San Francisco County Biographies

'The Bay of San Francisco'
Vol. 2, pages 16-19
Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

HON. JOSEPH D. REDDING was born in Sacramento, September 13, 1858. In 1871 he entered the California Military Academy at Oakland, of which the Rev. David McClure was principal, and the discipline to which he was subjected served to fix a habit of precision which has adhered to him ever since. He received an honorable discharge in 1873. From that school he entered the Urban academy and prepared for a collegiate course under professor Nathan W. Moore. He graduated there in 1876, and was admitted into the scientific department of Harvard University in the same year. During 1878 and a portion of 1879 he attended the lectures of Harvard Law School. In August, 1879, he entered the law offices of McAllister & Bergen, in San Francisco, and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of California, in December of that year. He has been in active practice in this city and county ever since. He has also practiced before the Supreme Court of the United States and before the departments at Washington. He has been one of the attorneys for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company since 1881, with special reference to the land departments. This was a responsible position for a young attorney of only twenty-three years of age.

He had a wide experience in many important legal cases, having been directly connected with them. He conducted that of the United States vs. Kagama, before the Supreme Court of the United States, at Washington, and before the Circuit Court of the United States, in California, to a successful termination. The case was one of national importance, from the fact that it was the first attempt of the United States to arrest and try an Indian for the killing of another Indian, both being upon their reservation. Mr. Redding appeared for the defendant, who was acquitted by the jury under instructions from the Circuit Court, regarding the jurisdiction of the United States in these matters. Had he not carefully and closely examined the legal points connected with this case, he could never have gained the victory over the plaintiffs.

He was connected with the Nanon case, which was a suit involving the right of a composer of an opera, who had his composition in manuscript, to an injunction preventing the production of the same by third parties. The Circuit Court sat in the bane, and after three days’ argument granted the injunction.

Mr. Redding has a large and lucrative practice, which is estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000 per year.

From his boyhood days he has been a passionate admirer of music. He commenced to compose at an early age, and his compositions evince a remarkable degree of rhythmic harmony and pleasing evenness. There was a sympathy and a musicalness in them that was delightfully combined with freedom of expression and richness of cadence. His numerous published compositions have not only been greatly admired, but have won their way in public favor and popular attention. Such was his proficiency in musical execution that when, at the age of thirteen, he accompanied Hugo Mansfeldt on a concert tour to Marysville, he was pronounced a “phenomenon.” He studied earnestly under the best masters, and by assiduity and determination he has reached an eminence in musical skill that but few can attain. When he was in college at Cambridge, such was his marked ability that he received the directorship of the college orchestra. He was also stage manager of the Athenseum in 1878-’79. He wrote several comedies, which were produced in many of the college societies of New England, with great success, and much money was gained through them, which was all applied to charitable purposes.

In 1878 he won the cue at billiards at Cambridge at the tournament. He is very proficient in the fascinating game of chess; and his moves and plans are devised with a deep knowledge of the game, and his manoeuvres are executed with such strategy as to insure success. He held the chess championship for 1884-’85. Dr. Zukertort, the world’s champion, visited the coast at that time, and when he returned he published in the chess magazines that Mr. Redding was the best player on the Pacific coast. He succeeded in winning three games from Dr. Zukertort in 1884 at Mechanies’ Library.

Mr. Redding was appointed Major in the State Militia, by Governor Stoneman, in 1888, but declined the appointment. He evidently does not seek for military glory “in these piping times of peace.”

He has taken an active interest in pisciculture, particularly since the death of his father, the late B. B. Redding, in 1882. In this matter he has ever evinced a laudable regard for the welfare of the State and the happiness of the citizens, by his active exertions in favor of stocking the interior waters of the State with fish suitable for food. He was appointed special agent of the United States Fish Commission for the Pacific coast, by the Hon. Spencer F. Baird.

He was instrumental, with Hon. W.W. Morrow, in securing the passage of an act of Congress, appropriating $27,000 for the purpose of bringing the United States ship Albatross to this coast to investigate the marine fisheries on it. Mr. Redding has shown a persistent determination that the fish in our inland waters, the young of which were placed there for the benefit of the citizens, shall be protected from depredations, and that the blessings of a plentiful supply and a wide variety shall both be firmly secured.

In the multitude of his vocations he still finds time to prove that his sympathies are with those who are proper recipients for charitable aid. In the furtherance of these kindly dispensations, he has often expended time that otherwise was valuable to himself, in preparing to take a part in theatrical representations, the proceeds of which were to be used in benevolent purposes. He appeared upon the stage in San Francisco several times for this generous purpose. He was manager of the “Cervantes” booth during the Authors’ carnival in 1880, and also manager with Charles E. Locke of the carnival of 1881. He also participated in the performance of “Our Boys,” at the Alcazar Theatre, in 1886, with General Barnes and other prominent persons, for the benefit of charity, on which occasion over $5,000 was realized. This proves what can be accomplished by an able, liberal and energetic man, who is desirous to exert himself in the line of beneficence and ameliorate humanity. The nobleness of his character is proven in the fact, that though he has never known want or experienced privation, he generously and practically sympathizes with those whose lot in life has not been favored with all that existence requires to produce comfort and sustenance. To such his hand is ever open, and his words and acts prove his sincerity in their behalf.

He is an able, forcible and convincing speaker. His predicates are logically sustained, and the subject matter clearly elucidated, while his manner is attractive and his magnetism decidedly evident. In 1884, he delivered a lecture before the Academy of Science, on the fish supply of the Pacific coast, which was warmly applauded.

As a writer, his opinions are warmly and fairly stated, and his line of argument closely followed. In descriptive subjects he is an elegant word-painter, and presents them in so pleasing, graphic and attractive a manner that his readers are charmed and impressed by his delineations. He has been, and is a frequent contributor of articles to the leading magazines and literary journals of this coast, on a variety of subjects which always command attention.

He is genial and sociable, and his presence is desired and welcomed at all times in the club rooms and society gatherings. He was elected president of the Bohemian Club in 1885.

He appreciates art, and is a liberal patron of its productions. So well is this feature in his character understood and esteemed, that in 1886 he was elected to the presidency of the San Francisco Art Association, which honorable position he still retains. He was elected president of the Haydn Society in 1887, and still occupies that chair. He is also a member of the Pacific Club, as well as of many other societies and organizations of this city.

In his home relations, he is exceedingly happy, with a lovely wife who is in full accord with his characteristics, and who presides over the domestic arrangements in an intelligent and kindly manner. She is the daughter of the Hon. Samuel W. Cowles and they were married in 1881. A lovely daughter has blessed their union, and their home is brightened with the infantile presence of the baby girl.

Transcribed by Terry Smith.