On the Gold Rush's track
by Michael Negele
(Mechanics' Institute, San Francisco, CA)
I was able to take advantage of a business trip to Berkeley, CA in July 2004 to visit my friend Andy Ansel and to go with him by BART (Bay Area Regional Train) to the Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post Street in San Francisco downtown. John Donaldson was expecting us, he is the director of the Chess Room there, the oldest chess club of the United States which was probably founded even in 1854 along with the whole institution.
The Mechanics’ Institute should offer education and cultural entertainment to the mechanics who had settled after the gold fever (in 1848 gold was discovered at Coloma in the North East, also San Francisco benefited from that). Nowadays its magnificent library with about 160,000 books in the neoclassicist reading rooms is a gem. Among them is quite a considerable number of nice chess books and magazines – so John showed us a marvellous edition of the Wiener Schachzeitung or of the Deutsches Wochenschach and of the British Chess Magazine located in a special room for the valuables as well as common books intended for lending.
John also showed Andy and me all the duplicates from numerous gifts packed in stockrooms in the basement – a real treasure trove.
Finally we went to the historic playing room with its old chess tables – surely the captured pieces should slip into the felt lined compartments.
Particularly instructive for me was a short "chess lesson" John Donaldson teached me with one of his recently played games, before we went – passing the Mechanics’ Monument – to an absolutely delicious dinner.
A very successful expedition as the final photo shows.
The additional scans of documents I got from John Donaldson give a deeper impression of the significance of this imposing institution.
On "Chess in San Francisco" and also on the Mechanics’ Institute’s Chess Room reports Edmund Lomer in his article in Schachkalender 1997, Edition Marco, pages 112-115 (in German only, see below).
(We thank Arno Nickel for his permission to present this article here.)