author archive

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

SFist: “A Jitney Elopement” — Charlie Chaplin’s San Francisco film

File this — again — under “there’s ALWAYS a San Francisco connection”. A reader recently alerted me to the fact that Charlie Chaplin, America’s favourite clown (and perhaps the most influential performer in motion picture history), shot one of his bazillion-odd silent movies on location in and around Golden Gate Park. “A Jitney Elopement” is […]

9 Comments » - Posted in From the community,Just plain cool,San Francisco angle,San Francisco history blog,Video by

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Pacifica is back!

When last we encountered this goddess-behemoth, she was being blown up by the Navy at the end of the ’39 Pan-Pacific Exposition. The mythical goddess Pacifica — symbol of the Fair — had loomed over Treasure Island for the duration, a sternly imposing concrete figure of some 80 feet tall. Though sculptor Ralph Stackpole had […]

6 Comments » - Posted in From the community,Just plain cool,San Francisco history blog by

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

sparkletack facebook group

Web 2.0 here we come … there’s a brand new Sparkletack group on Facebook. You can post photos and video, add links, start a discussion, or just join the group and show your enthusiasm for Sparkletack and San Francisco history. And if you’re not already part of Facebook, it’s painfully easy to join. C’mon, drop […]

No Comments » - Posted in Media,San Francisco history blog by

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

tour review — san francisco ghost walk

I love San Francisco, I love history, and I love walking. Luckily for me, there are a billion walking tours out there. Every so often I participate in one of these, try to pick up a thing or two, and take some notes for you. Ratings systems provide a useful shorthand, but your mileage may […]

3 Comments » - Posted in From the community,Walking tour reviews by

Friday, March 21st, 2008

san francisco steam coffee?

I ran across an old and beautiful (not to mention HUGE) coffee urn in front of a Portland antique store today. Just like a magpie, shiny objects catch my eye — so I stopped to check it out. It’s become a running joke that there’s always a San Francisco angle, and sure enough there was […]

8 Comments » - Posted in Just plain cool by

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

sparkletack reviewed by “San Francisco City Guides”

Sparkletack is featured in this month’s “Guidelines”, the newsletter of the non-profit San Francisco City Guides. You know about them already, right? Free tours all over town run by smart, dedicated volunteers? I’ve experienced several (and reviewed a couple (1, 2) of their offerings, so it seems only fair that they’d take a look at […]

No Comments » - Posted in Media by

Friday, March 14th, 2008

SFist — “not even jackassable”

The latest from my little column over at the SFist: “Not Even Jackassable” We perused the recent SFist post about the pitiable state of San Francisco’s streets with a certain sense of nostalgia for the good ol’ days. You know, the days before this newfangled “asphalt paving” even entered the scene. In the Year of […]

3 Comments » - Posted in SFist by

Monday, February 25th, 2008

1907 harrison street mainline — photographic google map

It’s my favourite thing, finding physical evidence of times past in the landscape of contemporary San Francisco. That’s why I was delighted when Aaron, a Sparkletack reader, sent me to a page of photographs snapped by a railfan in 1907. The website displaying the photos is the passion of Amtrak engineer (and native San Franciscan) […]

3 Comments » - Posted in From the community,Just plain cool by

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

SFist — whiskerless waiters at the palace hotel

The latest from my little column over at the SFist: Whiskerless Waiters at the Palace Hotel In the middle part of the 19th century, a thick set of whiskers were an essential facial feature of every man of Victorian respectability. These were not simply expressions of pride or masculine peacock vanity, but due to a […]

2 Comments » - Posted in SFist by

Friday, February 15th, 2008

book review — “The Bottle Imp”

I read a lot of books on San Francisco and California history. And though these posts are labeled “book reviews”, the only books you’ll ever see here are those that I’ve really enjoyed. In short, if you see it here, it’s a great book — I’ve no urge to write about the stinkers! And if […]

No Comments » - Posted in From the community,Historical book reviews by

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The fog rolls in — 24 hours in 144 seconds

This is spectacular. Twenty-four hours of San Francisco are compressed into less than three minutes of time-lapse video, gorgeously captured from the hills above Sausalito. The city and bay spend most of the day almost buried by a dramatically roiling mass of fog, which finally whisks itself out to sea to reveal the sparkling lights […]

2 Comments » - Posted in Just plain cool by

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

#66: Alma de Bretteville Spreckels

It’s one of San Francisco’s best-loved monuments — the figure of a heartbreakingly beautiful girl balancing lightly atop a granite column high above Union Square. She soars above both pedestrians and pigeons, gracefully clutching trident and victory laurels, lifting her shapely arms in triumph over the city of San Francisco. It was intended to memorialize […]

12 Comments » - Posted in San Francisco history podcasts by

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

SFist — “Leg Bones for Baseball Bats”

Researching San Francisco history means spending way too much time sitting in the dark. In the library, I mean, staring at microfilm of old newspapers. Hours of scanning those scratched and blurry archives makes me a little punchy, so I blinked and rubbed my eyes at this gruesome headline from the February 13, 1902 edition […]

5 Comments » - Posted in Just plain cool,SFist by

Friday, January 4th, 2008

tour review — victorian home walk

I love San Francisco, I love history, and I love walking. Luckily for me, there are a billion walking tours out there. Every so often I participate in one of these, try to pick up a thing or two, and take some notes for you. Ratings systems provide a useful shorthand, but your mileage may […]

4 Comments » - Posted in Walking tour reviews by

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

SFist — tippling with kipling, san francisco 1889

The 74th anniversary of “Repeal Day”, the end of Prohibition in the United States provided the inspiration for this entry. Tippling with Kipling, San Francisco 1889 Ah, today should be a citywide holiday, it really really should. December 5th marks the 74th anniversary of the end of Prohibition, just a tick of the geological clock […]

1 Comment » - Posted in SFist by