imperial San Francisco

Section of the Palace of Fine Arts, constructed for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Photo: Jean Vengua.

I’m reading Gray Brechin’s book, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin. That title beautifully encapsulates the issues of this volume. What does the Gold Rush, mining, newspapers, and the Bohemian Club have to do with the establishment of U.C. Berkeley as an important research center for physics, and development of the atomic bomb? What does it have to do with your water supply, or with toxins in the soil of small towns and military bases near San Francisco?

Brechin’s book makes apparent social and business relationships that the elite of San Francisco have kept mostly hidden for decades. If you’re interested in learning about San Francisco’s movers and shakers (Crocker, Hearst, de Young, et. al.) of the 19th & 20th centuries, and how the growth of this urban power center has irrevocably changed California’s environment (and our lives), this book should be a fascinating read. Well-researched and dense with information, it also manages to satisfy my interest in gossip. Not a quick read, but you’ll come out of it with a new perspective on California, as well as San Francisco.

See also:

* Gray Brechin, Ph.D.
* The Living New Deal Project
* New Deal’s Legacy in danger of being ruined.