RSB Books

RSB Books

Richard Schwartz

Writer, Historian


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RSB Books

The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty

Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley

Earthquake Exodus, 1906

Berkeley 1900

Circle of Stones

Berkeley 1900, Daily Life at the Turn of the Century
10th Anniversary Edition

10th anniversary edition ISBN: 978-0967820446

The San Francisco Chronicle selected Berkeley 1900 as a Holiday Gift Book of The Year choice in 2000, "Fascinating," Regan McMahon, Chronicle staff

"Buy this book. It's a winner." Mary-Ellen Jones,  Conference of
California Historical Societies, newletter California Historian, Spring 2010 (see review below)


Since its initial publication a decade ago, Berkeley 1900: Daily Life at the Turn of the Century has captivated readers with its unprecedented blend of serious history, fascinating images and heartfelt storytelling. Its eyewitness accounts and unique views of Berkeley a hundred years past show how profoundly the landscape, culture, economy and social values of modern Berkeley have been shaped by what came before. In this special tenth anniversary edition, readers will discover a wealth of new source quotes and nearly 200 additional photos, making Berkeley 1900 
more than ever the definitive account of a pivotal time in the life of one of America’s most beloved cities.

Berkeley 1900: Daily Life at the Turn of the Century, 2nd Edition, By Richard Schwartz

8.5 x 11 inches; 330 pages; 320 images, Paperback

10th anniversary edition ISBN: 978-0967820446; $24.95, Published September 2009. 

Distributed by Sunbelt Publications, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, etc.


Dr. Gray Brechin, Geographer and author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.

" This splendidly rich composition should serve as a model for other communities seeking to understand how they have developed and who they are."

The San Francisco Chronicle selected Berkeley 1900 as a Holiday Gift Book choice in 2000, "Fascinating," Regan McMahon, Chronicle staff

Ex-Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, "Mr. Schwartz has put together a must-read book"

Dr. Charles Wollenberg
, Professor of History, Vista College, "A vivid picture...a fascinating bottom-up view of Berkeley during the most important decade of its history.

Berkeley Architectural Heritage Society's Stephanie Manning

"Berkeley 1900 is the first book to approach a true history of day-to-day life in the neighborhoods at the turn of the century,"

 Table of Contents

1. Origins of Berkeley 1
2. Gypsies 5
3. Our Dear John Muir 9
4. Environment 11
5. Animals 19
6. Life on the Bay 33
7. Crime 41
8. Children 63
9. Injuries and Fatalities 85
10. The Italian Immigrant and the Fountain 99
11. African American Focus 103
12. Asian American Focus 109
13. Focus on Women 119
14. Human Interest 131
15. Love and Marriage 143
16. The Bay Area and the Poor 151
17. Neighborhoods Are Developed 155
18. Saloons and the Temperance Movement 185
19. Milk, the Problem 197
20. Medicine 207
21. Powder Mills 217
22. Fire 227
23. Commerce 235
24. Leisure 265
25. Sports 277
26. International 285
27. Trivia 293
28. Looking Forward in 1900 299
29. Looking Back in 1900 305

BERKELEY 1900, 10th Anniversary Edition is available at bookstores and available to be ordered by them through Sunbelt Publications, Ingram or Baker  & Taylor book distributors. If the bookstore has online ordering, one can order it that way as well. The book is kept in stock by Builders Booksource:

Toll Free in Continental USA: 800.843.2028
Telephone: 510.845.6874
Fax: 510.845.7051
1817 Fourth Street (Near Hearst)
Berkeley, CA 94710
Store hours:
Mon-Sat. 8:30am - 7.00pm
Sun. 10:00am - 6:00pm

BERKELEY 1900, 10th Anniversary Edition is also available ONLINE at Sunbelt Publications at a discount.

SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, posted a photographic gallery of over forty images from "Berkeley 1900."

