Monthly Programs

Monthly programs are generally held on the second Tuesday evening of each month except for August and December. Programs are free to SFMHS members. Admission for non-members is $10 per person ($5 for seniors, students, K-12 teachers, and persons with disabilities), which may be applied to membership dues within 30 days.

Program dates and topics are subject to change. Please check this page for any last-minute updates.

Unless otherwise noted, it is not necessary to RSVP for a monthly program.

Beginning in April, 2015, monthly programs will be held in a new venue:

Milton Marks Auditorium
Hiram Johnson State Building
455 Golden Gate Avenue
(between Larkin and Polk, across from the Federal Building)

Some street parking is available; or use the Civic Center Garage (355 McAllister Street, between Larkin and Polk) or the Hastings Law School Garage (376 Larkin Street, at the corner of Larkin and Golden Gate). Nearby transit includes the 5-Fulton, 19-Polk, 47-Van Ness, 49-Mission/Van Ness, or the BART/MUNI Civic Center Station.

Please note: You will need to pass through security to enter the building. Be prepared to pass through metal detectors and have your bags searched. Allow extra time.

Please join us at 7 PM for a reception before each program.

October 2015 Program

The Unique Fillmore Street Cable Car System
Mike Phipps & Don Holmgren

Tuesday, October 13 - 7:30 PM
Milton Marks Auditorium
455 Golden Gate Avenue

People walking up the cleated wooden boards that made up the sidewalk on either side of Fillmore Street in the early 1890s were treated to an unusual sight: the construction of a new unpowered cable counterbalance system whereby one cable car could pull another up the steep Fillmore Street grade between Green and Broadway. Both the general public and many transit professionals scoffed at such an idea. “You may rest assured that the theory is sound and the System will work,” said W. H. Lynch, superintendent of the Market Street Railway Co. and a knowledgeable mining engineer.

History proved him correct, for work it did, from August 10, 1895 until April 5, 1941 – some 46 years. Mike Phipps and Don Holmgren of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum will describe this unique cable-car system. The program will also touch on Bion J. Arnold, known as the “father of the third rail,” and his proposals for the post-1906 cable car system and a tunnel under Fillmore to move people to the 1915 fair, and connect the northern area known then as Harbor View to the downtown district.

November 2015 Program

Film and the Fair
Miguel Pendás

Tuesday, November 10 - 7:30 PM
Milton Marks Auditorium
455 Golden Gate Avenue

The 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition was one of the earliest events of its kind to be immortalized on film. The PPIE also took place at a time when the movie business was thriving in the Bay Area. Miguel Pendás will show us newsreel footage of the PPIE showing nighttime light shows, daredevil airborne acrobatics, and celebrities and officials making their pilgrimages to the grand event to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of the city that had suffered the greatest urban catastrophe in the nation’s history. We’ll see San Francisco Mayor James Rolph taking comedy stars Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand on a tour of the fabulous new City Hall then under construction, as well as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp filming in Golden Gate Park. Film historian Miguel Pendás will provide anecdotes with the film clips and will test the audience’s knowledge of PPIE history with trivia questions.

Miguel Pendás is the historian of the San Francisco International Film Festival and a member of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society’s board of directors.