Gustav A. Scott, an honored citizen and the well-known pioneer organist and musician of San Francisco was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1827. He inherited talent for music, his uncle, N. Hummel, being a celebrated musician co-equal with Mendelssohn and others of that period.

Professor Scott began the study of music at an early age under the instruction of Dr. Henry Marschner, the celebrated composer and the conductor of music at the Royal Opera in Hanover, and an intimate friend of the old Duke of Cambridge, the father of the present Duke in London. He also studied under the noted Wentzel, the court pianist of Hanover, and teacher of Prince George of Cumberland, the Crown Prince and Professor Scott enjoyed the very unusual privilege and honor of taking lessons with the prince in his private rooms at the palais by virtue of his being a favorite pupil of Wentzel.

Before reaching manhood the subject of our sketch come to America, and for some years was engaged in teaching music in New York. He then decided to come to California and landed here in an old German ship, in 1851. For two years he traveled through the State with the concert companies of Madam Dillon, Anna Bishop, Kate Hayes and Hauser, the Hungarian violinist. In 1853 he settled in San Francisco and began teaching music, since which time, for almost forty years, he has pursued his calling here, and is probably better known than any member of the musical profession on the Pacific coast. During all this time he has occupied the position of church organist, his record as such being without a parallel in this country. He a held this position in Calvary Presbyterian Church for twenty years, has served as organist in the First Unitarian church, Starr King, Pastor, fourteen years, and in the Jewish synagogue twenty-two years, and without intermission. During this time , for a period of over a quarter of a century, he presided at the organ without missing a single service. His vast labor in musical composition is equally remarkable. All the music of the Jewish synagogue is of his own composition, as is also an extensive musical library of the Calvary Presbyterian church. He established the Handel and Haydn Society in 1860; in 1862 he brought out complete oratorios, being assisted by Mrs. Marriner Campbell and Mrs. Lizzie Howell; in 1870 he was the originator of the grand musical festival in behalf of the Mercantile Library. He gave the Stabat Mater in 1857, complete, with one hundred voices, in the First Unitarian church. He traveled with Gottschalk and has some elegant testimonial of regard from that distinguished musician; was also pianist for Parepa Rosa.

Professor Scott is noted for his generosity and readiness to give his time and talent in behalf of charity. During the great Sanitary Fair in 1863 he had entire management of the music and gave his time for weeks gratuitously, refusing to accept any pecuniary return; and in all his charities he is most unostentatious. During his residence of forty years in San Francisco he has earned an enviable reputation as an unassuming, generous pure minded Christian gentleman.

Louise E. Shoemaker, Transcriber September 20th 2004

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 1, page 522-523, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

2004 Louise E. Shoemaker.

California Biography Project


San Francisco County


California Statewide


Golden Nugget Library