Maritime Living History
David Hirzel has written extensively on Maritime Living History and is an integral part of the current program at Hyde Street Pier.
We are an association of volunteers who function as historically costumed docents for SFMNHP to engage and educate visitors to the Park. Our intent is to act in first person as historical fictional characters, fulfilling roles unique to the year 1901, within the context of maritime environments as available on the historic ships belonging to the park.
Although the ships in the park operated at different times, the one year in which they all (with the exception of Hercules) could conceivably have moored at a single pier in San Francisco is considered to be 1901.
Historically in 1901, any number of people, representing a multitude of occupations, could have been present on Hyde St. Pier. The men could include seamen looking for a ship or already signed, officers, engineers, cooks and carpenters, union organizers, crimps and runners, stevedores, soldiers, reporters, warehousemen, preachers, gentlemen, individuals of any description as ferryboat passengers.
Women appearing on the pier might include wealthy matrons from Pacific Heights, shopgirls, nurses, sailors (there were indeed, though few, female ABs in 1901), ferryboat passengers of any persuasion. Ladies of the evening, though abundant only a few blocks away, would not have been permitted on the pier.
The activities of the denizens of the pier include demonstrations of various shipboard events natural to a ship in port, such as raising of sails to dry them, manning the pumps of a leaky vessel, loading cargo, ship maintenance, leisure activities during the dogwatch, a captain or a lady of the leisure class entertaining visitors, a shopgirl persuading her patrons to purchase a trinket to bring home.
Uniformed soldiers on leave stroll the boards. Gentlemen take in a breath of salt air. A fruit vendor sells apples from an improvised stand. Runners for the local crimps make small talk with unsuspecting rubes from the heartland. The recent assassination of president McKinley, and the prospects for his successor Teddy Roosevelt provide heady topics between strangers.
As will be apparent, a detailed knowledge of maritime issues, or even San Francisco, 1901, is not to be expected of ALL the above possible characters. The possibilities are endless.