Amusements of Yesteryear
A zoo in the Mission? Water slides in the Richmond? As early as the 1890s, there was no shortage of places to seek thrills and fun in San Francisco, though almost no trace of these attractions exist today. Here’s a few of the spots where San Franciscans used to go to have fun:
- The original and once-exclusive home of the It’s-It ice cream sandwich, Playland, also known as Chutes At the Beach, was an amusement park at Ocean Beach that operated from the 1910s-1972. Visitors could enjoy rides like the Big Dipper, the Aeroplane Swing, and the Ship of Joy, as well as a 68-horse carousel, a fun house with a Laughing Sal, game booths, and an enormous camera obscura (which still exists today near the Cliffhouse).
- If you weren’t in the mood for sugar and adrenaline, you could visit another seaside institution not far from Playland, the Sutro Baths. Operating from 1896-1966, the Baths were a gigantic indoor pool complex with six salt water pools ranging from ice-cold to 80 degrees. Less of a lap pool and more of a place to play in the salt water, you could enter the pools through slides, by swinging on trapezes or rings, or by jumping off one of the many diving boards. Non-swimmers and spectators could watch from the stadium-style seating.
- Over in the Mission in the late 1870s, you might spend a sunny weekend day exploring Woodward’s Gardens, located on a four-acre plot of land near Mission and 15th streets. For 25 cents you could take in live animal attractions, including bears, lions, monkeys, wolves and kangaroos, as well as the extensive collection of taxidermy animals (seen in the slideshow above) arranged in curious groupings not found in nature. As if that weren’t enough, there was an extensive aquarium, four art museums, an art gallery, a rollerskating rink, hot air balloon rides, and various live performances, including acrobatics and other feats.
- Finally, if thrills were what you sought, you could visit any of the Chutes locations that cropped up around the city in the early 1900s. For a dime you could take an elevator to the top of a tower, where 8-person boats awaited to plunge you at break-neck speed to the man-made lake at the bottom.
1-3: The Chutes at The Beach (a.k.a. Playland at the Beach)
4-6: Sutro Baths
10-17: Woodward Gardens
Pet Photography through the Ages
Our cultural obsession with cute animal photos might seem like a recent phenomenon that has flourished with sites like Cute Overload and icanhascheezburger, but photographing our pets is as old a practice as photography itself. Many of the Bancroft’s collections, from the Oliver Family Photograph Collections to California Faces: Selections from The Bancroft Library Portrait Collection include photographs of everyday-life moments that look familiar to the modern pet owner, such as posing with a beloved collie or cat. Click on the links below to explore the collections to which these images belong.
- Anita? Oliver with dog.
- A Boy and His Dog. Los Angeles, California
- Our Police Dog on Nov. 4/24 Election Day.
- Engineer Frank Crockett and his dog
- [Phelan, girl, and dogs]
- [Dog in carriage]
- Dog owned by Sheldon Nichols
- Group portrait of men with dogs, University of California at Berkeley, Summer School of Surveying.
- [Unidentified man with dog.]
- Dog, Pekinese, named “Jet”, owned by J.P. Smith.
- Anita Oliver and dog, Ginger.
- [Woman with parrot]
- Two cats
- [Cat. Unidentified location.]
- Miss Coolbrith with cat, 1924. 56 Tarabal St., S.F.