Tales from the Waterfront:
Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem at the Mechanics’ Institute

The cover of Lee Bruno’s latest book, Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem

Last month we released our latest San Francisco history book, Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem: Tales from San Francisco’s Historic Waterfront, 1849–1934 , partnering up once more with writer and history-buff Lee Bruno. Lee is also the author of our book, Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Explosion, an exploration of the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition. This time around, Lee tells the tales of the misfits, dreamers, idealists, and nonconformists who helped shape the San Francisco waterfront into the magical port it is today.

Lee Bruno speaking at the Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco

After a successful launch party at the historic Fort Mason Firehouse the week of the book’s release, it was off to the races for Lee, who has had (and will continue to have) a slew of Bay Area events. One of the most recent was at the Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco.

Lee presenting to a sold-out room at the Mechanics Institute Library

Founded in 1854, the library boasts an extensive collection of resources and databases, offers a wide array of workshops, book groups, and film screenings, and is even home to the oldest continuously operating chess club in the country! The library was thrilled to offer Lee, a member, a platform to share some of the inspiring stories he discovered when writing this book.

After speaking to a packed house, Lee was kept busy at the event’s signing table

The evening’s sold-out event featured sea chanty singers, spirits from Raff Distillerie, and a packed house of passionate San Franciscans.

Sea Chanty singers kept the audience entertained
An assortment of spirits from Raff Distillerie

Overall, the night was a smashing success. A unique book, a unique venue, and an evening filled with stories of San Francisco’s vibrant past.

. . .

Lee Bruno has been digging into San Francisco’s rich history ever since discovering his great grandfather Reuben Hale’s inspiring letters and speeches. Lee, who received his MS in science journalism from Boston University, is the author of Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition (Cameron + Company) and has been writing for over 20 years about business and technology for the Economist, the Guardian, MIT Technology Review, Red Herring magazine, and Wired, among others. He has lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years, raising a family of four boys with his wife and enjoying long open-water swims with the eccentrics at the South End Rowing Club.

Charles Fracchia, who contributes the book’s foreword, is the founder and president emeritus of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and has given talks on a variety of historic subjects to such groups as the Commonwealth Club and the Mechanics’ Institute. He currently lectures at the Fromm Institute at USF. Charles has a BA from USF, an MLS from the University of California, an MA from San Francisco State, and an MA in theology from the Graduate Theological Union/Berkeley. He was one of the founders of Rolling Stone magazine and has written many books and articles about San Francisco history.

The Mechanics’ Institute is a leading cultural center that includes a vibrant library, a world-renowned chess program and a full calendar of engaging cultural events. Founded in 1854 to serve the educational and social needs of mechanics — artisans, craftsmen, and inventors — and their families, the Institute today is a favorite of avid readers, writers, downtown employees, chess players, and the 21st century nomadic worker. They are located in their 9-story landmark building in the Financial District of San Francisco at 57 Post Street.

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