Tag Archives: gray brechin

Mechanics Monument

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I stopped downtown on the way in to work yesterday. To give blood on Bush Street. When they’d gotten my pint, I walked down the street and got a cup of coffee (no longer recommended by the blood donation people since caffeine is a diuretic and they want to make sure you build up your fluids after you’re tapped). Right there where Bush meets Battery and Battery hits Market is this monument, the Mechanics Monument. It was created in honor of Peter Donahue, the cofounder of the city’s Union Iron Works, which I believe was the first heavy industry on the West Coast. Here’s a description of the monument from Gray Brechin in his fine and irascible history, “Imperial San Francisco“:

Douglas Tilden‘s heroic group of five nude men straining to punch a steel plate commemorated both the family that had built the West’s first foundry and the mechanics who built the Donahue fortune. [Mayor] Phelan … reminded the crowd that from the Donahues’ primitive foundry, once located just a block away in Tar Flat, had grown the might Union Iron Words whose ships had earned San Francisco worldwide fame and wealth.”

President McKinley was in the city to unveil the monument in 1901, but begged off because his wife took ill.

(And: another view of the monument a few years after its dedication.)

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Lifestyle Critique

“Robbers of the world, they have exhausted the land and now scour the sea. If their victims are rich, they despoil them; if they are poor, they subjugate them; and neither East nor West can satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal greed both poverty and riches. To robbery, murder, and pillage they give the false name of empire, and when they make a desolation, they call it peace.”

–Part of a speech attributed to the Caledonian chieftain Galgacus in Tacitus’s history “Agricola,” vol. 32, p. 29. Quoted in Gray Brechin’s “Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.”

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