Sunday, February 18, 2018

Handkerchief Heroes: a slide show and discussion with Ann Mahony


Handkerchiefs have served us in life’s tender moments – catching a bride’s tears of joy, worn over a soldier’s heart as he marches into battle, fashioned into a newborn’s christening bonnet, as well as life’s large celebrations – waving bon voyage from an ocean liner, cheering “hooray” at the Super Bowl or royal coronation. Handkerchiefs were the Pinterest of their day, recording our progression from railroad to air travel, from the birth of television to women’s right to vote, from Shakespearean sonnets to children’s nursery rhymes. Come discover the stories hidden in their folds; let your eye delight, your mind engage and your heart connect with these survivors of history.

Join Ann Mahony, a historian of vintage artifacts and handkerchief collector, as she shares pieces from her private collection.

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Main Library - Learning Studio, 5th Floor

Visit the Art, Music & Recreation Center on the 4th Floor to visit The Amazing Handkerchief Chronicler of Romance, Heroism, History, Fashion and Art through the Ages display and for your chance to win a vintage wedding handkerchief.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

NEW EXHIBIT (1/27/18 - 5/17/18)

The Amazing Handkerchief:
Chronicler of Romance, Heroism, History, Fashion and Art through the Ages

The ubiquitous handkerchief is with us in large and small moments of life–wrapping a child’s cut finger, catching a bride’s tears of joy, worn over a soldier’s heart into battle. Handkerchiefs date back to the Chou dynasty (1000 BCE) and possibly earlier. Once considered a sign of nobility, they later transitioned into a coveted accessory for both fashion and flirting.

Their size and versatility made handkerchiefs the perfect souvenir. From the Paris Exposition of 1900 to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, handkerchiefs carried images of architecture, amusements and adventures to share and remember. Many were saved and passed to future generations, along with the stories and memories they carried.

In times of sacrifice - the Great Depression, World War II - handkerchiefs were often the lone adornment a woman could afford, costing between five and fifty cents. Vogue magazine carried ads for “Handkerchief of the Month”. After the war, Balmain, Dior, Rochas, and others continued to feature handkerchiefs as a final touch to their haute couture.

These couriers of history carried images that recorded our progression from steamship to railway to flight, from women’s suffrage to the birth of television, and from children’s nursery rhymes to Shakespearean sonnets. “Hankies” chronicled adventure, travel, romance, history, politics, sports and more, with style, wit and enchanting graphics. Come discover the stories hidden in their evanescent folds. Your mind will engage and your heart will connect with these heroes of history. Also, you'll have a chance to win your very own vintage handkerchief in our "Hankie in a Hankie" drawing! (see the Art, Music & Recreation reference desk for details)

This private collection has been curated and shared by Ann Mahony, a historian of vintage artifacts and handkerchief collector (over 5,000+ pieces including several over a century old!). Her blogs include www.TheAccidentalCollector.com and www.HandkerchiefHeroes.com. She is a member of the Textile Arts Council, deYoung Museum, The Vintage Fashion Guild, The Costume Society of America and the National Speakers Association. Ann is a handwriting and forgery expert by trade (www.forgerysleuth.com) and is thus habituated to searching for the obscure and interesting.

Related Program: Handkerchief Heroes
Slide show and discussion with Ann Mahony
Sunday, February 25, 2 PM
Learning Studio, Bridge at the Main, 5th Floor

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ukulele for Absolute Beginners


On Jan. 27th the Art, Music, and Recreation Center launched its first ever ukulele workshop. This is an on-going workshop for those with no experience playing an instrument. Staff are there to help patrons with the basics, which include, tuning, holding, strumming and forming chords on the ukulele.

The workshop meets the last Saturday of the month in the 5th floor Learning Center from 2-3pm. It is open to all ages and ukulele's are provided (to use in class) for the first 10 patrons. You can also bring your own or borrow one from a friend.

Here's a link to the next workshop on February 24, 2018.

For those ready to dig into our collection of ukulele song and method books, here are a few suggestions:


Jake Shimabukuro Teaches Ukulele Lessons (Hal Leonard, 2017).

The 4 Chord Ukulele Songbook (Cherry Lane Music, 2013).

Play Ukulele Today!: A Complete Guide to the Basics. Level 1, by Barrett Tagliarino (Hal Leonard, 2015).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area (1996)

Since the days of the Gold Rush, Asian-Americans have made significant contributions to the Bay Area's culture.  Yet for many years the arts and literature of Asian-Americans remained on the margins.  In the 1960s student movements on college campuses led to community activism that helped bring Asian American culture into the wider community.

