Some 150 people gathered June 26 at the San Francisco Maritime Museum for the opening of an exhibit honoring the first Latter-day Saints to arrive in California 150 years ago.
The exhibit commemorates the arrival of these early Church members aboard the ship Brooklyn on July 31, 1846, in San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena. The opening of the exhibit begins a series of sesquicentennial events in July in the San Francisco Bay Area, commemorating the Brooklyn voyage from New York Harbor.Other anniversary events include performances of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir July 29-30 at the Davies Symphony Hall and a July 31 landing of a replica of the Brooklyn at the Hyde Street Pier at the San Francisco Historical Maritime Park. Accompanying the arrival of the replica ship will be a brass band and costumed passengers.
"The Tabernacle Choir's last visit to the Bay Area was over 30 years ago," said Pres. Merrill F. Higham, chairman of the 150 Years in California Committee and president of the San Francisco California Stake. "The ensuing excitement among the local members over the choir's visit resulted in a flurry of additional events planning to celebrate the sesquicentennial. The Brooklyn exhibit at the museum is one of those events."
Camilla Smith, regional director of public affairs and one of four co-chairmen working under Pres. Higham's direction, said the committee felt strongly the sesquicentennial should be a community celebration. Thus, they invited participation from outside the Church.
"Most people didn't know about the landing and the many contributions of the Saints in this area," Sister Smith explained. "They responded with surprise when they were told, but once they knew, they were very excited about celebrating."
She said the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the committee were soon joined by the San Francisco Maritime Museum National Historical Park, the San Francisco Historical Society and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio of San Francisco in preparing the Brooklyn exhibit.
"The original idea for a display consisted of a videotape about the ship Brooklyn in continuous play at the Maritime museum," Sister Smith added. "That idea just sort of mushroomed into this whole exhibit, which also includes a series of lectures at the Presidio."
The exhibit, organized and built by Church members under the direction of Richard Everett, curator of the museum, is located on the main floor of the museum where people can enjoy the gallery's mural paintings and a view of the San Francisco Bay. The exhibit includes displays providing general overviews of the Brooklyn's voyage from New York Harbor to Yerba Buena, illustrated by maps and photographs from private collections.
Personal possessions belonging to some of the passengers, such as silverware and a quilt, are also on display. A painting of the ship, owned by the Church, is included, along with the original Acorn press used by the leader of the Brooklyn Saints, Samuel Brannan, to publish California's first newspaper.
Eventually, many of the Brooklyn members moved on to Salt Lake City.
The exhibit is open to the public through Oct. 1. For more information about commemorative events, contact the Oakland Temple Visitors Center at (510) 532-2475.