Original Coppa's Restaurant was a legendary bohemian gathering place in the Montgomery (Monkey) Block where the Transamerica Building now stands. Its crowning glory were the wild murals, created by the artists and writers who made the place their second home sitting for hours at the center table in a long, narrow room with 21 tables.
The leader of the San Francisco Bohemians was Porter Garnett, a writer, editor, designer and co-creator, with Gelett Burgess, of the 1895 literary magazine The Lark. The group also included the painters Xavier Martinez, Ernest Peixetto, Maynard Dixon, poets and writers George Sterling, James Hopper, sculptor Robert Aiken, Willis and Dan Polk were also frequently in attendance along with many others. The late evening libations were decidedly misogynistic and never included wives. Women were included on occasion if they were pretty enough, or a current girlfriend for a one time review.
Years earlier, Bohemians frequented The Bohemian Saloon* in Monterey which had walls covered by Bay Area artists, but they were painted over when the bar was sold. Maybe with this in mind, or because Burgess had started to scribble some of his characters in chalk, Papa Coppa agreed to let them create a permanent mural on the wall. They started on a Sunday in 1905, for a free lunch and all the wine they could drink. Giant lobsters, self-portraits, black cats - a nod to the Chat Noir in Paris, and cryptic quotations in many languages adorned the walls. The Oscar Wilde's quote “Something terrible is about to happen.” was prescient in that less than a year later the terrible did happen. On April 18, 1906, the earthquake and fire spared the Monkey Block, but looters broke into the cafe and destroyed everything. The now legendary mural only lasted one year.
Coppa opened the ruined restaurant and served a last supper by candlelight for the Bohemians and their families who gathered to share earthquake memories. Here is a memory recorded by Xavier Martinez's wife Elsa Whitaker Martinez*;
Papa Coppa tried to recapture the magic with several reincarnations of his cafe in new locations with new murals, but it never regained the same caché.
* Elsie Martinez is quoted from a longer transcript which includes more Coppa stories.
* The Bohemia Saloon was run by Adulpho Sanchez, brother-in-law of Robert Louis Stevenson. More on that tale soon!
Title: San Francisco Bay Area writers and artists: oral history transcript
By: Martinez, Elsie, 1890-1984
Copyright: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000; http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Sure, we've all heard about the Spanish Flu - or the Pandemic of 1918 - but what do you know about the Pandemic of 1889 - The Russian Flu? The 1918 outbreak coincided with the Great War and is now known to be an H1N1 virus that spread death across the world. But in 1889, at the height of the Belle Epoque, virology was unheard of. Some scientist now believe the 1889 Flu was the first COVID-19 outbreak. Peculiar observations made during the Russian flu pandemic included the loss of smell and taste not caused by nasal congestion. These and other observations documented in the historical records point more to COVID-19 than to an influenza-like disease. The long recovery period and the frequent neurological sequels mentioned in case reports and following years of fatigue, lack of concentration, depression and anxiety also resemble what is now described as "long haulers or long covid" symptoms. Of particular note is the frequent mentioning of persistent headaches weeks and even months after the acute infection, causing memory issues reported after the 1889 pandemic and now after COVID-19, while such reports are not prevalent after the Spanish flu influenza.
And the Russian flu outbreak occurs exactly when EJ, Daisy and Endie Polk were visiting the Exposition Universelle in Paris for the opening of the Eiffel Tower, and then in Milan studying at the Milan Conservatory. Here is an excerpt from the Chapter "Potions, Puccini & Pandemics";
The final bit of this biological tale concerns the history of conspiracy theories. An article in a December 1889 edition of The New York Times reported that the flu was mostly harmless. “There is nothing fatal about the universal cold”. Papers around the world also promoted "remedies" of quinine, an antimalarial drug that is the antecedent of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Dr.'s warned against these, but their warnings were unheeded. There were theories that it was caused by electrification of cities, or from telegraph poles. One Dr. in Chicago with dubious credentials claimed the source was stardust passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Still other physicians soberly rejected this idea for other causes such as volcanic dust or bird migrations. Migration of a kind was surely to blame for the speed and breadth of the spread. 1889 to 1890 marked the largest number of people traveling between continents and the highest record transatlantic ship travel in the history of the world to that date. Everyone was heading to Paris for the great exposition and then back home.
In the end, the 1889 pandemic killed one million people out of a worldwide population of about one and a half billion. It was the last great pandemic of the 19th century, and is among the deadliest pandemics in history with recurrent outbreaks through early 1895.
Citation: Brüssow, Harald, Brüssow, Lutz; "Clinical evidence that the pandemic from 1889 to 1891 commonly called the Russian flu might have been an earlier coronavirus pandemic." Microbial Biotechnology Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.1388
The 1916 Preparedness Parade. courtesy US Library of Congress
Over a century ago, tensions about the war in Europe, labor unrest and the Committee for Law and Order exploded. Quite literally on July 22, 1916, a suitcase bomb killed 10 and seriously injured 40, at the city’s “Preparedness Day” parade—one of the largest parades in the city’s history with 51,000 marchers participating. Everybody seemed to be there including Phoebe Hearst leading delegations of women down Market street. The bomb exploded at 2:06 at Market and Steuart Streets.
The idea behind a “preparedness” demonstration, which also took place in New York and Washington, D.C, was to support the American military in the event of the nation entering World War I - which we did one year later. But many were against this interference overseas, and labor leaders protested it was another get rich scheme for industrialists on the backs of working men. So after the mystery bomb blast left little evidence, the police and government was eager to find the criminals. Immediately socialists, anarchists and pro-labor organizers were targeted. Two radical labor activists were convicted and jailed then released in 1939 after the police were accused of witness tampering in a mob scene trial. So if they didn’t do it, who did?
