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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 500: California Academy of Sciences

It is one of San Francisco's oldest institutions. Nicole & Arnold reveal the long history of the California Academy of Sciences with its head librarian, Rebekah Kim.
by Nicole Meldahl - Apr 22, 2023

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 500: California Academy of Sciences Outside Lands Podcast Episode 500: California Academy of Sciences

Podcast Transcription

WNP500 – California Academy of Sciences

Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of Western Neighborhoods Project. Your weekly dose of friendly neighborhood history.

And hello again, Outside Landers. I'm your host, Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I am your co-host, Arnold Woods.

Nicole: And this is podcast episode number 500. Can you believe it podcast listeners? I actually can't believe it, because I don't think we ever saw this day coming. The Outside Lands podcast was started back in 2013 by WNP co-founders, Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher, and 10 years later it's still going strong. So really, who knew we could find 500 local stories to tell? Either straight history episodes or interviews where we let people speak for themselves. Arnold, can you believe this is happening?

Arnold: [00:01:00] No, not at all. And, you know, I've only been a co-host for about the last year and some appearances before then as a guest. But it's amazing that we've reached 500. And when we were deciding what to do for this epic episode number 500, we took a look back at all the things we had covered to figure out is there any big subject that we somehow missed. And, surprisingly enough, you know, after 500 episodes, there actually was. And frankly, you'll be surprised that we've never actually covered this topic before. And Nicole, what was it?

Nicole: Yeah, somehow, we goofed up and we never have covered one of the oldest institutions in San Francisco, that has been in the western neighborhoods for a really long time. Now we're of course talking about the California Academy of Sciences. And we've previously kind of tiptoed around the subject a couple times [00:02:00] before because, well, this podcast has been going on so long now we're sort of our own reference point at this point. So, Arnold, take us back. What else can we learn about Cal Academy in the podcast series?

Arnold: So previously, if you go back to listen to episode 368, which we actually just reran last week, we covered the Morrison Planetarium projector. Specifically the projector. And then, shortly after that, in episode 377, we talked about the Academy's legendary bone collector Ray Bandar. But somehow, we've never been through the Academy's own very long and very rich history. So, let's make up for that now.

Nicole: Yeah. And given that there is so much history here, we decided we would go straight to the expert for this episode. So, joining us today is Academy Head librarian, Rebekah Kim. Hello and welcome, Rebekah

Rebekah: Hello everyone. And [00:03:00] congratulations on 500 episodes. That's a huge feat. And I'm happy to be here and I, I would say “expert” in quotes. I definitely know a lot, but I am, feel free anyone to correct me. Send me an angry email. I might get it wrong. I, I think I might. But yes. But yes. Thanks. Thank you for inviting me.

Arnold: Oh, you're definitely an expert compared to us. So…

Nicole: Correct. Although Arnold, you read a very large book in preparation for this podcast.

Arnold: We'll get into that later, but we're very excited to have Rebekah with us today because one, she's awesome and…

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Two, she's able to show how as an organization, the Cal Academy is looking at its own history and acknowledging gaps and bias in its own narrative, the collection and beyond. Because when we say it's one of the oldest institutions in San Francisco, we really mean it.

Nicole: Yeah. So, traveling back in time, San Francisco was incorporated in [00:04:00] 1850, which was the same year that California became a state. And the Academy of Sciences got it started as a learned society just three years later in 1853. It was the first scientific academy in the American West and was initially called the California Academy of Natural Sciences. And what have we learned in the past few years, if not that history that old needs a little bit of work to bring it up to speed with the present.

Arnold: And with that in mind, on April 4th, 1853, we just recently passed that anniversary, seven gentlemen got together and formed a bold plan to quote, “undertake a thorough systematic survey of every portion of the state and the collection of a cabinet of her rare and rich productions.” End quote. So, Nicole, who were these seven men?

Nicole: Well, in rapid fire we've got four medical doctors, [00:05:00] Charles Farris, Henry Gibbons, Albert Kellogg, and John Trask. In addition, there was a surveyor named Andrew Randall, an attorney, Colonel Thomas Nevins, and real estate broker and Commissioner of Deeds, Lewis Sloat. Who was also the nephew of Commodore John Sloat, for whom Sloat Boulevard is named. And I can never say the word commodore without thinking of Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean. So that's the image I have in my mind of John Sloat, if that helps you all visualize listeners.

Arnold: So, these men got together at Sloat's office at 129 Montgomery Street, which was between Sacramento and Commercial Streets. Randall was elected the initial chair of the group, and Sloat was appointed as secretary. And Randall then, as chair, appointed Nevins, Gibbons, and Sloat to draft a constitution for the Academy. The group met a week later, on April 11th, 1853, when a draft of the [00:06:00] Constitution was presented, and two new members were added, Dr. T.L. Andrews and attorney and journalist, Edwin Campbell.

Nicole: This is gonna end up being the podcast about everything you never thought you needed to know. But here we go. The Constitution Committee also presented a written report that concluded, and I quote at length, “we have on this coast of virgin soil with new characteristics and attributes, which have not been subjected to critical scientific examination. Sufficient, however, meets the eye of the naturalist to assure him that this is a field of richer promise in the Department of Natural History in all its variety than has previously been discovered. It is due to science, it is due to California, to her sister states and to the scientific world, that early measures be adopted for a thorough systematic survey of every portion of the state and a collection of a cabinet [00:07:00] of her rare and rich productions.”

Rebekah: Sorry, I just wanna say Nicole, that was a very dramatic reading and like very entertaining actually, cause I've read that paragraph multiple times and it's never been that dramatic to me in my head. So, thank you.

Nicole: Rebekah, that's the reading we try to bring to all history.

Rebekah: But on a more serious note, I wanted to just take this moment to acknowledge that the California Academy of Sciences are on the unceded ancestral land of the Ramaytush Ohlone. In regards to the academy's founding, the idea of virgin soil, which encompasses the pioneering spirit, really fails to acknowledge the Ramaytush, Ohlone and Muwekma people who have lived on these lands and also fails to recognize that they've been carefully manage, had been carefully managing and tending these lands for millennia and were systematically removed to make room for new settlers. At the Academy, we are really trying hard to be more [00:08:00] transparent of our, our own history and about our complicity in colonialism and racism.

