Charles Frederick Holder.

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and is an excellent one for wheelmen.
Though extending through the flat,
low-lying land that skirts the eastern
margin of the Bay of San Francisco,
and running for miles and miles with-
in sight of the marshes seamed with
.sinuous sloughs, that cut up the tall
swamp-grass into a network of curious
patterns and designs, this highway is
not found wanting in charms by the
observing traveler. As we bowled
along to San Leandro, on our left in
silent repose lay the hills of the Diablo
range, over which the sun had just
risen, and whose tops he was burnish-
ing with his golden rays. On our
right, dim in distance, on the other
side of the bay, could be seen the in-
distinct outlines of the mountain
ranges which form the backbone of
the peninsula, while here and there,
with our ever-changing point of ob-
servation, broad patches of shimmer-
ing water kept flashing into view.
Villa after villa is passed with its
fruit-laden orchards and rich lands ;
for San Leandro is one of Pomona's
pleasant garden spots.

Beyond San Leandro, the flat coun-
try lying between the water and the
foot-hills widens out, exhibiting a vast


7 6


level of agricultural soil, which yields
great crops to the farmer. Far beyond
the plain, and high above the distant
hills, rises Mount Hamilton. Having
passed by Haywards (to the west of
it) we approach Alvarado, and out on
the marsh, a mile or two away, we
see the bright sheen of canvas tents
glittering in the morning sunlight.
As we proceed, more and still more of
them break into view. They are in
scattering irregularity, and we won-
der what people are these who love
" to dwell in tents " on the marshes,
ana speculate as to what their occupa-
tion may be. Reader, these tent-like
objects are salt-stacks; but if you had
looked upon them without knowing
what they were, as we did, you would
mentally have converted them into
tents, and peopled them with indus-
trious inhabitants pursuing an un-
known vocation.

Proceeding farther up the line of the
bay, Newark and Alviso near its head,
are reached and passed. It is here at
these head-waters, where several San
Francisco shooting-clubs have their
duck-grounds, to which the mallard
and teal resort and which the canvas
back and other toothsome web-footed
bipeds make their resting places
on their journey to that lodestar and
El Dorado of the Anatidae — the valley
of the San Joaquin. Leaving the bay
with its dreary, sad-colored border of
marsh, we push forward to San Jose.
As we enter the Santa Clara Valley
the scene gradually changes. The
dull monotony of wide and almost
treeless wastes gives place to beautiful
stretches of park-lands, succeeding one
another in picturesque varieties of
nature's landscape gardening. Oak-
timbered woodlands, presenting end-
less combinations of groves and groups
of trees, or scattering evergreens,
appear in panoramic succession, rival-
ing each other in the morning fresh-
ness of their sylvan vigor, and in the
mute assertion of their individual
loveliness. As we approach San Jose,
stately villas surrounded by lawns and
well-kept grounds adorned with ex-

otic trees and plants, and gorgeous
with the colors of many a favorite of
Flora, bespeak the wealth of the own-
ers and the richness of the soil. It
was not without a fair and honest
claim that to this valley was awarded
the title of the Garden of California.

Shortly after ten A. m., we trundled
leisurely into the city and idled away
the remainder of the day among its
charming surroundings. Early next
morning, we pulled out and steered
our course for Mount Hamilton.

A mile or two of easy, rapid riding
through the suburbs carries us to the
base of the first series of hills through
which winds our sinuous way for
twenty -six miles to the peak. A
straight road of four miles' length,
leading directly to the foot-hills has,
to the eye of a cyclist at least, a de-
ceptive appearance, beguiling him
with pretension of descent. A slower
and harder revolution, however, soon
exposes the illusion, and we find that
we are leaving the valley and have
already commenced our mountain
climb. Presently we are compelled to
dismount and proceed afoot ; thence-
forth the cycle ceases to be a means of
conveyance and becomes our impedi-
menta and distress. However, when
one makes his return on the wheel —
which I did not, as will be recorded
later — the exertion of the up-trip must
be more than compensated for by the
glorious ride down.

