Adolph Sutro

King of the Comstock Lode and Mayor of San Francisco


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About the Book

Adolph Sutro was forever seeking challenges. Emigrating from Prussia to the U.S. at age 20, the California gold rush lured him west. At the Comstock Lode in Nevada, he conceived an idea for a tunnel to drain the hot water that made the mines perilous and inefficient. But he would have to overcome both physical obstacles and powerful opposition by the Bank of California to realize his vision.
Back in San Francisco, Sutro bought one twelfth of the city, including the famous Cliff House perched over the Pacific Ocean. When it burned to cinders on Christmas Day, 1894, he built a massive, eight-story Victorian replacement. He used his expertise in tunneling and water solutions to create the world’s largest enclosed swimming structure, the Sutro Baths—six glass-covered heated saltwater pools with capacity of 1,000 swimmers. Other challenges followed but Sutro was not invincible. After a two-year term as mayor of San Francisco, he succumbed to debilitating strokes which left him senile. His death in 1898 started disputes among his heirs—six children by his wife and two by his mistress—that lasted more than a decade.

About the Author(s)

William R. Huber worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories and other major American technology companies before becoming an expert witness in patent litigation cases. He lives near Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

William R. Huber

Foreword by Patrick Neylan
Foreword by Charles A. Fracchia

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 154 photos, 22 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8039-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3840-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword—Nevada Chapters by Patrick Neylan 1
Foreword—San Francisco Chapters by Charles A. Fracchia 3
Preface 5
Introduction 9
1. The End 11
2. Roots and Uprooted 13
3. Some That Glitters 16
4. The Country Reacts 23
5. Go West, Young Man 30
6. Sutro, the Shop Owner 37
7. Mr. Sutro Goes to Washoe 44
8. All the News 54
9. Mining in Hell 58
10. From Riches to Rags 65
11. William Ralston—Boat Captain to Financial Captain 68
12. Rehabilitation 74
13. Homework 79
14. Endorsement 83
15. Rejection 88
16. Starting Over 92
17. Workin’ on the Railroad 99
18. Mines, Mills and Money 103
19. Start Digging! 107
20. Mr. Sutro Goes to Washington 118
21. That Sounds French 126
22. Sutro Builds Sutro 131
23. Water, Water 136
24. The King Is Dead; Long Live the Kings 138
25. A Hole in the Ground to Pour Money Into 146
26. The Devil Is in the Details 156
27. A Family Man? 159
28. Return to San Francisco 164
29. Sutro Heights 167
30. Clara and Leah 176
31. The Cliff House—Before Sutro 179
32. The Cliff House—With Sutro 184
33. Gingerbread Palace 191
34. Glass Houses 196
35. The Philobiblist 206
36. His Honor, the Mayor 211
37. Decline, Demise, Disputes 216
38. Epilogue—Nevada 223
39. Epilogue—San Francisco 234
Chapter Notes 249
Bibliography 265
Index 277

Book Reviews & Awards

“‘Sutro’ is a name seen all over California and Nevada on street signs, schools, and other points of interest, yet few people know of Adolph Sutro’s significance in the history of both states. In [this work], Huber tackles the subject comprehensively… A 21st-century perspective on Sutro was long overdue. Huber’s text is meticulously researched, nicely illustrated, and approachable in style and organization. All academic and public libraries in California and Nevada, as well as other regional collections on the American West, should acquire the book. …recommended”—Choice