Nicole: Here, here, Rebecca.

Arnold: And getting back to the history portion of this.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Over the next month, from April to May of 1853, a number of men, and it's always men at this point.

Nicole: Always men.

Rebekah: Always.

Arnold: From not just here, but from around the country, were suggested as potential corresponding members of the Academy.

Nicole: They’re like, ignore all these women in California. Let's do a nationwide search for more men. More men please.

Arnold: Anyways, at the April 25th, 1853 meeting, the academy received its first donation for its collection. Which was a number of marine shells and coral from the South Pacific Islands, that were donated by Captain Nakum Haynes. In addition, Samuel Hastings contributed otter, mountain [00:09:00] squirrel, and gray fox skins, bows and arrows, a quiver, small baskets, and a bone drinking cup that he had obtained from the Rogue River Native Americans.

Nicole: Good way to start a collection. Yep. And when the Constitution was adopted and signed on May 16th, 1853, the Academy collective had already increased to 27 dues paying members. So, this isn't like being a member of WNP, it's a lot more complicated. There were three levels of membership. You had resident members, honorary members, and corresponding members. And membership required a two-thirds vote of the existing membership. Not like when you email me and you send me money, and I'm like, welcome. New members paid a $10 initiation fee, which makes it sound like a cult kind of, and a $2 a month. Though the monthly fee would be reduced to $1 in 1856 because of the hard times.

Arnold: [00:10:00] And the other thing they could do is they could secure a lifetime membership by a payment of $500. And understand that's a considerable amount of money back then.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: So, they created some committees. There was a Library committee. Finance, Publication, and Proceedings standing committees were all created. They also required that each department of the natural history would deliver at least one scientific lecture every year.

Nicole: That’s good.

Arnold: Annual meetings were also prescribed to be held on the first Monday of every January. Go ahead, Rebekah.

Rebekah: Yes. I just wanted to add, I love that the library committee was one of the first committees. Like one of the standing early committees, standing committees. But also, like it was a real core part of the early activity of the membership to read scientific literature that came from the East coast. Which, you know, thinking about that time, it would've taken a while and been [00:11:00] expensive. So, it was a nice way for them to sort of like pool their resources and read scientific literature together and share scientific discoveries. So, but yes, it is near and dear to my heart that the library committee was one of the first.

Nicole: I do imagine all of these men sitting in overstuffed chairs in like a big library with botanical prints on the wall, smoking a cigar and being like, ooh, look, they found a new zipadee-do from, in theGalapagos and like talking at length about it. And it sounds fun and I wanna be a part of it.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Nicole: That's not historically accurate listeners. That's just what my brain thinks has happened here.

Rebekah: I think they met, maybe Arnold can correct me, it was like they met in a law office, so probably not botanical prints, but maybe.

Arnold: Yeah, I think Sloat's office was where a number of the early meetings happened, so, I don't know what he had there.

Nicole: Well, I hope it's a bunch of, you know, model ships and pictures of Commodore Sloat. [00:12:00] So, we'll just leave it at that with me blowing Arnold's facts out of the water again. That's a medical pun. Okay, so carrying on with the history. At the May 23rd, 1853 meeting, the membership elected its first officers. Former chair, Andrew Randall was elected president. He was joined by Dr. Harry Gibbons as the first vice president, Colonel Nevins as the second vice president, cause you always need two. Dr. Arthur Stout as treasurer. Dr. William Gibbons as the corresponding secretary. Sloat coming, coming in as the recording secretary. So many secretaries. Thomas Nevins as the librarian. And Dr. Kellogg, Edwin Campbell and Dr. Henry Gibbons as curators again.

Arnold: And just in case anybody didn't catch the connection, there's a Dr. William Gibbons and Dr. Henry Gibbons and they were brothers.

Nicole: So many Gibbonses.

Arnold: And although the Academy was formed by men, they [00:13:00] were a little bit progressive from the get-go. On August 1st, 1853, they passed a resolution that highly approved of female assistance in every natural sciences department and invited their participation. Remember, this was a time when women rarely received higher educations and sometimes very little education at all. And as a result of this policy, women were hired there early on, as among other jobs, botanists and ichthyologists. That's people who studied fish.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Way back in the 19th century, they got these jobs.

Nicole: Now I have to ask, highly approved of female assistance. Is that a phrase you threw together, Arnold? Or did you pull that out of…

Arnold: That, that came, came out of the, I guess probably out of the meeting minutes of the time, cause that's what Henry Tuttle then quoted.

Nicole: Well, that's gonna be the new bumper sticker for WNP. [00:14:00] And, and how they brought women on and, and exactly what they were allowed to do and how excited everyone was about it, I guess we're, you'll hear, we're, we're kind of debating on, on how, how exactly that happened listeners. So, bear with this as we figure it out. But, in 1860, California jumped on the science bandwagon and ordered the first statewide geological survey. A state geologist, Josiah Whitney was appointed and he established his headquarters in San Francisco in December 1860. And being a science minded person, Whitney naturally became an Academy member and became the librarian for the Academy in 1862. So, the former Rebecca.

Arnold: Yeah, we're just gonna list every librarian who came in your time up until Rebecca gets the job. In 1863, Whitney led a state geological survey to document [00:15:00] all the natural resources in California for future economic development. But, of course.

Nicole: Of course.

Arnold: A field group on this survey discovered what proved to be the tallest mountain in California, and naturally they decided to name it after the leader of their expedition. So, if you ever wondered how California's tallest mountain got the name Mount Whitney, there you have it. Whitney, in fact, became Academy president in 1867.

Nicole: I bet that's the one thing people take away from this podcast. I hope not. But I do think people are like, oh, cocktail hour nugget. In 1868, members of the Academy decided they should not restrict themselves just to natural sciences. At a meeting on January 13th, they voted to amend their constitution to rename it just plain old [00:16:00] California Academy of Sciences. And true to its purpose, the Academy began growing its collection and investing virtually everything having and, sorry, investigating virtually everything having to do with the sciences, which is a lot more.

