Supervisor Ralph McLeran Tours the West Side, 1921


The film is about 5 minutes long (8.5 Mb). This film is silent and has no soundtrack. It may take awhile for the entire film to load, so be patient. It's worth it!

This old newsreel footage comes courtesy of our friend Jack Tillmany, (Digitization courtesy of the San Francisco Media Archive), and shows city supervisor Ralph McLeran touring various improvement projects on the west side of San Francisco. Obviously a promotional piece for McLeran, perhaps during an election campaign, the footage seems to date from late 1921 or early 1922.

With "guest stars" City Engineer M.M. O'Shaugnessy, Alma Spreckels, and Park Supervisor John McLaren (no relation, different spelling), Supervisor McLeran visits the Great Highway esplanade (hilariously "breaking ground" in the dunes, sharing a shovel with O'Shaughnessy), Cliff House road, and the future sites of the Legion of Honor museum, and Kezar Stadium. The newsreel concludes back at the Legion of Honor where McLeran is filmed giving a rousing speech in a silent film.

San Francisco political history expert (and WNP Member) Paul Rosenberg provided a bit of background on Ralph McLeran:

"Ralph McLeran, a contractor by trade, was elected to a two-year term on the board of supervisors in 1907. In 1909 he ran for sheriff and lost. In 1911 he again won election to the board of supervisors and was re-elected in 1913, 1917, and 1921. He was defeated in 1925 by the "clean-out" slate.

"McLeran was a Rolph man on the board [James Rolph, San Francisco mayor from 1912-1931], and "Sunny Jim" often made him "acting mayor" when he went out of town. Once in this capacity McLeran was busted in a house of prostitution, I think in 1923. He claimed he was doing research."

Some notes on the footage:

  • The "Kelly Tires" billboard in the background of the first scene is purportedly the source of the name "Kelly's Cove"for the surfing area below the Cliff House.
  • The Great Highway Esplanade, which began being constructed in 1916, was planned to run all the way to Sloat Boulevard, but never went past Lincoln Way.
  • The original site of the Legion of Honor was to be in Alta Plaza Park, but Alma Spreckels changed the location to Lincoln Park, so the museum would have room to expand.