REVIEWS FOR BERKELEY 1900, 10th Anniversary Edition

3/31/10, California Historian, Published by the Conference of California Historical Societies, Vol. 56, Number 2, Spring 2010, page 21
    Mary-Ellen Jones, Archivist, UC Berkeley Bancroft Library, retired

"In recent years, a complete interpretation of our past has come to be defined less in terms of famous people and momentous happenings and more through an examination of the lives of ordinary people and everyday events.
          In his 10th anniversary edition of Berkeley 1900, Richard Schwartz displays once again a pure gift for taking this interpretation to new heights. From a stack of moldy and discarded Berkeley Daily Gazette newspapers, he has discovered unmined snippets of history to tell his story. He has rediscovered people and events long lost in the cracks of time.
         Each page of Berkeley 1900 is filled with charming, amusing, factual, poignant and always revealing articles showing how life was, how it has changed and how it remains the same. An example of how life was: When was the last time you drank a glass of Baldwin's Celery Soda, guarenteed to cure sick and nervous headaches seasickness and mental fatigue.
          A choice example of how some things never change: An article under the catchy headline "Dandy Dresser Decamps" tells about one James Graham who dissappeared from Berkeley last week, leaving a 17-year old wife and a long list of creditors.
           My all-time favorite article that Schwartz has rescued from obscurity is the following:

Dog Arrested for stealing Doughnuts

Policeman Barff today arrested a foxhound on a charge of petit larceny. The dog was a hound pup which was caught stealing doughnuts from the Capital lunch counter on University near Shattuck and was taken by the officer to the police station. Later it was learned that the dog belonged to Gladstone Morris, residing at 2229 vine Street, and when notified of the trouble into which the dog had gotten himself, Morris agreed to pay for the doughnuts if the dog were turned loose. The dog was permitted to go home.

In this expanded 10th anniversary edition of Berkeley 1900, Richard Schwartz has succeeded once again in producing both accurate history and a good read.
Buy the book. It's a winner."

Reviewed by Mary-Ellen Jones
The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, Retired

10/16/09, Berkeley Voice and all Bay Area News Group papers,
Martin Snapp: The news is history for building contractor

SOME OF THE best histories have been written by amateurs, including Thucydides, Edward Gibbon and, in our own time, Barbara Tuchman, Shelby Foote and David McCullough.
Richard Schwartz is another one. He isn't a history professor; he's a building contractor. But one day in 1996 he happened to be visiting the Berkeley Historical Society when he spotted a two-foot stack of old Berkeley Daily Gazette newspapers from 1900 to 1909 that somebody had donated.
The Historical Society was about to throw them out because they were moldy, and nobody wanted to run the risk of the mold spreading to other collections.
"Hey, I'll take them," he said. And the rest — if you'll pardon the expression — is history.
These newspapers became the genesis of his first book, "Berkeley 1900: Daily Life at the Turn of the Century," published in 2000. Befitting his daytime job as a contractor, he sold it not only in local bookstores, but also in hardware stores.
It was an immediate hit, and no wonder. Who could resist crime stories like this one?
"Too much indulgence in whiskey last night proved to be the undoing of one of the must successful juvenile robber bands that has infested Berkeley for some time. As a result, the gang is broken up and five small boys — Willie Small, aged 8, James Small, aged 9; Fred McNamara, aged 10; John McNamara; aged 13; and Gustav Palache, aged 13; have been made to feel the stern rebuke of the law."
Or this one?
"Perhaps because she feared to undergo the dreaded tuberculin test, or perhaps because her bovine lover no longer smiled at her, a cow of this city committed suicide a few days ago by eating a can of green paint."
Within three weeks, the entire first printing of 2,000 copies sold out. So he printed 8,000 more. And they quickly sold out, too.
People kept bugging him to print more, but he couldn't because there was no room for them in his garage, where he was also storing copies of his second and third books, "Earthquake Exodus 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees" (2005) and "Eccentrics, Heroes and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley" (2007).
But in the 10 years since "Berkeley 1900" was published, people have been coming out of the woodwork with their old family photos, diaries, letters and other artifacts. Schwartz has incorporated them into an expanded 10th anniversary edition, with hundreds of new pictures and stories.
Not all the stories are warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia. In many ways it was a terrible time, with rampant racism ("The fact that two Chinese restaurants are to be opened here is arousing much public indignation") and the constant presence of death. Consider the sad story of the Mushet family:
"Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Mushet of 1831 Derby Street left Berkeley two weeks ago with their four children for a trip to Santa Cruz. On the way down on the train there was a child suffering from diphtheria and, by the time the family arrived in Santa Cruz, the four children had taken ill. Two of them have recovered, but two have passed away. Muriel was six years old and Douglas five."
This isn't stuff you'll find in history textbooks, but it's history just the same — and a lot more fun. "Berkeley 1900" is available in a bookstore — or hardware store — near you.
Reach Martin Snapp at