Arnold: Yeah, that's a lot of science to, to contain there. While much of the focus was within California, their scope covered much of the world. At most meetings held by the Academy in its first 20 years, and probably after that as well, there's discussion of new specimens being donated to or acquired by the Academy. And there's also lectures and presentations on what were, they were discovering happening at every monthly meeting.

Nicole: Again, I'm just picturing men with like pipes and being very excited to see some things in jars. In a membership meeting on January 21st, 1878, that's 20 years after making the amendment to include women members. The academy elected its [00:17:00] first female members consisting of seven women. One of those first seven female members of the academy was Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon, which is a long name. And all I can see in my head is Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, but, I'm gonna try and knock that out. And not only was one, she one of the first female members, she was also the very first woman to present a paper at the Academy.

Arnold: Yeah. On March 7th, 1881, Lemmon addressed the morphology, geology, and ecology of Pacific Ferns in a paper at the Academy.

Nicole: Riveting.

Arnold: The, that gives you an example of what they were discussing at all these monthly meetings, stuff like that. In a letter to her family later, Lemmon told them, quote, “I have the honor to be the first lady who has ever addressed that august body.” End quote. Lemmon [00:18:00] was also a talented artist who was the official illustrator for the State Board of Forestry for several years. And over the years she also donated at least 25 of her botanical paintings to the Academy.

Nicole: I just keep picturing Liz Lemon, whenever you say Lemmon. But hey, funnest fact about Lemmon, she was also chairperson of the State Floral Society at the time that the state flower was being chosen. And she led the push to name the golden poppy as the state flower. So, there you go, the second fact you're probably gonna take away from this podcast. And you can learn more about her, there's a great book that recently came out called The Forgotten Botanist by Wynne Brown. So, now you have a reading assignment as well.

Arnold: Yeah, we're gonna be getting into a lot of interesting people that came out of…

Nicole: I know.

Arnold: The Academy. And the next one is, in fact, the Academy’s very first paid curator, who was botanist Mary Katharine [00:19:00] Curran, who was hired in 1883 and was later known by her married name Brandegee. I hope I got that pronounced correctly. We're guessing that the curation work prior to that was unpaid. Curators before that and for a while after, were really volunteers that had day jobs, so it wasn't really considered a profession at the time.

Nicole: Rude.

Arnold: Previously, Curran had been just a third women, woman to go to medical school at UC Berkeley, and although licensed to practice medicine in California, she instead went into botany and became a member of the Academy on February 3rd, 1879.

Nicole: Yeah, but she’d been doing this for a while, right? So, prior to getting the paid gig, she collected plants around the state for the Academy. Until then, she and, and she eventually became an unpaid botany curator. The Academy's council, at a meeting on June 2nd, 1883, ordered that she be paid $40 a month [00:20:00] and declared that Curran, and I quote, “had for many months, given her whole time to the proper arrangement and classification of the botany collections at the Academy, and travels at her own expense to different parts of the country to fill wants in the collection, et cetera. From knowledge of her successful laborers on this specific, special unit, the council unanimously recommends this action.” End quote. Which is what all of us museum professionals hope will, will happen when we intern at a bunch of nonprofits in the city who never have the budget to hire us.

Arnold: So, as to Curran, Rebekah, one of the great things on your academy website is the Untold Stories Project, which recently included a Mary Katharine Curran Brandegee story to it. And so, can you tell us a little bit more about her and the Untold Stories Project generally?

Rebekah: Yes. A little bit more about Mary Katharine [00:21:00] Curran, I don't know if it's Brand-A-Ghee or Brand-I-Gee, but I don't know. But she was a, she was a doctor. She and also at that time, botany, the field of medicine and botany were kind of like overlapping. And so, like, it was a natural, like Doc, Dr. Albert Kellogg, who was also, I think he's the first botany curator at the academy, was a medical professional. So, it like, kind of was like a, a parallel track. And she also didn't feel like she could get employed as a, as a doctor. So, that's really what like led her into botany. And she was a bit of a botany nut. I mean, I think that is like a criteria, is that you had to be a little crazed or passionate or nutty about the field of study. And so, she, for her honeymoon, walked from San Francisco to San Diego and botanized along the way. There's not a clear…

Nicole: “Botanized along the way” is a phrase [00:22:00] I'm gonna use a lot now.

Rebekah: You know, the thing is we don't know exactly how. Like if she had mules or something. Like, it's like there weren't that many descriptions about her honeymoon other than she botanized.

Nicole: Respect.

Rebekah: And we, we still have her, like, put parts of her collection at the Academy. They're also at Berkeley. But yes. So, and I think we're gonna talk a little bit more about her, about, but she, you know, one of the things she's known for is bringing Alice Eastwood into the full Academy fold. But I am gonna talk a little bit more about the Untold Stories Project, which is a project that is near and dear to me.

In the summer of 2020, I was part of a group of scientists that drafted a statement addressing racism and science. I took that opportunity to reflect on how the library could promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, and decided to start this project that eventually becomes Untold Stories. So, in the fall of 2021, we create, we have at the [00:23:00] Academy, a high school internship program, a paid high school internship program, called Careers In Science. And so, the library created a project to work with them. And at the time it was led by Kate, a graduate student named Kate Montana. And so, we acknowledge that throughout the history of science and at the Academy, groups have been marginalized and their stories and contributions have often been overlooked. So, we felt like it was our duty to tell the stories of our staff and affiliates that have yet to be told, in order to reveal a fuller and truer picture of the history of our institution.

So, the group of students worked on creating profiles of past academy staff and they used archival materials, which they loved, which was surprising to me. And then, they posted these profiles on our website. It's also a way for students not only to work on a history project, but also to see that science can be a bit more diverse than it initially seems. Some of the profiles we've covered [00:24:00] are people we've mentioned, Matt, Mary Katharine Curran Brandegee and Sarah Allen Plummer Lemmon. Now I’ll always think of Liz Lemon when I talk about her. But there's so many others and I really do encourage everyone to check out our webpage, which is, I'm not gonna send the link, but if you just, it's Untold Stories at Cal Academy. And the project is still going on. We're on our third project group and it's currently led by our library staff member, Marie Angel. So yeah, so just a little current history and now back to regular history.

Nicole: Now back to our regular programming.

Arnold: That is a terrific project though. And people…

Rebekah: Yeah.

