Professors Issel, Eilenberg Discuss History of Artistic Free Spirits' Attraction to San Francisco

Thursday, June 11, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER -- When did San Francisco become an arts mecca? If you ask Bill Issel, San Francisco State University History professor emeritus, it always has been. Issel said “the three Ps” — pioneer spirit, patronage and Pacific orientation — were instrumental in forming the city’s artistic and cultural identity. “It was the place to be if you were young and adventurous,” said Issel, pointing to San Francisco’s instant population explosion during the Gold Rush and the fact that newcomers stayed because they weren’t tied down by institutional constraints. Larry Eilenberg, a professor of Theatre Arts for SF State, said the city was home to more than 1,100 productions — plays, operas (in five languages) and minstrel shows — from 1850 to 1859. “It was an extraordinary hub; all this money was rushing in,” Eilenberg said. On the literary front, SF State’s Poetry Center was founded in 1954 from a donation by W.H. Auden and City Lights Bookstore, Eilenberg said.