Thursday, May 21, 2015

Uncovering History through Art and Artifacts: Japanese Internment

Siberius Y. Sato (1908–1980), The Guard Tower, ca. 1942, photographic copy print California Historical Society, CHS.Saito.008.

By Shelly Kale

This blog post is the first in a series recalling the forced relocation and imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Watch for additional posts leading up to CHS's commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the establishment of military zones from which U.S. residents could be excluded.

In April 1942, eight thousand persons of Japanese descent living in the Bay Area were forcibly removed from their homes and transported to the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California. Here, at the site of the Tanforan Race Track, they lived in horse stable stalls or in barracks or on grandstands awaiting relocation to more permanent facilities.

Siberius Y. Saito was one of the eight thousand. His illustration of a guard in a watch tower at Tanforan is part of CHS’s Collections documenting the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Two-thirds of those interned were U.S. citizens. As we prepare to commemorate the 75th anniversary, on February 19, 2017, of Executive Order 9066 setting the stage for internment, we highlight examples from the Collections.

Saito’s drawing illustrates the hastily constructed detention complex at Tanforan, one of eighteen centers where persons of Japanese ancestry living along the Pacific Coast were held temporarily before their transfer to camps in the West’s interior, most of them for the duration of the war. The camps serve as an example of an issue confronting post-9/11 America today: the conflict between national security during wartime and the equal rights and due process guaranteed by our Constitution.

The drawing–one of twenty-four copy prints by Saito in the Collections—is in stark contrast to the publicized photographic record of the day. Those images give no hint of the barbed wire and armed manned towers that imprisoned camp residents or the humiliating living conditions in which they lived.   As Saito described in a letter to a friend, “Poor ventilation, dirty and grimy, smell of manure from underfloor area, dampness; these are some of the conditions that occur out in our ‘skid row.’”

Siberius Y. Sato (1908–1980), Letter to William H. Irwin, June 22, 1942 Augusta Bixler Farms Records, MS 202B, California Historical Society
A “Slap the Jap” pamphlet illustrates the wartime hostility toward the Japanese in California, especially in the farming areas--even when the war ended and upon the internees’ release from imprisonment. The brochure, produced by the Sacramento Home Front Commandos, asked: “Do you want them back in your back yard . . . to poison your water, kill your cattle, destroy your orchards?”

“Slap the Jap,” ca. 1945 American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California Records, 1900–2000, MS 3380.001,
California Historical Society
Still, others denounced the relocations and publicly expressed sympathy with the internees. In this printed message to their Japanese neighbors, the Reedley Committee on National Security and Fair Play in the San Joaquin Valley expressed “friendship for you and our belief in you as neighbors and fellow Americans. . . . Many of us know many of you personally, and are confident of your loyalty to the United States.”
A Message to Our Neighbors and Friends on the Day of Evacuation, ca. 1942 Fred S. Farr correspondence and miscellany relating to Japanese-American evacuation, 1942–1945, MS 685, California Historical Society
Even before Pearl Harbor, some Californians objected to rising anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the state. In 1941, Galen Merriam Fisher, who taught at the Pacific School of Religion, organized the Fair Play Committee for the Citizens and Aliens of Japanese Ancestry in order to protect the rights of Californians of Japanese descent. Galen’s articles were widely read and were produced by the committee, including this “Balance Sheet on Japanese Evacuation,” which pitted the military success of the evacuations against their “social failure.”

Galen M. Fisher, A Balance Sheet on Japanese Evacuation, ca. 1943 Joseph R. Goodman Papers on Japanese American Internment, MS 840.001, California Historical Society
But the loudest voices remain those of the internees themselves who, even as they were imprisoned and silenced at remote inland camps, created art, crafts, and publications—including the quarterly literary magazine TREK produced at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah—as a means of creative expression and bearing witness to the injustices they suffered.
Cover and interior page, TREK magazine, 1943 Joseph R. Goodman Papers on Japanese American Internment, MS 840.001, California Historical Society
Their voices are still heard today: in annual pilgrimages to the camp sites, in exhibitions, in oral histories, and most recently in the widespread social media protests in March and April this year against the auctioning of art and artifacts made in the camps. This latter campaign resulted in the auction’s cancellation, the artifacts’ acquisition by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and a renewed conversation about the preservation and safeguarding of these wartime objects.
Image from Change.org petition, April 2015: “Please sign this petition to . . . remove Lots 1232–1255 and our cultural patrimony from the auction block. . . . a price tag should not be put on our cultural property.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Two Women atop Jeffrey Pine on Sentinel Dome

Two Women atop Jeffrey Pine on Sentinel Dome. 
California Historical Society, CHS2013.1460

Labor in San Francisco – Before and After 1915



Sixty years after “the world rushed in” to California seeking gold in 1849, the working men and women of San Francisco responded to the disaster of 1906 by rebuilding their city in record time. Join us for a panel discussion on the city’s distinctive labor and working class history from the “Gay 90s” to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) and beyond to the “Roaring 20s.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Type Tuesday - Timely Typography

Your Type Tuesday correspondent has been smitten with a recent donation of contemporary type specimens and ephemera! 




