How To Fly

Cover of “How to Fly”

A young heiress! A suave French pilot! Intrigue! Romance! Plot twists! But wait, didn’t you say that title of this book was How To Fly? Yes I did, and I hope you’ll find this one of the most exciting stories on this website.

How To Fly (1917), by Captain D. Gordon E. Re Vley, is an introductory treatise on how to fly an airplane, written in those heady early days of powered flight, just fourteen years after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk. In 1917, World War I was still raging in Europe, and famous fighter aces such as Eddie Rickenbacker and “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen engaged in dogfights over Belgium and France. Pilots in the early days of flight had much the same acclaim and allure as astronauts did in the early days of the Space Age.

How To Fly is a small book with flexible covers, fitting easily into a shirt pocket. Re Vley surely did not intend for his book to be a pilot’s sole source of instruction; perhaps he thought publishing the book would gain him a clientele of wealthy students? Early aviation manuals such as this are in demand by collectors, and so a copy of How To Fly can be hard to find.

Title page of “How to Fly”

Enough about the book! What about the intrigue and the young heiress?!  In September 1918, Captain Re Vley met 22-year-old Adele Dorothy Callaghan. On her mother’s side, Adele was part of an important Italian-American family in San Francisco. Her aunt Adelina was married to Egisto Palmieri, the first Italian-American state senator in California. Another aunt, Erminia, was married to Ettore Patrizi, publisher of L’Italia, the largest Italian-language newspaper in the western United States. And her grandmother, Annie Cuneo, was the first woman in the United States to serve on the Board of Directors of a major bank.

Re Vley also had an interesting background. Born in France but raised in England, he became a pilot and rose to the rank of Captain in the British Aviation Corps. He went to California on furlough, and was engaged in experimental aviation work for the US Government. Between his investments and his service pay he was quite well off, and had recently started an airplane manufacturing company.

Captain D. Gordon E. Re Vley, on the frontispiece of “How To Fly”

On 10 October 1918, Re Vley and Callaghan eloped, and were married in Hollister, California. After the wedding, they toured several grand houses in San Mateo, and after Adele indicated the one she liked best, Re Vley purchased it. In the meantime, they secured a flat in the Marble Crest Apartments at 845 Bush St. in San Francisco.

And then one fateful day in early January 1919, Re Vley went out for a walk. While he was out, Adele “thought it would be perfectly lovely,” as she later explained to a judge, “to examine her husband’s luggage and have a peek at some of the strange things that men carry about with them.” What she found in his suitcase shocked her to the core: her husband was not French, he was Russian. His name was not Re Vley, it was Edelman. No, he never was a member of the British Aviation Corps, he wasn’t rich, he didn’t own an airplane manufacturing business, and he hadn’t bought her that mansion in San Mateo. And worst of all, in August 1917, her husband had been arrested for luring a sixteen-year-old girl to his apartment and assaulting her, for which he was tried and convicted, and spent nine months in San Quentin prison. Everything he had told her was a lie.

Adele Dorothy Callaghan (1896-1989)

One can only imagine the scene when “Captain” Re Vley/Edelman returned from his stroll. When the shouting was over, Adele left her husband and sued for annulment, which was granted on 2 April. As you can see in the images below, the local papers delighted in reporting the saga. The day following the annulment, the Oakland Tribune quoted Adele as saying “When a terribly handsome French aviator comes a-wooing, and telling fairy stories, count ten before eloping with him.” What a shame that Adele hadn’t read the San Francisco Examiner article on 20 September 1917—a year and a half earlier—when Re Vley (“also known as Captain Edelman”) had been outed as an impostor by the British Consul General and arrested for assault.

By January 1920, eight months later, Adele Callaghan had married Arthur Cornelius Crowley (1895-1941), and this marriage stuck. Adele outlived her second husband by forty-eight years, passing away in June 1989 at the age of 93. Adele and Arthur are buried in the Palmieri family crypt at the Italian Cemetery in Colma.

After the annulment, Re Vley/Edelman vanishes from history. Who knows what other unsuspecting damsels may have been entrapped by “the dashing young officer”?