Arnold: Should go check it out on their website.

Rebekah: And young people love history. That has been surprising to me,

Nicole: Young people, I mean, I feel like everything's so digital now that when young people get a hold of something tangible and analog, they're like, what is this amazing relic?

Rebekah: Yeah. They love scanning and [00:25:00] they love looking at old letters and pictures.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: So, it's been like, it's been so fun for all of us to be part of this.

Nicole: Everyone needs a head librarian like Rebecca. And we all need to maintain collections at our organizations. So that's my soapbox moment and I will step back off of it.

Rebekah: 100% agree.

Nicole: Anyways, that's a different podcast topic, I think. But Arnold, take us on back to our regular history.

Arnold: Yeah. So, some of these untold stories, the people who are either part of it already or should be, one of them is Rosa Smith Eigenmann, who was hired on January 21st, 1884 as the ichthyology curator and was the first female curator of ick, ichthyology anywhere. I had to put that word in here.

Nicole: I'm glad I didn't have to read it. Rebekah, [00:26:00] you have something to say about ichthyology?

Rebekah: No, other than it's really hard to say and like most people don't know what it is. So, I did like, I, in my, I like, I usually have to tell people the study of fishes. Rosa Smith Eigenmann is like someone we would love to profile, but there are no records of her.

Nicole: What?

Rebekah: They're not that many. Her sort of career gets overshadowed by her husband’s, because she ends up having a family. I mean, I can tell like we could also just have a podcast about the sad saga of women in history.

Nicole: Oh boy. Boy, that would be its own podcast series. I feel like we could drinking for it too.

Rebekah: Yeah. I think I need to drink something a little harder than tea for that. Yeah. So, but I did wanna like, but she's an amazing person, cause she's so early. She's like one of the only, like the very first ichthyology curator, but also one of the very few women in ichthyology, the field in general.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. Whenever someone's missing from the historical narrative, like we can't find information, I just assume that someone picked up a [00:27:00] couple boxes that said like, mom's things, and they were like, meh, I'm gonna dump that over the side here.

Rebekah: Yeah, I mean her papers also exist at the Smithsonian, but we just recently had Marie, who actually went to D.C. for a different trip, but like made a side trip to the Smithsonian. There weren't that many mat, there wasn't that much there for her to like write a profile on, which was sort of disappointing. Yeah, I know. I don't know, maybe they're like out there somewhere. If anyone has any leads, let us know. Yeah. And also, like one other fun fact, which is, I'm full of fun facts, is her professor and mentor was David Starr Jordan, who is, who is most known or famously known for being the very first president of Stanford University.

Nicole: Just all stars on top of all-stars, on top of all-stars at Cal Academy.

Rebekah: Yeah. It's a small world. I feel like this, like it's a very small world. So, I think everyone knew everyone.

Nicole: Do you say Cal Academy is like the Kevin Bacon of science museums in?

Rebekah: Yeah. [00:28:00]

Nicole: Okay.

Rebekah: Probably cause there's only seven or probably less than that at some period of time. And so, yes, there's probably like five degrees. Less than five degrees.

Arnold: So, let's get into…

Rebekah: Yes, sorry Arnold.

Nicole: Let’s move on.

Arnold: Perhaps, perhaps one of the most influential people at the Academy over the years. In 1892, Curran was impressed with a specimen collection that had been done by self-taught botanist, Alice Eastwood, who Rebekah mentioned earlier, and recommended that the trustees hire her and they agreed at their January 18th, 1892 meeting and brought her in for six months at a salary of $50 per month to mount plants in the Herbarium.

Nicole: Whopping $50 per month. Can you believe it? So, by December, Eastward was promoted at a salary of $80 per month, we really should have done the math on what that means in [00:29:00] contemporary money, but you guys can Google that on your own, to co-curator of the Botany department with Curran, who declined to take any further salary. So, look at that. Women helping women back in the day. Love seeing it. Eastwood would fully take over the department when Curran retired in 1894, and she would stay there for over 50 years until retiring in 1949 at the age of 90. And she, like Katharine, gave up part of her salary to bring on her successor, John Thomas Howell. She also helped plan the Botanical Garden in the Park. And at the time of her retirement, Herb Caen noted that she had found and described more new American plants than any other woman She is, as we'll soon get to, one of the most influential people in the Academy's history, and there's a great article about Alice and her lasting legacy in the San Francisco Chronicle that was just published in time for the anniversary of the earthquake. [00:30:00]

Arnold: Which we'll also get to.

Nicole: We’ll get to, but not this podcast, but we'll get to it.

Arnold: So many notable scientists, explorers, and others came to the Academy to speak. And just by way of one example, famed photographer Edweard Muybridge, who lectured on the science of animal locomotion on April 18th, 1892.

Nicole: Ooh.

Arnold: Which, that was, became a significant date later in San Francisco history.

Nicole: What could we be referencing? Huh? Guess you'll have to tune in to find out.

Arnold: But, and well, let's plug this right here. You can listen to our epic two-part podcast on Muybridge, which is episodes 455 and 456, to learn more about what he was doing that merited an Academy lecture, and also to learn about his really, really wild life.

Nicole: What a crazy dude. Anyways. [00:31:00] And new members were added at nearly every meeting. So pretty much every prominent San Franciscan became a member of the Academy in those days. One such member, maybe you've heard of him, his name was Adolph Sutro. He became a life member in January 1881, just two years after returning to the city when he sold his stake in the Sutro Tunnel and became rich as heck. In fact, Sutro led an opposition ticket to take over the officer spots on the Board of Trustees in January 1895, but they lost. Also, he has a long history of being like, I'm fed up with stuff, I'm gonna run for office.

Arnold: San Francisco elected him as mayor.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Unlike the Academy. Academy didn't let him take over, but San Francisco did.

Nicole: San Francisco did. And he was like, I hate this job. I'm not doing this for another term. But anyways, besides Sutro, you also see names that perhaps you've known in the past because you see them on [00:32:00] buildings all the time. We've got Hearst, Stanford, Hastings, Crocker, and Huntington, all on the membership roles of the Academy at one point.

