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I have spent the last months doing extensive research on Emma’s life. I have learned more about her family (especially her siblings); have found a letter in the Library of Congress from her to Carl Schurz, the Secretary of the Interior: see his reply to her); believe she befriended a famous Native American woman who was lecturing in San Francisco; have discovered she used several different names; found out she was fired from her job at the Women’s Pavilion and replaced by a Philadelphia woman; found out that she called herself a journalist until her incarceration in a mental hospital in California; learned she may have raised greyhound dogs; obtained her death certificate. I will be traveling to California next month to visit her grave site and see if there is any information about her at the mental hospital.


Emma’s Death

UPDATE: I visited the state hospital this summer and all the grave markers have been removed from the graves but the cemetery for those who died at the hospital is still there. It was almost dug up by a company that purchased the land decades ago for a golf course.

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A memorial placed in the area where the graves of buried patients are located.


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Memorial Project marker


Emma Allison Marchand died on August 17, 1914, 100 years ago. She  died in a state mental hospital in California, having a diagnosis of “senile psychosis” and cause of death by heart disease. She was there for almost 11 years. She is buried there, likely in the unmarked graves that were used for unclaimed bodies. I will be visiting the site this summer.

Rest in Peace, Emma.

A Letter from Emma?

CONFIRMED: This is a response to a letter from Emma. I have seen her letter in Carl Schrz’s papers in the Library of Congress. The signature on it matches one she used to sign Aime Marchand’s citizenship papers.

UPDATE: There is a newspaper article about Sarah Winnemucca in a San Francisco newspaper, possibly by Emma?

I just ran across a reference to a letter from a “Miss Emma Allison” sent to the Secretary of the Interior, Carl Schurz, in 1880. Schurz is thanking this Emma Allison for bring some information about Native Americans to his attention. Did Emma, in her capacity as a writer for the Daily Graphic in New York (still speculative) or in her work as a copyist in the office of the U.S. Surveyor-General in San Francisco (also speculative, but very likely) lead her to write this letter? The letter itself is not yet available but may be among Schurz’s papers which I will search next. More intrigue…here is Schurz’s response to her:


The Chief Winnemucca mentioned here was a famous leader of the Norther Paiute. The Malheur reservation was established for the Paiutes but was abandoned during their battles with the U.S. government and was then returned to non-Indian control.

The next letter that is available in Schurz’s record of correspondences as Secretary of the Interior (see volume 3, page 501) is one to the famous author Helen Hunt Jackson who would write Ramona in 1884,  a sympathetic novel about Native Americans. The letter to Jackson is also about Native Americans. Was there some connection between the women?

The search goes on…

Emma married A.D. Marchand

UPDATE: Emma claims to have lived in the United States before the Centennial, and to have come into the country in 1872 on a later census form. Still no evidence that this was the case.

Today I found proof that the Emma Allison who married A.D. Marchand in 1887 in California is the same Emma Allison who worked at the Centennial Exhibition. This proof opens up a lot more questions but also confirms the part of the story that Emma (and her mother and maybe some siblings) moved to California. Presumably this would be in 1877 after her father dies that year.

The Baxter Steam Engine with Flowers

Emma Allison was the engineer of a six horsepower Baxter steam engine. The engine itself is not generally mentioned in accounts of Emma’s work but this article, from Pacific Rural Press, Volume 12, Number 13, September23,  1876, gives a delightful description of how Emma decorated it. It also confirms that she spoke to people about moving to California after the Centennial.

Pacific Rural Press, Volume 12, Number 13, 23 September 1876 copy




baxter copy

Who was A.D. Marchand: A Treasure of Gold

After a great talk at the 2013 Steampunk World’s Fair about Emma Allison and her fate, I thought more about the man she may have married later in life, A.D. Marchand. Someone in the audience had asked what I knew about him and to this point very little. But I have learned that if you keep doing the same search online, you can get different results because so much new info is posted constantly. So thank you to the person that asked that question because here is the new info that it helped uncover.

Keep in mind that a lot of this is still speculation because I cannot yet prove that the Emma Allison that married A.D. Marchand is the same as our Emma. But even if this is just another story of another Emma, it is revealing about the things women faced in that time period.

So I looked up Emma Allison’s marriage to a man name Marchand and a first name appeared: Aime. Aime Marchand, it turns out, was the brother of of Desire Marchand, a trained assayer of metals, including gold. Harris, Marchand, & Co. was an assay office in Sacramento established in 1855 as the gold rush was turning from an individual enterprise into big business, with large companies doing the gold extraction. Aime Marchand, born around 1836, was an assayer of gold in his brother’s firm. The Marchands’ father was rumored to be a friend of John Sutter of Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered. Here is an 1855 ad for the Marchand firm in Sacramento; they had another office in Marysville (from an article in the Western Express journal).


