Lee Bruno

Lee Bruno is the author of Panorama: Tales of San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem: Tales from San Francisco’s Historic Waterfront, 1849–1934.

The Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was San Francisco’s first world’s fair. The book explores this stunning achievement that took more than a decade and overcame insurmountable odds, including civic corruption, the great earthquake and fire of 1906, and the outbreak of World War I. It is said to be one of the three most significant world’s fairs held in the U.S. The stories in Panorama are about visionaries, innovators, artists and entrepreneurs whose inspiring accomplishments lifted our City by the Bay and forged its modern blueprint.

Bruno uses his great-grandfather Reuben Brooks Hale, a business “mover-and-shaker” and the principal proponent for a fair in San Francisco at the beginning of the book, and then provides a series of vignettes of those who participated in or visited the fair.

The waterfront is where it all began for San Francisco. It’s where untold numbers of adventurers and fortune-hunters first stepped foot upon the land that embodied possibility. It’s where ships from around the world, carrying sea-faring gold seekers, maritime traders, free-spirited mavericks, and hopeful immigrants, came to anchor. And it’s where the unconventional, opportunistic, and indefatigable embarked. Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem: Tales from San Francisco’s Historic Waterfront, 1849–1934 shares the stories of exceptional newcomers and outliers, whose intrepid spirits helped to transform a small port into one of the most beautiful, unpredictable, and beloved cities in the world.

Lee Bruno explores nearly a century of waterfront history, ranging from the Gold Rush to the Jazz Age, telling the tales of the enterprising entrepreneurs, reckless financiers, tireless reformers, visionary architects and city planners, and bohemian artists, musicians, and poets who all heeded the call of promise. With more than 100 historical images, Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem celebrates the famous (and infamous) characters whose charismatic personalities and perseverance created the institutions, businesses, and cultural fabric of San Francisco.

Lee Bruno has been digging into San Francisco’s rich history ever since discovering his great-grandfather Reuben Hale’s inspiring letters and speeches. For the past 25 years, he has been a staff writer and an award-winning editor for several business and technology magazines. He’s covered emerging technology start-ups and business trends also as a freelancer writer for several publications, including The Guardian (UK), MIT Technology Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Red Herring magazine, Scientific American, and The Economist. Lee’s career spans years as a business journalist, technology analyst and strategy consultant. He has lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years, raising a family of four boys with his wife and enjoying long open water swims in the San Francisco Bay.