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World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

VIPS in the Port of San Francisco

Madame Elisa Biscaccianti

Madame Biscaccianti is noted as having arrived in the SS Tennessee on March 15, 1852 and was on the SS Golden Gate on January 15, 1853.

She was bid farewell repeatedly in the Alta, was scheduled to board the SS Golden Gate on January 15, 1853, but was again taken ill. The community was sad the departure of "the first and best 'Prima Donna' of America."

Daily Alta California, January 16, 1853: ILLNESS AND DETENTION -- It is with regret we hear of the sudden and severe indisposition of Signora Elisa Biscaccianti, whose name was announced yesterday among the passengers by the Golden Gate. We are informed by Dr. Elliott that the illness is such as to make her detention advisable.

Daily Alta California, Tuesday Morning, January 4, 1853


Madame Biscaccianti received from a large and highly intelligent audience, on the occasion of her re-appearance, last evening, one of the most flattering welcomes that we have ever seen bestowed upon a public favorite. It was her first concert in several weeks, and she had barely recovered from an illness which still left its enfeebling effects upon her frame; but her voice was strong, pure and exquisitely flexible, and her spirits buoyant and animated. She sang with a degree of fervor and expression that called for the most enthusiastic testimonials, in the forms of plaudits, "bravos" and bouquets, from a delighted auditory. Her execution, too, was brilliant and artistic; and we see no reason to change the opinion we expressed many months since, after one of the fair Signora's "Benevolent Concert"; that the strength and purity of her tones and her brilliancy of style and execution continually increase, and her increasing success is manifest at every concert given by Madam B. in this city.

A Night-Watch Reminiscence of San Francisco

I am dreadfully bitter tonight; I feel as if I should like, morally speaking, to smash everything to pieces and "let go" as the saying is. However as I must let the steam off in some way or other, I will try to do so harmlessly and tell a simple little story, to show how some of the poor nobodies of this world, may come up quite as truly to the heart pitch, as do the so called great and noble. Oh! how often under a rough coat beats a manlier heart than that which ding-dongs under the well cut frock of some fashionable dandy. "A man's a man for a'that."

The house that night was crammed from pit to cribing. There were lovely women with flashing eyes and flashing diamonds, attended by model beaux ever ready to roll up their eyes, flirt and sentimentalize, whether they feel it or not; Sufficient for the hour is the nonsense thereof. But to my wee story. I had sung many pieces in French, Spanish and Italian, but finally came the turn for the dear, old tune of "Home Sweet Home." I do believe one could have heard a pin drop so hushed so silent was the house; when all at once, a sob, a suppressed sob stole over the audience like a wail of sorrow. All eyes were turned in the direction from which it came. A poor miner, roughly clad with his slouched hat partly cov'ring his bronzed face had entered the pit, and having crept into a corner was leaning on the back of a seat weeping as if his very heart would break.

Suddenly recollecting himself, and seemingly aware that every one was looking at him, he rose and softly stealing down the aisle left the theater, as if, poor fellow! ashamed of having loved the dear, old home before so many people.

I shall never forget the almost religious (silence) which followed that song of mine; it was more to me than the most enthusiastic plaudits that ever rang in my ears; for I knew that there were hearts present too full for utterance. I felt that night when all was over as if, I had done a great, a real good.

Who shall say that by my song of "Home Sweet Home" I had not drawn a soul from wrong returning a wandering son to the love of his poor, old mother, who was weeping for him, not knowing through his neglect, whether to mourn him as dead, or as lost only to her.

May I not believe that I too had had my mission of love and charity.

Elisa Biscaccianti

The Maritime Heritage Project.

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