Shady nooks, resonant with the
murmurs of cool, trickling streams,
ofttimes tempt the heated and dust-
coated wayfarer to rest, and afford him
during these intervals of repose, un-
interrupted views of the country he
has left behind, and of the smiling
towns and villages which sparkle like
gems in the valley beneath him. But
we must push on, though long and
dusty be the way.

The glistening, copper-colored dome
of the observatory, only a few miles dis-
tant in an air-line, keeps flashing its
invitation to us at frequent turns in
the long winding road ; but our prac-
tical cyclometers cease not to disabuse



our minds of hallucinations, and hold
out no promises of a speedy arrival.
Smith's Creek Hotel, six miles dis-
tant from the bright deceiver, is
reached at last, to the door of which
hostelry we ride up with a flourish,
contrasting strongly with the meek
demeanor and jaded appearance of the

on our right, as to make us hug the
hill on the near side with something
akin to affection. Finally, we step
within the grateful shade of the ob-
servatory, and our climb is ended.

The amount of freedom permitted
visitors in this institution is some-
thing surprising. Room after room,


travel-stained wayfarers, whom the
bevy of young ladies now occupying
the cool shades of the veranda, had
passed in their carriage an hour before,
resting by the wayside a couple of
miles below. Here we stall our wheels,
deciding to prosecute the remainder
of the journey afoot.

About four o'clock we make a fresh
start, leaving the road at a point just
opposite the hotel and taking the
trail over the mountain. Steep climb-
ing we find it., and along a very nar-
row path, which, in places, runs so
alarmingly close to an abyssmal descent

teeming with valuable scientific in-
struments, may be visited without
interruption or restraint. Here are
costly chronometers and siderial
clocks ticking off the fleeting seconds
with dignified exactness. In the hall
are interesting photographs of our
satellite, and of planets taken by the
L,ick instruments. Here, also, we find
a clock which, at a certain instant
every day, regulates every clock on
the Southern Pacific Railroad, within
the Pacific Coast time division. Here,
too, stands the seismograph, with its
ever-ready pen stationary at the ter-



initiation of the final recording stroke
of the erratic lines formed by the last
earthquake ; while a hundred other
interesting articles are to be found
throughout the building.

Professor Holden's residence is close
to the observatory and facing the east,
those of his corps of assistants being
scattered at intervals throughout the

The twelve-inch equatorial telescope,
though a mere toy in comparison with
the gigantic Lick, is an instrument of
high-class quality, and occupies a
smaller dome at the north end of the
building. This dome is reached by a
spiral iron stairway, and from the
balcony outside of it, we obtain a
splendid view of the surrounding

Retracing our steps, and wending
our way along the cool, beautifully-
lighted hall, we come to the cynosure
of all, the world-renowned Lick tele-
scope. Nobody interferes as we step
inside the lofty dome, and we enjoy
to our hearts' content an uninterrupted
view of the great star-revealer. We

find ourselves in a perfectly circular,
lofty, dome-shaped structure, with an
immense slit in the revolving roof,
through which protrudes the thirty-
six inch lens. One's first wonder,
after a proper feeling of reverence for
the great minds who can conceive,
construct, and put to its proper uses
so grand an instrument, is how they
manage to clean the lens, which seems
to be no inconsiderable distance on the
way to heaven itself — visions of an
employee creeping monkey-like along
the great tube appearing to our un-
tutored mind. A little later the puz-
zle is explained to us, and we are told
that the ponderous piece of mechanism,
weighing some fourteen tons, may, by
a turn of the thumb and finger, be in-
stantly reversed, its face polished and
then reversed again, so perfectly is it
poised and adjusted.

A circular floor, reminding one of
the top of a huge gasometer, moves
with the dome around the pedestal
that supports the mass of iron and In-
genuity before us. Connected there-
with is the immensely powerful clock





work that holds that glass-eyed mon-
ster unwaveringly upon whatever
object it may be trained.