One result of this activity was the founding of the Kearny Street Workshop in 1972.  Elsa S. Cameron described the Workshop arising "because of the initiative of ethnic artists who decided to go back and work in their communities."  She quotes founder Michael Chin who described the impetus as a "search for cultural identity."  Nancy Hom places the work of the Kearny Street Workshop as coming within an "exploration" that looked into questions of "identity, history and cultural pride."

In 1996 the San Francisco Art Commission Cultural Equity Endowment funded the Asian Art Museum and the Kearny Street Workshop to compile and publish the Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.  More than twenty years old now this work is no longer a timely guide to the Asian American arts and artists, but it does serve as an important time capsule documenting the activity of the time.

The Resource Guide is a directory of individuals and organizations active in the visual, performing and literary arts.  It provides contact information, a description of which ethnic community each person or organization represents, the number of years that they have been presenting programs and who their primary audience is.  Each entry also includes the artist's or organization's mission statement.  Occasionally an email address is given for a contact, but at this stage nobody had a webpage yet.  An index at the end of the volume is organized by artistic form.

A lot of changes can happen over a couple of decades. Many of the organizations have moved or ceased to be active. Many artists have moved out of the Bay Area or have passed away.  (But it is nice to see an entry for the late Ruth Asawa).

It was interesting to see our City's elected Public Defender Jeff Adachi (Jeffrey Adachi in the directory) listed as the contact for the apparently now longer extant Asian American Arts Foundation (AAAF).  This organization's mission was to "[provide] financial support and public recognition and acknowledgement for Asian American Art projects that present and true to life portrayals of Asian Americans."  This foundation had a web presence at http://www.aaafoundation.com/ that was last updated on June 12, 2000 and that disappeared by sometime in 2002.  (The "Wayback Machine" of Archive.org has captured these webpages for the years 1998 to 2002).

Nowadays the information in this directory would be readily available on the web.  But as we have seen webpages come and go on the internet.  The Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area gives us a picture of a vibrant scene for one moment.  It provides a way to find the roots of part of the Bay Area's rich cultural tapestry.


Asian American Arts Foundation [website archived on March 22, 2002]

Cameron, Elsa S., "The San Francisco Art Comission's Neighborhood Arts Program," in The Art Museum as Educator: A Collection of Studies as Guides to Practice and Policy by the Council on Museums and Education in the Visual Arts (University of California Press, 1978).

Hom, Nancy, "Kearny Street Workshop," Nancy Hom Arts (March 24, 2009).

Resource Guide of Asian and Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area (Asian Art Museum: Kearny Street Workshop, 1996).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of An Obsession


With Schubert's Winter Journey we do get what the subtitle promises, an "anatomy of an obsession." -- tenor Ian Bostridge's obsessive plumbing of the depths of the song cycle Winterreise.  It’s a real treat to read a loving account of a piece of music by somebody who has lived fully with the composition.

Bostridge has written a chapter for each of the 24 songs of the cycle where he gives a close reading of both Wilhelm Müller's poems and Schubert's musical setting.  He also brings a personal perspective to his account, describing how, as a child, he came to Schubert’s music and Winterreise, and the variety of circumstances where he has performed the cycle.

He details Schubert's creative path to the work as well as its performance history.  Bostridge goes into the circumstances of composer's life, discusses his circle of friends, plus the literature, politics, wars, censorship of that time, as well as Schubert's health difficulties and their effect on his outlook.

The changing reception and meaning of the work over time is also discussed, even the work’s place in Nationalist Socialist Germany.  Climate science, energy usage, changes in transportation, changes in social and sexual mores through history are not outside the book's purview.

Bostridge writes that the complete Winterreise was performed for the first time in 1860 by Julius Stockhausen.  Other sources, most recently Graham Johnson's Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs, state that the complete was first performed by Stockhausen in 1851.

The first complete performance of Winterreise was given in San Francisco on November 16, 1941 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, then located at 3438 California Street.


San Francisco Call November 14, 1941, source: San Francisco Programs. Music.

Pianist Ashley Pettis reviewed the performance in The Argonaut. (Pettis, a California native, had founded the Composers Forum Laboratory in New York in 1935 which he moved to San Francisco when he joined the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1940).

