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F869.S353 A225 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

San Francisco is a city clouded in myth. This urban biography provides an entirely new vision of the city's history, laying bare the inner dynamics of the regional civilization centered in San Francisco. Imperial San Francisco examines the far-reaching environmental impact that one city and the elite families that hold power in it have had on the Pacific Basin for over a century and a half. The book provides a literate, myth-shattering interpretation of the hidden costs that the growth of San Francisco has exacted on its surrounding regions, presenting along the way a revolutionary new theory of urban development. Written in a lively, accessible style, the narrative is filled with vivid characters, engrossing stories, and a rich variety of illustrations.

As he uncovers the true costs of building an imperial city, Gray Brechin addresses the dynastic ambitions of frontier oligarchies, the environmental and social effects of the mining industry, the creation of two universities, the choice of imperial architecture to symbolize the aspirations of San Franciscans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, manipulation of public thought by the city's media, and more. He traces the exploitation of both local and distant regions by prominent families--the Hearsts, de Youngs, Spreckelses, and others--who gained wealth and power through mining, control of ranching, water and energy, transportation, real estate, and weapons.

This broad history of San Francisco is a story of greed and ambition on an epic scale. Imperial San Francisco incorporates rare period illustrations, personal correspondence, and public statements to show how a little-known power elite has used the city as a tool to increase its own wealth and power. Brechin's story advances a new way of understanding urban history as he traces the links among environment, economy, and technology that led, ultimately, to the creation of the atomic bomb and the nuclear arms race.

Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000


Author Notes

Gray Brechin received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California at Bekeley. He has worked as a journalist and television producer.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Challenging San Francisco's popular image as a tolerant, carefree, gracious city, Brechin unearths 150 years of deeply unsettling history. San Francisco's founding aristocracy were Southerners drawn to California as a mecca newly opened up for enterpriseÄparticularly for plantation culture. After the 1849 gold rush, San Francisco was built on what Brechin terms a "Pyramid of Mining"Äa pre-capitalist financial structure employed from Roman times through the Renaissance, uniting miners, financiers, the military and land speculators in a power elite whose only concern was limitless economic growth. While press lord William Randolph Hearst converted a mining fortune into a media conglomerate preaching the superiority of "the American race" and calling for the annexation of Mexico, other San Franciscan power brokers, according to Brechin, channeled mining profits into gas works, currency speculation, political and judicial bribery and the exploitation of forests. From Nevada to Northern California, they wrecked towns, deforested the pristine Lake Tahoe region, buried acres of farmland under mining debris and contaminated the soil, lakes and rivers. A historical geographer and coauthor of Farewell, Promised Land, Brechin concludes with a look at the University of California's pioneering nuclear research program laid the groundwork for the Manhattan Project. Enlivened with period engravings, photos, political cartoons, magazine art, posters and maps, this stirring, environmentally conscious history ranks with Kevin Starr's Americans and the California Dream, powerfully establishing the city on the bay as a true emblem of the atomic age. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Preface: The Urban Maelstromp. xxi
Introduction: New Romes for a New Worldp. 1
Part I Foundations of Dominion
1. The Pyramid of Miningp. 13
Mythologizing Mining
The Invisible Pyramid
California's Classical Precedent
The Renaissance of Mining
The Age of Discovery, Conquest, and Fugger
De Re Metallica
The James Marshall Myth
A Promised Land Plundered
Working the Frisco 'Change
Ralston, His Ring, and the Comstock Lode
The Sierra Nevada Flayed
Halting Hydraulicking
Mining Engineers as Heralds of Empire
Deferred Costs
Specious Denials
Enduring Attitudes
Transfer Technology
Financial Districts as Inverted Minescapes
2. Water Mains and Bloodlinesp. 71
Revealing Power
A Shrine to Water
Roman Aqueducts
The Spring Valley Monopoly
San Francisco Reclaims San Mateo County
Hermann Schussler
William Hammond Hall and the Thirst of Golden Gate Park
Ralston's Last Gambit
Sharon Rises on Ralston's Fall
Francis Griffith Newlands
Building Burlingame
Phantom Capital
The Greening of San Mateo County
Phelan Discovers a Reservoir Site
Enhancing Real Estate Values
Los Angeles Lurches Ahead
San Francisco Stalls
None Other Than Hetch Hetchy
Michael M. O'Shaughnessy
A Debatable Masterpiece
Hail, the Chief!
Part II The Thought Shapers
3. The Scott Brothers: Arms and the Overland Monthlyp. 121
Commemorating the Soldiers of an Unnamed War
San Francisco Bay as Pacific Launchpad
The Union Iron Works
The Overland Monthly
Spanish-American War
War with the Filipinos
The Inexhaustible Philippines
Japan Buys Armaments
Monumental Messages for the Masses
A Protracted War of Kindness
Imperial Designs for San Francisco
Racial Solutions
The Yellow Peril
San Francisco Segregates Its Schools
Predictions of a Racial Apocalypse
The Cruise of the Great White Fleet
An Ever-Expanding Military
4. The De Youngs: Society Invents Itselfp. 171
Refracting Reality
San Francisco's Parallel Aristocracies
The Blackjack Press
Exit Charles De Young
The Spreckels-De Young Feud
Enter Willie Hearst
The Call Attacks
The Midwinter Fair
Arthur McEwen's Letter
The Utility of High Culture
Chronicle of Empire
The San Francisco Graft Prosecution
Rehabilitating Reputations
Stuffing the Cat into the Bag
Family Value
Exposure Avoided
Organs of Expansion
5. The Hearsts: Racial Supremacy and the Digestion of "All Mexico"p. 200
Xanadu by the Pacific
Manifest Destiny and "the Texas Game"
Mexican-American War and the "All Mexico" Faction
Indigestible Races
The Filibusters
Permeable Boundaries
Young Hearst
Tied to Mom's Apron Strings
War Impresario
The Hearst Enigma
A Private Empire in Mexico
Peru, Too
Hearst Recommends
Dulce e Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori
White Supremacy
Belated Independence
Hard Right Turn
Coordinated Enterprises
Editing History
Part III Remote Control
6. Toward Limitless Energyp. 245
Imperial Energy
A Dearth of Coal
Electrical Dawn
The California Oil Kings
Drowning in Oil
Pacific Gas and Electric
Dynastic Power and Water
Hetch Hetchy Energy
"Greater San Francisco"
The Dream City and the Real
More for War
Radium, and Beyond
7. The University, the Gate, and "the Gadget"p. 280
Naming Berkeley
Seeking Funds
The Hearst University
The Greek Connection
Destiny's Gun Sight
The Pacific Commercial Museum
Professor Moses
"The Greater University"
The University Militant
Soldier President
University Critics
Right Thought
Building Science's Shrine
Lawrence and Oppenheimer
Engineer President
War Approaches
Birthing "the Baby"
Planning the Arms Race
The Costs of the Race Come Home
Notesp. 331
A Note on Sourcesp. 359
Select Bibliographyp. 361
Indexp. 389