The Grandmother of San Francisco


Goddess of Victory atop the Dewey Monument- Alma Spreckels was the model.

I have put my reluctant muse on a pedestal, and old smoke stack near the old Bohemian Barrel Company. Rena Victoria Easton is Britania, and the Goddess Victory. She is the heroine of my Bond book ‘The Royal Janitor’ and is Victoria Bond. To find Big Alma this morning is my Quest to capture the Beautiful Helen. Forgive me if I digress. Here are the other Greeks in the hunt.

What some people will NOT DO for your money! The alleged owners of the California Barrel Company LLC (who are they – really?) gave the public a tiny TIDBIT of history, and they had at their disposal historians the likes of Richard Johns and Tim Frye! The Supreme Court rules Companies are people too in regards to Hobby Lobby whose founder is a evangelical artifact hunter. Company names, and who founded them, is real history. Their rule is

“The least the public knows – the better!”

It really feels like there is a silent agreement between developers and preservers of history. These historians should broadcast a monthly report on television, paid for by Paul Hastings and his buddies! We little people can sit in front of our flat-screens, crocheting!

“Aah! There goes another one! Tear it down you rotten bastards!”

Public taxes are being spent to prepare the way for the partners of Meg Whitman! Demand an accounting! Ask to see the books and the Deeds!

How much money did Associate Capital pay for the graph seen above? How about $150,000? They are all grads of USC? It took them two months? I live on $750 dollars a month, and look what I produced in two days. No one will pay me, or, give me a grant, because I give Honest Feedback. The Koch Brothers are funding everything to shut me up. However, at this moment in their boardrooms, they are watching me type more Critique. You need the Critical Factor to be truly creative. The Yes Men&Women, have painted the backers of QUIBI into a End Time Corner! It’s curtains for them!

“Why isn’t this asshole on our A-Team! Why can’t I get any honest feedback? I pay you all over $20,000,000 dollars!”

These people are buying up all the old smokestacks in the Bay Area. Smoke Stacks R Us. They also are buying up all the pixie dust they can get their greedy hands on, now that Disney and Tinkerbelle got behind the Smokestack Façade. I took on Phil Knight a couple of weeks ago! Uh oh! His glass slipper shattered! It’s like a three minute movie! ‘The Fall of Nike’.

I am going to write a screenplay titled ‘Dr. Strange Business’ How about ‘ZZ’? If Peter Sellers were alive, or, Rod Steiger, they could do a great Zeth Zachary! Young actors, today, can’t act! This is why they want Quick Bite movies! Will there be an intermission – with quickie commercial?

“Just a dab will do you!”

“Now, back to our feature film.”

When was the last time you saw a healthy heterosexual woman running her hands thru a man’s hair in Golden Gate Park? What! You can’t ask questions like this? Who goes ALONE to the zoo wearing a cocktail dress and your finest pearls?

Putting movie critics out of business – about time? When Big Business get in the movie business, a new kind of critic is called for. Now I got to learn about businesses? Did I tell you my uncle owned Sam’s Anchor café, where Herb Caen wrote some of his columns? Did he write about the ‘Grandmother of San Francisco’?

Paul Hastings pays the salaries of a thousand lawyers to make sure no one gets more than their share. I would like to see their write-offs for charitable donations.

Here is a woman that GAVE to the City of San Francisco – for real! There should be a movie about her. Meg should get her buddy, Steven Spielberg to make a movie about the  ‘Grandmother of San Francisco’ and learn a great lesson at the same time!

To this day, Rena does not have a clue what I was offering her to be my model and muse. She grew up in Nebraska – with real cowboys! She has memorized a million poems. She is my model for Victoria Bond.

I am going to pay $1 dollar for TIDBIT.COM……The stingiest company in the world!

John Presco

President: California Barrel Company

P.S. Dog dang it! TIDBIT is taken.


a small piece of tasty food.
“when you are out with your puppy always have a tidbit in your pocket”
synonyms: delicacy, tasty morsel, dainty, fancy, confection, bonne bouche, luxury, treat; More

  • a small and particularly interesting item of gossip or information.

Alma de Bretteville Spreckels

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Alma de Bretteville Spreckels painted in 1924 by artist Richard Hall. In the painting, Spreckels sits in a chair originally designed (and at least partly created) by Queen Marie of Romania as an audience chair for herself. Spreckels obtained the chair in 1922 for an exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor; she eventually donated both the chair and the painting to the Maryhill Museum of Art, which she played a major role in founding.

Alma de Bretteville Spreckels (March 24, 1881 – August 7, 1968) was a wealthy socialite and philanthropist in San Francisco, California. She was known both as “Big Alma” (she was 6 feet (1.8 m) tall) and “The Great Grandmother of San Francisco”. Among her many accomplishments, she persuaded her first husband, sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels, to donate the California Palace of the Legion of Honor to the city of San Francisco.

