One morning in the Spring of 1841, Pennsylvania businessman Paul Geddes was on his way to the bank to deposit $7,000 for his employers. Geddes must have been feeling lucky that day; he decided to stop and play a few hands of poker on the way downtown. In the time it takes a civilized man to have lunch, he managed to lose every dime of the deposit. Unable to face his employers, he left town, abandoning his wife and children.

He reinvented himself as Talbot Green in San Francisco, and rose to become U.S. customs collector and serve on the city’s town council. He was highly regarded in San Francisco, and was on the verge of running for mayor when he was recognized by a woman from his past. Exposed as a fraud, he was forced to leave town in disgrace, and eventually returned to his family in Pennsylvania. Today, all that’s left of Talbot Green in San Francisco is the street named for him in the 1849 survey: Green Street.


To be sure, Talbot Green was a world-class scalawag, but he is only one among many in our city’s history. There is no shortage of eccentric, larcenous, and just plain odd characters in San Francisco history. In this first installment of Vagabonds, Lunatics and Scoundrels, in addition to Talbot Green we’ll be looking back at Black Bart, The King of Pain, Theodore Durrant and the inimitable Oofty Goofty. 

This is the second in a series of articles examining the fascinating people and places that make up the rich history of North Beach and The Barbary Coast. For the full article, visit the Belle Cora web site