Erected in 1897 to celebrate California statehood. Also known as the Native Sons Monument and the Phelan Fountain. It was commissioned by San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan for $12,000. It was sculpted by Californian Douglas Tilden.
Also known as the Native Sons Monument and the Phelan
Fountain, the Admission Day Monument was erected to celebrate California’s 1850
admission to the Union. It was commissioned by San Francisco Mayor James D.
Phelan for $12,000. Like the Mechanics Monument located nearby, it was sculpted
by Californian Douglas Tilden. It was unveiled on California Admission Day
(September 9) in 1897.
An 18.5-foot-tall Doric marble columnn designed by Willis
Polk rests on a paneled pedestal. A bronze winged female figure representing the
Genius of California stands atop the columnn. She holds a book inscribed “September
9, 1850,” the date California became a state. The angelic figure is said to be
modeled after the artist’s wife.
At the base of the columnn stands a miner representing the Youth
of California. The miner “rush[es]
forward with impetuous haste and cheer[s] lustily in triumphant enthusiasm.”1 Armed with a pistol, he holds a pick behind
his back and, waves a large American flag. The miner also honors the Native
Sons of the Golden West, to whom the monument is dedicated.
It is engraved with a declaration made by W.H. Seward to
U.S. Senate on California’s admission to the Union: “The unity of our empire
hangs on the decision of this day.”
The Admission Day monument was intended as a public drinking
fountain. According to the San Francisco
Call in 1895,
San Francisco is badly off for drinking fountains, and even
one of stucco or ordinary stone would be a boon to weary pedestrians, who too
often have to trudge along thirsty or patronize the saloon. A fountain such as
Mr. Phelan proposes to erect will make a draught of pure water an artistic joy.
It may even take the same hold on the public affection that the fountains in
Rome have, where the people linger to exchange the news and enjoy one moment
more of dolce far niente [sweetness of doing nothing] as they admire the sculptor's bronze and marble for
the hundredth time.2
Water poured out of the mouths of two bear heads symbolizing
California. Entwined rattlesnakes beneath the fountains represented the Sierra
Nevada mountains and the dangers of the Wild West.
The monument stood at the intersection of Mason, Turk and
Market Streets, near the Native Sons of the Golden West in San Francisco’s
Tenderloin District, from 1897-1948. It was moved to Golden Gate Park near many
other public monuments in 1948. But lobbying from the Native Sons returned it to
Market, Post & Montgomery streets in 1977.