Arnold: And over those first 20 years, quite a lot had been collected by the Academy. So, what does one do when they have a large collection of scientific specimens. Fortunately, a generous offer came their way. Henry Newhall was the proprietor of what had been the First Congregational Church located at the corner of California and DuPont. DuPont would later become Grant Street. And that was across from Old St. Mary's Cathedral, which still stands today. In January 1874, Newhall offered to rent the church to the Academy for $250 a month, of which he would then kick back a hundred dollars a month to the Academy as a donation. This sounds like some nefarious scheme going on here.

Nicole: As someone who does nonprofit financing now, I'm like, yeah, that sounds right. [00:33:00] We're clean here though. We are clean. We’re a clean nonprofit. Just wanna make that very clear. Anyways. Okay. So not only did the Board of Trustees accept a lease offer, the membership also immediately voted to make Newhall a life member of the Academy. Feels right. The Academy then opened a museum that today would be in Chinatown, and it was an immediate hit. So soon some, like 80,000 people a year were visiting the California Academy of Sciences.

Arnold: And among the initial exhibits was a wooly mammoth display that had been purchased for the Academy by railroad tycoons Charles Crocker and Leland Stanford. In fact, the collections were growing so fast that they quickly outgrew this space, and luckily for the Academy, a very wealthy man had died in an opportune time for them.

Nicole: I wanna say that we have a photo of that mammoth on [00:34:00] display in the original building in our OpenSFHistory archive. And it was used as the front cover of a book about the history of museums by one of my professors named Marjorie Schwarzer. So, which is a plug for a lot of weird, nerdy things. So, who died at the perfect time for Cal Academy? We're of course talking about our favorite generous miser in San Francisco, James Lick. Complicated legacy that we're re readdressing now. But, at the time, the wealthiest man in California when he died in 1876. And Lick’s will stipulated that his fortune should be used for the public good as he saw it. And it funded a variety of things all mostly named after himself. My favorite, of course, being the Lick old lady's home. But, but we do have the Lick Observatory still, which is, which is more near and dear to his scientific heart. So, in his trust, Lick left property on Market Street between 4th and 5th Street and $350,000 to the Academy of [00:35:00] Sciences. In addition, the Academy was one of his trust’s residual beneficiaries, thank God we have a lawyer here on the podcast, along with the Society of California Pioneers. Meaning that when it closed, they would receive a portion of any of the remaining monies in the trust.

Arnold: So, after several years of planning and construction, the Academy was creating a new museum on Market Street in that location between 4th and 5th. That museum opens in 1891, and funding to build the buildings came from loans from the Lick Trust leveraged against monies that were earmarked for the Academy in the Lick Legacy. The location was actually two buildings separated by 27 feet with covered walkways between the buildings on the first and second floors and an iron bridge across the gap on the sixth floor. The front building had retail and commercial space that would be leased with rent monies going to the [00:36:00] Academy.

Nicole: Sounds like a structure that would hold up great in an earthquake. And, however, you know, per the wishes of Lick, some of the offices were offered to other scientific societies at moderate rent. So, this is a building that helped a lot of different, like, groups in the city. The rear building was the Academy's museum and it was set up with lecture halls, committee rooms, and a lab on the first floor. Exhibition space on the second through the fourth floors. And the top floors were to be used for the library and scientific work. So, once it opened, it was also a huge hit with the public. I mean, who wouldn't like this building with a giant wooly mammoth in it?

Arnold: So also in 1891, oh wait, Rebekah, you had something?

Rebekah: Oh, I just wanted to say one of the tenants was the Sierra Club. So, they got their start in the building and then, yes, and the top floor was for the library, and also, this will come in handy next week, but like the [00:37:00] botany collections. So scientific collections.

Nicole: Yes.

Rebekah: A fun fact to remember for next week. Yep.

Nicole: Usually the library and collections gets dumped into the basement. So, like what a glorious thing to have the whole top floor.

Arnold: So, again, back in 1891, there was also a then popular Mission District resort area called Woodward's Gardens. And that year it closed. And everything was auctioned off in 1893. And we've mentioned before on this podcast that Adolph Sutro bought up many, many things from the Woodward's Gardens collection, such as their taxidermy collection. However, Sutro wasn't the only person interested in what they had there.

Nicole: At an April 3rd, 1893 meeting, the Academy trustees allocated $1,000 for the purchase of, and I quote, “objects of scientific interest at the sale.” Which is hilarious, if you know how [00:38:00] unscientific, according to today's standards, these art objects actually were. But, and we're not sure exactly what the Academy of Sciences got at the auction, but it was noted that the purchases have, and I quote, “a sort of historic association with them in addition to their intrinsic value.” Because, correct me if I'm wrong, Rebekah, now when you collect specimens to, for them to have scientific value, you have to, there need to be field notes, you have to document them, you have to handle them in a certain way.

Rebekah: Yeah. You need data. So, you wanna know time and location and maybe identification. So, some random taxidermied animals from kinda a like urban circus, I dunno.

Nicole: I had to, I helped the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with their natural resources collection. And so, yeah, it was a lot of, like, all right, that weird stuff, bird that's been on display for who knows how long is not part of the collection. It is [00:39:00] an education resource.

Rebekah: Yeah. That's what we…

Nicole: You can touch it.

Rebekah: We, we send, yeah, it becomes an educational tool and a lot of our naturalist center items are actually things that the scientific collection has rejected because, yeah, there's no information.

Nicole: Yeah. That's why, like, that's why Rebecca's job is really important. She's gotta keep up with that data amongst us

Rebekah: Yes, I'll continue plugging the importance of my role and myself.

Nicole: We're happy to do it for you, Rebecca. Okay, Arnold, what's going on with the Lick Trust?

Arnold: So, we mentioned the Lick Trust. It closed in 1894. So, this meant the Academy was entitled to monies out of the residuals of that. But, they only got $91,000 and change, since they already owed $513,000 and change to the trust for construction of the Market Street campus building.

Nicole: Good lord.

Arnold: But instead of [00:40:00] taking cash, the Academy took a promissory note and mortgage that was owed to the Lick Trust, that was worth a little bit more than what was due to them. And so, they paid the difference back to the Lick Trust, which then distributed the rest of their residual estate to the Pioneers.

