Adolph B. Spreckels

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Adolph B. Spreckels
Adolph B. Spreckels.jpg
Adolph Bernard Spreckels

(1857-01-05)January 5, 1857
San Francisco, California, US
DiedJune 28, 1924(1924-06-28) (aged 67)
San Francisco, California, US
Known forSpreckels Sugar Company
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
Spouse(s)Alma de Bretteville Spreckels

Adolph Bernard Spreckels (January 5, 1857 – June 28, 1924) was a California businessman who ran Spreckels Sugar Company and who donated the California Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum to the city of San Francisco in 1924. His wife Alma was called the "great grandmother of San Francisco".[1] His 55-room mansion, built in 1913 in Pacific Heights is the current home of novelist Danielle Steel.

Life and career[edit]

The former Spreckels mansion in San Francisco

Spreckels was born in San Francisco, California. His parents were Anna Christina Mangels and Claus Spreckels, founder of the Spreckels Sugar Company. At the age of 12, Adolph studied abroad in Hanover, Germany for two years, returning to San Francisco to finish his studies. When the company was founded in 1881, he was named a vice-president. Spreckels succeeded his father as company president upon the latter's death in 1908. He was intensely loyal to both his father and his brother John. In 1884, he shot Michael H. de Young, co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, supposedly because of an article in that newspaper suggesting his sugar company defrauded its shareholders.[2] Spreckels pleaded temporary insanity to the charge of attempted murder and was acquitted.[3] The California Palace of the Legion of Honor was championed by his wife Alma and paid for from the Spreckels fortune. It was merged with the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in 1972 to become the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.[4]

Besides the sugar company, Spreckels was president of the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway, vice-president of both the Western Sugar Company and the Oceanic Steamship Company, as well as a director of the Sunset Monarch Company. In addition to his business enterprises, Spreckels served as a San Francisco Park Commissioner and was heavily involved in the development of Golden Gate Park. Spreckels Lake, in the park, is named after him.[5] Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego's Balboa Park, housing the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world, was also built by Spreckels and his brother John. Furthermore, his brother John commissioned Spreckels Organ in honor of Adolph, who died before it was completed.[6]

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Spreckels was also fond of horse racing and owned and bred a number of race horses, most famously Morvich, the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby (1922).


He and Alma were married on May 11, 1908, after a five-year courtship. They had three children, daughter Alma Emma, son Adolph Bernard, Jr., and another daughter, Dorothy Constance.[1] The family's 1913 mansion, located at 2080 Washington Street in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, is currently the home of novelist Danielle Steel.[7]

After the birth of their last daughter, Spreckels' health began to deteriorate due to syphilis he had contracted before his marriage. He had known about the disease and had kept it secret from his wife, but fortunately for her during their intimate years it had been in a latent, non-contagious state. Spreckels died in 1924 from pneumonia.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Craig, Christopher. "Spreckels (née de Bretteville), Alma Emma". Encyclopedia of San Francisco. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2008.
  2. ^ ""MIKE" DE YOUNG SHOT.; ATTEMPT AT MURDER BY A MAN WHO DIDN'T LIKE CRITICISM" (PDF). The New York Times. November 20, 1884.
  3. ^ McGarrahan, Ellen (October 4, 1995). "Color It Gone". SF Weekly. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  4. ^ Russell, John (June 4, 1989). "ART VIEW; To France Via the Golden Gate Bridge". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2008.
  5. ^ Press Reference Library (Southwest Edition): Notables of the Southwest. Los Angeles Examiner. 1912. p. 341.
  6. ^ Amero, Richard. "The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park". San Diego Historical Society. Archived from the original on December 31, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
  7. ^ "Tour San Francisco: Pacific Heights". Retrieved January 10, 2008.