Music for the People, Praise for the Donor: Spreckels’ Temple of Music and the Public Spirit of San Francisco


The Temple of Music was Claus Spreckels’ most expensive gift to his adopted hometown of San Francisco. It was a concession to his son, Adolph B. Spreckels, who served very successfully as a park commissioner and who enlisted many members of his class to improve the Golden Gate Park. The document provides a good sense of the bourgeois male club culture of the era. It also gives insights into the German-American network in San Francisco: Now only was Frederick W. Dohrmann (1842-1914) a successful, first-generation, German-American crockery merchant, and, from 1896, the owner of California’s first department store, the Emporium, he was also a driving force of the German Benevolent Society, the German Altenheim, and served as a park commissioner. German immigrant Charles Bundschu (1842-1910) achieved success as the president of the Bundschu Gundlach Wine Company. He was an advocate for German-Americans in California, a well-recognized poet, and the owner of one of the finest private libraries in San Francisco. Spreckels, Dohrmann, and Bundschu were friends for decades and driving forces for placing the Goethe-Schiller monument in Golden Gate Park in 1901.

From: “Welcome and a Token for Claus Spreckels,” San Francisco Call (September 26, 1900): 12

A Scene without precedent in the history of San Francisco was enacted last night at the Van Ness avenue home of Claus Spreckels when the officers, directors and ex-directors of the Merchants’ Association, in company with other men of prominence, assembled to welcome Claus Spreckels home and to pay a tribute to him whom they chose to call the foremost citizen of San Francisco. Never before in the history of the city has such a tribute been paid to a private citizen. The words of welcome were generous. The token, which accompanied them and which Claus Spreckels was asked to preserve as a mark of appreciation for his civic patriotism and generosity, was a magnificent silver tablet commemorating his gift of the music stand to Golden Gate Park. The spokesmen of the donors said that they considered it their duty to give this testimonial to Claus Spreckels. As a Merchants’ Association, they were organized, they said, for civic improvement and adornment, and they felt bound to recognize in some suitable manner the gift of the splendid music stand in Golden Gate Park. It was this purpose which inspired them and gave justification to their appearance last night at the Spreckels home. The officers, directors and former directors of the Merchants’ Association assembled at 8 o’clock at the home of the president, F.W. Dohrmann. From there they went in a body to the home of Claus Spreckels. The presentation was made in the brilliantly lighted reception hall to which the master of the house was called to hear the praises in his honor and to receive the token of good will which had been prepared.

F.W. Dohrmann was the first to speak. Addressing Claus Spreckels, he said: ‘When a party of gentlemen enter a man’s home they must tell why. Our mission here is that of simple, practical business men inspired to come here to you and to express our sentiments and those of our organization for what you, in civic patriotism, have done for San Francisco. As a Merchants’ Association we have tried to keep alive those purposes which contribute to the improvement and beauty of our city. We have thought of our parks, our neighbors’ houses, our streets and our city as of our own home. We have done what we could to beautify and improve them, and perhaps we have bullded better than we knew. And in our efforts we have known and have seen your civic pride and patriotism. Tonight, therefore, as simple, plain, business men. In Behalf of 1200 of our members and in the name of our civic pride we greet you as the foremost citizen of San Francisco. We ask to pay our tribute, to welcome you home and to accept from you your best, most glorious gift to San Francisco. Mr. Dohrmann then called upon Frank J. Symmes to deliver the formal address of welcome. ‘It is my personal pride,’ said Mr. Symmes, ‘to welcome you home. I am not given to fulsome flattery nor to foolish praise and if I were I know you, Mr. Spreckels, too well not to know that you would accept neither. The Merchants’ Association represents good government and good citizenship and we recognize in you one of the foremost of our citizens. It is our duty, therefore, to tell you that we appreciate what you have done for your adopted city. That you have given comfort, livelihood, employment to thousands of men we know. That your enterprise has helped to build up and beautify our city is our boast. And when we express our appreciation of what you have done we tell what is in our hearts. We know also that those who have been public spirited in San Francisco have not received recognition for what they have done and we seek, therefore, in welcoming you home to pay you our tribute. To do so is a delight to us and in behalf of those I represent and for myself I pray that your days may be long in the land and that your years may be crowned with happiness.’

President Dohrmann then called upon Joseph D. Grant to speak a few words in presenting the tablet. ‘It is a great pleasure to me,’ said Mr. Grant, ‘to present to you this silver tablet as a token of our appreciation for your splendid gift to the people, not alone of San Francisco, but to the people of the State. You have set a glorious example to men of public spirit. You have taught visitors to us that they must look to our art, to our public beauties, not our Chinatown, as objects of interest. The arts in every land follow the march of commerce and no man in our country has done more for the supremacy of commerce than yourself. Your gift to the Golden Gate Park combines the beauties of art, music and the varied charms of landscape. It is a tribute to your taste, your public spirit and your generosity. Allow me then again to thank you and in those thanks I speak the thought of thousands who make Golden Gate Park their scene of recreation, pleasure and rest from toil. You have added a new feature to our city and you are entitled not alone to our gratitude, but to that of generations unborn. Accept this sliver tablet as the token of the gratitude of the people.’

