Biography of Oscar Lewis
San Francisco, CA Biographies





Oscar Lewis, the author of this History of San Francisco, comes naturally by his knowledge of the subject, for he is a native of this city and has lived much of his life here. He was born in 1893, a son of the late William F. Lewis, a prominent contractor and builder who, in the fifteen years prior to his death in 1896, constructed some five hundred buildings in San Francisco, and of Anna Walter Lewis, whose talents as pianist and singer are recalled by many familiar with the musical activities of the city during the '80s. His father was of Welch descent, a nephew of James Buchanan Eads, the engineer who built the celebrated Eads bridge at St. Louis, the first bridge across the Mississippi. Anna Walter Lewis, now seventy two years of age, the mother of the subject of this sketch, is a daughter of Horace Walter, an attorney, who until his death in the late '70s at the age of thirty seven, was associated with the late General Barnes. Her grandfather, Thomas U. Walter, was the first president of the American Institute of Architects, the architect of Girard College at Philadelphia, of the dome of the Capitol at Washington, and of a long list of other important buildings.

Originally intending to take up architecture or engineering, Mr. Lewis early developed an enthusiasm for writing. This gradually over shadowed his other interests and induced him to incline toward authorship as a career. The sale of several short stories to a juvenile publication when he was seventeen decided the issue, and before he was twenty he was contributing regularly to a number of periodicals. This work was interrupted during the World war, when he spent twenty three months in the army, at the training camp of the United States Ambulance Service at Allentown, Pennsylvania, at the Army Medical School at Washington, D. C., and during the remaining ten months, in France. On his return to California in 1919, he resumed his literary work for magazines and periodicals, and in 1923-24 spent a year in Europe and North Africa writing descriptive and political articles which appeared in various publications. Mr. Lewis has contributed both fiction and nonfiction to such magazines as Harper's, Scribner's, The American Mercury, The New Republic, Saturday Review, and a score of others, as well as special correspondence to the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Kansas City Star and other newspapers. He has edited a long list of books, including "The Letters of Amerigo Vespucci" (1926), Dr. Morris Jastrow's "The Gentle Cynic" (1927), George Sterling's "The Testimony of the Suns" (1927), "Around the Horn in '49" (1928), "The Relation of Cabeza de Vaca" (1929), Lafcadio Heart's "Kwaidan" (1931), and "Frank Norris of The Wave" (1931). His published books, besides this history, are "Hearn and His Biographers" (1930) and "The Origin of the Celebrated Jumping Frog" (1931). "The Grim Four," a history of the building of the first transcontinental railroad, will be published during 1932.

For the past eight years, Mr. Lewis has been secretary of The Book Club of California, an association of Pacific coast bibliophiles. He is manager of The Westgate Press, a San Francisco publishing concern organized in 1929 to print books of literary and historical interest pertaining to the west.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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