Stages and vehicles of every de-
scription, all loaded with passengers,
are now beginning to arrive, and a
string of jaded-looking animals are
already hitched along the entire front
of the observatory building. It is
Saturday, the only day of the week on
which the
general pub-
lic is permit-
ted to look
through the
begins to
spread its
mantel over
the earth,
and in the

concave firmament overhead, bright
planets show themselves, and the rays
shed by distant suns thousands of years
ago become visible messengers, bring-
ing to us news from the stars. In the
now-darkened dome, at least 150
sight-seers, ourselves among them,
take their seats upon the circular bench
within the iron railing which surrounds
the floor of the instrument. A whisper
goes around that Mars is the planet in
the field to-night. This, to us, is
pleasing information, inasmuch as
we have read a vast amount of fact
and fiction combined regarding that
interesting planet, and are anxious to
see what it looks like through the space-
absorbing Lick.

Across the circular floor in front of
us is a set of steps much resembling a
well-made flowerstand, upon which,
according to the angle of the instru-
ment, you take your position so as to
command the eyepiece. A group of
about a dozen persons at a time is
admitted to the floor from the sur-
rounding circular string of humanity
that is patiently awaiting admission in
detachments. Imagine such a group
of visitors already around the obliging
sub-professor. He is explaining to
them collectively the beauties and

wonders of Mars, as individually they
take their position in turn at the eye-
piece. Occasionally the light from the
Warrior planet is seen to flash and
scintillate from out of the narrow eye-
piece, upon the features of some fair
beholder, illumining her radiant face
with martial glory as she applies her
eye to the tube. Our position in the
circle was not favorable for an early

peep at the
planet, and
we had to
wait for
nearly three
w a t c h i 11 g
the slowly
moving line,
before our
turn arrived.
While cross-
ing this long bridge from expectancy to
realization, we discussed the wonders
and possibilities of the mighty instru-
ment with an old Californian, who
informed us that he " knew Jim L,ick
when he was in no fix to give away
telescopes, nor liuthiu' else," and upon
suggesting that when Mr. Lick did get
ready to donate such an article, he cer-
tainly gave a good one, our perverse
and argumentative friend remarked,
' ' Yes, and he lies dead at the bottom
of it." Not wishing to go any deeper
into the subject, we turn our attention
to the smiling janitor who has just
whispered, " Your turn next."

For some little time we gaze on the
distant globe, and the brain is hot with
the thoughts that crowd upon it, as
the mysteries of creation, the laws of
construction and development, and the
origin of intelligent life challenge the
soul with their dark secrets. One last
lingering look, as though upon the
face of a dear, departing friend whom
we may never see again, and we re-
luctantly withdraw our reverential
gaze from the planet Mars.

For the accomplishment of this great
undertaking — the construction of a
" telescope superior to and more pow-
erful than any telescope yet made,



with all the machinery appertaining
thereto " — and the erection of a suit-
able observatory, Mr. Lick left $700,-
000, it being expected that after the
cost of the establishment and all
accessories, there Would remain a sur-
plus of at least $300,000, for the en-
dowment of the institution. The
expectation proved fallacious, for when


the work was completed fully $600,000
had been spent. Large as the sum is,
the result is most satisfactory ; but
when due weight is given to the nat-
ural difficulties to be overcome and the
expensive kind of manufacture that
was demanded, it is surprising that
the first calculations should have been
based on estimates that promised a
lower figure.

The selection of a site for his pro-
jected observatory was a matter that
caused Mr. Lick much embarrassment,
and several localities, from a low,
smoke- and fog-veiled site on Market
street, San Francisco, to one in the
Sierra Nevada, 10,000 feet above sea
level and elevated beyond the cloud
reach, in turn attracted his attention.
Finally Mount Hamilton was chosen
as the mountain pedestal that was to
support alike his gift to the State and
his own mausoleum. In the selection
of this site the donator made it a con-
dition that the county of Santa Clara
should construct to the summit, a
mountain road superior to any exist-
ing in California — terms which were
faithfully carried out at a cost of $78,-
000. Though this roadway is too
steep for a wheelman ascending to the

observatory, its grade has been so
scientifically laid, that at the steepest
it is not more than six and one-half
feet in the hundred.