Nicole: Was this a good decision? I mean, what's worth more than San Francisco real estate? Right? We're gonna see if that was the right call. But, you know, in the early 1900s, the scientific world was beginning to realize that plant and animal life was beginning to go at extinct at a much faster rate. Gee, you don't say. What could possibly be causing all this flora and fauna to disappear from the earth's surface? Anywhosit. The Academy of Sciences recognized the, and I quote, “urgent need” to document flora and fauna before they disappeared. So, in 1903, the Academy sponsored its first expedition to document plants and animals before they were [00:41:00] extinct, not for the purposes of commercial real estate. Like the first time. The Academy had sponsored other expeditions in the past. But, of course, this was unique and the scientific trip went to, oh boy. Oh boy. This name. This…

Arnold: I believe, I believe is Revillagigi. Gigi. I'm sorry. No, Ravagagio Islands.

Nicole: Revillagigedo.

Arnold: There you go.

Nicole: Did I just do it?

Arnold: I dunno. Sounds good.

Nicole: Revillagigedo Islands in Mexico to document the species dying out there.

Arnold: We'll, we'll have some listener write in to tell us how wrong we were about that.

Rebekah: I was glad I didn't have to read that part.

Nicole: Listeners, you should know that we're all on Zoom and looking at each other and every single one of us went, ooh, when we saw this word, our faces. Oh, was that an Italian accent? Oh, I'm so sorry if this is offensive to anyone. We're really trying. [00:42:00]

Arnold: So that expedition occurs in 1903 and disaster's gonna strike in, well, what's our note say?1906, could it be? What happened then?

Nicole: Ooh.

Arnold: So yeah, the April 18th, 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire, once again, makes its presence known on the Outside Lands San Francisco podcast. And you are now all legally obligated to take a drink, because that's what happens whenever we mention that earthquake on the podcast.

Nicole: And Arnold's a lawyer. So, you know, this, that's a legally binding statement.

Arnold: And I would note that we are actually recording this podcast on the actual anniversary of the earthquake. So, all is good. And you know what? You're gonna have to tune in next week to find out what happens next. Because this was all way too [00:43:00] much to fit into one podcast. So, we're putting it into, and you'll have to turn in tune in next week to find out.

Nicole: Yeah. But you know, before we leave you today, I thought maybe we would, we would do our traditional Barbara Wawa section, rest in peace to that grand dame of journalism, and ask Rebekah some extremely hard-hitting questions so we get to know her a little bit better. So, Rebekah, are you game for our top five questions?

Rebekah: Yes, I think so.

Nicole: Okay.

Rebekah: I think I can answer them.

Nicole: Alright. Prepare yourself. Number one. What is the best meal you've ever eaten in San Francisco?

Rebekah: These are really hard questions. Actually, they are.  But I am gonna, I'm gonna try to answer them. But I think like one of the best meals I've had was like, takeout lunch of crab rolls and fries from Woodhouse Fish Company. There's something magical about the butter, the crab, the [00:44:00] fries. And it also was like a perfect day. We sat along Embarcadero. It was sunny and warm, which, you know, I don't think we've seen many of those days lately. So yeah, that, but I also wanna say there's so many amazing places in the city. Too many to name honestly. And I've, I've lived here over 15 years and I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface, so, on places to eat. Yeah. So, but yes, crab rolls from Woodhouse Fish Company are pretty delicious.

Arnold: Well, I think…

Nicole: I second that.

Arnold: I, I think you'll find that the next question is no easier than that.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Arnold: Question number two. What is your favorite place in San Francisco? The one place you return to again and again.

Rebekah: Yeah. I’m gonna say Golden Gate Park and not just because I work here, work in the park and have to come a lot. But it's also been like this amazing place that we've gone to as a family. I have small children. It's been amazing. Like the Park has so much to [00:45:00] offer. Not just the Academy, but the Botanic Gardens, the Conservatory, all this green space. The playground, we've gone there a lot. Stow Lake. And it just feels amazing to have this space. And I know was sand dunes before, but the green space in the city. And then, also I love seeing all the wildlife. Like, I think I have to say that because I'm part of the Academy, but coyotes, hawks, turkeys, heron. I saw heron eating a gopher one day. Like there's a lot happening in the Park. Yeah. It's a, it's a little crazy. But like, I mean the Park is amazing. It's an amazing part of San Francisco. But it’s also, it's somewhere I go often.

Nicole: I did see, cause we work Outside Lands, the music festival every year. And so, I was heading in to work the booth and I saw hawk like, swoop down, super close to me, swoop down and like pick up a gopher. Same thing. But it was early, so not many people were there. And I looked to my left and this dude was stoned out of his mind and just like, could not handle what we had [00:46:00] just experienced. And he looked at me and he was like, was that real? I was like, yeah man, I think so. He was like, oh my God.

Rebekah: That was the same experience seeing the heron and sort of gulp down the gopher. Like I, there were like a few people around where all like, did that really happen? Yeah.

Nicole: He's never gonna forget this moment in his entire life. Neither have I. Okay. Number three. What is the one thing out-of-towners shouldn't miss? So, like, when people come to the city, where do you take them, Rebekah?

Rebekah: I haven't taken them there yet, but I'm gonna take them to somewhere that I actually just recently discovered, but, which is kind of shocking. It's the Moraga steps. They're amazing. And I know there's a podcast about them. But they're just like, but they're beautiful. They're, I mean, it's like a community project and they're beautiful like mosaic tiles, and I feel like each time you go up, you see something different. So, [00:47:00] that's a little hidden gem I think that I will take out-of-towners too.

Nicole: Sure.

Arnold: You know, if you haven't discovered the others, there's like two or three other mosaic step stairways in San Francisco. One of them is very close to that one. So, it's all, all, all to be discovered by you soon.

Rebekah: Yeah. No, it's like, I actually live on the other side of the city, so like, it's been nice to kind of explore the western side.

Nicole: We agree.

Arnold: So, even though I think you said you'd only been here 15 years, what is one San Francisco thing you would bring back if you could?

Rebekah: Yeah, that's gonna be a real hard question too. Because I am also like a little bit of a history nerd. So, like, I like, are we allowed to go back to like very far?

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: Anytime?

