More Year of the Bay History Mysteries Solved

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Our July 15 #historymystery, from the San Francisco Public Library. All that we knew about this photo was the general neighborhood of San Francisco's Bayview/Hunter's Point.

Here is a peek into another one of our Year of the Bay history mysteries, and the fantastic feedback users like you have contributed so far.

Our #historymystery from July 15th, contributed by the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center, depicts a crowd of people gathering around a ship docked somewhere in San Francisco’s Hunters Point neighborhood, precise date and location unknown. Judging by the crowd the photo, the decorations on the ship, and the photographer present to capture the event, it appears to depict a launch party of sorts. But when was it?

Detail of a photographer capturing the festivities in our mystery photo.

Our friends over at the California Historical Society have been diligently sharing our mysteries with their community, and we received some great information about the steamer in the photo from one of their followers, Ramona Walker. Ramona discovered that the ship, seen as the “Fort Sutter” in the photo, took passengers from San Francisco through the Delta to Sacramento. Also, she discovered it’s launch date! Here is an excerpt from the article she found, from a series about the history of the Sacramento River:

“…the four-deck steamer Fort Sutter, which was built by Sacramento Bay Shipbuilders, was constructed two years following the building of the Capital City. In a well attended event held in San Francisco on Nov. 11, 1912, the Capital City left its shore while Eva Lowry, winner of a Sacramento High School contest for the best essay about John A. Sutter, broke a Sacramento Valley Winery champagne bottle over the steamer’s bow. Prior to breaking the bottle, Lowry raised it above her head and said, “I christen thee Fort Sutter.””

Could this be the date of our photograph? David Gallagher, from the wonderful Western Neighborhoods Project, then chimed in with even more great sources about the Fort Sutter’s launch:

Excerpt from an article about the Fort Sutter's launch in the San Francisco Call, Volume 112, Number 165, 12 November 1912 (click image for full article).

Some details about the Fort Sutter from the article: “The Fort Sutter measures 1,200 tons gross and is a duplicate of the Capital City, which was built at the same yard in 1910. The interior finishing is mahogany, birch and white cedar. The social hall is lighted by an art glass dome. 30 feet long. Passengers are afforded every comfort and luxury possible in a floating hotel. There is hot and cold running water in every stateroom and the suites are provided with private bathrooms.”

Excerpt from the 1913 San Francisco City Directory, which shows the Fort Sutter's shipbuilding firm of Schultze, Robertson & Schultze (click for source).

Gallagher discovered from the above San Francisco Call article that the Fort Sutter was built by the shipbuilding firm of Schultze, Robertson & Schultze, and thus looked up their business in San Francisco’s old City Directories, now online. Their address was listed at 1151 Evans Ave., which is indeed close to the Hunter’s Point area, the only original piece of information we had from the San Francisco Public Library. This is where, according to the same Call article Gallagher found, the launch of the Fort Sutter took place in November 11, 1912.

The original location of the Schultze, Robertson & Schultze shipbuilding firm, close to the San Francisco Bay.
The firm's location on a more zoomed-out map of San Francisco.
All that remains around the area today.

Now we can change the caption of our photo: “Crowds watch the launching of the Fort Sutter from the shipyard where it was built in San Francisco’s Bayview/Hunter’s Point neighborhood, on November 11, 1912.” It’s pin has been updated with this and more.

A bonus source from Ramona, who also found this photo of the Fort Sutter later in its life, from the Sacramento Public Library:

The Fort Sutter in 1947, still painted in wartime grey. From the Sacramento Public Library .

Thanks to Ramona and David for giving us so much new information about our mystery photo! We went from knowing virtually nothing about it to having a precise date, location, and context.

Our history mysteries are truly a collaborative effort, and a great way to get in touch with our wonderful Historypin community. Very soon we envision Historypin becoming a hub for this type of crowdsourcing, with mysteries solved every day!

You can find all of our past history mysteries on our Facebook page, with the hashtag #historymystery. Explore and give your feedback, there are always more stories to tell about them!