Early life[edit]

She was born Alma Charlotte Corday le Normand de Bretteville in the Sunset District of San Francisco,[1] the fifth of six children of Viggo and Mathilde de Bretteville, two Danish immigrants. The family was very poor during her early childhood. Viggo descended from Franco-Danish nobility through his grandfather who emigrated during the French Revolution (one of Napoleon III‘s generals was his uncle) and used that as an excuse to avoid working[2] while simultaneously deriding the “nouveau riche” of California.[3] In contrast, Mathilde had enough ingenuity and business sense to open a combination Danish bakery–laundry service–massage parlor which became the family’s source of income. At age 14, Alma quit school to work full-time for the family business. Meanwhile, she had developed a love of art and enrolled in the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art to study painting. While there, she earned money by being a nude model.[3] Now flush with cash, she became popular around town, and found herself intimately involved with a miner named Charlie Anderson. After their relationship deteriorated, she gained a bit of notoriety for having successfully sued him for “personal defloweration”.[4]

Alma de Bretteville met her future husband thanks to modeling for the Dewey Monument by Robert Aitken, which can be found in Union Square. This statue was selected from a number of entries and only barely made the cut, thanks to the crucial vote of the chair of the Citizens’ Committee, Adolph Spreckels. Although he was 24 years older than her, he was smitten and after a five-year courtship, they married on May 11, 1908.[3] Because he was head of the Spreckels Sugar Company, she often referred to her husband as her “sugar daddy“.[5]

Initially, they lived in Adolph’s house in Sausalito, where their first daughter, Alma Emma, was born in 1909, but he soon purchased a property in Pacific Heights where, after the existing homes on it were relocated, Adolph built a new mansion in the Beaux-Arts style, completed in 1913 (it is now the home of author Danielle Steel[6]). In the meantime, son Adolph Bernard Jr. was born in 1911, followed by another daughter, Dorothy Constance, in 1913. It was after Dorothy’s birth that Spreckels learned her husband had contracted syphilis before their marriage, as he began showing symptoms of the disease. Fortunately for her, she never caught it from him.[3]

Palace of the Legion of Honor[edit]

Goddess of Victory atop the Dewey Monument- Alma Spreckels was the model.

The Adolph B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Gallery at the Legion of Honor showcasing sculptures of Auguste Rodin

After the mansion was completed, Spreckels began throwing opulent parties befitting a woman of her status. Although attended by local celebrities such as author Jack London and sculptor Earl Cummings, there were a number of people who were disdainful of her earlier infamy and snubbed her invitations.[3] This motivated her to gain some respectability for herself, which she did by going to Paris. There, she met entertainer Loie Fuller and through Fuller, other artists, most notably Auguste Rodin. With Fuller’s encouragement and contacts, Alma Spreckels eventually became one of the more influential art collectors in the U.S.[3]

She returned from Paris right after the beginning of World War I. Having purchased a number of Rodin’s works directly from the artist, she had them displayed at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. It was there that Spreckels fell in love with the French Pavilion, which was a temporary building constructed only of a wood frame covered with staff, a kind of faux stone made from a mixture of plaster and burlap-type fiber. She decided to have a permanent and exact replica of the building constructed so she could permanently contain her burgeoning art collection, but it would be another nine years before this dream could come to fruition.[3]

In the intervening time, she busied herself with charity auctions, raising money for war-torn France, Belgium, and Romania. For one such event at the Palace Hotel, she was able to obtain donations from U.S. presidents and other renowned individuals. Her own collection was not spared: her prized Rodin The Genius of War also went on the auction block.[3]

After some persuading, Adolph eventually agreed to fund Spreckels’ museum project. To acquire more art and financial support, Spreckels returned to Europe. The French government agreed to supply some, and Queen Marie of Romania donated a replica of her Byzantine Golden Room. While Spreckels was in Europe, President Warren G. Harding requested her help in compiling a report on post-war working conditions for women for the Department of Labor‘s Women’s Bureau,[7] which she dutifully carried out.

In 1921, ground was broken for the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park, San Francisco. As Spreckels envisioned it, the building is an almost exact, full-scale replica of the French Pavilion from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, which in turn was a three-quarter-scale version of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris designed by George Applegarth and H. Guillaume. At the close of the exposition, which was located just a few miles away in the current Marina district, the French government granted Adolph permission to construct a permanent replica of the French Pavilion.[8] The museum opened on November 11, 1924, six months after Adolph’s death. During the dedication ceremony, the Counsellor of State of France announced that Spreckels had been awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur.[3]


Spreckels continued her charity rummage sales during the Great Depression, this time expanded to thrift shops, which were eventually given to The Salvation Army to operate. She also continued her devotion to the arts, obtaining more and more works for her museum as well as coordinating and partially funding the development of the Maryhill Museum of Art in Maryhill, Washington, after the death of her friend Samuel Hill.[9]

Spreckels met Elmer Awl, a Santa Barbara rancher and businessman, during her inquiries into the Samarkand Hotel, a Persian-themed hotel which had fallen into disrepair. She purchased the property for $55,000 in 1937 and proceeded to renovate it, hoping to provide another home for her now-overflowing art collection. Spreckels and Awl hit it off immediately and were married in 1939. Awl moved to San Francisco, but the hotel was not particularly successful and Spreckels sent him back to Santa Barbara to manage the business, but he was also unable to stem the losses. They decided to rid themselves of it, but could not find a buyer. Eventually, the hotel was swapped for a dairy farm in Marin County worth $80,000.[10]

When the U.S. was drawn into World War II, Awl, as a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, was called to active duty. While he was away, Spreckels formed a new charity, the San Francisco League for Servicemen, which gathered supplies for the Army and Navy. She even donated her vast Sonoma County ranch to the Army to use as a recreational facility. Near the end of the war, Spreckels discovered that Awl had been having an affair with her niece Ulla, and she quickly divorced him in 1943, while he was still stationed in Central America.[3]

Later life[edit]

Spreckels’ last major project was the construction of the San Francisco Maritime Museum. When it opened in 1951, her collection of model ships that had been on display at the 1939–40 Golden Gate International Exposition was the main exhibit. However, she had had a feud with museum founding director Karl Kortum and as a result, did not receive much recognition for her role in that museum’s establishment.[3]

After her son Adolph’s death in 1961, she lived mostly in seclusion, visiting only with her daughters and grandchildren. She died in 1968 of pneumonia at age 87.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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