Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Temple of Religion and Tower of Peace, 1939 Golden Gate Exposition

Over seventy years ago, religious leaders in the Bay Area raised $100,00 to construct a Temple of Religion and Tower of Peace for the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island.

San Francisco's Temple represented all faiths, unlike the Temple of Religion at the 1938 World's Fair in New York City that only represented Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Also, as involvement in the second world war seemed increasingly inevitable, for the last eight Sundays of the exposition the organization sponsored a series of events and lectures to promote peace and keep America out of the conflict.

Treasure Island was later seized from the City and County of San Francisco by the Navy for use as a base during World War II.

We recently received a scrapbook and other materials collected by Fred D. Parr, Parr was the President of the California Church Council and Vice-President and Chairman of the Finance Committee for Temple of Religion and Tower of Peace, Inc.

The scrapbook details the events surrounding the Temple. Besides the activities of local religious organizations, there were a number of curious crises. One mural met with great concern. The depiction of Jesus by Austrian artist Franz Bergmann seemed too dark and "lacking in spirituality and kindness" by many clergymen. Moses appeared too stern and, in a departure from usual form, mostly bald. Bergmann agreed to soften both figures.

Among the exhibits were archeological artifacts from the Palestine Institute (now Bade Institute of Biblical Archaeology) of Pacific School of Religion, a Marcus Whitman exhibit from San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the John Howell exhibit of Bibles, later donated to PSR.

For more information about the Fred D. Parr: Temple of Religion and Tower of Peace, Golden Gate International Exhibition Collection, 1938 – 1939, GTU 2009-11-01, please contact the archivist at archives@gtu.edu.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thomas Starr King, Apostle of Liberty,
Sacramento, December 8, 2009

Statue of Thomas Starr King as unveiled in Washington, DC, 1932

I hear frequently the charge that I preach politics, and that it will make trouble if I do not desist. This undoubtedly refers to the frequency of the treatment I have given, during the last year or so, to the Christian spirit and obligation of humanity, and the application I have often made of it to our responsibility as members of the American government, as entrusted in part with the destiny of an Empire. Wherever there is power there is trust and duty. The preacher’s business is with spiritual laws, and their bearing upon or their application with the duties and the action of common life. If I think and see clearly how a great spiritual principle may be honored by the method in which you can trade, or use your money or exercise your genius, or live at home, am I not bound to interpret that way, leaving it for your conscience and your insight to accept or refuse my interpretation?
Sermon at Hollis Church, Boston, 1856

The statue of Thomas Starr King, which had been on display since 1932 in Statuary Hall in the Capital as one of the heroes of California, is being dedicated at its new location in Sacramento on December 8, 2009, at 1:30 pm. The statue will greet visitors entering the Civil War Grove in Capitol Park.

King's statue was replaced by one of a smiling Ronald Reagan in June this year. The Reagan Foundation donated $35,000 to move the King statue to Sacramento.

King only spent four years in San Francisco before succumbing to pneumonia at the age of 39 in 1864 but his impact was tremendous. A Unitarian Universalist minister, he campaigned actively for the Union cause throughout the state during the Civil War. A small man with a commanding voice, King promoted a love of nature and a love of his fellow man. Besides his efforts to support the Union, he campaigned for support of the Sanitary Commission, a predecessor to the Red Cross, to care for sick and wounded Union soldiers. California raised about 25% of the nearly $5 million for the organization.

In conjunction with the dedication ceremony for the statue, a Thomas Starr King exhibit is on display at the State Capitol Museum through June 30, 2010. The GTU Archives contributed a few items from the Starr King Collection: a traveling case used on his trip from New York to San Francisco, an ambrotype of his wife Julia, and a copy of his journal of the voyage to California.

The GTU archives maintains the collection for the Starr King School of Ministry. For additional information, please contact the archivist at archives@gtu.edu or view the finding aid. We recently put online the book on the 1932 unveiling of the statue in Washington, some photographs, and a scrapbook maintained by Charles W. Wendte.