Tuesday, March 27, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 1)

Sheet music cover for I Love You, California, 1913.
You know that antiquated-sounding ode to California used in Jeep TV commercials? That’s a slightly mangled version of our state song: “I Love You California” (1913) – with lyrics written by Silverwood’s clothing store founder, Francis Beatty "Frank" Silverwood (1863–1924), also known as “Daddy” Silverwood.

Most Californians are surprised to learn our state song isn’t "California, Here I Come" (1921) – made popular by Al Jolson, Huell Howser, and your fourth grade teacher.

The intertwined stories of Silverwood and California's adoption of his song are colorful and convoluted to say the least. The tale involves Shriners, a Westminster poet, petty political tomfoolery, failed romances, high fashion, an operatic diva, world travel, legions of poor newsboys, and a place called Happyland.
Francis B. "Daddy" Silverwood
A native of Oakwood, Ontario, Canada, Silverwood first came to the United States in 1877 as a child and sold newspapers for a pittance on the rough-and-tumble streets of New York City. He returned to Canada, but came back to the U.S. at age 18, worked his way across the Pacific Northwest, and eventually arrived in San Francisco around 1886. But he couldn’t find a job there, and he only had $2.50 to his name. So he pawned his watch to pay for steamboat transportation to Eureka, where the Crocker Bros. store had offered him a job selling men’s clothing. It was the start of a career and a lifelong business partnership with fellow clothier George Edward Nagel, and it was also where Silverwood would gain American citizenship in 1892. He worked for Crocker Bros. for five years and rose to the position of manager before leaving to co-found McNamara & Silverwood clothiers with William A. McNamara.
Homeless New York newsboys, late 1800s.
Two years later, in the Spring of 1894, Silverwood left Eureka, with a plan to open his own men’s clothing store in Los Angeles with help from Nagel. First, however, he took a trip to New York and then to see his family in Canada.

Silverwood and Nagel opened their first Silverwood store on May 13, 1894 at 124 South Spring Street in Los Angeles. (Orange Countians may remember some of the chain’s branches, much later, at Anaheim Plaza, La Habra Fashion Square, and Newport's Fashion Island.)
Among the first advertisements for Silverwood's store, from the Los Angeles Herald, May 12, 1894.
"Mr. Silverwood is a big, good hearted, genial whole souled fellow,” wrote the San Bernardino County Sun when a Silverwood store later opened in their city. “Although he weighs 250 pounds, he plays golf, was one of the end men in the Jonathan Club minstrel show, and sees the sunny side of life."

Already, Silverwood was a proud Californian who signed his letters, "Yours to the end of the trail, Daddy."

On Jan. 27, 1897, Silverwood married Miss Marie L. Funk, a 23-year-old Illinois native. Previously, she was a clerk in the Charles A. Lang millinery shop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The wedding was a simple affair conducted at the bride’s uncle’s home in Los Angeles, and she carried a bouquet of orange blossoms down the aisle. They initially lived in a room in a boarding house on Hill Street until Frank’s business really got rolling. By 1910, things were going so well that the Silverwoods had money for a trip around the world, including stops in Japan, China, and Hawaii. But something may have happened on or around that trip that took the romance out of their marriage.
Mrs. Marie L. Silverwood, 1909
Later that year, Marie took off to Europe with no return trip planned. She only came back to the U.S. when World War I began in earnest, and even then did not return to her husband. In 1915, Frank Silverwood filed for and received a divorce on grounds of desertion.

By then, his life had already taken an interesting new turn.

Next time: Part 2 - Hail, California!

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