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The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: Actor MB Curtis

  • Jewish Community Library 1835 Ellis Street San Francisco, CA 94115 (map)

Free admission with free garage parking on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy streets.

As the Statue of Liberty stood unlit in 1886, its savior-to-be was creating a theatrical sensation at New York’s Fourteenth Street Theatre. Bohemian Jewish immigrant actor M. B. Curtis had achieved overnight success in Sam’l of Posen, a play about a peddler that transcended the stereotypes of Jewish characters at the time. When Congress dodged funding the statue, Curtis became the only private citizen ever to pay for lighting the Statue of Liberty’s torch. He later developed real estate in Berkeley, but a murder indictment ruined his reputation and finances, though he was found innocent. 

Richard Schwartz is author of five historical books, including the new The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M.B. Curtis; Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley; Earthquake Exodus, 1906; Berkeley 1900; and The Circle of Stones. Based in Berkeley, he works as a building contractor and documents early Native American sites in the Bay Area. 

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Earlier Event: November 5
Genealogy Clinic
Later Event: November 5
Drop-In Book Club