103 Years Ago: Ledger Notes from the De Young

Steven Correll, Assistant Registrar, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, sent this timely note today about an unusual collections find. His story gives me great perspective on the extent of our own troubles, 103 years later—Susan Spero

Last December when several of the Fine Arts Museums registrars were looking through the de Young's off site storage facility, one of the senior registrars (Stephen Lockwood) found a series of ledger books that record the weather and daily attendance for the de Young beginning with its opening day in the 19th century. As we looked through the books, one particular ledger was most interesting:

Tuesday, April 17th, 1906. Fine, warm, pleasant day. Attendance: 928.

The next day had a very different entry:

5:15 AM, Wednesday, April 18/06. Terrific Earthquake which demolished the building and destroyed many of the exhibits. --John W. Rogers, Curator

Below the ledger entry Rogers added the note: Museum closed indefinitely.

The next entry to appear in the ledger is: Sunday, November 10, 1907. Cold and cloudy.




You should see the photos of what the original building looked like after the quake--they are also a part of the Museum's archives. That original building, constructed in plaster as part of the 1893 Midwinter Fair, was a miniature Egyptian-style pyramid.
After the quake, it was not leveled to the ground, as one might imagine, but the roof had a severe crack.
Most of the charter collections have been preserved, however, and the new de Young was built in part to finally resolve the challenges of maintaining such a collection on sand in Earthquake Country.
Good for Stephen Lockwood for uncovering this valuable archival testimony!

I remember those ledgers. Also in the old accession ledgers, there was a stamp that was used to designate objects that were destroyed....listing the significant date.....

I agree! What a wonderful source for gaining perspective on our own times and travails.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Just want to see if you are a robot.