Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin

Front Cover
University of California Press, 2001 - History - 402 pages
18 Reviews
San Francisco is a city clouded in myth. This urban biography provides an entirely new vision of the city's history, laying bare the inner dynamics of the regional civilization centered in San Francisco. Imperial San Francisco examines the far-reaching environmental impact that one city and the elite families that hold power in it have had on the Pacific Basin for over a century and a half. The book provides a literate, myth-shattering interpretation of the hidden costs that the growth of San Francisco has exacted on its surrounding regions, presenting along the way a revolutionary new theory of urban development. Written in a lively, accessible style, the narrative is filled with vivid characters, engrossing stories, and a rich variety of illustrations.
As he uncovers the true costs of building an imperial city, Gray Brechin addresses the dynastic ambitions of frontier oligarchies, the environmental and social effects of the mining industry, the creation of two universities, the choice of imperial architecture to symbolize the aspirations of San Franciscans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, manipulation of public thought by the city's media, and more. He traces the exploitation of both local and distant regions by prominent families--the Hearsts, de Youngs, Spreckelses, and others--who gained wealth and power through mining, control of ranching, water and energy, transportation, real estate, and weapons.
This broad history of San Francisco is a story of greed and ambition on an epic scale. Imperial San Francisco incorporates rare period illustrations, personal correspondence, and public statements to show how a little-known power elite has used the city as a tool to increase its own wealth and power. Brechin's story advances a new way of understanding urban history as he traces the links among environment, economy, and technology that led, ultimately, to the creation of the atomic bomb and the nuclear arms race.
Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000 San Francisco is a city clouded in myth. This urban biography provides an entirely new vision of the city's history, laying bare the inner dynamics of the regional civilization centered in San Francisco. Imperial San Francisco examines the far-reaching environmental impact that one city and the elite families that hold power in it have had on the Pacific Basin for over a century and a half. The book provides a literate, myth-shattering interpretation of the hidden costs that the growth of San Francisco has exacted on its surrounding regions, presenting along the way a revolutionary new theory of urban development. Written in a lively, accessible style, the narrative is filled with vivid characters, engrossing stories, and a rich variety of illustrations.
As he uncovers the true costs of building an imperial city, Gray Brechin addresses the dynastic ambitions of frontier oligarchies, the environmental and social effects of the mining industry, the creation of two universities, the choice of imperial architecture to symbolize the aspirations of San Franciscans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, manipulation of public thought by the city's media, and more. He traces the exploitation of both local and distant regions by prominent families--the Hearsts, de Youngs, Spreckelses, and others--who gained wealth and power through mining, control of ranching, water and energy, transportation, real estate, and weapons.
This broad history of San Francisco is a story of greed and ambition on an epic scale. Imperial San Francisco incorporates rare period illustrations, personal correspondence, and public statements to show how a little-known power elite has used the city as a tool to increase its own wealth and power. Brechin's story advances a new way of understanding urban history as he traces the links among environment, economy, and technology that led, ultimately, to the creation of the atomic bomb and the nuclear arms race.
Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000
  

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
6
4 stars
6
3 stars
5
2 stars
1
1 star
0

Review: Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (California Studies in Critical Human Geography #3)

User Review  - catharine - Goodreads

A good overview of local California history, including the backstory on Hetche Hetchy. Read full review

Review: Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (California Studies in Critical Human Geography #3)

User Review  - Patrick - Goodreads

Decent, good background to how SF got to where it is. A little overboard on the wickedness of (old time) capitalism. Read full review

Contents

III
19
IV
22
V
23
VI
25
VII
29
VIII
30
IX
36
X
38
LXVII
184
LXVIII
185
LXIX
188
LXX
191
LXXI
192
LXXII
194
LXXIII
197
LXXIV
198

XI
44
XII
49
XIII
53
XIV
58
XV
61
XVI
63
XVII
64
XVIII
66
XIX
71
XX
72
XXI
73
XXII
75
XXIII
77
XXIV
79
XXV
80
XXVI
84
XXVII
89
XXVIII
92
XXIX
93
XXX
96
XXXI
98
XXXII
99
XXXIII
102
XXXIV
104
XXXV
106
XXXVI
108
XXXVII
113
XXXIX
116
XL
119
XLI
121
XLII
123
XLIII
125
XLIV
130
XLV
132
XLVI
135
XLVII
138
XLVIII
142
XLIX
144
L
149
LI
151
LII
154
LIII
156
LIV
157
LV
160
LVI
161
LVII
165
LVIII
171
LIX
172
LX
173
LXI
174
LXII
175
LXIII
177
LXIV
178
LXV
180
LXVI
182
LXXV
200
LXXVI
202
LXXVII
204
LXXVIII
205
LXXIX
206
LXXX
208
LXXXI
209
LXXXII
211
LXXXIII
213
LXXXIV
214
LXXXV
217
LXXXVI
221
LXXXVII
222
LXXXVIII
226
LXXXIX
229
XC
230
XCI
231
XCII
235
XCIII
238
XCIV
243
XCV
245
XCVI
249
XCVII
252
XCVIII
256
XCIX
261
C
262
CI
266
CII
267
CIII
269
CIV
270
CV
274
CVI
279
CVII
280
CVIII
281
CIX
284
CX
286
CXI
289
CXII
291
CXIII
292
CXIV
295
CXV
297
CXVI
300
CXVII
302
CXVIII
304
CXIX
305
CXX
307
CXXI
309
CXXII
311
CXXIII
321
CXXIV
323
CXXV
331
CXXVI
359
CXXVII
361
CXXVIII
389
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2001)

Gray Brechin is a historical geographer who received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a journalist and television producer, and is coauthor of Farewell, Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream (California 1999).

Bibliographic information