You may have noticed that recent posts have been filled with 1960s-era type design culled from the pages of San Francisco typography companies. Today we share a sample from Timely Typography, the company that also featured Modi-Film







The sample below features a new way of look for the typically straight-laced Helvetica font. 






Jaime Henderson
Archivist
jhenderson@calhist.org

Monday, May 18, 2015

MS Monday—PPIE Part 7: The John Howell Exhibit and a newly cataloged Kemble manuscript


A recently re-discovered and cataloged gem from the California Historical Society’s Kemble collection is the John Howell exhibit guest book, dated 1915. One of San Francisco’s leading booksellers and publishers, John Howell commissioned architect Bernard Maybeck to design an “old English book shop” to house his exhibit of books, illuminated manuscripts, and specimens of early printing at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. Howell used a two-volume dummy of Arias the Libyan: a romance of the primitive church as an exhibit guest book. The volumes include autographs and inscriptions by authors, booksellers, printers, and members of the general public who visited Howell’s exhibit throughout the course of the Fair.


John Howell exhibit guest book, 1915, Kemble MS 47a, California Historical Society
This page includes a rhyme by Clarence Edwords, author of the wonderful Bohemian San Francisco, its restaurants and their most famous recipes: the elegant art of dining (1914). After viewing the fine books on display, Edwords wrote, perhaps with a touch of sarcasm:

Some love books for their binding:
Some give value to age. 
I love books when finding
New thoughts on printed page. 


Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
msilva@calhist.org

Thursday, May 14, 2015

League of American Wheelmen Century Run


L.A.W. (League of American Wheelmen) Century Run, 6-1-1890
L.A.W. (League of American Wheelmen) Century Run, 6-1-1890. California Historical Society, CHS2009.187.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Type Tuesday - William H. Price




William H. Price type foundry goes mod for their Windsor type series!



Jaime Henderson
Archivist
jhenderson@calhist.org

Monday, May 11, 2015

MS Monday—PPIE Part 6: More from the Mooney papers


Another, strange connection between the Panama Pacific International Exposition and the Preparedness Day Bombing of July 22, 1916, is revealed by the Alred H. Spink affidavit of 1927, found in the California Historical Society’s collection of papers pertaining to the Mooney case. Spink, an influential St. Louis sports writer, was dispatched to San Francisco in December 1914 to report on the Exposition for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He relocated his family to North Oakland, where his German American wife quickly befriended a neighboring family of German immigrants. In addition to reporting for the Post-Dispatch and other St. Louis newspapers, Spink made regular contributions to the Oakland Tribune under the nom de plume of Mr. Muldoon.

Alfred H. Spink affidavit, 1927, Papers relating to the Mooney case, MS 3976, California Historical Society

At this point in Spink’s affidavit, his story takes a surprising and sinister turn. He reports that his wife’s new friends used his telephone frequently, often discussing explosions that were occurring on the Pacific Coast in the months before the Preparedness Day bombing. According to Spink, his wife told him “that something awful was going to happen in San Francisco” several days before the July 22nd attack, and was warned by her friends not to attend the Preparedness Day parade. Spink attributes the San Francisco bombing and other attacks to “agents of the German government , and their associates and accomplices” who congregated at the Germania Café.  

Although convinced of Tom Mooney’s innocence, Spink did not report his suspicions to the authorities, at the request of his wife. He states:

“Since the death of my wife, I have thought much about the occurrence in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and, when, in the 'St. Louis Globe-Democrat' of December 29, 1926, I saw a news item to the effect that Governor Richardson had not extended executive clemency to Mooney but desired to be fair in the matter and would not deny the application, I was prompted to make a statement.”

“I am in very poor health and it is a relief to my conscience to make a statement of these facts, because I am firmly convinced that the Preparedness Day Explosion was the work of the parties to whom I refer in this statement, who had the mistaken idea that they were helping Germany by committing acts of violence in this country.”

All in all, a strange tale, told by an unlikely teller, reminiscent of Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Whether or not it contains any truth regarding the actual facts of the Preparedness Day Bombing, Spink’s affidavit reminds us of the fearfulness, anxiety, and suspicion that swept across the country in the years leading up to the United States’ entry into World War I. 

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
msilva@calhist.org

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Type Tuesday - Photo-Lettering Inc.


Today's type comes from Photo-Lettering Inc., a New York company who celebrated the "exotic" types of the 1920s by offering edited versions of popular types of the time period for contemporary use in 1964. 














Jaime Henderson
Archivist
jhenderson@calhist.org

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Type Tuesday - H.W. Caslon and Co., Ltd.


Initials, printed in one or two colors, and ornamental devices from the type foundry of H.W. Caslon and Co., Ltd. 








Jaime Henderson,
Archivist
jhenderson@calhist.org