One of the great fires that swept San Francisco in its early stages just missed the Bancroft Library, then at the corner of Merchant and Montgomery streets. The later fire that burned the building on Market Street, near Third, next door to the History Building, again barely missed the Bancroft Library. And when it was moved to the building especially constructed for it at Valencia and Mission streets, the great conflagration of the 18th of April, 1906, just failed to reach it. In this State it had remained for a private individual, by his life work, to collect and preserve a library that to the State of California is almost priceless in value. This magnificent library the State of California has recently purchased and installed in the California Building, at the State University, where its usefulness is being developed by the Academy of Pacific Coast History, an association organized in connection with the history work of the University. By a series of happy accidents, then, we are in a position to start with as great a nucleus of its historical data as any commonwealth ever had. There remains the great work of cataloguing and publishing, rendering available to the investigation of scholarship this mass of original data, and the State should immediately provide the liberal fund necessary for the mechanical and clerical administrative work.
While the State is completing the trust with reference to the material it already has on hand, the all-destroying march of Time still goes swiftly on, however. Manuscripts in foreign lands are fading and being lost, parchments are becoming moth-eaten or mildewed, whole archives without duplicate are at the mercy of a mob, or a revolution, or a conflagration, and a generation of men and women still alive are quickly passing away, carrying with them an “unsung Iliad” of the Sierras and the plains. In the presence of these facts, we should not stand idle. One great fraternal organization has already done, and is still loyally doing, more than its share. In the great work of endowing fellowships in Pacific Coast history at Berkeley there is room enough for all. Here is an opportunity for private munificence. A fine civism will not find a more pressing necessity, or a more splendid opportunity. An endowment of $100,000 invested in five per cent bonds will yield an annual fellowship fund of $5,000. A citizen looking for an opportunity to do something worth while could find few worthier objects. The fruit of such an endowment may not be as enduring as a noble campanile, or an incomparable Greek theater, yet, in a sense, it will be more lasting than either, for facts become history, and history survives, when campaniles fall and Greek theaters are ground to powder.