He was struck that this was the cycle's first complete San Francisco performance which he described as "an illuminating commentary on the general run of program building, especially by singers, where, paradoxically, the lesser often obscures the greater." He reported that "Nicholas Goldschmidt succeeded to a remarkable degree in projecting the deeply subjective moods of Schubert's great songs" and that "Carl Fuerstner, at the piano, was completely en rapport with the singer as well as the requirements of Schubert's difficult and musically demanding accompaniments."
 source: The Argonaut (November 21, 1941).

Pettis sums up the event:
In the hands of these artists, who approached their task with admirable and unusual self-abnegation, Schubert's Winterreise sounded as fresh and modern as the day they were born, and took their listeners on a journey of rare musical experience for which we shall ever be grateful.
Nowadays a complete performance, while still a special occasion, is not such a rare event.  The library offers several recordings, in CD, LP, and streaming audio and video formats.  There are also myriad performances online. One recent treat in our collection is a DVD performance of the cycle by Matthias Goerne accompanied by Markus Hinterhäuser with an animated film by South African artist William Kentridge.

Even though it's an in-depth look at a complex musical composition, Bostridge’s presentation includes very few passage that require a knowledge of music or music theory. A read through Schubert's Winter Journey will deeply enrich the experience and understanding of this timeless music.


"American Music's Spark Plug," by Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle (September 1, 1940), p. 26.

Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs by Graham Johnson; translations of the song texts by Richard Wigmore (Yale University Press, 2014).

Julius Stockhausen: Der Sänger des deutschen Liedes (Englert und Schlosser, 1927).

"Music," by Ashley Pettis, The Argonaut (November 21, 1941), p. 14.

San Francisco Programs. Music (San Francisco Public Library, Oct./Dec. 1941).

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy Of An Obsession by Ian Bostridge (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).

Winterreise [videorecording] by Franz Schubert (C Major Entertainment, 2017).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Community Music School String Quartet (1926), pt. 2

Community Music Center student orchestra (1924), source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

In our scrapbook collection we have a typewritten program of 1923 performances at the San Francisco Public Library for the City of San Francisco 3rd Annual Music Week.  This event was co-sponsored by the University of California Extension Division.


The Community Music Center (then called the Community Music School Settlement) performed on the morning of November 3, 1923.  The two student conductors, Preston Hartman and Alfred Bousquet, were members of the 1926 string quartet.


An Oakland Tribune reviewer attending the convention of the California Federation of Music Clubs in 1924 took special notice of this orchestra .  He described them as
 a determined group of young fiddlers who we delighted to hear not alone for the good sort of music they offered but for the infection delight they took in offering it. Then there was one little shaver, Preston Hartman by name, who stood right out in front and led his mates with as magnificent an air as ever John Phillip Sousa could have mustered.
Preston Hartman was very active with the Community Music School.  At age 12 he had written an arrangement of the lullaby "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" for his fellow students to play.


 source: San Francisco Examiner January 3, 1926

A 1926 article tells of Jeanette Davis and Preston Hartman meeting with San Francisco Symphony conductor Alfred Hertz who gave them conducting tips. According to their yearbook, The Red and White, Preston Hartman led Lowell High School's string quartet in 1927.

 Preston Hartman - source The Red and White [yearbook], December 1927.

After graduating he went to work as a clerk at the Anglo-California National Bank, but he remained an amateur musician throughout his life.  According to his 2005 obituary he performed with the Shrine Band. A 1938 article mentioned that he was a member of the Berkeley Violin Club orchestra.  He also performed in the Marin Symphony Orchestra.  He also was a member of the orchestra for The Family, an all-male social club.


The published script of the 1946 Family Flight play of 1946 shows Preston Hartman as a member of The Everfaithful, the orchestra that accompanied the club's performances.  Here he performed alongside San Francisco Symphony musicians like Caeser Addimando, Fred A. Baker, Julius Haug, Ernest Kubitschek, Merrill L. Remington, Robert Rourke, Leslie Jerome Schivo, Rudy Seiger, Rogers F. Shoemaker, and Erich Weiler


source: San Francisco Chronicle (February 15, 2006).

Preston Hartman was born February 25, 1911 and died November 8, 2005.

Alfred Bousquet - source: The Mission [yearbook] Fall 1927

Alfred Bousquet was a musical standout at Mission High School.  He played in the all-state orchestra.  He also represented his school in the National Orchestra at the Superintendent's Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 1927. According to the 1940 census he completed 3 years of college.  He then worked as a teller at Bank of America.  Alfred Bousquet was born March 4, 1911 and died January 19, 1981.