Nicole: Oh yeah. Olden times.

Rebekah: Yeah, I know. I don't know. I can't think, I honestly can't think of a single place. Like I would love to like visit Playland at the Beach. [00:48:00] Or, I haven't seen this, but the fish roundabout at the Academy, people have like all these amazing stories about. Sutro Baths would be cool. The Cliff House. I mean, I did get to see Ray Bandar, who was the bone collector at the Academy, his basement museum.

Nicole: Super cool.

Rebekah: It was. Yeah. It was pretty amazing. It was also very creepy. It did seem, I mean we have joked in, like, about it internally, like seemed like a good cover for like a serial killer. There was a lot of bones down there. But yeah, so like, I don't know. I mean, I don't know. So I'm not sure. But I think what I would want to keep or keep about San Francisco is like sort of the weirdness, you know, and the possibilities that like anything is possible. Like there's so much of that here in the city. I think it's a little bit harder these days, cause it's expensive to live here. But, so many artists and so many projects that happen in the city because people kind of will it to happen. So, I can say what I won't miss. I won't bring back the Embarcadero Freeway. [00:49:00]

Nicole: Oh yeah. Never again. Never again. As a woman who drives everywhere, I'm sorry, it's the L.A. in me still, like, I don't want that freeway back either. We don't need to bring that back. Never again.

Rebekah: No,

Arnold: We're, we're just lucky. It, it could have been so much worse, cause the original plan was to run a freeway from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nicole: So many freeways.

Rebekah: Oh wow. Then it would've been a city of freeways, which, I also am from L.A., but I don't really want that either.

Nicole: It's true. Although I do have a fondness for the original freeway, the Arroyo Seco Freeway, which is now called the 110. Look, if you can learn how to merge onto a freeway from a stop sign driving a PT Cruiser, you can drive anywhere in the world, I'm convinced. Anyway, we've got one more question for you, Rebekah. And this one’s a little esoteric, but why do you think history is important?

Rebekah: Yeah, that's a good [00:50:00] question. A good appropriate question for this podcast, I think. I think history is important cause it really sets the context for maybe present day. Things that we're, that's, it just makes things a bit more clear, when we know what's been here before. I think there's a history to every place, which, I mean, which is why this podcast exists. But there are so many people who've come before us, and I just wanna remember and honor them. I am a librarian, but most of my training and experience has been as an archivist and yeah, don't tell everyone. But and I, I really see the archives as like a place that's filled, not just with dusty documents, but with people and their stories and their lives. So, I really love to get to know, getting to know all the people that like populate my art, the archives that I work in. And I also love like all the gossip that is part of history. Which is like, then becomes just historical fact. Like, did you know that Alice Eastwood was meh about having a state flower? [00:51:00]

Nicole: Oh my god, I love her so much.

Rebekah: Yeah. There's so, like, she's, she's great. But yeah, she, she and Sarah Lemmon Plummer were corresponding and she was like, I don't really think a state flower is important.

Nicole: Lemmon, I don't care about your thing.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Nicole: Oh my God. Oh my God, that's so good. That's one of the coolest answers we've ever gotten for that question. Almost everyone is like, well, you know, I think history is important so we don't repeat itself. I'm like, really?

Rebekah: I mean that would, yeah, we kind of do though.

Nicole: Yes, that's true. It's true, but we we're never going to learn. So, like maybe it's not just people up on that. I like yours. I also like, I make so many friends in the past, which makes me sound like a sad, lonely spinster. Sad, which is not wrong. But, but yeah, I'm like, oh, I met so many cool people today. And then people are like, oh yeah, who? And I'm like, well, they're all dead. [00:52:00]

Rebekah: Yeah, I totally feel that. And like there's something magical about archives. Like I really love deep diving into people's lives.

Nicole: Yeah.

Rebekah: Yeah.

Nicole: Absolutely. I often joke that if I did what I do, like researching people of the past for people who were alive, like you would arrest me for stalking them.

Rebekah: I know it gives you a bit, a permission to like look at their deepest, darkest secrets without getting in trouble.

Nicole: Yeah. You’re like, oh you got divorced. Oh, that seems like it went nasty.

Rebekah: Or that's what you think of that person, your colleague? Oh, interesting.

Nicole: I know. I just keep a journal and I'm like, maybe I should burn these when I die.

Rebekah: No, they'll be great for the future.

Nicole: Well, you know, cause running a nonprofit in San Francisco is the living embodiment of the show, Parks and Rec. Like Leslie Knope is a real, like that, all of that stuff really happens. It's funnier, cause, you know, Amy Poehler is a genius, but like, [00:53:00] but like really, it's, it's what we do on a daily basis. Anyways, Rebekah, this has been incredible. Yes, you are welcome to stick around for all of the WNP business, but you're not required, cuase it's already 7:00 PM when we're recording this and you have a life.

Rebekah: Yes. No, thank you both Arnold and Nicole for having me on and like, and this has been fun. I was a little scared, but you guys are not scary at all.

Nicole: No, we’re not. My cat keeps walking through the frame, staring at me. We're just regular people. Rebekah, thank you so much. And you're gonna be here for another one, right? We're doing this again next week.

Rebekah: Yeah, see you next week.

Nicole: Okay.

Arnold: Thanks so much, Rebekah.

Nicole: All right, and now we've got listener mail. Arnold, how does you wanna send us these listener mails? Can you please educate us? [00:54:00]

Arnold: You put pen to paper and write a letter to 1617 Balboa Street, San Francisco, 94121. Or if you wanna make it easier on yourself, you send an email to podcast@outsidelands.org. Or post a comment in response to the podcast posts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Nicole: Yeah, I'm bad at putting 'em on Instagram, but sometimes I do. For those of you who haven't already guessed, there's no social media plan at Western Neighborhoods Project.

Arnold: Yeah, we really wing it.

Nicole: A bunch of random people posting whatever they want at weird times Anyways, so listener mail. Back in episode number 496 about the legendary animals of San Francisco, we talked about Monarch, the grizzly bear. And we asked our guests, Judi Leff and Joseph Amster, if rumors about there being living descendants of Monarch at the San Francisco Zoo. But, you know, they didn't know unfortunately. One of our [0,0:55:00] podcast listeners, Randy commented on our Facebook post. So, Arnold, what did Randy say?