Update, 18 Nov 2022: I have discovered what happened to our dashing young officer. He remained in San Francisco, and on 4 March 1921 he married Ivy Gertrude Heath. On the marriage license, his name is listed as David Gordon Edmund Revley, born in New York City circa 1895, the son of Jean Revley and Claire Selekoff. (Of course, it’s hard to know how much of this is accurate, given Revley’s known penchant for lying.) Seven years later, on 18 August 1928, he marries his third wife, Alverda Giltner. In the 1930 census, David and Alverda are living on O’Farrell St. in San Francisco. The final record for David Revley is his death on 19 December 1932, at the age of 37.

Re Vley/Edelman called an impostor. San Francisco Examiner, 20 Sep 1917
Re Vley convicted of assault. San Francisco Examiner, 2 Dec 1917
Adele files for annulment. San Francisco Examiner, 11 Jan 1919
Callaghan cautions young girls after her annulment. Oakland Tribune, 3 Apr 1919
Preface to “How To Fly”
Pages 4-5 of “How To Fly”
Pages 10-11 of “How To Fly”
Pages 98-99 of “How To Fly”
Colophon of “How To Fly”

Ruth Gordon (1933-2016)

Today I mark with sadness the passing of Ruth Gordon, from whom I learned most of what I know about Paul Elder. Ruth’s 1977 Ph.D. thesis, Paul Elder: Bookseller-Publisher (1897-1917): A Bay Area Reflection, from my alma mater of UC Berkeley, was never far from my side during my initial years of research. Indeed, I can reach over and pick it up from where I sit. To my lasting regret, we met only once, in January 2004 at the opening of my Paul Elder exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library. I am indebted to Ruth, for without her work, neither that exhibition nor this very website would have ever happened. May Ruth’s memory be a blessing.

Below I have included the obituary which appeared in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Ruth I. Gordon, teacher, librarian, writer, and fierce supporter of civil liberties, died at her home in Cloverdale, California on Monday, July 18, attended by her wife Viki Marugg and dear friend Linda Perkins. Ruth was a strong advocate of library services to children in schools and in the community, and was a valued colleague and mentor to librarians throughout the United States.

Ruth was born on May 13, 1933 in Chicago, the daughter of Samuel M. and Charlotte Gordon, and the sister to Robert B. Gordon, M.D. Her family moved to Forest Hills, Queens, New York where she attended grammar school at PS 144 and graduated from Forest Hills High School.

She received her A.B. from Tufts University, her M.A. from Brown University, her Masters of Library Science from University of California, Berkeley, and her PhD from Berkeley. Her research culminated in her thesis “Paul Elder: Bookseller-Publisher (1897-1917): A Bay Area Reflection.” She was very proud of her academic success, and was forever known as Dr. Ruth.

Her teaching career spanned from the Portola Valley (California) School District to the Aviano (Italy) Dependents School (USAF). Returning to California, Ruth pursued her graduate studies at Cal while she served as a lecturer and director of practicum at the University of San Francisco. During this time, she was a National Defense Education Act scholar.

Her library career brought her to serve students in rural areas of northern California: Lassen County, Cloverdale, and Petaluma. She served as a consultant for several library projects and as the managing editor of Critical Reviewing UnLtd.

She was concerned about each child with whom she worked. She knew that reading and libraries could be a place of refuge for those whose lives were chaotic and a gateway to the wider world for those whose geography or circumstances were limited. She had high standards, both for herself and for her colleagues and supervisors and would not be silent if she felt that library services were not fully supported.

Ruth held numerous positions within the American Library Association, the Association for Library Services to Children, the Notable Children’s Books committee, the John Newbery Award Committee, and the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California.

Her professional work and her association work were marked by her persistent advocacy for quality services for children. She was a strong proponent of the maxim “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable” and her comments, both at the microphone and in print reflected this drive.

Her role in bringing the bigotry within the Boy Scouts of America to the forefront of America’s social conscience through the power of the library associations was her proudest achievement in many years of activism.