When Mr. Grant had finished Claus Spreckels stepped forward to respond, but he could not. He was overcome with emotion and only with difficulty said: ‘Gentlemen, I thank you. I thank you deeply for what you have done and all I can say is that you honor me by being in my home.’ The tablet was then presented to him. This silver tablet is a remarkably fine example of workmanship in silver. It is composed of a solid silver slab, twelve by seventeen inches, set upon a background of solid ebony and inclosed in a morocco leather, silk-lined case. The detail of design and engraving is most beautiful, but the work which is of special interest is the entirely new and original effect accomplished by the application of photography to the silversmith’s art. The portrait of Mr. Spreckels and the view of the music pavilion are photographed and etched directly upon the surface of the silver tablet, the result being as absolutely true and correct as when done by the ordinary method upon paper, and as indestructible as the metal itself. These original characteristics of the beautiful tablet give to it more than ordinary importance and aid in the completion of this graceful tribute. Upon the tablet is the following inscription, the quoted words being those which were spoken by Claus Spreckels when the music pavilion was presented: ‘I have never wished for any other home nor longed for anything on earth that California could not give. Loving California as I do and being grateful for the many benefits that have accrued to me, I desire to transfer this monumental structure as a memorial of my citizenship to the people of California.’ THE MERCHANTS’ ASSOCIATION OF SAN FRANCISCO for civic improvement and adornment, greets with profound gratification the erection of the magnificent temple of music in Golden Gate Park and its presentation to ‘the people of California’ by CLAUS SPRECKELS, On the 9th day of September, in the year of nineteen hundred, in commemoration the fifteeth anniversary—the golden jubilee—of the Statehood of California. The board of directors, on behalf of the Merchants’ Association, resolved, that heartfelt appreciation and gratitude be hereby tendered in our fellow member, Claus Spreckels, for this notable evidence of civic patriotism and philantropy. MERCHANTS’ ASSOCIATION. F.W. DOHRMANN, President. J. RICH’D FREUD, Secretary. With the presentation of the beautiful token the formal ceremonies closed and the guests were ushered into, the dining-room. There for hours revelry, good-fellowship, toasts and merriment ruled. The first toast was spoken by Charles Bundschu and was dedicated to Claus Spreckels. It was as follows: ‘The waves rolled into the Golden Gate On the ninth day of September, Each pushing on with its dashing mate. And murmuring: ‘Yes, we remember!’ Their white-winged crowns spread over the beach. Rushed forward and broke through the surf, Their potent arms with an eater reach Stretched out to the and lined turf. The ocean’s surging, restless expanse Sent its mightiest waves to the coast. They whirled and sprayed a jubilee dance, And their spokesman offered a toast. He reared his head through the bluish mist, Uplifting a wonderful shell. He held it aloft in his powerful fist And wavelike now rose and then fell. Near the cliff whore the seals in sunshine bask. The shell like a bowl in his hand. He raised his brow and fulfilled his task, And spoke with his face to the land: ‘All hail and all bliss to this wonderful shore That hinders and checks our pace, A greeting to them that in days of yore Have struggled and not lost their race! A greeting to them that firmly and bold Linked their fate with the setting sun. A greeting to them that 'to have and to hold’ Have battled and labored and won! The years rolled by, half a century passed Success came through struggles and throes, From dunes and sand drifts in glory at last, The Queen of Pacific arose. To the men that stood in the foremost line, That conquered the far western coast, I raise this chalice with seafoam wine, I pledge them a Jubilee toast!’ He drank and sank to the depths below And a roaring shout and a cheer Broke forth from the waves, lined up in a row: ‘California, all hail, we are near! California, thy future lies here!’ In Golden Gate Park, midst flowers and trees, Where bountiful nature is peer. In a temple remindful of ancient Greece Stood a kind-hearted, proud pioneer. His words flew firmly from heart and lip: ‘In reverent love for this State And in memory of my citizenship. This structure I now dedicate To the people of this great commonwealth, Where I builded and founded my home. May peace be enjoyed and happiness felt When melodies flow from its dome!’ And solemnly, like a hymn of the Lord, From the peristyle temple of Greece, An orchestral strain—a festive chord Ascended and swayed through the breeze. The multitude carried the symphony song far out to the strand and the reef—And the ocean waves in their ceaseless throng Joined the chorus: ‘Hail to the Chief.’”