Arnold: Randy had this to say. He said, quote, “listening to the episode right now, I can't speak for our entire history at the moment, but I can say it to the grizzly bears at the zoo now are not related to Monarch. They are rescued grizzly sisters from Montana.” End quote. So, thank you so much Randy, for clearing that up and hopefully we'll get some reaction to this week's episode, particularly from people who saw, who are looking to the history of the Academy and have experienced it over the years.

Nicole: Yes. Please tell us all your crazy stories about the California Academy of Sciences. So, Arnold, it's been a wild podcast and, you know, some of the folks listening might be members, but maybe some of the [00:56:00] folks listening are not members. So, maybe we should, we should tough sell them on the benefits of becoming part of the WNP family or just giving us money.

Arnold: So, if you become a member, you can get the quarterly membership magazine, which you can get it either digitally or a paper version of it.

Nicole: Or both.

Arnold: You can get in events. You get other exclusive perks and you get the good, good feeling of supporting all the good work we do, including the OpenSFHistory photo archive, the Cliff House collection, and, of course, this podcast. Because if you're listening to us, we hope you like what we're doing here. And we're up to 500 episodes now, and it's not free to put this all together, although our time, we're volunteering to do this.

Nicole: No, you're paying me to be here. Thank you very much.

Arnold: You're doing this on the off hours, not during the paid work hours.

Nicole: It's all [00:57:00] mushed in.

Arnold: Though, you're pretty much working for us 24-7. But, to become a member, just clickity, clickity, clack the big orange button that's on every page of our websites. The Become a Member link. And, or, and, or the big Donate button and just donate money to us if it becoming a member sounds like too much of a commitment for you.

Nicole: Yeah, we're happy to take your money and technically giving nothing in return, except for all the stuff we do and put out there in the world for free. But yeah, we'll never make this a succinct section, I guess. But anyway, moving on. After all of that, we've got some big old announcements.

Arnold: So, if you missed out, or thought you missed out, on Richard Brandi's party at the Internet Archive for his book, Garden Neighborhoods of San [00:58:00] Francisco, that event actually got rescheduled and it is now happening Thursday, May 25th at 6:00 PM. So, you still have a chance to join in that fun. In addition, you can also come join Richard for a history walk of one of those garden neighborhoods. That happens Saturday, May 13th, when Richard leads a tour of the Forest Hill Extension area. The WNP members can join the walk for the measly sum of just $10. But it will cost non-WNP members $20 to come. So become a member and get the lower price.

Nicole: That’s a 50% discount if you haven't noticed. And also, gotta tell you, Richard Brandi is a super fun hang. Like probably one of the funnest historian hangs in San Francisco. So, you're not gonna wanna miss this. You know what else you're not gonna wanna miss? Our pub crawls are back. That's right, our first history pub crawl in several years, since before the pandemic, it's happening Saturday, [00:59:00] April 29th from 2:30 to 5:30 PM, unless we're crawling super slow. And we'll be visiting historic Inner Richmond district bars and some not so historic bars, but the ones who were super friendly and let us have their upstairs. But we'll talk about historic bars. So, this event's a little pricier. It's $20 for members and $30 for non-members. But you're gonna be getting a brand-new WNP history-themed beer koozie, designed by our dear Jamie O'Keefe. And it's got the Cliff House on it, because what else would we put on it? And there is a limit of 30 people on the pub crawl, cause we can't drag too many folks into each pub. And I think we only have about nine tickets left. So, you really, you wanna get your ticket soon. This is super fun. It's gonna be led by myself and John Martini, and I promise not to have too many martinis so that I can actually give the tour. We hope to see you there.

Arnold: And hey, do you remember when we did the free Zoom events all the [01:00:00] time?

Nicole: I do.

Arnold: It's been a while since our last one, but we are getting tuned up, because on Thursday, May 4th at 6:00 PM, we'll be getting a very special presentation from Susan Anderson, who is the history curator and program manager of the California African American Museum. And her presentation, it's gonna be about the Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio. Now, this is a free program for anybody, but we'd be absolutely delighted if you make a small donation when you sign up.

Nicole: Yeah, bless Susan. She's amazing. And we didn't pay her to do this, so she really, all the money that you donate will be going to Susan for her time, since our donations aren't coming in as, as generously as we thought. So, we do wanna pay her for her time, cause this is the person you want to hear talking about Buffalo Soldiers in California. So, I hope you sign up today so we, you can history in your home with [01:01:00] Western Neighborhoods Project. And last but certainly not least, Arnold, what's happening on May 16th?

Arnold: Hey, we're having a big birthday party!

Nicole: Yeah, we are.

Arnold: The WNP Birthday Bash happening Tuesday, May 16th at 6:00 PM. And get this, it is at the Four Star Theater, the recently remodeled Four Star Theater on Clement Street. This is kind of a smaller fundraiser instead of a gala this year.

Nicole: Well, it's a small, in addition to our gala, we'll be doing a gala in October, but this is like a fun birthday hang that still is a little pricier than our normal events.

Arnold: Yeah, the tickets are $75 and they include beer and bubbly, snacks and treats, some special giveaways. And we are gonna be having a live podcast interview with, get this, famed photographer, Michael Jang. There's gonna be lots more happening at this [01:02:00] event, so get your tickets for that event and for all the other events we told you about by going to the events page on outsidelands.org or find us on Eventbrite and sign up there.

Nicole: I just got a look at the photograph, Michael Jang picked for our limited-edition commemorative poster, and I swear to God, I'm gonna retire after this event. It's so exciting. Thank you Western Neighborhoods Project for making all my art dreams come true by pulling it into the history. Anyways, Arnold, good lord, what is the preview for next week?

Arnold: This is not gonna surprise anybody. Because we've already announced it in this podcast. We're gonna be back with part two of the very long history of the California Academy of Sciences. But this has been a great 500th episode that's gonna carry over into episode [01:03:00] 501.

Nicole: Oof. And it's a long one. So, until next time, I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I’m Arnold Woods.

Nicole: And this has been another episode of Outside Lands San Francisco. Thanks for being with us history friends.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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