The fourth member of the Community Music School String Quartet, Emmet Peterson, went on to attend and graduate from St. Mary's College in 1931.  In 1940 he became a civil law clerk for the Municipal Court.

Peterson remained active with the Community Music School / Center throughout his life.  According to a 1968 memorial article in the Minute Book, a publication of the Association of Municipal Court Clerks of California, he was active with the school for 50 years.  He later joined the school's board and served as treasurer.  During the 1950s he was involved with the arrangements committee for the school's rummage sales.

source: San Francisco Chronicle (February 22, 1959)

He also performed at the Community Music Center.  On February 27, 1959 he took part in a chamber music concert of baroque and modern music.


His obituary in the April 17, 1965 Chronicle described him as "one of the most admired and beloved figures in City Hall."  The Community Music Center honored him by presenting a black pine tree to the Strybing Arboretum with a plaque in Peterson's honor.  Emmet J. Peterson was born December 18, 1911 and died April 15, 1965.

source: San Francisco Chronicle (April 28, 1966)

None of the members of the Community Music School's String Quartet of 1926 went on to achieve fame as musicians.  But they all assumed role as hidden musical citizens within the wider musical life of San Francisco.


"Berkeley Violin club to give annual concert," Berkeley Daily Gazette (March 23, 1938).

"Children to give concert today," San Francisco Chronicle (June 1, 1923).

Danforth, Roy Harrison, "New themes fill delegates time, "Oakland Tribune April 30, 1924.

"Emmet Peterson," San Francisco Chronicle (April 17, 1965).

The Mission (Associated Students of the Mission High School, Spring; Fall 1927).

"Music school plans annual rummage sale," San Francisco Chronicle (April 4, 1952).

"New relief from 'atticolitis'," San Francisco Chronicle (January 29, 1956).

"Ninety will be graduated from St. Mary's College," San Francisco Chronicle (May 19, 1931).

"Out of the past, ten years ago today," San Rafael Daily Independent Journal (January 24, 1951).

"Pine tree to be presented to Arboretum," San Francisco Chronicle (April 28, 1926).

"Preston Hartman," San Francisco Chronicle (February 15, 2006).

So We Built a Church for "Steve"; Being the story of the building of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Wayside / the book by Richard Prosser; the music by Charles Runyan; general direction of Vincent E. Duffey. Based on a paper read at the Flight of 1943 by Harald Pracht; presented by the players and musicians of the Family, in the Valley of Portola on Sunday evening, September 1, 1946. The flight play for 1946 (The Family, 1947).

The Red and White (Lowell High School Students Association, December 1927).

"Rummage sale set for April 1 and 2," San Francisco Chronicle (January 30, 1953).

San Francisco Programs. Music (San Francisco Public Library, 1923).

"Two civil service posts awarded," San Francisco Chronicle (February 29, 1940).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Community Music School String Quartet (1926)

Community Music Center string quartet 1926. In the courtyard of CMC. Left to right, Jeanette, Alfred, Preston, Emmet. (source: San Francisco Historic Photograph Collection)

The 1926 might have marked a high point in the early life of the San Francisco Community Music Center (then called the Community Music School). One of their notable successes was their string quartet.  The San Francisco Examiner's esteemed music critic Redfern Mason wrote an May 16, 1926 article that brings to life this photograph from the Library's Historical Photograph Collection.
On Saturday afternoon of Music Week I heard four young people--children, most of them--play a Mozart string quartet.  A week earlier I had listened to them at Santa Monica, when they played for the California Federation of Musical Clubs. They were Jeanette Davis, Preston Hartman, Alfred Bousquet and Emmet Peterson, and they played with such aplomb and put so much joy and beauty into their work that it was a privilege to be there to hear them.
It was no parading of geniuses; there was not a Wunderkind among them. What we saw and heard was much more encouraging to ordinary mortality than that. We sat in our places and, one after the other, little lads and lasses came and played the piano and fiddle--played with manifest pleasure, as if something had come into their lives which lent the moments gladness and took the dullness out of the daily round.
Mason gives names to the members of the string quartet - Jeanette Davis playing first violin, Alfred Bousquet playing second violin, Preston Hartman playing viola, and Emmet Peterson playing 'cello.

