Sunday January 17, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Cable Car

On this Day:

1871, the 1st cable car is patented by Andrew Smith Hallidie in the US (Cable cars begin service in 1873).

Andrew Smith Hallidie (March 16, 1836 – April 24, 1900) was the promoter of the Clay Street Hill Railroad in San Francisco, USA. This was the world’s first practical cable car system, and Hallidie is often therefore regarded as the inventor of the cable car and father of the present day San Francisco cable car system, although both claims are open to dispute. He also introduced the manufacture of wire rope to California, and at an early age was a prolific builder of bridges in the Californian interior.

Under the name of A. S. Hallidie & Co., he commenced the manufacture of wire rope in a building at Mason and Chestnut Streets in San Francisco in 1857.

Hallidie was heavily involved in bridge building. During 1861–2, he constructed bridges across the Klamath River at Weitchpeck, at Nevada City, across the American River at Folsom, and across the Bear, Trinity, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne rivers. In 1863 he built a bridge across the Fraser River, 10 miles (16 km) upstream of Yale at Alexandra in British Columbia.

Also in 1863, Hallidie married Martha Elizabeth Woods. They had no children. In 1864, he became a United States citizen. In 1865, he gave up bridge building in order to devote himself entirely to his wire rope manufacturing business, which was experiencing increased demand from the silver mines on the Comstock Lode.

In 1867, Hallidie invented the Hallidie ropeway, a form of aerial tramway used for transporting ore and other material across mountainous districts, which he successfully installed a number of locations, and later patented.

Accounts differ as to exactly how involved Hallidie was in the inception of the Clay Street Hill Railway. One version has him taking over the promotion of the line when the original promoter, Benjamin Brooks, failed to raise the necessary capital. In another version, Hallidie was the instigator, inspired by a desire to reduce the suffering incurred by the horses that hauled streetcars up Jackson Street, from Kearny to Stockton Street.

There is also doubt as to when exactly the first run of the cable car occurred. The franchise required the first run no later than August 1, 1873, but at least one source reports that the run took place a day late, on August 2, although the city chose not to void the franchise. Some accounts say that the first gripman hired by Hallidie looked down the steep hill from Jones and refused to operate the car, so Hallidie took the grip himself and ran the car down the hill and up again without any problems.

The named engineer of the Clay Street line was William Eppelsheimer. However, Hallidie’s previous experience of cables and cable haulage systems make it likely that he contributed to the design of the system.

The Clay Street line started regular service on September 1, 1873, and was a financial success. In addition, Hallidie’s patents on the cable car design were stringently enforced on cable car promoters around the world and made him a rich man (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

I remember my childhood in San Francisco quite fondly, when Dad used to roll us down the hills inside car tires.

Those were Good Years.

Second, a Song:

“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear [Some] Flowers in Your Hair)” is a psychedelic pop song, written by John Phillips, and sung by Scott McKenzie. The song was produced and released in May 1967 by Phillips and Lou Adler, who used it to promote their Monterey International Pop Music Festival held in June of that year.

John Phillips played guitar on the recording and session musician Gary L. Coleman played orchestra bells and chimes. The bass guitar of the song was supplied by session musician Joe Osborn. Hal Blaine played drums. The song became one of the best-selling singles of the 1960s in the world, reaching the fourth position on the US charts and the number one spot on the UK charts. In Ireland, the song was number one for one week, in New Zealand the song spent five weeks at number one, and in Germany it was six weeks at number one.

The single is purported to have sold over seven million copies worldwide. In Central Europe, young people adopted “San Francisco” as an anthem, leading the song to be widely played during Czechoslovakia’s 1968 Prague Spring uprising.

The song has been featured in several films, including Frantic, The Rock, and Forrest Gump. It was also played occasionally by Led Zeppelin as part of the improvised section in the middle of “Dazed and Confused”. U2’s Bono also led the audience in singing this song during their PopMart performances in the San Francisco Bay Area on June 18 and 19, 1997. New Order covered the song on July 11, 2014, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. A cover of the song by Michael Marshall appears in the 2019 film The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

McKenzie’s version of the song has been called “the unofficial anthem of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, including the Hippie, Anti-Vietnam War and Flower power movements.” (per Wikipedia).

Here is Scott McKenzie performing “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear [Some] Flowers in Your Hair)”. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

I hope I go to Heaven, and when I do, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does when he gets there. He looks around and says, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.’ – Herb Caen

Simon Chester of Toronto, Ontario, Canada brought to my attention that Benny Goodman’s concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City was not the first concert held there that involved ‘colored’ people (as was said back then). Simon’s searching unearthed which is the program held Thursday, May 2, 1912 at 8 PM at Carnegie Hall.  It was presented by the Music School Settlement for Colored People, Inc. by the Clef Club Orchestra.  The program was a “Concert of Negro Music”.  This concert predates Benny’s concert of January 16, 1938 by a wide margin.  Thanks Simon!


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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