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The cover of the Spring 2007 SF State Magazine features two penguins, heads bent together as they view their offspring on the ground below.

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  Campus Beat Logo Student Rebecca Schall smiles for the camera, a soothing green and blue landscape in the background.

Pulled by the Past

Last fall, graduate student Rebecca Schall accomplished a gargantuan task. She sifted through books and articles at the San Francisco Public Library, conducted interviews with longtime residents across the city, and published "Historic Photos of San Francisco" (Turner Publishing, '06), a book that takes readers on a tour of the City by the Bay from 1860 to the 1960s.

"Anyone who flips through this book can learn quite a bit," says Asssociate Professor Sarah Curtis. "Rebecca crammed as much history as possible into the text and captions."

Schall, who will graduate with her master's degree in history this summer, spent her childhood exploring Ocean Beach and the ruins of the Sutro Baths. "I cannot remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by the history of San Francisco," she says. When word spread through her department that a publisher needed a historian/writer to delve into the city's history, Schall jumped at the chance. Her passion for the subject and her research and writing skills landed her the book contract.

"Rebecca combined her long-standing interest in the city with skills she learned in the history program," Curtis says. "It's a book about local history but she puts it in a broader context to explore the subject of urban life."

Vintage light rail vehicles in sepia tone, destination "East Bay Terminal," are on the cover of Rebecca Schall's book, "Historic Photos of San Francisco."
The book includes a rare photo of an 1861 Civil War pro-Union rally in San Francisco at Post and Montgomery streets. Schall points out that the frequent rallies that took place in the area earned it the moniker Union Square. "Most people do not realize that San Francisco had any role in the Civil War, or that San Francisco civilian life was impacted by it," Schall says. "But it was California gold that largely financed the Northern war effort." Civil War-era San Francisco was the topic of her undergraduate honors thesis at Occidental College.

Schall enrolled at SF State after learning that its history master's program had a reputation for academic excellence, sending more of its students on to earn Ph.Ds than any other stand-alone master's program in the nation. She benefited from small class sizes and supportive professors, she says, describing her SF State education as "the most rewarding academic and intellectual experience I have ever had."

During the spring semester, Schall taught English to French engineering students in Paris and dug through the city's archives. Later this summer she will finish her second book for Turner, "Historic Photos of Paris," and return to the U.S. to start teaching history at The International School of the Peninsula.

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Last modified June 19, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications