Wednesday, February 24, 2010

San Francisco origins of Lulu

On Monday, I wrote a piece for about researching local history online. My local library, the San Francisco Public Library, recently announced on one of its blogs that a number of city directories and other old books and records had been uploaded to the wonderful Internet Archive.

To see a list of these newly available documents and other content scanned from the San Francisco Public Library, follow the link

These newly available documents join a number of other works of interest at the Internet Archive. As one can guess, these directories are a great source of historical and genealogical information. Looking around as I love to do, I came across some interesting and obscure informations regarding the origins of "Lulu."

Did you know that the German playwright Frank Wedekind has San Francisco roots? Wedekind, of course, is the author of both Spring Awakening (the basis for the popular Broadway rock musical) and Pandora’s Box (the basis for both the 1929 Louise Brooks silent film, as well as Alban Berg’s 1937 opera).

During the early years of his life, Wedekind's father served as physician. A progressive democrat, he also participated in the 1848 Revolution, and next year escaped to America, where he made a fortune in land speculation. In San Francisco he married Emilie Kammerer, a singer and actress twenty-three years his junior. (Some scholars have speculated that this relationship might have served as a kind of model for the relationship between Lulu and Dr. Schon in Pandora’s Box.)

A search of the newly available city directories for 1858, 1860, and 1862 reveals that the future playwright’s Father, Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind, had a medical practice at 136 and later 524 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Doctor Wedekind was also a prominent member of the local German General Benevolent Society as well as President of the local German Club.

Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind and Emilie Kammerer’s second child – the future writer, was conceived in San Francisco - though born in Hanover, Germany. Early in the pregnancy, the patriotic couple decided to return to their native land. And that’s where Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (named for the free-thinking American revolutionary - and later known simply as Frank) was born in 1864.

I was able to find additional information about the Wedekind's San Francisco sojourn utilizing these newly available online documents. Thank you SFPL. Thank you Internet Archive.

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