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Guide to the Anna Blake Mezquida Papers, 1788-1975 (bulk 1898-1965)
BANC MSS 73/188 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Anna Blake Mezquida Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1788-1975
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1898-1965)
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 73/188 c
    Creator: Mezquida, Anna Blake
    Extent: Number of containers: 4 boxes, 6 cartons, 4 oversize folders, 1 oversize volume Linear feet: approx. 9.3
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: Professional and personal correspondence concerning her activities and interest in writing, poetry and publication. Also contains family papers or genealogical information for the following families: Blake, Bean, Cary, Clark, Cross, Eastman, Gilman, Wells, and Wiltse. Includes Civil War diary and letters. Other letters pertain to the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Anna Blake Mezquida papers, BANC MSS 73/188 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Pictorial materials have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • Sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by the Wiltse family on June 8, 1973 with additions on April 15, 1974.

    Biographical Sketch

    Anna Blake Mezquida was the daughter of San Francisco attorney Maurice B. Blake. Her great-uncle, Maurice G. Blake, was a judge of the California Supreme Court, a mayor of San Francisco, and a member of the city's Committee of Vigilance. Ancestors of both her parents fought in the American Revolution. One maternal ancestor, Lieutenant Ebenezer Eastman, served as an aide to General George Washington. Her family lineage in the United States traces back to the arrival of the Mayflower.
    Born in San Francisco on September 1, 1883, Mezquida won numerous local, state, and national poetry contests throughout her career, the first at age 16. In 1906, having just undergone a serious operation, she experienced the San Francisco earthquake and fire, and subsequently spent several months in the Presidio General Hospital. She married Mateo M. Mezquida, an importer and exporter from Madrid, Spain in 1911. Her poem, "The Wondrous Exposition," was set to music and became the theme song of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
    She studied journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and became a popular poet, short story writer, scenarist, critic, and journalist. By the early 1920s, Mezquida had been published in such periodicals as Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Ladies' Home Journal, and Overland Monthly. In 1922 Mezquida published a book of her poems titled A-Gypsying.
    Mezquida lost her husband to a heart attack in 1928 and remained unmarried the rest of her life. A serious automobile accident in 1933 left Mezquida with broken vertebrae, a fractured skull and injuries to her right arm, causing her to wear a back brace for several years. A lifelong staunch Republican, in 1938, Mezquida began a word of mouth effort to end a strike of San Francisco department store workers. The largely successful "Buy Now" telephone campaign, facilitated by women all over California, urged people to break the strike by shopping at stores as normal.
    During World War II, in addition to working in the United States Office of Censorship and the Message Analysis Unit, she wrote radio broadcasts, both informational spots and dramatic programs, to be transmitted to the Armed Forces stationed in Thailand and the Philippines. After the war, Mezquida wrote for the radio station KFRC. She sold several scenarios to motion picture studios, among them "Dancing Feet," "The Charm Trader," and "What the World Expects." She was active in a number of literary organizations, including the Ina Coolbrith Circle, where she was on the Board of Directors, Theta Sigma Phi (a fraternity of women journalists), and the Authors' League of America, as well as serving as an executive of the San Francisco Branch of the League of American Pen Women. In the late 1940s, Mezquida, as part of the Citizens' Committee to Save the Cable Cars, was very active in an effort to save San Francisco's cable cars from being retired.
    After a long and full career of writing, having been published in dozens of publications and awarded numerous prizes, Anna Blake Mezquida died in San Francisco on March 12, 1965 at the age of 81.

