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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

BASF Turns 140: Founding Members’ Names Read Like a List of “Who’s Who in San Francisco”


By Ann Murphy, Director of Communications and Public Relations, BASF


The following history of The Bar Association of San Francisco contains excepts from the book The Bar Association of San Francisco: An Illustrated History put out in 1923 by Arthur Wheeler, publisher, and J.O. Denny, editor.


BASF Turns 140

None of us would be thrilled to say we were turning 140 years old, but The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is delighted!

On April 27, 1872, “a few leaders of the bar in San Francisco organized one of the earliest permanent associations formed by the legal profession in America” for two reasons. First, local attorneys and judges felt compelled to unite “to uphold the best standards of the bench and bar,” and second, they felt the need to establish a social framework that could be “promoted with the aid of luncheon table, sideboard and easy chairs after the manner of club life.”

The last names of some of the twenty-nine founding members read like a list of notable Bay Area buildings, streets and neighborhoods: McAllister, Haight, Doyle, Boalt, Hyde, Powell, Clement, Harrison, Van Ness, Tilden.

BASF is Born“The birth of the Bar Association of San Francisco came but a little over twenty years after the founding of the State and most of the charter members were pioneers. . . . Some came in those early years as boys and began playing successful parts in the life of the State as they emerged into young manhood....When these men founded the Bar Association, the Civil War was a recent thing, the transcontinental railroad was building and the great Comstock Mining boom of 1872 was exciting San Francisco.”

Early BASF members were instrumental in setting into motion reform of the state’s judicial and legislative systems. They led the 1878 California constitutional convention; they wrote code amendments, laws and rules of ethics; they worked for six years to secure by constitutional amendment the creation of appellate courts; and they were attorneys who became law school deans, judges, mayors, governors, congressmen, senators, and U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Did BASF’s founders on April 27, 1872, realize what a proud legacy their work would set in motion?


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