It remains a mystery. Some theories suggest German sabotage. What is certain, is the 1916 bombing is one example of how extreme tensions between unions and businesses had become at this time.
For more information see The Library of Congress article
Have you ever thought of Milan as a city of water?
When Daisy first visited Milan in 1889 with her mother and older sister Endemial, the city was surrounded by its 5 working canals.
"Bianca made arrangements for our first night supper in Il Centro and suggested we walk along the canals. Milan was a city of tranquil waterways at this time, with barges navigating the picturesque canal-banks. Naviglio means canal in Italian and navigli is the plural and name for the artificial canals of Milan. They were started during Roman times and by the end of the 13th century, water was seen as a way to transport people and objects, like the marble for the Cathedral. Leonardo da Vinci started working on these projects in 1482. This amelioration started the development of a new system of canals that would have made it possible to travel by canal from the Valtellina wine valley in the far North at the border of Switzerland to Milan, had the work been completed. I was lucky to see the City with its waterways intact, as by the 1920’s rail and motor travel saw many of them covered by streets and buildings with just remnants remaining and few signs that Milan had ever been surrounded by water."
Read more about Leonardo daVinci's canal designs, why they disappeared and how a growing movement is afoot to uncover them.
Polk buildings from St. Louis, Kansas City, San Francisco and beyond. In writing this book, I have yet to find a complete listing of all the Polk oeuvre. Whether with his family, partners or other artists, I have tried to map these works. It is a work in progress. Am I missing something? Let me know. I'll add it when I have the time ... or find an assistant!
The Polk Map
You will find here extant, demolished or work so dramatically changed I have delineated it from the rest. Click on a marker to see pictures or learn more. The map will pop-out to full screen listing all points. Many points have multiple pictures. Scroll to bottom of text to see all.
With many thanks to the following sources:
Late Victorian Era ladies and gents had a fetish for feathers. More than 5 million birds were being massacred yearly to satisfy the booming North American millinery trade. Along Manhattan's Ladies' Mile — the principal shopping district in New York, centered on Broadway and Twenty-Third Street — retail stores sold the feathers of snowy egrets, white ibises, and great blue herons. Once dense egret bird colonies were wiped out in Florida. Some women even wanted a stuffed owl head on their bonnets and a full hummingbird wrapped in bejeweled vegetation as a brooch. And fly fishing - Fishermen caused ruffled feathers too. Click on the "read more" to find out why!
What do airplanes have to do with Aunt Daisy? Living in Alsace-Lorraine on the Western Front during the war, and rebuilding Vitrimont after German bombings - she had first-hand experience with these planes, even writing about visiting the airbase near the forest of Parroy. She also knew a few fliers. One pilot married Ethel Mary Crocker and flew over the Vitrimont church on her wedding day "dropping" flowers for the bride and groom. More on this gentleman in a later post - for now if you're interested watch the short compilation of film below - Aéroplanes of the first world war - believe me your first bike had more metal parts!
This rare war film footage from 1914 to 1917 records aviation before the US officially entered the war and highlights the planes in use with names reflecting early pioneers and designers in the industry (see more airplane WWI history and list click "Read More" below).
This view from Nob Hill looking up Taylor at Jackson to Vallejo Street - is half a block from the summit of Russian Hill. The true summit lies at Vallejo between Taylor and Jones. Also seen here are the cross streets of Pacific Avenue and Broadway. Ina Coolbrith Park is located just across the Vallejo stairs from the house seen in the upper left corner - The House of the Flag.
Today the 225 step Vallejo Stairs are on both sides of Taylor Street. The House of the Flag is on the SE corner of the Vallejo stairs and Taylor Street. It was named a San Francisco landmark in 1972 and has become part of the lore of this special neighborhood which was home to a coterie of the most creative and interesting San Franciscans of their time. It also largely survived the fire and has many pre-earthquake buildings still standing watch from the top of Russian Hill.
The story of The American Relief Committee (ARC) 1914
Imagine you are on your Grand Tour of Europe in 1914. La Dee Da, life is wonderful. Until it isn't. Uh oh! Imagine, overnight, war breaks out. No phones, no airplanes, no ATM's, no credit cards, most trans-Atlantic ships have ceased operations, and the ones that are leaving - are leaving from England.
There you are in Florence, Italy with 150,000 lire. YOU! The daughter/son of a robber-baron (ooops sorry! Philanthropist) with positively scads of money back home in reliable J.P. Morgan & Co. But your letter of credit is worthless without a bank - and all the London banks are closed. Why does this matter? Because to exchange money and to transact almost any financial matter in 1914 required it to pass through London Banks. You can't get your money, and no-one can send you any.
Click "Read More" to see Daisy in 1914 and learn more about how stranded Americans got home!
Some stories that couldn't make the book in full ... but need to be told! Editors welcomed - sign up below.
EARTHQUAKE TALES FROM COPPA
PANDEMIC OF 1889
THE BOMB THAT SHOOK SF
MILAN:CITY OF WATER
POLK ON THE MAP
FEATHERS, FASHION & FLY FISHING
RARE AVIATION FILM - WWI 1914-17
1906 SAN FRANCISCO
WTF FILES - TECHNOLOGICAL
GET ME OUTTA HERE!
NO HORSES, NO TENTS, NO $...
DAISY IN FRENCH LITERATURE
DAISY ON FILM!
THE WHITE DEATH
THE SYMBOLISM OF FLOWERS
POSTE DE SECOURS WWI
TRAVEL 1900: LONDON TO PARIS
Daisy:REST IN PEACE
KEITH'S, DRANE'S & KENTUCKY
MOTHER: MISSOURI COMPROMISE