As an author and editor, she enjoyed great success with poetry and prose. Many of her books are standard titles for teen readers. Ruth enjoyed a collegial relationship with Charlotte Zolotow, her editor at HarperCollins and with the legendary publicist Bill Morris.

Ruth was an active hiker and loved exploring the areas around her homes in Cloverdale and the Sea Ranch. She was often seen with her camera around her neck, as she enjoyed photography. Once a season ticket holder, Ruth was a passionate but critical fan of the Oakland Athletics. Her home garden was a delight and guests were treated to meals with produce and fruits that came from the backyard. Often, they left Cloverdale with a bag of citrus from Ruth’s trees.

Ruth was predeceased by her parents, Samuel M. and Charlotte Gordon; and by her brother, Robert B. Gordon, M.D., and her sister-in-law Lois Gordon. Ruth is survived by her beloved wife Victoria Marugg, her nieces Janet Booth, Gail Kavaler, and Robin Strawbridge and five grandnieces and grandnephews. Ruth’s memories will be a comfort to her family and a blessing to those whose lives she touched over a 60 year career. – See more at

Holland — An Historical Essay

Cover of "Holland - An Historical Essay"
Cover of “Holland – An Historical Essay”

From what source did the forefathers of modern America acquire the high ideals of government and right living that made the American Republic first a possibility, and finally a proved realization? … One nation, and one only, in the whole of Western Europe, at the time of the founding of the New England Colonies, embodied the ideas that have become an integral part of American civilization. The Netherlands had been for centuries the home of religious freedom and toleration, or representative government, and of political liberty.

So wrote H. A. van Coenen Torchiana in the first chapter of Holland: An Historical Essay (1915). While Americans might blithely think that our former colonial overlord—the Kingdom of Great Britain—was the source of our democracy, Torchiana begs to differ. In a later chapter, “The Debt of the United States to the Netherlands,” he lists various American institutions that we take for granted, but which originated in Holland: free public schools including universities, health care for the poor and needy, assistance for war widows and orphans, work programs for prisoners, relative equality for women, and even the American peace treaty policy.

Title page of "Holland"
Title page of “Holland”

Holland was published in green paper on boards, with cover and spine paste-downs in a lovely uncial typeface. It probably was issued with a dust-jacket, not seen by me.

Henry Albert van Coenen Torchiana (1867-1940) had a long and interesting career. He was born on the island of Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies. After graduating from the Amsterdam College of Commerce in 1890, he came to the United States in with his wife, Catherine Geloudemans, and became a naturalized citizen in 1895.

In the 1890s Torchiana became manager of the extensive Miller & Lux land holdings. He was admitted to the bar in 1900 and from 1910-16 he was a member of the firm of Stratton, Kaufman and Torchiana. In 1913 he was appointed Consul General in San Francisco for the Netherlands, a post he would hold until his death. He was resident commissioner-general of the PPIE, dean of foreign commissioners in 1915, and controller of Netherlands’ navigation on the Pacific Ocean from 1916 to 1919.

Frontispiece of "Holland" - the Dutch Royal Family
Frontispiece of “Holland” – Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Royal Family

Torchiana wrote two other books for Paul Elder, California Gringos and The Story of the Mission of Santa Cruz.

Page 11 of "Holland"
Page 11 of “Holland”
Page 51 of "Holland" - the Dutch Pavilion
Page 51 of “Holland” – the Dutch Pavilion
Page 69 of "Holland"
Page 69 of “Holland”
Page 79 of "Holland"
Page 79 of “Holland”
Page 83 of "Holland"
Page 83 of “Holland”

Robert Harlan (1929-2014)

Today I pause to remember Robert Harlan, professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Bancroft Library. He died on April 8th at the age of 84. He was an expert on the 19th-century San Francisco printing industry and the Bay Area fine-printing movement of the mid-20th century. He published several books, including a long monograph on John Henry Nash, and two pamphlets on Paul Elder.

Harlan’s research had a profound influence on my own work on Paul Elder & Company. When I started learning about bibliography and decided to specialize on Elder, I was acutely aware of my lack of academic credentials. This embarrassment was the chief reason I didn’t seek out Harlan in person, to my lasting regret.

