Can anyone give me information about William Greer Harrison? : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I have been researching this gentleman for the last three months on the internet, on, and at the 42nd Street Library in Manhattan, New York. So far I have gotten these pieces of information about him:

1) He was from a large family from Ireland. 2) He came to San Francisco in the 1850s. 3) He was the manager of an insurance company's offices in San Francisco (its headquarters were in or near Liverpool, England). 4) He was a founding member of the Bohemian Club. 5) He was a close friend of fellow Bohemian Daniel O'Connell. 6) Harrison had literary pretentions, writing a verse drama about the Earl of Tyrone (the anti-Elizabethan Irish military hero), which was produced in San Francisco, and starred James O'Neal (the actor father of playwrite Eugene). Harrison also wrote lacrymose or weak poetry. Unfortunately, his other fellow Bohemian, Ambrose Bierce, compared it to the sound of water from a pump at a horse trough. 7) Harrison would retaliate against Bierce when the latter was accused of anti-Semitism when a young Jewish poet Bierce criticized killed himself. Harrison wrote angry letters against Bierce in the local newspapers. 8) Harrison may have had a famous conversation with a British physician, Dr. Benjamin Howard, in April 1895 at the Bohemian Club, in which Dr. Howard claimed that the British spiritualist, Robert Lees, had solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper by a series of visions that led to the discovery of a Harley Street doctor as the murderer. 9) In 1896 Harrison did a sixty mile walk on his sixtieth birthday to show his physical fitness. 10)In this period of the 1880s-1890s he was an earliest supporter and backer of the great heaviweight boxer, James J. Corbett. 11)Due to the number of jokes played on him, he gradually soured on the Bohemian Club, and joined the Olympic club. He eventually became it's President several times. In fact, a statue to him is in the Club. 12)When his friend, and fellow minor-poet, O'Connell died in 1899, Harrison wrote an eight page biographical sketch on O'Connell's life for an edition of O'Connell's poetry called SONGS OF BOHEMIA which was edited by Ina Coolbirth (who was librarian at the Bohemian Club). 13)Civic minded, Harrison was on a committee chaired by James Phelan, the future Mayor and U.S. Senator. This committee (formed in 1904) was to hire the great Louis Sullivan to redesign the city of San Francisco (my guess is this project was never finished, unless Sullivan was able to put some of his ideas down during the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire. 14)In 1907, Harrison advised the President of the University of California on setting up a series of games of soccer against the champion team from New Zealand. Both the University of California and Stanford were involved in a controvertial attempt to drop football for soccer after several bad injuries and deaths in college football games. The Olympic Club (under Harrison's leadership) sponsored the visit of the New Zealand team. 15)In 1917 Harrison published a pamphlet on physical fitness, insisting that one could do some heavy-duty exercise in a comfy chair (yes really). He may have been hinting at a regimen of callisthenics. 16)I believe he died about 1918, but I am not sure. The New York Times Indices and the Times guide to obituaries does not mention when he died.

If anybody out there knows anything about Harrison, or of sources that might tell me more about him, please let me know. Thank you.


-- Jeffrey Bloomfield (, August 11, 2002


Is this the same Harrison that married Ann Pettis.

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy**), August 16, 2002.

Harrison is not listed in the 1875 City Directory. In the 1880 Directory he is listed as president "Harrison & Co Agents for Thames and Mersey Marine Insurance Co, Liverpool".

His residence is listed as 806 Stockton St.

Good luck in your research.

-- Kurt Iversen (, August 19, 2002.

Thank you both for the two responses so far.

Jeff Bloomfield

-- Jeffrey Bloomfield (, August 19, 2002.

In response to Comment 15, in 1915 Harrison published a 72 page hardcover book entitled "MAKING A MAN - A MANUAL OF ATHLETICS" (Published by H.S. Crocker Co., San Francisco) The book is dedicated to the Olympic Club and includes several photographs of Olympic Club members as well as other athletic personalities such as boxer "Gentleman" James J. Corbett. At least some of the "chair excercises" are included as well as writings on other modes of athletic training. I have a copy of this book, signed by the author and inscribed "To my young friend - Charles F.(?) Gibson". So far, I haven't been able to find another on the Internet. Please let me know if I can help with your research on Mr. Harrison. Best wishes... Gary

-- Gary Wm. Rule (, September 30, 2002.


Thank you for bringing this up, but I already looked over the pamphlet at the 42nd Street Public Library in Manhattan. It is a curious work, obviously well meant by the author, but somewhat comical in its' effects today. The connection between Harrison and James J. Corbett is interesting, but Harrison was into athletics. His involvement as President of the Olympic Club (which is well known for its athletic accomplishments), and some involvement in the developement of soccer in the United States in the first decade of the 20th Century illustrate this. But it is nice to know that other people have seen the pamphlet. Harrison also wrote a play that Eugene O'Neill's father, James O'Neill, appeared in, and he wrote the introduction to SONGS OF A BOHEMIAN, a book of verses by Daniel O'Connell of the Bohemian Club.

Thanks again for your interest in Harrison's career.


-- Jeffrey Bloomfield (, September 30, 2002.

William Greer Harrison is my great grandfather. My father told us little about the fine details you have uncovered. I'm uncertain about 1, 2 and 8. Everything else seems quite (or close to)accurate from stories my father told. The most surprising to me is hearing these details and the familiarity of personality/political philosophies between William Greer and my father. I have a photo of 3 generations of Harrison's in Santa Barbara visiting relatives in about 1910. 13) I can confirm from memory 14) WGH's son John Hunter (according to my sister) was born in New Zealand-no details, sorry. 16) The photo I have of the bust of William Greer Harrison located at the Olympic Club in San Francisco shows 1836-1916. I believe the Olympic Club has a pamphlet of information regarding his term as President, I'd love to have a copy of text if you find it. The address on Stockton St I believe to be correct, the home was destroyed during the earthquake along with most family treasures. John Hunter Harrison married Maude Magee in San Francisco. My father was born in Berkeley in 1908 and died in 1990. His love of politics and sports never wained. His passion for and involvement in theatre was great. He was especially fond of the Geary theatre in San Francisco. Memorial contributions assisted repairs following earthquake damage. Thank you for your work, what is your particular interest?

-- Ms. Jeremy Harrison Sidener (, January 21, 2003.

Hello-- I have a copy of "Making A Man" by William Greer Harrison which I would consider selling if you wish to make me an offer. It is complete and in pretty good but used condition. Thanks. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Michael

-- Michael Abramson (, May 25, 2003.

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