SUTRO, ADOLPH HEINRICH JOSEPH:
American mechanical engineer; born at Aix-la-Chapelle, Rhenish Prussia, April 29, 1830; died at San Francisco Aug. 8, 1898; educated in his native town, and at several of the best polytechnic schools of Germany. At an early age he was placed in charge of his father's extensive woolen mills, but the revolution of 1848 impoverished the family and it was compelled to emigrate to America, settling in Baltimore in 1850. In the same year, however, the discovery of gold induced Sutro to go to San Francisco, where he engaged in business until, several years later, the discovery of mines in Nevada attracted him thither. He inspected the fields there, and soon established at Dayton, Nev., a stamping-mill for the reduction of silver ore, which proved a technical and financial success. The scheme of constructing a tunnel to serve as a drain through the Comstock lode, in which the heat resulting from the great depth of the shafts had made work impossible, originated with Sutro. In 1864 he matured his plans, and after many efforts to interest American and European capitalists in his venture, he chartered The Sutro Tunnel Company on Feb. 4, 1865, receiving the approval of Congress in the following year. The construction of the shaft of the tunnel, which is situated at Sutro, a village in the Carson River valley, was begun Oct. 19, 1869, and finished July 8, 1879. The main shaft is 12 feet wide, 10 feet deep, 20,500 feet long, and is 1,600 feet below the surface.
In 1879 Sutro sold his interest in the company and returned to San Francisco, where, during the Kearny riots and sand-lot agitation, he invested heavily in real estate, not sharing in the general despair of the city's future. As a result he became one of the richest men on the Pacific slope, owning about one-tenth of the area of San Francisco, including Sutro Heights, which he turned into a beautiful public park and which became the property of the municipality after his death. He gave the city, also, many statues and fountains, built an aquarium and baths, and in 1887 presented it with a duplicate of Bartholdi's monument, "Liberty Enlightening the World."
In 1894 Sutro was elected mayor of San Francisco on the Populist ticket. He was an active collector of books and manuscripts, and left a library of over 200,000 volumes, including 135 rare Hebrew manuscripts and a large collection of early Americana.
- America's Successful Men of Affairs, p. 777, New York, 1896;
- Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, vi. 2.