Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Anna Blake Mezquida Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1788-1975
Date (bulk): (bulk 1898-1965)
Collection Number: BANC MSS 73/188 c
Mezquida, Anna Blake
Number of containers: 4 boxes, 6 cartons, 4 oversize folders, 1 oversize volume
Linear feet: approx. 9.3
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Abstract: Professional and personal correspondence concerning her activities and interest in writing, poetry and publication. Also contains
family papers or genealogical information for the following families: Blake, Bean, Cary, Clark, Cross, Eastman, Gilman, Wells,
and Wiltse. Includes Civil War diary and letters. Other letters pertain to the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Anna Blake Mezquida papers, BANC MSS 73/188 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Material Cataloged Separately
- Pictorial materials have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
- Sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.
The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by the Wiltse family on June 8, 1973 with additions on April
Anna Blake Mezquida was the daughter of San Francisco attorney Maurice B. Blake. Her great-uncle, Maurice G. Blake, was a
judge of the California Supreme Court, a mayor of San Francisco, and a member of the city's Committee of Vigilance. Ancestors
of both her parents fought in the American Revolution. One maternal ancestor, Lieutenant Ebenezer Eastman, served as an aide
to General George Washington. Her family lineage in the United States traces back to the arrival of the
Born in San Francisco on September 1, 1883, Mezquida won numerous local, state, and national poetry contests throughout her
career, the first at age 16. In 1906, having just undergone a serious operation, she experienced the San Francisco earthquake
and fire, and subsequently spent several months in the Presidio General Hospital. She married Mateo M. Mezquida, an importer
and exporter from Madrid, Spain in 1911. Her poem, "The Wondrous Exposition," was set to music and became the theme song of
the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
She studied journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and became a popular poet, short story writer, scenarist,
critic, and journalist. By the early 1920s, Mezquida had been published in such periodicals as
Ladies' Home Journal, and
Overland Monthly. In 1922 Mezquida published a book of her poems titled
Mezquida lost her husband to a heart attack in 1928 and remained unmarried the rest of her life. A serious automobile accident
in 1933 left Mezquida with broken vertebrae, a fractured skull and injuries to her right arm, causing her to wear a back brace
for several years. A lifelong staunch Republican, in 1938, Mezquida began a word of mouth effort to end a strike of San Francisco
department store workers. The largely successful "Buy Now" telephone campaign, facilitated by women all over California, urged
people to break the strike by shopping at stores as normal.
During World War II, in addition to working in the United States Office of Censorship and the Message Analysis Unit, she wrote
radio broadcasts, both informational spots and dramatic programs, to be transmitted to the Armed Forces stationed in Thailand
and the Philippines. After the war, Mezquida wrote for the radio station KFRC. She sold several scenarios to motion picture
studios, among them "Dancing Feet," "The Charm Trader," and "What the World Expects." She was active in a number of literary
organizations, including the Ina Coolbrith Circle, where she was on the Board of Directors, Theta Sigma Phi (a fraternity
of women journalists), and the Authors' League of America, as well as serving as an executive of the San Francisco Branch
of the League of American Pen Women. In the late 1940s, Mezquida, as part of the Citizens' Committee to Save the Cable Cars,
was very active in an effort to save San Francisco's cable cars from being retired.
After a long and full career of writing, having been published in dozens of publications and awarded numerous prizes, Anna
Blake Mezquida died in San Francisco on March 12, 1965 at the age of 81.
Scope and Content
The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers, 1788-1975 (bulk 1898-1965), document her career as a San Francisco poet and author, her participation
in many professional organizations, her experience and survival of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and her family's
long genealogy in the United States. Mezquida's interests varied widely, though writing was her obvious calling. She supported
herself her entire life by writing, whether for the government during World War II, for the movies or radio, by winning contests,
or by selling pieces to magazines, from the 1900s to her death in 1965. Also noteworthy are family papers, including military
documents, sermons, newspapers, and correspondence dating from as early as 1788, of many of Mezquida's ancestors, the families
Blake, Bean, Cary, Clark, Cross, Eastman, Gilman, Wells, and Wiltse.