The youngest person in the photograph was Jeanette B. Davis.


source: The Violinist (May 1918)

According to earlier newspaper coverage, Jeanette Davis began playing violin at age 5. After studying for only 5 months she was featured at a concert of the Greater San Francisco Conservatory of Music directed by Sigmund Anker. (Anker was Yehudi Menuhin's first teacher). At age 6 she performed at 1920 concert fundraiser for a Jewish temple to be built in the Western Addition. Later that year she performed at a Christmas program at the YMCA on Golden Gate Avenue.

source: San Francisco Examiner (February 6, 1924)

She was featured in a 1924 article in the San Francisco Examiner where she described meeting and playing for virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz who told her that she would be "one of the great ones."  The article noted that she was the first violinist in her orchestra at John Swett Junior High School.  She also told the reporter that in addition to playing violin she liked raw carrots and outdoor sports.

She later graduated from Galileo High School in 1931.


Source: The Telescope, Galileo High School (Spring 1931).

That same year she was feted by the San Francisco Symphony for an essay she wrote about music for the San Francisco Young People's Symphony.

Jeanette Davis is pictured at the far right. source: San Francisco Chronicle (January 31, 1931).

Little is known of Jeanette Davis's later music making.  The 1924 article tells us that her mother was Emma Davis.  A search in the Ancestry database revealed that her maiden name was Emma O. Hedberg. The 1930 census shows her working as a hairdresser and living in Daly City with Jeanette.  During the mid-1930s she had a hair-dressing salon in the Outer Richmond.  The same City Directory shows Jeanette living with her and working as a stenographer.  By 1940, a sexagenarian Emma Davis was working as a housekeeper on Nob Hill with Jeanette living nearby.  Mother and daughter lived together or as neighbors through the end of the 1950s.

Ancestry.com provides the following information about Jeanette Betty Davis recorded by the Social Security Administration:

Birth Date: 25 Jan 1915
Birth Place: San Francisco
[San Francisco, California
Death Date: 23 Apr 2004
Father: Joseph Davis
Mother: Emma O Hedberg


The birth year provided is probably not be accurate (The 1930 Census listed her as 16 years old).  If it is, then Jeanette was three and half years old at her concert debut.  The Social Security Administration gave her name variously as Jean and Jeanette.  In 1965 she was listed as Jeanette Betty Vanoss, in 1982 she was listed as Jeanette Betty Kabakoff and at her death in 2004 her name was recorded as Jeanette B. Van Oss.

After 1931, Jeanette Davis largely disappeared from visible concert life.  There is only an announcement for a November 25, 1941 concert of the Chamber Orchestra of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. At this program Marcia Van Dyke (a future member of the San Francisco Symphony and a minor Hollywood star) and a Jeanette Davis played the solo parts the Bach Concerto for Two Violins.

Yet she must have kept up her violin playing.  In the 1948-1949 Polk's Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory has an entry for Jeanette Davis and shows her working as a musician.  In the 1961 and 1962 directories her profession is recorded as "music teacher."  Around the time her last name changed to Van Oss in 1965 her name stopped appearing in the San Francisco directories.

Jeanette B. Davis never lived up to Jascha Heifitz's prediction. It seems that she had a rather difficult life and lived much of her life close to her widowed mother.  But there is evidence that although she did not achieve a name for herself in music, music remained a part of her life and that she profited from it at times.  And hopefully music was a "manifest pleasure" for her as it was when she was a young musician.

In the next entry we will see what became of the other Community Music School String Quartet members.


"Anker String Orchestra Concert," Pacific Coast Musical Review vol. 34, no. 1 (April 6, 1918), 4.

"Community Chest Music Work: Music Talk to Chest Kiddies," San Francisco Chronicle (January 3, 1926).

Ennis, Helen Lewis, "Great Future Expected for 11-Year Old Local Violinist," San Francisco Examiner (February 6, 1924).

"Essay Prize Winners Take Bow at Final Concert by Symphony," San Francisco Chronicle (January 31, 1931).

Mason, Redfern, "The Community Music School Brings Beauty Into Young Life and Helps the Old," San Francisco Examiner May 16, 1926.

"Plans for Jewish Temple To Be Built Here," San Francisco Chronicle (March 18, 1920).

The Telescope (Galileo High School, Spring 1931).

"Thanksgiving Concert To Be Given In San Francisco," Berkeley Daily Gazette (November 19, 1941).