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Historic characters come to life

100 years later, saloon portraits are gathered in a book

Caricatures combine with history for an informative and enjoyable book that celebrates the men who lived in the Valley 100 years ago -- from merchants and laborers to ranchers and city fathers.

Historians Anne Marshall Homan and Richard W. Finn have put together portraits by artist Vasco Loureiro, who sketched patrons in Livermore's Hub Saloon, which was located on First and Lizzie streets near the flagpole. They added histories of Loureiro and each of the subjects, resulting in "Vasco's Livermore, 1910: Portraits from the Hub Saloon," published by Hardscratch Press.

Forty-three portraits survive in a collection from the saloon, including two Pleasanton residents, George Johnston and Antone "Tony" Frank Schweer. They hung for many years in Hub's, which became Dan's Place when it was purchased by Dan Berry. Today his son, also Dan Berry, lives on the peninsula where the 43 portraits adorn his hallways.

"Betty Holdener (of Livermore's Holdener Dairy family) let me know that her brother-in-law had this collection," said Homan. "He lives in Burlingame so no one in Livermore had ever seen it. He moved there in the 1950s.

"After his father died, he ran the saloon for a year then decided, 'This is not for me,'" continued Homan. "He sold the saloon -- but took the pictures."

She and Finn visited the Berry home, where the sketches, which are about 8-1/2 by 10 inches, hang in frames in the hallway and up the stairs. Excited, they returned home and began their research on the subjects. They also began to dig for information on the artist, who signed the portraits simply, "Vasco/10."

"No one knew anything. We didn't even know his last name," Homan recalled. "Then I was looking through old copies of the newspaper and found an article."

A story in the March 26, 1910, issue of the Herald stated: "The Hub saloon has an art exhibit which attracts a great deal of attention. It is a gallery of local celebrities executed in crayon by Vasco Loureiro. The likenesses of most of them are excellent."

With the artist's last name, their research moved quickly. They discovered that Vasco Urbano Loureiro was born in London in 1882, the son of Maria Therese Huybers, a native of Tasmania, and Artur Loureiro, from Portugal. The family moved to Melbourne, Australia, in 1884. After being educated at a Catholic school for boys, Vasco studied drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria Schools from 1901-05, and began to exhibit pen and ink sketches.

"After moving to Sydney, he drew postcards and caricatures for passengers on the harbor ferries at a shilling a sketch," reported Homan and Finn in their book. "He decided to travel around the world in ships, sketching for his living as he went."

He also gathered material for a book he planned to publish under the possible title, "Around the World on a Pencil." His travels brought him to San Francisco by May 1909, when one of the newspapers wrote: "Vasco Loureiro, a brilliant young English sketch artist, is in San Francisco taking mental snapshots of the city."

The word "Vasco" means "Basque," and meanwhile in Livermore, Vasco Road had been named after a nearby settlement. Perhaps the artist was doing sketches in San Francisco when someone from Livermore asked him about the name of the road, Homan conjectured.

"It was a lot easier to get here in 1910 from San Francisco," she noted. "You could hop on the train in San Francisco and come down below the Bay through Niles and on to Livermore."

Vasco also stopped at some point in Pleasanton, she said, because they uncovered two watercolors he painted here, one he called "Pleasanton" and another that shows himself with a drawing board looking at three little girls, trying to decide which to portray.

By 1916, Vasco had returned to Australia, which was embroiled in World War I. After 7,594 Australians died at the battle of Gallipoli, he joined the army, saying on his enlistment forms that he was a caricaturist and draftsman. He trained in England then served as an engineer on the western front in France; he died Aug. 3, 1918, in a hospital in England as a result from wounds, at the age of 35. His drawing books were sent to his widow in Australia, where much of his artwork from the war now hangs in museums.

Homan and Finn contacted people all over the world while doing their research, and one man is coming from Australia next week to see the original sketches and visit with them.

"He found photographs of Vasco and of his wife and came up with some more material," Homan said. This included information about the Pleasanton watercolors.

"We're hoping that maybe Vasco did work in Pleasanton that we haven't heard about," Homan said. "There's always a hope that one's floating around in someone's home."

"Vasco's Livermore, 1910: Portraits from the Hub Saloon" is available for $24 at local bookstores and Arden Lane Nursery as well as at the library. Homan and Finn also give talks with PowerPoint presentations on Vasco and his portraits.

The authors have offered to share their research with descendents of the 43 men memorialized in the drawings. To learn more, email Finn at rwfinn@wecare.net.

Footnotes: Pleasanton resident George Johnston, an early sheep raiser in the area, is portrayed wearing a shamrock and being led by a lamb. He was born in Ireland in 1830, came to America in 1854, and to Alameda County about 1856. He lived in the large house at the corner of Second Street and Arendt Way in Pleasanton. His obituary in the Herald stated he that spent a lot of time in Livermore because of his ranching interests.

Antone "Tony" Frank Schweer moved to Pleasanton from the Eden Township with his siblings and widowed mother in 1874. In 1889 he married Maria Angelita Bernal, who had property near the racetrack. He came to own the Fashion Livery Feed and Sale Stable on Main Street, and later Schweer Mortuary. He also had 230 acres outside Livermore on Tesla Road. Vasco drew him with his boots on, so the authors conjecture he traveled through Livermore to check on his fields and cattle. He died in 1912 at the age of 50.

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