Sather biography out in English

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The biography of one of Norway’s most successful immigrants, who helped found the University of California at Berkeley, is making its US debut in English this spring. Peder Sæther, who changed his name to “Sather,”  is the man behind Berkeley’s famed Sather Gate and the university’s Campanile.

Peder Sæther, a poor immigrant from Norway, went on to build a fortune in banking in San Francisco and help found the University of California at Berkeley. Now is story is out in English. PHOTO: University of California Press

Peder Sæther, a poor immigrant from Norway, went on to build a fortune in banking in San Francisco and help found the University of California at Berkeley. Now is story is out in English. PHOTO: University of California Press

Norwegian author Karin Sveen first published her biography of Sather in Norwegian under the title Mannen i Montgomery Street, referring to the young man from a farm in Hedmark who made a fortune in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District. Now the biography has been published by the University of California Press and Sveen is in the midst of a promotional tour that news bureau NTB reported will take her to Minneapolis, New York, Houstn and Washington.

She’s due to speak at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on April 3 to spread the story of Sather, billed by the club as “a monumental tribute to everything good and great about both Norway and the United States.”

The University of California Press bills the book as a ” beautifully crafted biography” based on Sveen’s “dedicated search for scraps of information” about Sather.

He was born in 1810 at Nordstun Nedre Sæter in Odalen, Hedmark County. A “sæter” is a mountain farm often used for grazing and production dairy products during the summer. Both of Sather’s parents died before he was 11 years old, and he supported himself through fishing and, later, working in a bank in Oslo when the city was still called Christiania.

Like so many other poor Norwegians in the 1800s, he emigrated to the US as among the earliest, in 1832. He found work at Drexel & Co in Philadelphia, became life-long friends with legendary financier Anthony J Drexel and headed west to San Francisco during the Gold Rush to help set up the banking house of Drexel, Sather & Church. It later became part of the Bank of California.

Sather made a lot of money along the way and also engaged himself in social causes including public education and employment for freed slaves after the Civil War. He supported Abraham Lincoln and Sveen’s book contains anecdotes of his contemporaries like Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Norwegian violinist Ole Bull.

He had five children but only one son survived him when Sather died in 1886. That son later died during World War I, and his widow Jane Sather donated the money to build Sather Gate and Sather Tower, better known as the Campanile, at Berkeley, which her husband has helped found as the College of California. The Sather Center opened three years ago at UC Berkeley, where Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon studied in the 1990s.

The new English-language version of the book is entitled “The Immigrant and the University” and was published last month. The earlier Norwegian biography appeared in 2011.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund