Not Your Century

On hiatus as of March 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis. Get unlimited access to the Chronicle. | A daily celebration of the news — and the news media — of years gone by. King Kaufman takes you on a quick tour of the Bay Area and the world as it used to be, which often colors the world of your century.

1865: The First Chronicle
Teenage founders Charles and Michael de Young have big ambitions for the daily theater program and newspaper they've founded with $20 borrowed from their landlord. In the first edition, they're already itching for a fight.
5 min
1919: Boston Molasses Flood
Nothing so sweet — and so ridiculous-sounding — has ever been so deadly. A storage tank bursts, sending a 15-foot wave of the sticky stuff through the streets of the North End at 35 mph, killing 21.
6 min
1929: Death of Wyatt Earp
When he died, the old Wild West lawman wasn't yet the legend of "Tombstone" or "Gunfight at the OK Corral." He was a guy who'd fixed a famous boxing match in San Francisco. The mythmaking kicked in later.
6 min
1901: The Spindletop Oil Gusher
It's a strike that will transform Texas and pave the way for the industrial and transportation revolutions of the 20th century. Four million gallons a day shoot 200 feet into the air for nine days, and the oil industry is born.
4 min
1978: Harvey Milk Sworn In
With his arm around his boyfriend's shoulders, the first gay elected official in California leads a parade of supporters to City Hall to start his historic, and tragically short, term on the Board of Supervisors.
6 min
1994: Nancy Kerrigan Attacked
America's top female figure skater is whacked on the knee at the Olympic Trials in Detroit. Rival Tonya Harding is implicated. The story consumes the sports and tabloid worlds — and supercharges figure skating's popularity.
6 min
Best of NYC: Climate Change and Coit Tower
Serious business at two conferences: One on climate change, the other on humor. Plus: Old firefighters shed a tear for Lily Hitchcock Coit at the dedication of Coit Tower. First published June 27 and Oct. 8.
11 min
Best of NYC: Dark and Bright Times
Near the end of a shocking (but not surprising) FBI spying operation on the gay community, Air Force Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich becomes the face of the gay rights movement in America. First published Sept. 20 and Oct. 22.
11 min
Best of NYC: The Future Is Here
Twenty years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published a special section on what life would be like in the Bay Area ... in 20 years. So now that the future is here, how'd they do? Mark Lundgren, who edited that section, talks about it. First published Nov. 14 and 15.
11 min
Best of NYC: NFL and an Escape
Some businessmen sit on running boards of cars in a Canton, Ohio, car dealership and talk about a crazy idea: A national football league. Plus: One of the Great Train Robbers escapes from prison. First published Sept. 17 and Aug. 12.
11 min
Best of NYC: S.F. History Trivia, Part 2
More fun at the Betabrand Podcast Studio as audience members learn about San Francisco history and occasionally get trivia questions correct. Recorded Aug. 22, first published Aug. 30.
27 min
Best of NYC: S.F. History Trivia, Part 1
Live from the Betabrand Podcast Studio, audience members vie for valuable* prizes and learn some of the wild details of San Francisco history. Recorded Aug. 22, first published Aug. 27. *Not that valuable.
15 min
Best of NYC: Patty and Squeaky
A couple of female-centered true crime stories from the 1970s. Patty Hearst was a kidnap victim, and then was she a bank robber, or a brainwash victim? And: Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme took a shot at President Ford. The gun didn't fire. First published Sept. 18 and Sept. 5.
11 min
Best of NYC: Martians and the Mona Lisa
Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast sends America into a panic! Didn't it? And the reason the Mona Lisa is so famous is that a guy tucked it under his arm and walked out of the Louvre in 1911. First published Oct. 30 and Aug. 21, 2019.
14 min
Best of NYC: Free Speech Battles
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is acquitted on obscenity charges in San Francisco for publishing Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." A few years later in Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement gets its start in a stranded cop car. First published Oct. 4 and Oct. 1, 2019.
12 min
1941: San Francisco Blackouts
A week after Pearl Harbor, a jittery San Francisco struggles to prepare for what seems like an inevitable Japanese air raid. The Presidio commander suggests such an attack might be a good idea — to convince stragglers of the need to be ready.
5 min
1989: Queen of Mean Sentenced
After a trial in which a household maid quoted her as saying "We don't pay taxes — only the little people pay taxes," Leona Helmsley, the real estate mogul who was a tabloid favorite, is sentenced to prison for tax evasion.
4 min
1978: The Lufthansa Heist
JFK airport was easy pickings for robbers, but this job stood out. The robbers — who would be immortalized in "Goodfellas" — were incredibly efficient. Their only mistake: They thought they were stealing $2 million, not $6 million. 
5 min
1963: Frankie Safe!
Frank Sinatra's 19-year-old son is kidnapped before a gig in Lake Tahoe. Is it a publicity stunt? No. It's real. Ol' Blue Eyes offers $1 million ransom. The kidnappers' counteroffer: $240,000. Wait, what?
6 min
1968: The Mother of All Demos
He introduced the mouse. He introduced videoconferencing. He introduced copy and paste! Douglas Engelbart sat in front of an audience of computer professionals at Civic Auditorium and blew their minds by showing them the future.
5 min
1969: The '60s End at Altamont
It started as a West Coast answer to Woodstock: A free concert in Golden Gate Park with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. It ended in violence and death at Altamont Raceway in Tracy.
6 min
1955: Montgomery Bus Boycott
Montgomery's black community, led by 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr., launches a one-day protest against the arrest of Rosa Parks. The boycott lasts more than a year, and sets the tone for civil rights protests in the next decade.
5 min
1993: Polly Klaas Found
The search for the kidnapped 12-year-old from Petaluma had captivated the nation, but now, after 65 days, came the worst possible news: A confession, and a grisly discovery.
5 min
1967: First Human Heart Transplant
Everyone thought Stanford's Norman Shumway would be first to transplant a human heart, but a tragic drunk-driving crash gave South African Dr. Christiaan Barnard, who had worked with Shumway, his chance at worldwide fame.
5 min
1997: Warriors Star Chokes Coach
The Golden State Warriors thought they'd hit rock bottom when they lost 13 of their first 14 games. Then star player Latrell Sprewell choked coach P.J. Carlesimo, leaving a three-inch scratch on his neck.
5 min