Berkeley Daily Planet
Arts & Entertainment:
Schwartz’s ‘Berkeley 1900’ Celebrates 10th Birthday
By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 22, 2009

Schwartz, who is originally from Philadelphia and moved to Berkeley after he got out of college in 1973, recalled the “happenstance” way in which the book came about. Author of a single previous book, The Circle of Stones, about a mysterious stone circle in Stampede Valley in the Sierra Nevada, Schwartz began visiting the Berkeley Historical Society, “riveted” by the film of a turn-of-the-century streetcar.

“Later, as I perused the society’s collection of photographs of old Berkeley, I saw fields where there were entire neighborhoods,” he said. “The university was rolling grassland crossed by the willows of Strawberry Creek. Through these pictures, I experienced the past of my adopted home.”

On an early visit to the Society, Schwartz heard that a “foot-and-a-half worth of century-old newspapers that had been donated” were in poor condition from mold and were to be “put in the dumpster.” Schwartz reacted. “I jumped up! I couldn’t imagine them thrown away.” Taking them home, where he thought he’d store them, “instead I put them on my dining room table. They were in bound volumes. I opened one up—and was lost in it for three days, mesmerized.”

Putting yellow Post-Its on pages that struck his eye, Schwartz then started photocopying stories to share with friends, ending up with “30 piles on the living room floor, stories about kids, about animals, crime, medicine, about what they did for fun ... I came in one day and it hit me how I’d share this: 30 piles on the floor, 30 chapters in a book. I couldn’t imagine the town not knowing these stories ... about people just like you and I, living a hundred years ago ... they show you what everyday life was—and their unconscious value system, just as newspapers do today. Though it’s hard for us ‘modern people’ to believe that stuff was written the way it was, with tongue-in-cheek jokes in news stories ... in one article about a bank being robbed, the reporter notes that the bank president ‘held a meeting with himself’! On one hand, it’s a totally different world; on the other, exactly the same. There’s no resolving that; I don’t try.”

When Berkeley 1900 was first published, Schwartz said, “the response was totally unexpected. The whole first print run of 2,000 books sold out in three weeks. One night a friend and I stood outside Pegasus Bookstore on Solano Avenue, watching one person after another buying it, just laughing in disbelief. It was fun placing it in pet stores, movie theaters, hardware stores, places you don’t usually see books. It was 10 months on the local bestseller list; the Chronicle picked it as Holiday Book of the Year.”

Schwartz ruminated on the themes that spring from the old stories and photos.

“You can see the battle of a rural place with farms and animals becoming urban, urban needs budding drop by drop in these articles, about a cow drinking paint, or a horse hit by a train,” he said. “You realize how death was right over their shoulders back then: a young couple takes the train to Santa Cruz for the weekend; by the time they’re back, two of their children have died of diphtheria. People were more on their own back then, except for neighbors. Everybody seemed to belong to fraternal organizations. After the Earthquake, they didn’t wait for government money; they banded together, did it on their own—and when the relief effort worked, disbanded it.”

Schwartz spoke of recurring details he found poignant: “many people, especially immigrants, carried notes around with them, in their back pockets, so if they died, they wouldn’t be buried in the wrong place ... and you realize this place was loaded with animals. An article tells how a bear was spotted in 1905 near the reservoir up by Spruce Street—and in a pioneer family album, I found a picture of a bear on a chain, on Spruce Street. The same bear?

“Because of the book, pioneer families have contacted me and offered to share albums. And I’ve been collecting on my own since the first edition came out. I have a kind of radar, when I see a new image: this image goes with that article. Or whoever calls me with an image, I’ll find an article to match.”

Schwartz cited a few stories that amused him. A building contractor himself, he was taken by a news story about a contractor of a century ago, “reporting a bundle of rope stolen from the back of his wagon—and at the end of the article, it says two detectives were assigned to the case!” Or acerbic pieces, like one about “a famous Berkeley quintessential weirdo, with an overactive imagination, who told everybody he was a government scout, getting married ... kernels of eccentric Berkeley, even back then!”