I know it is almost fantastical that Emma Allison was also involved through marriage in the California Gold Rush, but it gets better. The reason so much is now know and available about the Marchand assay office is because in 1986 a shipwreck was located off the coast of Virginia that was confirmed to be the long lost S.S. Central America. The Central America was lost in a storm in 1857. It was carrying gold coins and ingots, including some that had the assay marks of the Harris/Marchand company. This gold was recovered and eventually offered for sale in the 1990s and it is the auction houses that uncovered the wealth of information about the Marchand brothers. Here is what a gold ingot with the Marchand mark looks like. It sold for $891,250 in 2012.


UPDATE: The man who recovered the gold from the wreck of the S.S. Central America, Tommy Thompson, has been arrested in Florida (January 2015) for deceiving investors who funded his recovery activities.


Desire Marchand sold his part of the assay business in 1859. By 1860, according to one auction house, Aime Marchand was doing assay work in Victoria, British Columbia. The same journal cited above states that Aime’s work in British Columbia was cut short because he was accused of embezzling funds. He disappears from the area and reappears in San Francisco in 1862. Correction: he is arrested and convicted in Canada.

The story gets wilder as Marchand is on the run and “hard up” for money:


That certainly makes him an interesting and shady character. Remember that Emma at this point is about 17 years old. He was captured in April, 1862 and sent to trial. I will try to find the results.

Unanswered Questions


UPDATE 2: Was there another Emma Allison in San Francisco at the same time, one who used the middle initial “B”? There is a record of an Emma B gaining citizenship who was a copyist. Still uncertain.

UPDATE 1: Very likely yes since Emma mentions to one person in 1876 that she previously worked as a copyist.

Did Emma Allison go to San Francisco to be a writer as she supposedly told one author? Here is a reference to an Emma Allison in San Francisco in 1882, working as a clerk at the U.S Surveyor-General’s Office. The title page of this directory and page 69 can be viewed in this PDF.  This full document can be viewed and downloaded at Internet archive. Is this our Emma Allison?

Langley’s San Francisco Directory, 1882, p. 69


Emma’s mother dies in San Jose, California in 1887. Does this mean the family moved there after the death of Emma’s father, Richard, in 1877? UPDATE: Emma lists 1877 as the date of her entry into the United States on later census forms.


There is an Emma Allison who marries an A.D. Marchand in 1887. One possible connection between Marchand and the Emma Allison listed in the U.S. Surveyor-General’s office is that Marchand was a supervisor for a mining company. UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison.


See new information uncovered about Marchand in this post: Who was A.D. Marchand: A Treasure of Gold


The Woman’s Journal (a newspaper associated with abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone) reported that Emma Allison was found starving in her boarding room two months after the Centennial Exhibition opened. This report was later disputed by the Women’s Pavilion newspaper. UPDATE: Lucy Stone also later disputes the story, pointing out that it was very likely the food the sickened her. Later reports also suggest that many workers at the exhibition became ill with Yellow Fever and other diseases.

No record of Susan B. Anthony or Matilda Gage discussing this incident have been found in their letters, diaries, or other accounts (so far).  A PDF of the full page of the newspaper is here.

“Women vs. Whisky in Philadelphia,” The Woman’s Journal, July 1, 1876, p. 1


How did Emma Allison get hired to run the steam engine in the Women’s Pavilion? The only mention of the process suggests that a Mrs. Wright (probably Martha Coffin Wright, Lucretia Mott’s sister correction: it was Henrietta Hoskins Price Wright, wife of Robert Kemp Wright) suggested hiring a female steam engineer. How Emma was chosen is still unknown.


An Emma Allison, age 22, from Grimsby, was listed as an inmate at the Toronto Insane Asylum. Is this the same Emma Allison? UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison.


Is this also the same Emma Allison? UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison. She lists her profession for years as a journalist, one time stating that it was for the Daily Graphic. This balloon adventure was reported by dozens of newspapers across the country and Emma later tells her account of the story to a reporter in California.

In 1879, off the coast of California, a young woman named Emma Allison was caught in scandal as she traveled as a reporter in a hot air balloon. Full story below, but here is an image I found that is possibly the first and only one we have of Emma (if this is our Emma Allison).

Here is the report from the National Police Gazette, page 5 of this July 19, 1879 issue. NationalPoliceGazette1879-p4-5 can be seen here.

A Los Angeles Times version of the story was printed on July 8, 1879.LAT-July1879balloon