Friday, June 13, 2014

Answer: Who is the confectionary man?

Our Challenges for this week are...  

1.  Instead of building the Lick Observatory as a memorial to himself, what was his original plan for his monument?  
2.  James Lick convinced a friend from Peru to enter the confectionary business in San Francisco.  Who was his friend, and what was (and still is!) the name of his confectionary business? 
3.  What languages did James Lick's confectionary friend speak?  (And how do you know?)  

As most everyone found out, these weren't that hard.  Wikipedia has lots of information about James Lick, and it didn't take long to figure out that (the slightly eccentric) James Lick had originally planned on building a marble-covered pyramid larger than the Great pyramid at Giza in the center of downtown San Francisco.  

My search was simple: 

     [ James Lick memorial ] 

This leads to the James Lick Wikipedia article.  To check on the history of this article, I first clicked on the Talk section (and found almost nothing).  

The "Talk" section (see the Wikipedia tab numbered 1 below) takes you to the discussion section (the Talk page) about the article.  If you do this, you'll see it was created in 2003, then edited by a small number of people (and a few bots doing cleanup and maintenance).  

As the notice points out (#2, below), the article is flagged as "needs additional citations."  That's usually a mark that the article might need a bit more work to be brought up to WP standards.  As you see at #3, this was last marked in 2010....  

 Just to check on this, I also clicked on the "View History" tab (#4) to see what all had been done to the article over time.  That's the full history of the article (as opposed to the Talk page, which is just discussions about the topic / article.)  

Although the article seems in good shape (not a lot of revisions and fighting back-and-forth, see the Wikipedia history on Hillary Clinton for contrast).  

Still, this level of benign neglect makes me want to get a few other sources for this topic.  

Naturally, I turned to Google Books with the query: 

     [ James Lick pyramid ] 

looking to find some additional background and discussion.  Naturally, I found several books,  James Lick's Monument: The Saga of Captain Richard Floyd and the Building of the Lick Observatory, Helen Wright (2003) and for a more contemporary account, I found the journal New Outlook (v. 45), Outlook Published (1892).  

All of the sources I found agree with the Wikipedia account.  

James Lick originally thought to build a massive pyramid and/or gigantic statues of himself, his mother and his father, positioned to look out towards incoming ships from North Beach as they passed through the Golden Gate.  

But as chance would have it, Lick happened to meet Joseph Henry and Louis Agassiz (both remarkable scientists) who convinced him to dedicate his fortune to science rather than self-aggrandizement.  

He wanted to built a giant telescope on Market Street (where he happened to hold property), but his friend David Jackson Staples talked him out of that idea.  "Mr. Lick, I am not an astronomer, but I know well enough that Market Street is no place for an observatory.  In the first place, the climate is too foggy, and in the second, the traffic on the streets would disturb the instruments."  (Quote from James Lick's Monument.)  

Between Henry, Agassiz, and Staples, they convinced him to devote his energies to building the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, well inland and to the south of the fog, far from passing streetcars.  

Following this same line of search, it's clear that Domenico Ghirardelli (later changed to Domingo when he moved to South America) was the lucky chocolate-maker who was in the office next door to Lick when they were both in Lima, Peru.  

When Lick traveled to San Francisco in 1848, he brought along his tools, work bench, $30,000 in gold ($784,700 with inflation), and 600 pounds (275 kilograms) of chocolate made by Ghirardelli.  

The chocolate quickly sold, and Lick convinced his neighbor and friend to move to San Francisco, where he founded the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Inevitably, I suppose, both became major players in San Francisco of the late 1800's.  

But when Ghirardelli first moved to San Francisco, the 1849 Gold Rush was in full swing, so he spent a few months prospecting for gold before finally figuring out that the way to make real money was to make chocolate in the city, and establishing the Ghirardelli chocolate empire which is still a big presence in the world of chocolate. 

Although it's worth knowing that the Ghirardelli company was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, maker of Rice-A-Roni ("the San Francisco treat"), in 1963.In 1986, Quaker Oats bought Golden Grain, and thus Ghirardelli. In 1992, Quaker Oats sold the Ghirardelli Chocolate division to a private investment group.  Lindt and Sprüngli, the Swiss chocolate company, acquired Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1998,where it is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

What languages did Domenico/Domingo speak?  

Obviously Italian (born and raised in Italy, and his will was written in Italian!).  Spanish (lived in Uruguay and Peru for years, even changing his name to the Spanish version).  

And French.  

I found this when doing my background research on Ghirardelli the man.  While searching in Books,  I kept finding references to a history of Ghirardelli in a text "The Ghirardelli Story" by Sidney Lawrence (California HistoryVol. 81, No. 2 (2002), pp. 90-115).  It took a while to find the full-text (it's not in Books, but in the I ran across this entry:  

"He [Ghirardelli] was active in the French-speaking Masonic lodge and a Franco-Italian coalition of investors in the coal- and gold-seeking Buenaventura Mining Company."
This was intriguing.  A bit more poking around in Google Books finds several references to Domenico Ghirardelli as a Master Mason of the Excelsior Lodge 166 in San Francisco.  (in Proceedings of the M, a book about Masonry in California).  So it's clear he was in the lodge.  Was it French-speaking?  

I did the search for: 

     [  Excelsior Mason lodge San Francisco ] 

and found that its membership list was suspiciously Anglo.  

So I kept searching in Proceedings of the M.  

It turns out that he was a member in more than one lodge!  Domenico was ALSO a member of the French-speaking lodge, Loge La Parfaite Union, in San Francisco.  (See page 651 below.)  

Search Lessons:  In this case, the searches were pretty simple and straightforward.  

But when you're looking for background information on someone (even someone who lived in 1850s San Francisco),  it's often useful to search out groups and clubs they might have joined.  Think of it a bit like trying to be an investigative journalist--you want to build up a good picture of the person, including their hobbies, memberships, and affiliations.  To that extent, you have to think like a person of that time and that place.  What would a successful businessman of San Francisco do?  What clubs would he join?  Was he also an enrolled member of the local Catholic church?  Was he involved in the politics of the time?  

All great questions; all answerable by using your SearchResearch skills! 

Search on! 

The TransAmerica company pyramid.
The only pyramid in San Francisco today. 


  1. weird, feels like a Strawberry/Rose/Honey/Hot Moon this Friday the 13th…
    it's all so astronomical

    Dan, like the numbered locator dots.

    lucky for Bill, the moniker didn't stick…
    architect, William L. Pereira
    near Market Street…
    under the pyramid -

    the Pereira example I am most familiar with
    Geisel, UCSD

    from your New Outlook link - great resource on the Lick O —
    Hand-book, Holden

    fog (like the old wood engravings) -
    above the marine layer/fog

    has a good index of contemporary observatories - an Oakland example:
    the Chabot, in Oakland
    these days
    they name their telescopes: Leah, Rachel & Nellie

  2. …it was a fun challenge, thought I'd return a bit of fun…
    George , Ganesh & Google — Calm DrDMR variants - (couldn't pick one)
    G 1
    G 2
    G 3

    Red Ganesh
    RG 2

    from Wiki -
    "Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits and explain his distinct iconography. A distinct form of Ganesha called Bhalachandra (IAST: bhālacandra; "Moon on the Forehead") includes that iconographic element. Ganesha is often described as red in color. Specific colors are associated with certain forms. Many examples of color associations with specific meditation forms are prescribed in the Sritattvanidhi, a treatise on Hindu iconography. For example, white is associated with his representations as Heramba-Ganapati and Rina-Mochana-Ganapati (Ganapati Who Releases from Bondage). Ekadanta-Ganapati is visualized as blue during meditation in that form."