Scope and Content
Title: Edward L. G. Steele diary,
Date (inclusive): November 1, 1863 - May 24, 1867
Collection Identifier: SF MSS 22/2
Steele, Edward L. G., 1842-1894
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
A daily journal kept by Edward Steele, a clerk for a San Francisco commission merchant, during the Civil War era.
The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: The diary is in
with scattered passages in French.
The collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
Edward L. G. Steele diary, November 1, 1863 - May 24, 1867 (SF MSS 22/2), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public
Unknown provenance. This item probably came to SFPL with another Edward Steele diary, dated 1863, SF MSS 18/3.
Researchers are encouraged to see the diary that precedes this, Edward Steele diary, 1861 March 1 - 1863 October 31 (SF MSS
18/3), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Transcription of entire diary also available in San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Edward Lindley Grey Steele was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1842. He came to San Francisco in 1861 on the ship Contest,
settling and working as a clerk for commission merchants C. Adolphe Low & Company in that city; the firm later became E. L.
G. Steele & Co. He would go on to become president of the Oceanic Steamship Company and American Sugar Refinery. Steele married
Emma McPherson in 1869, was a longtime resident of Oakland, and died in 1894.
Scope and Content
Twenty-one year old Steele describes his personal and professional activities in a diary kept daily, then more casually after
April 1864. He muses about romantic relationships and various girlfriends (Miss Sue Hazeltine, and Miss Icy Turner, to name
two) and several rejected marriage proposals. In his leisure time, Steele plays violin, billiards, and vingt un, goes drinking,
and attends public dances, parties, and "Bunker Hill Balls." He drills with the City Guard, Co. B, a state militia unit, and
occasionally comments on their meetings, parades, and other activities. Socializes with his landlords, Charles R. Story and
wife Caroline Bayley Story, and her brother George Bayley. Shares social activities with the Monies (two sisters) and the
Dows, the Bugbees, and Dr. Augustus J. Bowie. Mentions Dr. Lyon and Pilgrim Sociables. Steele's portrait is taken at Shew's
photographic studio on Christmas Day, 1863. He shops at Heuston, Hastings & Co. On January 1, 1864 he documents thirty-four
social calls. He mentions the death of Thomas Starr King, March 4, 1864 and the city in mourning. He moves from the Story's
home to Anna Key Turner's boarding house, 933 Sacramento Street, April 1, 1864 (one source called it the most fashionable
boarding-house in San Francisco). Day trips to Mare Island are described. A gap in entries following Dec. 24, 1864 continues
to September 18, 1865. Steele mentions a strong earthquake October 5, 1865, and visits a medium October 27, 1865; initially
very impressed, he later describes spiritualism as 'humbug.'
Steele describes his duties as a clerk, working under Samuel C. Hort for commission merchant and insurance agents C. Adolphe
Low and Company in San Francisco. He notes various business transactions, buying and selling tea from China and Japan, and
working on auction sales of tea with George A. Low. He mentions dealings with William Hixon, importer. Notes sales of essential
oils, cochineal, rags, sugar, indigo, and other goods. "Steamer day" is often noted. Steele is regularly occupied getting
vessels entered at the Custom House. The bark Clara R. Sutil, needing repairs, arrives early December 1863. Its cargo is auctioned
Dec. 16, 1863: coffee, sago, tapioca, pepper.
Steele notes the sinking of the Aquila and the monitor Comanche in San Francisco on November 14, 1863, and subsequent attempts
to raise the Aquila.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
C. Adolphe Low & Co.
Clara R. Sutil (Bark).
Boardinghouses--California--San Francisco--19th century.
Commission merchants--California--San Francisco.
San Francisco (Calif.)-Description and travel.
San Francisco (Calif.)-Social life and customs-19th century.