Cable Car Day

January 17th is Cable Car Day! This occasion marks the day Andrew Smith Hallidie received the first patent for cable car railways in 1871. Legend has it that Hallidie was inspired to create the cable car after witnessing horses struggle to pull carriages up San Francisco’s steep hills.

Photograph of a San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

Hallidie first tested the cable car in San Francisco in 1873.  Hallidie partnered with Clay Street Hill Railroad that year and by September the company offered public service in San Francisco.

Photograph of a San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

Cable car companies faced competition from electric streetcars throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Streetcars, which run on steel rails and are connected to overhead wires, were cheaper to build and maintain than cable cars, which run on steel rails and are propelled by an underground cable.

Streetcar in front of the UC Affiliated Colleges (later UCSF), circa 1910. Photograph collection.

Streetcar in front of the UC Affiliated Colleges (later UCSF), circa 1910. From photograph collection.

San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

San Francisco cable car. From UCSF MediCal yearbook, 1968

By the mid-20th century, San Francisco was considering completely eliminating cable car lines. Concerned citizens protested the proposal and, thanks to their efforts, the cable cars were saved.Today, San Francisco’s cable cars are protected as a National Historic Landmark. You can still ride on a San Francisco cable car; visit SFMTA’s website for tickets and more information.

 

“A Winter Wonderland”

When recently asked whether the archives had any pictures of snow in San Francisco, one of my colleagues mentioned that she had seen a folder that mentioned snow in our photograph collection. We were able to track it down pretty quickly, and sure enough, the title of the folder was: “San Francisco—Some Snow, 1930s.” Quickly thumbing through the prints, I found this breathtaking photograph of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, with snow on the Marin Headlands in the background.

photocoll_sfsnow1930s_goldengatebridge

It is fairly rare that I answer a reference question so quickly—and with such stunning results. But had I really? Trying to determine an approximate date for the image, I looked up the dates for the major snow storms in San Francisco (which was easy, considering there were only four during the 20th century) and cross-referenced it with the construction of the bridge. The only snow storm in San Francisco during the 1930s was on December 11, 1932—almost a full month before construction began on the bridge on January 5, 1933.

Disappointed, but also a little intrigued, I looked at some of the other “snow” images in the folder. This one, which appears to be of the Marin Headlands as well, with the city in the foreground, had the following caption on back: “Looking North: When the cold wind doth blow, we sell this for a snow picture. Infrared.”

photocoll_sfsnow1930s_marin

The mystery was solved when I took a peek at the verso of another “snow” picture. This one was taken with a telescopic lens from the Dean’s office of the UCSF School of Dentistry, and showed downtown San Francisco with the Berkeley Hills in the background. The image was dated March 8, 1934.

photocoll_sfsnow1930s_berkeley

A scan and transcription of the anonymous photographer’s description of how he or she was able to turn the Bay Area into a winter wonderland at the beginning of March is below. Evidently the infrared plates used in taking the image turned the “bright green grassy slopes of early spring” into what appeared to be snowy peaks. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn’t have any photographs of snow readily available, but at least it made for a fun little search.

"University of California Medical Center Campus, San Francisco. A telescopic view of San Francisco and the Univ. of California at Berkeley 12 miles away taken from the dean's offices in the College of Dentistry. This photograph was taken March 8th 1934 after 5pm with infrared plates.The wite patches on the hills which resemble snow are the bright green grassy slopes of early spring."

“University of California Medical Center Campus, San Francisco. A telescopic view of San Francisco and the Univ. of California at Berkeley 12 miles away taken from the dean’s offices in the College of Dentistry. This photograph was taken March 8th 1934 after 5pm with infrared plates.The white patches on the hills which resemble snow are the bright green grassy slopes of early spring.”

Latino Heritage Month Spotlight: Louis Perfecto Oviedo

In celebration of Latina/Latino Heritage Month, we’re recognizing one of UCSF’s early graduates of Mexican descent, Louis Perfecto Oviedo.

Louis Perfecto Oviedo graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine (then called the Medical Department of the University of California) in 1891. According to census records, Oviedo was born in San Francisco, California in 1871. His mother and father were both from Mexico.

toland_hall_students

Toland Medical Building, circa 1885. Oviedo would have attended courses in this building. UCSF Archives, Photograph collection

Oviedo attended St. Mary’s College in the Bay Area before completing his medical degree. He later worked at French Hospital in San Francisco and started his own private practice.

Oviedo and his wife, Alicia, participated in community and service organizations in the city. For instance, in 1896, they helped organize the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union’s Carnival of Nations, a fundraising event for the group’s building fund. Alicia and Louis manned the Mexican booth during the event.

nationsfete1896

The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, September 9, 1896

Oviedo died on May 30, 1898 in San Francisco. The young doctor was survived by his wife and son, Louis Jerome Oviedo. Records indicate that Alicia was pregnant at the time of Louis’s death; in July, 1898, she gave birth to another son, George Francis Oviedo.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

Louis Jerome Oviedo and George Francis Oviedo both followed in their father’s footsteps. In 1923, Louis and George graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine!

UC Medical School (later UCSF) campus, 1921.

Parnassus campus, 1921. From UC Medical School course announcement, 1923-1924.

Please join us in the Library, Thursday, October 8, 2015, for the UCSF Latino Heritage Month Celebration, hosted by Diversity and Outreach and Alumni Relations. Learn more about the event and RSVP here.