Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Welcome to www.leonardmckay.com, the site dedicated to the life and learnings of Leonard McKay, historian, San Jose, California. My grandfather was an amazing man and a wealth of knowledge. As such, I have decided that it is a crime to let his knowledge go to waste, and will be developing this site in his honor.


Excerpts from Leonard's Blog

  • Sarah Winchester: I want to tell you a different side of the story about one of San Jose’s most interesting characters, Sarah Winchester.
  • Beer Making in San Jose (Part 2): Prohibition brought chaos. There was no longer any control over alcohol quality or purity. Bootleggers flourished, sometimes killing their customers with bad hooch. If you knew the password, usually “Joe sent me,” and could afford it, then you could get a shot of “bathtub gin” at George’s on South First Street, out at the Hoo-Hoo House on Stevens Creek Road, or at many other local “blind pigs.”
  • Beer Making in San Jose (Part 1): Old Joe’s Steam Beer— “It’s pure that’s sure!” Have you ever heard of this beer or this slogan? Joe Hartman was a 49er who came to California in 1852 from Germany to make his fortune finding gold nuggets. That didn’t work out as only one in five of the gold seekers ever made expenses. So Joe came to San Jose and, in 1853, started the Eagle Brewery in a shack on South Market Street. Joe made steam beer—a brewing process that takes only a month rather than the four months that lager beer requires. Joe had a good delivery system; if a saloon needed a keg of beer, Joe put the keg in his wheelbarrow and delivered it himself. But his personal delivery service didn’t last long as there was tremendous demand for his product and the brewery expanded rapidly.
  • The Big Fight: It was the biggest fight ever seen in San Jose. The adversaries were “Frank Heney,” at 450 pounds, versus the team of “Reuf” and “Schmitz,” each weighing in at 250 pounds. The victor was “Frank Heney,” who nearly killed his opponents and then kicked them out of the arena.
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 2): Last week I told of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in San Jose. San Francisco was another story—one of the greatest tragedies of California history. Estimates of the dead numbered more than 700, but the true count will never be known.