Today Paul Elder is known primarily for his books, but he also produced a large amount of ephemera. Here is a page from a 1907 calendar. The months and days are almost an afterthought, taking a backseat to the illustrations and quote from Robert Louis Stevenson.
Katharine Hooker’s Wayfarers in Italy is perhaps the finest book issued by Elder & Shepard during their five-year collaboration (1898-1903). It was privately printed in 1901 at the Stanley-Taylor Company on hand-made Ruisdael paper in two different limited editions of 100 and 300 copies. The title page decorations and illuminated chapter headings were almost certainly designed by Morgan Shepard, and the book contains many photographs taken by Katharine’s daughter Marian. In 1902, Scribners bought the book; their edition of Wayfarers went through four printings by 1905.
Hooker, born Katharine Mussey Putnam (1849-1935) was very well connected in turn-of-the-century California. She had an active, athletic youth, and both climbed Half Dome and hiked the Grand Canyon. She learned French and German as a teenager, and had a lifelong interest in books.
Katherine’s husband John Daggett Hooker became wealthy in the ironworks industry, allowing her to take an extended trip to Europe in 1896 with her daughter Marian and Samuel Marshall Ilsley (author of By the Western Sea, Elder & Shepard’s first publication). She and Marian returned to Italy in 1899 (by which time Katherine had also become fluent in Italian), and it was this trip that became the basis for Wayfarers. The commission came to Elder & Shepard through Katharine’s sister Mary Putnam, who was married to Morgan Shepard. Katharine also wrote two other travel books about Italy, Byways in Southern Tuscany (1918) and Through the Heel of Italy (1927).
Hooker’s prose is enjoyable, and if she uses the passive voice a bit too often, I forgive her. She is adept at painting a gauzy, romantic picture of warm Italian summer afternoons, while also recounting amusing and interesting conversations with the locals. In Milan’s Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, Hooker and her daughter fail to find a certain Madonna and Child listed in their catalog; they quiz the custodian without success, but later he escorts them into a private room to show them the painting. In Ancona, she delightfully describes a heaping plate of light, fluffy fritto misto. In Venice, they strike up a friendship with their gondolier, Giovanni, who teaches them about the hardships and politics of his profession. Hooker’s visit to Siena can be dated to August 1899 because she witnessed the Palio on August 16th, where the contrada of Lupa was victorious. And if you are an experienced visitor to modern Italy, you will shake your head on almost every page as you think about how much has changed in the last 110 years.
Marian Osgood Hooker (1875-1968) also had a notable life. She became a physician and published numerous medical and scientific books, in addition to being a prominent amateur photographer. In 1903, Marian became the first woman to climb Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states), in a party that included family friend and famed naturalist John Muir.
Elder & Shepard’s edition of Wayfarers in Italy is rare because so few were printed, but the Scribner edition is easier to find. Here is one vintage book you will enjoy reading.
Bernard Maybeck designed wooden furniture and medieval-style chandeliers for the 1906 store on Van Ness. These were moved to 239 Grant in 1909, and later to 239 Post in 1921. Maybeck also designed Gothic-inspired window screens for 239 Grant (you can see some of them at the top of the stairwell); those pieces were moved to 239 Post in 1921. Only one or two pieces were then moved to the modern Sutter & Stockton store in 1948.
The question is whether any of the furniture, chandeliers, or window screens have survived. Personally, I doubt it. I have not heard of anyone who claims to own them. Arts & Crafts was out of fashion in 1948 so it’s likely all those pieces were discarded. Of course, it’s possible some have survived but their owners no longer know their provenance.
Today I am launching the newly-redesigned paulelder.org. I have added several new features, including a blog, biographies of notable people and frequently asked questions. Please let me know what you think!
No. However, four buildings that once housed Elder’s stores still exist. Here are the details:
- Mills Building, northeast corner of Bush & Montgomery, San Francisco. Elder’s shop was a room on the mezzanine. The building was burned out in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the shell was saved and the interior rebuilt. The Mills Building still stands today.
- 238 Post, San Francisco. Destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The structure built in its place, numbered 250 Post, became the longtime home of Gump’s, the famous luxury furnishings store. Gump’s moved to 135 Post in 1995; today, a Zara store occupies 250 Post.
- 22 Chapala, Santa Barbara. Demolished.
- 1203 State at Anapamu, Santa Barbara. Uncertain, but probably not any of the existing buildings at this location.
- Bush & Van Ness, San Francisco. Demolished. Now the site of a five-story hotel called the Calista Organic Hotel.
- 43-45 East 19th St, 4th floor, New York City. The building has been converted to residential apartments, with a restaurant on the street level.
- 239 Grant, San Francisco. Built in 1909 as the “Paul Elder Building,” it still stands at the corner of Grant and Campton Place, now numbered 233 Grant.
- Booth at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Taken down at the end of the fair in November 1915.
- 239 Post, San Francisco. Now numbered 237 Post, the building is a Graff Diamonds store.
- Sutter & Stockon, San Francisco. Demolished circa 1969. Now the site of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
- Mills Building. Paul Jr. opened a small satellite shop somewhere along the Montgomery Street sidewalk in order to serve the downtown business community. This space would still exist today, though much remodeled.