San Francisco Points of Interest
The bronze Mechanics Monument was created by sculptor Douglas Tilden.
Tilden was born in Chico, California, in 1860. At age four, he contracted scarlet fever which left him deaf and mute for life.
Tilden attended the California School for the Deaf and UC Berkeley, then he studied art in Paris.
The Mechanics Monument was commissioned to honor industrialist Peter Donahue, founder of the San Francisco & North Pacific Railroad.
The bronze depicts five men struggling to punch a hole through a metal plate with a punch press. At the base are symbols of Donahue's professions: an anvil represents foundries, a propeller represents shipping, and the driving wheel and connecting rod represent railroads.
When the monument was dedicated, many citizens were shocked by the sight of rude mechanicals cavorting in the street without their knickers. Editorials demanded that Tilden put trousers on the men, an interesting aesthetic and technical challenge. Tilden ignored the controversy and it faded away.