Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

A Letter to Jennie Curry from her son, Foster Curry -
Brings Insights 

      The letter at the bottom was written to Foster Curry to his mother, Jennie Foster Curry while Foster was away from home, traveling.  It is possible his travel was related to his education.  We know that when he returned he went back to work with his father at Camp Curry, which had first opened the flaps of its tents in 1899.    
           From Undiscovered Yosemite: "They secured from the Guardian of the Valley (which was then a state park) permission to use the site of the present camp where with their first purchase of seven tents they began their enterprise. 
            As everything had to be transported by wagon from Merced, a hundred miles away, their equipment was scanty-tents with burlap floors, bed springs on wooden legs, mattresses, comfortable and clean bedding, wash stands made from cracker boxes with an oilcloth cover and a calico curtain, a few chairs, and tables. The dining tent seated twenty persons. 
           The only paid employee was the cook, the remainder of the duties about camp being performed by Mr. and Mrs. Curry assisted by two or three Stanfor
d students who worked a certain number of weeks in return for room and board and a week's free vacation in the park...."   The article goes on to say most of their guests were educators, which they were as well. 

          To understand the Curry family and what happened when their concession was attacked by Stephen Mather, beginning in 1915, you have to understand the Curry family, their cultural expectations and values, so you can see each of them for who they were at this transitional time in American history, especially on the roles open to women.  
          At the time, Foster, born May 19, 1888, was 22 years old.  By 1908 he was known to be the second in command at Camp Curry.      David Curry was a traditionalist and intended his son to follow him as the CEO of the family business.  I include an illustration from a book, "The Real Yosemite", written by AEtheline Banfield Pillsbury, the woman Grandfather unwisely married after rescuing her and her family during the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. 
            David Curry's expectations for his daughters, both younger than Foster, were that they would marry and therefore, not be active in any role with the family business.   David Curry was not a feminist who viewed women as having potential equal to men.
            He demonstrated this in 1916 when he fired Don Tresidder for taking his daughter, Mary, to the top of Half Dome.  The year before Arthur C. Pillsbury had led a group of  Stanford students, which included several women, to the top of Half Dome so we can see the conflict in cultural expectations as   AC Pillsbury was an advocate for the Rights of Women.  His mother, Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury, was a physician and had graduated from the Women's Infirmary of NY in 1880.
            As a father, David Curry expected Foster to learn every job from the most menial up and was viewed as his successor by 1908.  The caricature below is very recognizably David Curry in his classic stance for the Fire Fall call and his son, Foster holding a bag of money.  
           Camp Curry had been very successful in Yosemite and in less than ten years increased the services available to tourists in both quality and variety.  
            Foster would be 20 when the caricature was drawn by Sweeny, a well-known artist in San Francisco.   
             Unlike any of the other books AC published, this was very much a home project undertaken during a period of time when AC was training AEtheline's brothers, who needed work, to be useful to him in his line of business, and to give AEtheline something to occupy her time as well.   But there is no doubt it was AC who found Sweeny to make the caricatures so AC could provide some commentary of what he saw taking place in Yosemite Valley. 
                When you read the letter below you will see that Foster was used to keeping business and always found something profitable to fill his time.  He demonstrated none of the characteristics we associate with overconsumption of alcohol.  He is clearly organized, focused, and an affectionate son.  
​               These same attributes are present when he takes over the management of Camp Curry at the time of his father's death on April 30, 1917.

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