history | KALW


Jeremy Fish

Once upon a time in Gold Rush-era San Francisco a businessman amassed a fortune, then lost it all and went insane. His next move? He declared himself Emperor of the United States. 

Laura Elliott for santacruzmountains.com

Have you ever gone camping and thought you saw something mysterious in the woods?

When the colonists first came to America their ideal wife "was a woman who was civil and under 50 years of age."

Sandip Roy

How did just a few thousand British control the country of India? 


While there’s no doubt that Johannes and Clara were very close and loved each other, it was Clara who suffered the most from this triangle. 

Featured composition: J. Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34


Explorations is a co-production between KALW and San Francisco Performances

Today we discover the source of Brahms' notorious mysogyniny and how that affected his relationship with Clara.

Featured composition: Brahms' Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34

Explorations is a co-production between KALW and San Francisco Performances. Go to thier "Saturday Morning series" and experience how Explorations comes to life! 

After Robert's hospitilazation, Brahms immediately came to Dusseldorf and stayed with Clara, helping with the children and the Schumann house. Staying with Clara until Robert's death. But what would this mean for their relationship?

Featured composition: Brahms Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 51 No. 2

 Explorations is a co-production between KALW and San Francisco Performances 

Robert Schumann was already unhealthy when the young Johanness knocked on his door in October of 1853, but no one knew just how bad it would get.

Featured music: R. Schumann String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3  Explorations is a co-production between KALW and San Francisco Performances Go to thier "Saturday Morning series" and experience how Explorations comes to life!

Pamela Denise Harris

Carolina De Robertis traveled to her family’s country Uruguay and learned about the nation’s queer history. The trip inspired her latest book "Cantoras," about five lesbians living during a dictatorship who escape to a rustic beach that becomes their sanctuary.

Don Kagin

Hey Area is where we find answers to questions you ask. San Francisco artist Jeremy Fish wanted to know: What is the value today of an authentic monetary note from the famous San Francisco anti-hero Emperor Norton?

Ariella Markowitz / KALW

Hey Area is where we find answers to questions you ask. One listener wanted to know, what’s the history behind the street fire alarm boxes around the city? Are they functioning today?

Manolo Morales / KALW

Hey Area is where we find answers to questions you ask. One listener wanted to know, what is the back story of Jose Castro, the individual that the Castro District is named after?

A Taste Of The Long History Of Bay Area Chocolate

Sep 4, 2019
Asal Ehsanipour / KALW News

The Bay Area’s long history of chocolate spans all the way back to the Gold Rush. Since then, the region has been a source for chocolate innovation again and again, from a Berkeley-based revolution in chocolate desserts to a craft chocolate revolution in the ‘90s that turned the industry on its head.

Courtesy of Market Street Railway Archives

San Francisco’s oldest working streetcar is a survivor. Car 578, sometimes called “The Dinky,” has a Cinderella story. Once the laughingstock of the fleet, it went on to inspire Muni’s collection of historic cars. 

Philosophy Talk: Reading the Troubled Past

Aug 13, 2019

What should we do with literature and philosophy from a discredited moral past?

Was There Ever An Exotic Zoo In Glen Canyon?

Aug 6, 2019
From the San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, 1897. Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library, Articles and Databases.

KALW listener Richard Goldman wanted to know if there was ever an exotic zoo in Glen Canyon, and whether there was a railroad that connected the canyon to downtown San Francisco. 

Exploring Sausal Creek: Ancient Redwoods And Ohlone Roots

Jul 30, 2019
Cinque Mubarak

Every time you pass through East Oakland and head towards downtown, you cross over Sausal Creek. But chances are you haven’t seen it because it’s been largely fenced off, paved over, or piped underground But starting at Dimond Park you can follow Sausal Creek undisturbed all the way up to Highway 13. 

The Port Chicago 50: An Oral History

Jul 17, 2019
Damian Dovarganes / AP Images

Seventy-five years ago, today, on July 17th, 1944, two Liberty ships anchored at the Port Chicago Munitions Case near San Francisco, exploded. 390 men were injured. 320 men died. It was the worst homefront disaster of World War II.

Photo courtesy of Julia Flynn Siler/modified from original

In 19th Century San Francisco's Chinatown only 1 in 10 people were women, and most of them were forced into prostitution, trafficked by criminal tongs. 

Nina Sparling / KALW

San Franciscans have an opportunity to experience the city as it was more than 80 years ago. Thanks to a collaboration between San Francisco MOMA and the San Francisco Public Library, an architectural model of the city’s neighborhoods from 1938 is on display at libraries throughout San Francisco. 

Saying goodbye to the Mission's Lucca Ravioli

Apr 18, 2019
Bo Walsh / KALW

In this Audiograph, we head to Lucca Ravioli, a San Francisco landmark since 1925. After being in business on the corner of 22nd and Valencia Streets for almost a century, the building went up for sale and the longtime Italian market & delicatessen is closing its doors. At the end of this month, the familiar hand painted signs on the storefront will be coming down.

Photo courtest of M. Klein Stahl and K. Schatz/modified from original

Times like these call for radical ideas. But is being a radical a positive thing? And if so, why are so many radicals seen as dangerous?

Berkeley South Asian Radical Walking Tour

There are a thousand hidden histories in the Bay Area – stories in the cement, just beneath the surface of our routes to work or school or play. There are also a handful of guided walking tours that aim to pull these stories from the pavement: Architecture tours, neighborhood tours, literary tours. And then, there is the Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour. In 2012, Barnali Ghosh began the tour with her husband, Anirvan Chatterjee.

What is San Francisco's oldest running streetcar?

Feb 20, 2019
Magnolia McKay / KALW

San Francisco is home to a fleet of colorful historic streetcars. They run on Market Street and the Embarcadero, as the F and E lines. We got the question “What is the oldest running streetcar in San Francisco?” KALW Audio Academy Fellow Magnolia McKay found the answer.

Ali Eminov / Flickr Creative Commons, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / cropped

The South Bay used to be an area where African Americans flourished. Since the late 1700s, through the Great Migration and the civil rights movement of the 60s, black families thrived, working in the car industry, public service, and yes — technology.

Sandip Roy/modified from original

Sandip investigates the journey of a small town Scottish postmaster to his resting place in Kolkata.  

(The music in this episode was from the "Yatra" concert and composed by Dalbir Singh Rattan, except for "Irish washerwoman" played on bagpipes by Michael Cusack from the album "Scotland … At It’s Best!")

99% Invisible: The Blazer Experiment

Nov 9, 2018

In 1968, Menlo County, California hired a new Police Chief.  His name was Victor Cizanckas.  With tensions running high between the police and the community, Chief Cizanckas decided to institute a number of new reforms that would alleviate those tensions.  One of those changes was trading in the old, pseudo-military, dark blue police uniform for a less intimidating and aggressive look: slacks, a dress shirt and tie, and blazer ... 

Potrait by Nina Subin


On this edition of Your Call, we’ll speak with Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein about her book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

Image via wikimedia commons

On this edition of Your Call, Richard Walker returns for another discussion about Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Spot: Uncovering Lost Sounds

Feb 5, 2018

This week on KALW's showcase for the best stories from public radio podcasts and independent radio producers...