Commenting on the images, Schwartz said, “The photographs show us what our imaginations aren’t good enough to realize ... what we take for granted is really all so new. I’ve become so moved by these people who found their way into the newspapers, of their everyday heroism—so proud of them, I’ve felt an obligation to share this with the community. It’s less a book than a kind of neighborhood sharing. There’s something grounding about it.”

West County Times
Days Gone By: New photos revive interest in author's history of early Berkeley life
By Nilda Rego, correspondent
Posted: 11/01/2009 01:01:00 AM PDT

RICHARD SCHWARTZ'S day job is building houses, but his passion is local history, especially Berkeley history around the turn of the last century. He loves that particular time period in his adopted home so much that he has now returned to it again and updated his "Berkeley 1900" book, adding what he says are hundreds of new photos, many of which have never been published before.
It was 10 years ago that he published the first edition of "Berkeley 1900." This second one follows the format of the first, interspersing photos with actual news stories out of the Berkeley Daily Gazette from 1900 to 1909, except that this second volume has more photos.
The Gazette story headlined "Gypsies Quarrel in Camp" now has a picture of Bay Area Gypsy women and their children near their tents. Not all the photos are sharp and clear. Some are quite muddled, but they are all fascinating.
The 1905 account of Gypsies in West Berkeley is still a great read:
"Bad blood between two hostile gypsy camps in West Berkeley has sprung up over the retention of two gypsy maidens, who in addition to their beauty are successful fortune tellers and, hence, greatly desirable members of a well-conducted gypsy band."
Both camps, which were on Grayson Street, wanted the fortunetellers, so the story said. And pistol shots were heard one night. The town marshal couldn't get any of the Gypsies to talk about their dispute, so it was

decided that he and his police force would keep a "close watch "... over the sulky foreigners to prevent any serious consequence of the quarrel."
A couple of weeks later, the Gazette published an account that permanent residents of the area had signed petitions asking for the ouster of the Gypsy camps.
"Marshal Vollmer stated that he had already attempted to drive the gypsies away, but found that they held a lease on the property, which does not expire until September 8. Although they pay but $4 a month for the use of the property, it would nevertheless be difficult to drive them off until the lease expires."
The Gypsies apparently did not leave Sept. 8, because the Gazette printed a story Sept. 22 about "the female contingent of the band." Police arrested a Gypsy woman for spitting on a ferryboat. She was fined $50.
"A. A. Knox, representing the company (Key Route), testified that every day about two dozen women of the tribe come to San Francisco, disperse over every portion of the boat to which passengers have access, and by their disgusting conduct and insulting remarks make the lives of the passengers miserable."
Another very interesting set of stories in Schwartz's book deals with Berkeley dairies.
The Berkeley of 1900 was indeed a place where cows could roam and did. The Varsity Creamery Co. put this advertisement in the Gazette's rival newspaper, The Berkeley Reporter, in December 1906: "Wouldn't you prefer to get your milk from a Berkeley dairy that's removed from its herd every cow found consumptive? The policy of doing just such things has increased our business over 600 percent during the last year."
Berkeley dairymen banded together in 1905 to fight a city ordinance regulating the care of dairies and the testing of cows. W.T. Such, proprietor of the Berkeley Farm Creamery, who owned one of the biggest dairies in the East Bay, said he didn't believe in the tuberculin test.
"In the first place this tuberculin test, as I understand it, was vetoed by Governor Pardee and in the second place Berkeley is the only town in the State where the tuberculin test will be made should we be forced to comply with that section of the dairy regulations."
Such's dairy was located on Allston Way. Schwartz included this ad in his book that Such ran in Berkeley newspapers:
"A Berkeley Enterprise Strictly for Berkeley People Only Absolutely pure country milk and cream from healthy cows and fed in a well-ventilated and sanitary barn — fed on only the best food obtainable."
"Berkeley 1900" sells for $24.95 in Berkeley bookstores and online from Schwartz will be appearing at Books Inc. at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at 1760 Fourth St., Berkeley.

10th anniversary edition ISBN: 978-0967820446


RSB Books

The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty

Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley

Earthquake Exodus, 1906

Berkeley 1900

Circle of Stones