Home Port ° 2017 ~ 2018 Ongoing Updates

VIPS Sailing into San Francisco 1800s James Rolph

Bridge to the Castle.

Born August 23, 1869 San Francisco
Died June 2, 1934 at Riverside Farm, Santa Clara County

Son of James and Margaret (Nichol) Roth. Educated in Mission District schools and at Trinity Academy, he began his business career selling newspapers on the streets of the city and then as an office boy in the commission house of Kittle & Company, a shipping firm.

In 1900, he became a partner of the well-known shipping firm of Hind, Rolph & Company and headed the firm of Rolph Navigation & Coal Company.

He founded the Rolph Shipbuilding Company, and the James Rolph Company, which, among others built the four masted Conqueror. Among the ships owned by James Rolph was the 1888 bark Golden Gate, and the 1899 four-master wooden hull schooner James Rolph (586 tons).

Built for the Pacific Coast carrying trade, the James Rolphmade a number of coastwise voyages before she was lost on August 2, 1910. Sailing from San Francisco with a cargo of general freight, lime, hay, and 14,000 board feet of lumber for the sugar plantations of Theo. H. Davies at Hana, Maui, Hawaii, James Rolph was swept by the current and plagued by the lack of a strong breeze. In the thick fog, her master, Capt. A. Olsen, did not see the schooner sail close into shore. At 10:00 p.m. the captain heard surf and ordered the ship tacked offshore, but it was to late and James Rolph crashed into the rocks at Point San Pedro, grounding 50 feet from shore at the same spot where the four-masted bark Drumburton had been lost in 1904. Rolph's crew managed to reach shore safely, but the vessel could not be pulled off the rocks. Tugs attempted to haul James Rolph free but wreckers from Capt. T. P. Whitelaw's salvage firm stripped the wreck of usable fittings before abandoning James Rolph to the waves.

After the disasterous earthquake and fire of 1906, Rolph worked ceaselessly day and night to relieve the suffering community, and aided in establishing many relief committees to conduct the work of protecting the inhabitants, saving such property as could be reached, and in providing material assistance for those who lost everything.

He was asked to run for mayor in June 1909, but declined, choosing to run in the 1911 election on the Republican ticket. For the next 19 years Rolph was "Sunny Jim" to San Franciscans with "There Are Smiles That Make You Happy" as his theme song. When he fell on hard times he was bailed out by wealthy friends, and it was rumored that he repaid his debts with political favors.

A charismatic man known as "Sunny Jim," Rolph openly ignored the prohibition laws and once sent a case of whiskey to a condemned man. He caused an uproar by refusing protection for two kidnappers, and then, when they were lynched by a mob, publicly stating that justice was served. As a remedy for the financial blues during the Great Depression, it was Rolph's suggestion that everyone simply take a two-week holiday. He established the State Park System recommended by C.C. Young, and instituted the California Sales Tax - then known as "Pennies for Jimmy."

Mayor James Rolph, San Francisco.

Along with his job as mayor and his private shipping interests he also served as director of the Ship Owners & Merchants Tugboat Company, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, president of the Merchants' Exchange, and vice-president of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

In November 1930, James Rolph, Jr. won the California gubernatorial election, with his resignation as mayor effective simultaneously with his inauguration as governor, on Tuesday, January 6, 1931.

On November 9, 1933, Brooke Hart, son of a wealthy San Jose merchant was kidnapped. The two men responsible were caught, later forcibly removed from jail and hanged by a vigilante committee in San Jose's St. James Park. Governor Rolph, by condoning the lynching, was nicknamed "Governor Lynch" and received extremely bad publicity across the nation.

Ignoring his doctor's advice, he continued to make personal appearances until he could stand up no longer. He died of heart failure on June 2, 1934.

All About America Gold Rush and Riches.All About America: Gold Rush and RichesGold 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 AmericaFreaks of Fortune.
Jonathan Levy
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)
Gray Brechin
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.

Tycoons.The Big Spenders: The Epic Story of the Rich Rich, the Grandees of America and the Magnificoes, and How They Spent Their FortunesAmerica's Super Rich.
Lucius Beebe
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 EnterpriseMillionaires and Tycoons.
The Marvellous Careers of Some Americans Whose Pluck, Foresight, and Energy Have Made Themselves Masters in the Fields of Industry and Finance

James Burnley

Tycoons. The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American SupereconomySuper Economy.
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.


The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Kindly Kindly support our work.


DALevy @ MaritimeHeritage.org
164 Robles Way
Suite 237
Vallejo, California
94591 ~ U.S.A.


Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.