    Scope and Content

    The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers, 1788-1975 (bulk 1898-1965), document her career as a San Francisco poet and author, her participation in many professional organizations, her experience and survival of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and her family's long genealogy in the United States. Mezquida's interests varied widely, though writing was her obvious calling. She supported herself her entire life by writing, whether for the government during World War II, for the movies or radio, by winning contests, or by selling pieces to magazines, from the 1900s to her death in 1965. Also noteworthy are family papers, including military documents, sermons, newspapers, and correspondence dating from as early as 1788, of many of Mezquida's ancestors, the families Blake, Bean, Cary, Clark, Cross, Eastman, Gilman, Wells, and Wiltse.
    Mezquida's correspondence consists almost entirely of incoming letters, with a small portion of outgoing correspondence. The bulk of the incoming correspondence consists of letters from various publishers regarding submitted manuscripts, personal letters from family and friends, fan mail, business correspondence with lawyers, literary agents, and insurance agencies, contest notifications, letters from radio stations and movie studios, and correspondence with affiliated professional clubs and causes. Notable, however, are letters between Mezquida and her mother, Martha Hanna Blake, grandmother, Hannah Little Blake, and aunt, Susan Marcia Blake, from 1906, describing the San Francisco earthquake and fire and their personal experiences. Mezquida's husband Mateo, wrote numerous letters to her between 1898 and his death in 1928, all in Spanish. Also very interesting is the extensive correspondence from Elizabeth Craig, Vivian Horn, and Tana Mayland relating their long stays in Japan during and after WW II. Mezquida received several letters and photographs from Fish Wolf Robe, a Blackfoot Indian whom she met at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition. Among Mezquida's incoming correspondence are also a 1927 thank you letter from Charles Lindbergh, a letter from William Randolph Hearst to Reverend Charles Aked complimenting her writing, and a letter of thanks written by President Herbert Hoover's secretary to Mezquida on the President's behalf.
    Mezquida's writings contain short stories, articles and poems, her main modes of writing, as well as radio scripts and book drafts. Some stories, articles and poems are in typescript form, never published, while others come as clippings from the magazines and newspapers in which they were published. Some of Mezquida's short stories were sold to movie production houses as scenarios for movies, such as "Dancing Feet," "Man Crazy," "Service," "The Charm Trader," and "What the World Expects." The books, which appear here in typescript form, were never published. The radio scripts ("Stories Behind the Headlines," "Thai Newsletter," "Voice of America," "Our Cities," and "Philippine Newsletter") were all written for broadcasting to American military stationed in Southeast Asia.
    The subject files contain research for Mezquida's writings and reflect her personal interests. Most prominent among them are the extensive files on various facets of San Francisco, one of Mezquida's most beloved topics. Other area of interest include Asian countries, Ghost Towns and the Old West, Espionage and the FBI, and the United Nations. Notes and Clippings include poems, scripts, and stories by other authors, which Mezquida may have admired and learned from, as well as notes on writing, radio broadcasting, and radio monitoring.
    Organization papers include notices, certificates, minutes, and mailers from groups to which Mezquida belonged, including the Academy of American Poets, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association, as well as many others. Of interest is the Citizens' Committee to Save the Cable Car file, which includes essays written by school children on why the cable cars should stay in San Francisco. The YWCA materials contain lesson plans and course materials for several writing courses Mezquida taught at the San Francisco Young Women's Christian Association 1963-64.
    Scrapbooks and Miscellany includes Mezquida's recollections of the 1906 earthquake and fire, written a year later, and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from the department store strike in 1938, to which Mezquida was radically opposed, and worked to break. Other materials of note are her biographical materials (mostly relating to her writing career), clippings of her writings and articles about her, diaries of her visits to Fort Bragg, an autograph book of authors and important people of the time, and Mezquida's handwritten recipe book.
    The bulk of the Family Papers contain obituaries, wedding announcements, yearbooks, genealogies, anecdotes, army papers and family correspondence. Of especial interest are several different accounts and correspondence about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The papers of Hannah Little Blake, Martha Eastman Blake, and the Wiltse family all contain accounts of the experience. Also in the Wiltse file is a line pass issued by the Chief of Police during the aftermath of the quake. The Bean family file contains an interesting account of the introduction of tea to Nantucket Island in 1735, as well as a letter from Curtis Bean to Martha Bean from Washington D.C., the day of the Battle of Bull Run in 1861 about the condition of the soldiers and morale of the Union. The Eastman family papers also include a Civil War diary, ca. 1862. In Hannah Little Blake's papers are letters from and about her brother Theodore Blake, who was working in the Dakota Territory from 1879 to 1881 when he was struck by lightning. In the Gilman family file is a booklet of a sermon by Tristam Gilman from 1788. Some of Mateo Mezquida's correspondence, which relates mostly to his import and export businesses, is written in Spanish, as is a letter from him in Hannah Blake's file.
    The Anna Blake Mezquida Papers not only illustrate the life and work of a successful author during the early 20th century, but also show a cross section of how American families from Puritan to Modern times lived, through first hand accounts and documents. The papers present a vivid picture of life in San Francisco from the 1900s to 1960s, in particular the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire.