Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s
William Chapman Ralston
Captain Ralston died in San Francisco August 27, 1875.
William Chapman Ralston was a Scots-Irishman born at Wellsville, Ohio on January 12, 1826. He captained Gold Rush steamers ferrying gold-seekers up the Coast from Panama.
Settling in San Francisco in 1854, he opened the Bank of California, which offered tempting low-interest loans to Nevada's newly formed mining companies. As owners defaulted, he kept the mines and became a Bonanza King.
He also became a transportation giant, establishing dominion over Pacific shipping lanes and inland waterways.
In the 1860s, Captain Ralston tied in with Asbury Harpending. They were arrested on March 15, 1863, as they prepared for their first voyage. "Scattered among the boxes and barrels" on board their ship, the Daily Alta California reported, "were large quantities of pieces of paper, torn to bits and chewed up, evidently with the design of destroying all written evidence." SFPD captain John Lees carefully collected the spitballs and reassembled them for use in court.
San Francisco Bay. 1899.
Convicted of treason, Harpending and his companions received $10,000 fines and ten-year prison sentences. They were out on the streets again in months, perhaps because the courts found it difficult to take these youthful schemers seriously, perhaps because the wannabe privateers had powerful friends.
By the summer of 1875 Captain Ralston, who had an early career as a cabinet maker, was a hero in the eyes of the ordinary people. He was a bank president, backer of great and small business enterprises, builder of a vast, unfinished hotel, confidante of little men to whom he loaned money on character alone.
All About America: Gold Rush and Riches
Paul Robert Walker
Meticulously researched, with specially-commissioned illustrations and original artwork from each period, reading lists, resources for further study. An immersive introduction to the history that shaped America. In 1848, carpenter James Marshall made a chance discovery: a few shiny flakes-of gold in a riverbed he was digging. Within a year 800,000 gold-seekers from all over the world were on their way to California. The Gold Rush was on.
Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America
Until the early nineteenth century, "risk" was a specialized term: it was the commodity exchanged in a marine insurance contract. Here is a story of how the modern concept of risk emerged in the United States. Born on the high seas, risk migrated inland and became essential to the financial management of an inherently uncertain capitalist future. Focusing on the hopes and anxieties of ordinary people, Levy shows how risk developed through extraordinary growth of new financial institutions - insurance corporations, savings banks, mortgage-backed securities markets, commodities futures markets, securities markets - while posing moral questions. To be a free individual, whether an emancipated slave, a plains farmer, or a Wall Street financier, was to take, assume, and manage one's own personal risk. Yet this often meant offloading that same risk onto a series of new financial institutions. Levy traces the fate of personal freedom as it unfolded in the new economic reality created by the American financial system.
Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin
(California Studies in Critical Human Geography)
First published in 1999, this history of San Francisco traces the exploitation of both local and distant regions by prominent families — the Hearsts, de Youngs, Spreckels, and others who gained power through mining, ranching, water and energy, transportation, real estate, weapons, and mass media. The story is one of greed and ambition on an epic scale, tracing the connections between environment, economy, and technology with links that led, ultimately, to the creation of the atomic bomb and the nuclear arms race.
The Big Spenders:
The Epic Story of the Rich Rich, the Grandees of America and the Magnificoes, and How They Spent Their Fortunes
The Big Spenders was Lucius Beebe's last and many think his best book. Here he describes the consumption of the Gilded Age. Beebe enjoys it all immensely, and so do his readers, whether it is James Gordon Bennett buying a Monte Carlo restaurant because he was refused a seat by the window, or Spencer Penrose leaving a bedside memo reminding himself not to spend more than $1 million the next day.
Millionaires and Kings of Enterprise
The Marvellous Careers of Some Americans Whose Pluck, Foresight, and Energy Have Made Themselves Masters in the Fields of Industry and Finance
The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy
Charles R. Morris
The acclaimed author vividly brings the men and their times to life. The ruthlessly competitive Carnegie, the imperial Rockefeller, and the provocateur Gould were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. They were balanced by Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought for a global trust in American business. Through antagonism and their verve, they built an industrial behemoth — and a country of middle-class consumers. These four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation not imagined a few decades earlier.
Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul Hee
Rick Carroll, Marcie Carroll (Author, Editors)
Great moments in seafaring history as depicted by internationally known maritime artist Paul Hee are collected in a handsome new art book, Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul Hee. Old salts and armchair sailors alike--anyone who loves the sea and ships--will delight in this glossy art book, which features more than 150 color images of Mr. Hee's artful works in signature painstaking detail. Scenes range from battles at sea and famous shipwrecks to yacht races and peaceful harbors. Hee, master of past masters, documents not only moments in maritime history but also the artistic styles of three centuries of painters whose work depicts American and British ships of their day, from topsail schooners to the White Squadron.
A significant portion of book sales benefit the North Carolina Maritime Museum. The book is available in two formats: hardbound with glossy dust jacket ($49.95); and a signed, numbered slip-cased hardcover keepsake, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the 1709 founding of Beaufort, NC, ($79.95), home of Mr. Hee and of the museum.
He raced Ferraris and restored a historic ship, then retired to Beaufort to paint in the luminescent styles of past masters and to build classic model ships.
(Image: Bald Eagle, 1852, by Paul Hee.)