Sidewalk maker: George Prentice

There were two George D. Prentices. The first one, George Dennison Prentice, was born in Kentucky in 1861. He had the same name as his grandfather, the noted (or infamous) editor of the Louisville Journal. In the 1880 census he was in Mendocino County. He was registered to vote in Salinas in 1890 and in New Idria in 1892. He married Mary Jacka or Jacquén, a native of Mexico, in 1885. In the 1900 census he was listed as a traveling salesman living in French Gulch Township, Shasta County, with Mary and three children. Two years later he was registered to vote in Tiburon. But he lived in Berkeley, at 2313 Webster Street, when he stamped this sidewalk in 1903 with “G. D. Prentice Co.” It’s the only example I’ve found in Oakland.

In 1904 he was listed as a partner, with E. C. Wiggin, in Prentice & Wiggin. Perhaps they left some marks in Berkeley, but there are none in Oakland today. In 1905 he was listed alone again, and his son Clarence was listed at the same address as a student. From 1906 to 1909 they were Prentice & Son, cement contractors, but after that George was listed as a salesman. When Clarence got engaged in 1906, the Oakland Tribune called his father “the well-known Berkeley contractor.”

In the 1920 census he was living in Piedmont, occupation manager of a gold mine. Among his populous household was a grandson, George P.

He surfaced again as a concrete contractor in the 1920s, living at 2207 13th Avenue. This is the house at that address, courtesy of Google Street View.

And this 1925 mark sits right across the street.

The same address appears on the Prentice & Kaiser stamp, but I know nothing about that firm.

I have marks of his from 1924 to 1932. But as of 1930, he had wiped the address off his mark, leaving only “Oakland” at the bottom.

In this mark from 1931, the name is given as George D. Prentice Jr.

There are four reasons a man might do this. The first one is out, because George’s only son was named Clarence. The second reason would be that George Junior was George’s grandson. That seems far-fetched, although George P. would have been 21 at the time. Perhaps the 1920 census got his initial wrong, and he really was another George D. The third reason would be that George’s father, also named George D. Prentice, showed up in the household. Oddly, there were two Civil War veterans named George D. Prentice. One served in the Confederate Army (possibly the publisher’s son), and the other served in the Union Colored Troops. That seems far-fetched too.

The fourth reason is coincidence. A George D. Prentice Jr., age 21, is listed in the 1930 census, a roomer at the home of Isabelle Arnest at 1231 E. 19th Street. He gave his occupation as foreman at an oil company. The 1930 directory lists him at 1843 18th Avenue. Did this guy take over his namesake’s business? Was he actually the “George P.” of the 1920 census? That’s my best guess. He left us this single stamp from 1937.

I haven’t been able to learn when old George died, but he was gone in the 1933 directory.

One Response to “Sidewalk maker: George Prentice”

  1. Martin Arnest Says:

    George D. Prentice Junior was my Great Uncle…and I can clear up some, but not all, of the confusion here. The answer is, there is a fifth reason! You see, Uncle George was, I believe, Clarence Prentice’s half brother, by another mother, Julia, my Great Grandmother. I’m afraid Great-Grandma Jewel was a bit of a butterfly, perhaps a home-wrecker, an opera singer with a wayward streak. It may be that “old George” died in the interim…I do not know. Much of the confusion of the public records is likely caused by maneuvers to conceal indiscretions, now lost in time.

    She left Uncle George along with his younger half-brother, my Grandpa Henry (Arnest) at the house on E. 19th St. to be raised by Great-Great-Grandma Katie, and “Aunt Isabelle”. Isabelle never married, and was the sister to Henry’s father, Leslie B. Arnest.

    Great-Great Grandpa Henry Arnest (Henry’s Grandfather) was also a contractor in the East Bay, and the boys learned the concrete trade early, and as unlikely as it may sound today, those stamps dated after 1925 are likely Grandpa Henry and Uncle George’s work…yes, at age 14 and 16, respectively. Before the 20’s were out, the two had taken on concrete work pouring underground grease pits for the Kaiser Company. My best guess is that the “Prentice and Kaiser” stamp is a one-off innovation from that time, though it is possible that the stamp might be found elsewhere, buried under ground at some old service station locations…we’ll never know.

    The two boys also did some mining work in French Gulch. But by the early 30’s, Uncle George (born 1909) had taken a job with the Bechtel Oil Company, and Grandpa Henry (born 1911) went to work for the Carnation Company. The post-1931 stamp is likely George making some extra cash after a period he spent working in Saudi Arabia for Bechtel. Henry stayed with Carnation until his retirement in 1979, and had an enormously successful career. I only met old Uncle George once, a dear old man…but I don’t know when he died. Grandpa Henry lived to the ripe old age of 94, and died peacefully in 2005.

    I live in Oakland today. Great-Great Grandma Katie, Great-Great Grandpa Henry, Aunt Isabelle, and Great Grandpa Leslie are buried in Evergreen Cemetery near MIlls college. There is, or was, another Prentice stamp in Oakland near Piedmont Avenue, though I have unfortunately misplaced the address. In any case, thanks for this trip down memory’s sidewalk!

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