Richard Schwartz at the Commonwealth Club

Tuesday Jul 11 2017   6:00 PM
The Commonwealth Club   , 555 Post St, San Francisco  map

Historian Richard Schwartz will present an illustrated talk about his new book The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M. B. Curtis. This illustrated talk and book signing covers the San Francisco chapters of the life of an incredibly influential immigrant actor of the late nineteenth century. It is the story of immigration, assimilation, of the theatre and the invisible wings of comedy. It is how a play became the way a nation examined its feelings and attitudes towards immigrants and gave the audiences a chance to walk in shoes they would never have worn. It is the story of the Jewish Jackie Robinson of the stage—the first Jewish male actor who was allowed to portray a Jewish male on stage in America. It is the story of a man’s journey of incredible talent and creativity and fame and suffering and perseverance and dreaming. It is a story that involved the actor intimately (though forgotten until this book) with the Statue of Liberty and Mark Twain and New York and San Francisco and murder and the greatest African American entertainment troupe of its time and pioneering stints the still-infant silent movie industry. You are invited to take this journey through this illustrated talk by historian Richard Schwartz. The talk will focus on the actor’s early days in San Francisco’s theatrical history and his overnight rise to stardom. The talk will reveal how San Francisco became the actor’s home base from the 1870s through the 1906 Earthquake as he toured the country and how it almost ended his life.

The event is scheduled as follows:
5:30 p.m. networking reception
6 p.m. program
7 p.m. book signing

More information and tickets can be found here.


Richard SchwartzRichard Schwartz is a historian and the author of Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley; Earthquake Exodus, 1906; Berkeley 1900; and The Circle of Stones. An outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, he worked on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm before heading west to find higher mountains. He now lives in Berkeley, California, where he works as a building contractor and documents early Native American sites in the Bay Area. Visit his website at