Finding Aid to the Edward L. G. Steele diary, November 1, 1863 - May 24, 1867

Finding aid prepared by Thomas J. Carey
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
(415) 557-4567

Title: Edward L. G. Steele diary,
Date (inclusive): November 1, 1863 - May 24, 1867
Collection Identifier: SF MSS 22/2
Creator: Steele, Edward L. G., 1842-1894
Physical Description: 1.0 volume
Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 557-4567
Abstract: A daily journal kept by Edward Steele, a clerk for a San Francisco commission merchant, during the Civil War era.
Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: The diary is in English, with scattered passages in French.


The collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

Preferred Citation

Edward L. G. Steele diary, November 1, 1863 - May 24, 1867 (SF MSS 22/2), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Unknown provenance. This item probably came to SFPL with another Edward Steele diary, dated 1863, SF MSS 18/3.

Related Materials

Researchers are encouraged to see the diary that precedes this, Edward Steele diary, 1861 March 1 - 1863 October 31 (SF MSS 18/3), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Transcription of entire diary also available in San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Edward Lindley Grey Steele was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1842. He came to San Francisco in 1861 on the ship Contest, settling and working as a clerk for commission merchants C. Adolphe Low & Company in that city; the firm later became E. L. G. Steele & Co. He would go on to become president of the Oceanic Steamship Company and American Sugar Refinery. Steele married Emma McPherson in 1869, was a longtime resident of Oakland, and died in 1894.

Scope and Content

Twenty-one year old Steele describes his personal and professional activities in a diary kept daily, then more casually after April 1864. He muses about romantic relationships and various girlfriends (Miss Sue Hazeltine, and Miss Icy Turner, to name two) and several rejected marriage proposals. In his leisure time, Steele plays violin, billiards, and vingt un, goes drinking, and attends public dances, parties, and "Bunker Hill Balls." He drills with the City Guard, Co. B, a state militia unit, and occasionally comments on their meetings, parades, and other activities. Socializes with his landlords, Charles R. Story and wife Caroline Bayley Story, and her brother George Bayley. Shares social activities with the Monies (two sisters) and the Dows, the Bugbees, and Dr. Augustus J. Bowie. Mentions Dr. Lyon and Pilgrim Sociables. Steele's portrait is taken at Shew's photographic studio on Christmas Day, 1863. He shops at Heuston, Hastings & Co. On January 1, 1864 he documents thirty-four social calls. He mentions the death of Thomas Starr King, March 4, 1864 and the city in mourning. He moves from the Story's home to Anna Key Turner's boarding house, 933 Sacramento Street, April 1, 1864 (one source called it the most fashionable boarding-house in San Francisco). Day trips to Mare Island are described. A gap in entries following Dec. 24, 1864 continues to September 18, 1865. Steele mentions a strong earthquake October 5, 1865, and visits a medium October 27, 1865; initially very impressed, he later describes spiritualism as 'humbug.'
Steele describes his duties as a clerk, working under Samuel C. Hort for commission merchant and insurance agents C. Adolphe Low and Company in San Francisco. He notes various business transactions, buying and selling tea from China and Japan, and working on auction sales of tea with George A. Low. He mentions dealings with William Hixon, importer. Notes sales of essential oils, cochineal, rags, sugar, indigo, and other goods. "Steamer day" is often noted. Steele is regularly occupied getting vessels entered at the Custom House. The bark Clara R. Sutil, needing repairs, arrives early December 1863. Its cargo is auctioned Dec. 16, 1863: coffee, sago, tapioca, pepper.
Steele notes the sinking of the Aquila and the monitor Comanche in San Francisco on November 14, 1863, and subsequent attempts to raise the Aquila.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Aquila (Ship).
C. Adolphe Low & Co.
Clara R. Sutil (Bark).
Comanche (Ironclad).
Boardinghouses--California--San Francisco--19th century.
Commission merchants--California--San Francisco.
Diaries-California-19th century
San Francisco (Calif.)-Description and travel.
San Francisco (Calif.)-Social life and customs-19th century.