In July, 1874, Mr. Lick executed a
trust deed, and gave his attention to
the maturement of his project. But
dissatisfaction arose between himself
and the trustees he had appointed;
vacillation and inactivity fol-
lowed, and on October 1, 1876,
Mr. Lick died, having executed a
new deed — the third one — just
one month previously, appointing
a new board of trustees, and turn-
ing over the future observatory
to the State University instead of
to the Academy of Sciences, as
had been his first intention. In
1887, his remains were placed in
™ a sepulcher in the base of the pier
which supports the great tele-
For three years the trustees were
fettered and unable to begin work,
owing to that apparently inevitable
litigation to which a deceased mil-
lionaire's estate is subject from some
cause or other. In 1880, however,
claims having been adjusted, work
was begun in earnest. An area on
the summit of the mountain was
leveled, affording space enough for
the observatory and accessory build-
ings. Two summers were consumed
in this preliminary work, an immense
quantity of rock having to be removed.
Some distance below this platform on
a level flat, kilns were erected, and
over 3,000,000 bricks were manu-
factured and used in the construction
of the buildings. In five years these
were all completed, with the exception
of the great dome, which could not
be put up in toto until its world-
famed inmate had been placed in

Meantime, with the vicissitudes
that all great undertakings are liable
to, the great lense was in process of
manufacture. Alvan Clark & Sons
were recognized as the most success-
ful makers of large lenses, and during
the time of the helpless inactivity of



the Lick trustees, that firm had pro-
duced for the Imperial Observatory at
Pulkowa, Russia, a thirty-inch glass,
the largest lens in the world. In
order to fulfil the conditions of the
gift, the trustees required a larger
glass than this, and the Clarks were
induced to enter into a contract to
supply a thirty-six inch one for $50,-
000. Beyond this they would not go.
Feil & Co., of
Paris, undertook
to cast the glass,
and in 1882 this
had been success-
fully done ; but
the crown glass
was cracked in
packing. Then
followed two
years of defeated
efforts to recast
the great vitre-
ous block, until
finally in the year
1885, a block as


perfect as human skill could produce,
was shipped to the Clarks. Another
year was spent by the latter in cutting
out and perfecting the lens, a work of
infinite patience, and requiring the
most delicate exactness. Messrs.
Warney & Swazey of Cleveland man-
ufactured the mounting, a marvelous
production of fine mechanism, and the
Union Iron Works of San Francisco
turned out the great
dome. The cost of
the Lick Telescope
with its accessories
w r as about $200,-
000. This triumph
of manufacturing
skill is sixty feet
long, and the tube
alone weighs four
tons. It rests upon
an iron column
thirty-seven feet
high, and so perfect
is the adjustment of
the mechanical de-
tails that the mon-
ster can be directed
to any point in the
heaven's vault as
easily as an opera
glass in a fair lady's

In 1888, the ob-
servatory was for-
mally turned over
by the trustees to
the University, and
with it 1,901*^
acres of land. This
area has since been
increased by State and National grants
to 2,581 acres, an amount of land not
too large to effectively secure the build-
ings against destruction by brush fires.

The mountain-summit platform on
which the observatory stands is reached
by a long flight of stairs leading from
the flat immediately below, and on which
are situated cottages in which the as-
tronomers and mechanics of the estab-
lishment reside. This flat is the limit
of approach by vehicles. Having sur-
mounted the steps, passing on our way



il.l'WAY CURVE <>N Mors 1

upward a large brick building ap-
propriated to the use of the astron-
omers, and whose upper story is on
a level with the surface of the plat-
form, we stand in front of the observ-
atory, or rather its main building.
It is composed of two domes con-
nected by a hall 121 feet long,
flanked on the west side by study
rooms for the computers, instrument
rooms, clock rooms, and work rooms
of different branches connected with
an astronomical establishment. Nor
must the library with its collection of
mathematical and astronomical books
be forgotten. The dome which the
Lick telescope occupies is situated at
the south end, and rests on the top of
a tower built firmly into the solid rock.
This pillar of support holds, sus-
pended in equilibrium, no less than
eighty-nine tons of movable structure,
operated by hydraulic power, the
floor being raised or lowered with the
same ease and accuracy as an elevator,
and the vast dome, seventy-eight feet

in diameter, being swung round at
pleasure as easily as the dude can
twist his finger rings. The useof the
smaller dome has already been men-
tioned. Detached from this main
building are the Transit Instrument
and the Meridan Circle houses, the
former containing a four-inch transit
and zenith telescope, and the latter a
Repsold instrument. To enumerate
all the accessory instruments with
which the observatory is provided,
would be tedious and supererogatory;
but the reader may rely upon the fact
that there are photographic and spec-
troscopic apparatus, chronographs and
clocks, earthquake indicators and
divers meteorological instruments in
all the necessary abundance.

