What’s New

Sunday, September 10, 1:30 pm, Writers Group, via Zoom. Ann Harlow will present.

Sunday, September 17, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.

How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us
A Presentation by Jim Gasperini
Jim is nearing completion of his cultural history of fire, Fire in the Mind: From the Burning Bush to Burning Man, How We Imagine Fire. He will base his presentation on a chapter of the book.
How did we, alone among the animals, come to control fire? Every human culture has at least one story explaining how this happened, ranging from simple accidents to fantastic stories of trips on gossamer balloons to steal fire from the Moon People. Analysis of these stories brings up such questions as: why do so many, such as the Greek myth of Prometheus, require that fire be stolen? Why do so many involve explicit sexual symbolism? Even Sigmund Freud created a myth about control of fire, with comically bizarre sexual symbolism.
Jim will also explain current scientific thinking about our early encounters with fire, drawing on a wide range of scientific disciplines, including a study of the genetics of human lice. In the process of domesticating fire, fire domesticated us: to keep the fire going we needed to learn to cooperate, and invented fire-preserving rituals. Our partnership with fire drastically changed our bodies and our brains. That we have imaginations at all we owe in part to our relationship with fire.
Jim Gasperini is the Institute’s webmaster and a member of its Board. A Williams College graduate, he designed and wrote initial titles for the Time Machine series of interactive history books for young adults (Bantam); wrote Hidden Agenda, an educational game about Central American politics (Scholastic); and designed the third version of the city-planning simulation Sim City. Through his 3D photography company Cockeyed Creations he researched and published sets of stereograph reproductions for the White House Historical Association, Gettysburg and Antietam national military parks, and many museums, zoos, and national parks. A draft of Fire in the Mind won Grand Prize in the 2022 Writing Contest at the San Francisco Writers Conference. See more about the book and his background at jimgasperini.com.
We need a volunteer to write a short report on the presentation for the newsletter. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the program coordinator (Dan Kohanski).
The presentation will be recorded, and the question-and-answer part will be posted on YouTube for IHS members only. If you don’t want to be on the recording, just make sure your video is off. And please remember to mute your microphone!

Member News

Members' Recent Activities:

Ann Harlow gave an illustrated talk to San Francisco History Association members on June 27 on "Kissing Cousins: The Artistic Lives of San Francisco’s Albert M. Bender and Anne M. Bremer.
Rob Robbins wrote with more sad news. “Those who enjoyed Marina Oborotova’s fine presentation
'The Joy of Life: Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in Russia,' will be saddened to learn that she died at the end of February 2023. The Institute board of directors awarded Marina a year’s membership as compensation for her talk and in the hopes of her continued participation. Unfortunately, this was not to be.”
Deanna Paoli Gumina recently joined the Institute, for a second time, so she is not quite a new member. She is the author of The Italians of San Francisco 1850 to 1930/Gl’Italiani di San Francisco (1985), written in English on one side with the Italian translation opposite. It was well received, followed by four printings. For this work Deanna earned the “Medaglia d’Ore” in Lucca, Italy. Over the years, she has written about various local Italo-American figures such as Andrea Sbarboro, as well as on Italian cuisine
and San Francisco’s Italian restaurants (including “A Toast To Paoli’s Restaurant”), fishermen of San Francisco Bay, and the Italian variety theater. She is currently writing an article on the Italian enemy aliens in San Francisco. She has also written about San Franciscans Lillie Hitchcock Coit, illustrator and artist Ernest Peixotto, and writer Kathleen Norris, including the biography, A Woman of Certain Importance. Deanna’s latest research topic is home economics in San Francisco private and public schools up to the 1960s. Deanna is retired as a learning specialist working with disabled children and adults.
In January Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada participated in a program, sponsored by the First Ladies Association for Research and Education (FLARE), about Julia Gardiner Tyler (1820-1889), the second wife of President John Tyler and the first lady of the United States (June 26, 1844 -March 4, 1845). Liz delivered an introduction to the era of Julia Tyler and moderated the question-and-answer session that
followed the presentation, “The First Rose of Texas was the ‘Rose of Long Island.’”
Chris Webber announced his latest publishing venture: The Beowulf Trilogy, published by Open Road Media. In this book Chris shares his own translation of the original epic and also answers the question of what happens next, with two epic poems of his own. He writes: “In ‘Beyond Beowulf,’ the Geats welcome a new leader, Wiglaf, the young warrior who aided Beowulf in his encounter with the dragon. He helps the tribe search for a new home while contending with threats from storms, trolls, and the Saxon army. Then, in ‘Yrfa’s Tale,’ the warrior’s viewpoint gives way to the perspective of Wiglaf’s wife and family, and the
emotional toll of their struggle.”
Steve Levi writes that his “in-the-weeds book” on the building of the Alaska Railroad, A Rat’s Nest of Rails, will be out soon. “That the Alaska Railroad, the only government-funded railway in American history, was ever built is astonishing. It was constructed over the most treacherous terrain in the world during the most violent political era in US history. The work force included anarchists, Bolsheviks, socialists, syndicalists, and labor union organizers. Construction took place in the midst of the
Great War, Spanish influenza, Russian Revolution, and the Great Red Scare; US troops were sent to Siberia to keep Russian socialism from our shore, and Japan was gobbling up colonies from Southeast Asia to
Siberia.” An audio visual preview of the book can be found on YouTube.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.