Mezquida's correspondence consists almost entirely of incoming letters, with a small portion of outgoing correspondence. The
bulk of the incoming correspondence consists of letters from various publishers regarding submitted manuscripts, personal
letters from family and friends, fan mail, business correspondence with lawyers, literary agents, and insurance agencies,
contest notifications, letters from radio stations and movie studios, and correspondence with affiliated professional clubs
and causes. Notable, however, are letters between Mezquida and her mother, Martha Hanna Blake, grandmother, Hannah Little
Blake, and aunt, Susan Marcia Blake, from 1906, describing the San Francisco earthquake and fire and their personal experiences.
Mezquida's husband Mateo, wrote numerous letters to her between 1898 and his death in 1928, all in Spanish. Also very interesting
is the extensive correspondence from Elizabeth Craig, Vivian Horn, and Tana Mayland relating their long stays in Japan during
and after WW II. Mezquida received several letters and photographs from Fish Wolf Robe, a Blackfoot Indian whom she met at
the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition. Among Mezquida's incoming correspondence are also a 1927 thank you letter from Charles
Lindbergh, a letter from William Randolph Hearst to Reverend Charles Aked complimenting her writing, and a letter of thanks
written by President Herbert Hoover's secretary to Mezquida on the President's behalf.
Mezquida's writings contain short stories, articles and poems, her main modes of writing, as well as radio scripts and book
drafts. Some stories, articles and poems are in typescript form, never published, while others come as clippings from the
magazines and newspapers in which they were published. Some of Mezquida's short stories were sold to movie production houses
as scenarios for movies, such as "Dancing Feet," "Man Crazy," "Service," "The Charm Trader," and "What the World Expects."
The books, which appear here in typescript form, were never published. The radio scripts ("Stories Behind the Headlines,"
"Thai Newsletter," "Voice of America," "Our Cities," and "Philippine Newsletter") were all written for broadcasting to American
military stationed in Southeast Asia.
The subject files contain research for Mezquida's writings and reflect her personal interests. Most prominent among them are
the extensive files on various facets of San Francisco, one of Mezquida's most beloved topics. Other area of interest include
Asian countries, Ghost Towns and the Old West, Espionage and the FBI, and the United Nations. Notes and Clippings include
poems, scripts, and stories by other authors, which Mezquida may have admired and learned from, as well as notes on writing,
radio broadcasting, and radio monitoring.
Organization papers include notices, certificates, minutes, and mailers from groups to which Mezquida belonged, including
the Academy of American Poets, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Pacific Coast Women's
Press Association, as well as many others. Of interest is the Citizens' Committee to Save the Cable Car file, which includes
essays written by school children on why the cable cars should stay in San Francisco. The YWCA materials contain lesson plans
and course materials for several writing courses Mezquida taught at the San Francisco Young Women's Christian Association
Scrapbooks and Miscellany includes Mezquida's recollections of the 1906 earthquake and fire, written a year later, and scrapbooks
of newspaper clippings from the department store strike in 1938, to which Mezquida was radically opposed, and worked to break.
Other materials of note are her biographical materials (mostly relating to her writing career), clippings of her writings
and articles about her, diaries of her visits to Fort Bragg, an autograph book of authors and important people of the time,
and Mezquida's handwritten recipe book.
The bulk of the Family Papers contain obituaries, wedding announcements, yearbooks, genealogies, anecdotes, army papers and
family correspondence. Of especial interest are several different accounts and correspondence about the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake and fire. The papers of Hannah Little Blake, Martha Eastman Blake, and the Wiltse family all contain accounts of
the experience. Also in the Wiltse file is a line pass issued by the Chief of Police during the aftermath of the quake. The
Bean family file contains an interesting account of the introduction of tea to Nantucket Island in 1735, as well as a letter
from Curtis Bean to Martha Bean from Washington D.C., the day of the Battle of Bull Run in 1861 about the condition of the
soldiers and morale of the Union. The Eastman family papers also include a Civil War diary, ca. 1862. In Hannah Little Blake's
papers are letters from and about her brother Theodore Blake, who was working in the Dakota Territory from 1879 to 1881 when
he was struck by lightning. In the Gilman family file is a booklet of a sermon by Tristam Gilman from 1788. Some of Mateo
Mezquida's correspondence, which relates mostly to his import and export businesses, is written in Spanish, as is a letter
from him in Hannah Blake's file.
The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers not only illustrate the life and work of a successful author during the early 20th century,
but also show a cross section of how American families from Puritan to Modern times lived, through first hand accounts and
documents. The papers present a vivid picture of life in San Francisco from the 1900s to 1960s, in particular the devastation
of the 1906 earthquake and fire.