Mount Hamilton's summit is 4,209
feet above the sea-level, and at that
altitude the sky is very favorable for
astronomical observations, a cloudy or
misty atmosphere being of rare occur-
rence. The position of the observatory
is above the fog stratum, and at early



moiK the astronomer can look down
upon the opaque fog-banks stretching
over the valleys far below him, while
the atmosphere around him is as clear
as his heart can desire. The views
from the Lick Observatory are exten-
sive and grand. A ruffled sea of
rugged hills stretches around ; to the
west lies San Jose in the miniature of
distance's reduction, and northward of
it gleams the Bay of San Francisco,
looking like a solid mirror set in the
earth, and framed with delicate green
and neutral-colored embellishments.
Tamalpais rears his scarred brow
beyond, three score and six miles
away ; and eastward, a hundred miles
distant, the Sierras raise their summits,
the only elevations that look down
upon us. Southward, mountain land-
marks break successively into view at
ranges varying from six to sixty miles,
and that bright silver line, eighty-seven
miles away, is the shining edge of the
sea horizon beneath which, with a
telescope, we can see ships sailing to
and fro on ocean's waves.

In conclusion it will not be out of
place to make mention of the work
done at the observatory and its dis-
tribution among the corps. Professor
Holden. besides the duties of general
superintendence and those connected
with the charge of forwarding the
result of each individual's work, is
librarian, scientific correspondent and
editorial supervisor of the publications
of the Astronomical Society. Accord-
ing to the official report, the weekly
work at the great telescope is thus
divided : two nights it is used by
Prof. Holden and Assistant Astron-
omer and Secretary Colton for photo-
graphic purposes ; two nights it is
employed for spectroscopic observa-
tions, and two nights it is used by
Barnard and Schaeberle for miscella-
neous work. The meridian circle is
in charge of the latter, and the twelve-
inch and six and one-half inch tele-
scopes in that of the former. Professor
Campbell attends to the time service.
It only remains to remark that the
limited means at the disposal of the
Vol. IV— 6

University for the management of the
establishment only enable the regents
to keep a small staff of astronomers ;
and the greatest telescope in the world
and the best located observatory are
insufficiently provided for in working
force, which is not the half of that
employed in any one of the prominent
establishments of the kind, either in
the United States or Europe.

It was late when we left the build-
ing and began the downward trip. It
was so dark that I determined to ride
down as far as Smith's, making the
start from there afresh in the morning.
The coach I happened to catch con-
tained a party of Raymond excur-
sionists, among whom w r ere several
jocular gentlemen who evidently con-
sidered the driver fair game.

The road down from the summit is
in all probability the finest cut road
in the world, but it is steep, abounds
in sharp turns and terrific precipices,
and is not a road one would select to
go down at full speed. Yet when the
four-in-hand turned down into the
road, the driver spoke to the leaders
and away we went at a run.

"It's perfectly safe, ' ' said the driver.

"You don't call this fast driving,
do you?" said a tourist who sat by
me. u Why, this is nothing. Why
don't you stir them up?"

The driver glanced at the speaker,
mashed his hat firmly on his head
and brought a crack from his whip
like the report of a revolver, at which
the horses sprang forward in a mad
gallop. Crack came the whip again,
and with a terrific sway the heavy
coach swung around the curve and
w r ent tearing down the road. Fitful
shrieks began to come from the " in-
sides, ' ' and the tourist who had made
the remark was clinging to the rail
with desperation and a face that
looked white, yet he said not a word.

Trees, spectral trunks, great oaks
and sycamores flew by, clouds of dust
rose and hid the landscape so that the
horses seemed rushing into a fog bank.*
Over bridges we went, the thunder of

* See frontispiece.

8 4


hoofs rising in the night with a weird
and forbidding sound. The pace kept
increasing; the horses were at a dead
run, sweeping round curves with a
frightful swing, now coming up under
the brake with a terrific crash, then
tearing madly on in the wild race for

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 11 of 120)