Harlan was also the Ph.D. advisor for Ruth Gordon, whose 1977 thesis on Paul Elder was the original inspiration for my work.

A full obituary of Robert Harlan can be found here and here.


Laurel Hill

Laurel Hill cover
Cover of “Laurel Hill”

Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about 19th-century tombstones turning up on Ocean Beach. Passers-by were puzzled, if not uneasy. “Why are there tombstones on the beach?” they asked. Perhaps they also stopped to say “Now that I think about it, why are there no cemeteries in San Francisco?” The answer is: there used to be, but not any more. Of San Francisco’s 27 historical cemeteries, only two (Mission Delores, and The Presidio) remain: the rest are now in Colma. The long, slow process began in 1900, when the City passed an ordinance forbidding new burials in San Francisco, and completed in the early 1940s, when the last graves at Laurel Hill Cemetery were transferred to Colma.

LaurelHill LoneMountain c1890
Laurel Hill Cemetery c1890, with Lone Mountain in the background

The reasons behind the move were many. Many people didn’t want to live next to a graveyard; others felt land values were lower near cemeteries. Developers wanted the land for residential and commercial use. Still others felt that cemeteries posed a health risk. Opposing the removals were religious groups—primarily the Catholic Church—and preservationists, who noted the long list of San Francisco pioneers buried there.

RichmondDist LaurelHill 1938
The Richmond District in 1938. Laurel Hill Cemetery is at center left. Removal of the burials has just recently begun.

Although the city of San Francisco paid for moving the coffins, the families had to pay the cost of moving the headstones and monuments. Many if not most could not afford this, so the city took the stones and used them in very unromantic places: some as paving materials for gutters lining the walks of Buena Vista Park, others for Ocean Beach and the breakwater near the St. Francis Yacht Club. Particularly saddening was the loss of the large crypts and Egyptian-style monuments, most of which were unceremoniously dumped into San Francisco Bay.

In 1937, Paul Elder published a pamphlet called Laurel Hill. It was part of the last gasp of resistance from those who opposed the move. The text begins with an unsigned article entitled “Laurel Hill: Esto Perpetua! Have Not Our Pioneers Their Rights?”

We are in receipt of communications, from time to time, from a group that seems bent upon the destruction of Laurel Hill Memorial Park, wherein emphasis is placed on the statement that no real estate considerations are prompting the attempt. It is good to hear this, but difficult, assuming the fact is so, to understand what other motives are prompting the drive to destroy one of our most cherished historical landmarks. It is possible that San Franciscans of the present generation include some who object to honoring our pioneer dead?Does the presence in our midst of cemetery reminders of mortality irk certain persons who feel the life current pulsing warmly?

Next is “An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors, from “An Old Timer”

We feel that the final passage of an ordinance directing the transfer somewhere beyond the county line of the venerated dust of the makers of our history is quite too brutal in its finality … Unlike the western reaches of this burial ground, the eastern part that confronts the passerby on Presidio Avenue is beautiful, it is lovingly tended, it is the Stoke Pogis of San Francisco, and its tombs bear names that explain why San Francisco became a great city. Gentlemen, you must know—because you have had every opportunity of knowing—how many of our United  States Senators, how many of our Governors, how many of those others who made our beloved city, lie at rest in those few acres—in the fine old phrase, in God’s acre.

Laurel Hill Bourne monument
The William B. Bourne monument at Laurel Hill

After several more unsigned articles, the text concludes with twelve pages of names copied from headstones and monuments at Laurel Hill. The list is by no means complete, since over 47,000 people are known to have been buried there. Only this section of the pamphlet has page numbers, and the numbers begin at “65”, suggesting that this pamphlet is an excerpt of a longer work.

Later in 1937, the Catholic Church removed its opposition to the removal of Laurel Hill’s Catholic section, and the cemetery’s fate was sealed. The last graves were moved in the early 1940s.

Laurel Hill inscriptions
List of some of the burials at Laurel Hill