Friday, May 6, 2016

This Day in California History
The Chinese Exclusion Act: A Haunting Legacy

Group of Chinese Children, 1909 California Historical Society
Group of Chinese Children, 1909 
California Historical Society
Over 130 years ago today, the United States passed legislation discriminating against Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act, approved May 6, 1882, drew from nearly four decades of anti-Chinese sentiment, especially in California. With its passage, people of Chinese descent seeking work in the United States could not enter the country for 10 years. The act also increased restrictions against Chinese immigrants already living in the United States. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act—our nation’s first law banning immigration on the basis of race and nationality—marked the beginning of a 60-year era of Chinese exclusion litigation. As some historians have pointed out, it “helped to shape twentieth-century United States race-based immigration policy.”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Phoebe Apperson Hearst: California’s Grand Patron of Education

Hearst Grammar School, San Francisco, 1892
California Historical Society
“Think of it; nearly twelve years ago there was not a free kindergarten this side of the Rocky Mountains,” the September 6, 1890 San Francisco News Letter exuberantly reported. “To-day there are fifty-three in San Francisco, two-thirds of which are under the auspices of the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association. . . . Over seven thousand children have passed through the course!”
Many of us remember our first day of kindergarten, but how many know about the woman who helped establish American kindergartens or her legacy today in our state’s education?

In her day, Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the nation’s wealthiest women. The widow of Senator George Hearst and mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Hearst directed much of the family fortune to the social uplift, care, and education of women and children.

As benefactress of educational institutions and individuals, Hearst founded the first free kindergartens in the Unites States, financed a school for the training of kindergarten teachers, established the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association and the National Congress of Mothers (a forerunner of the National Council of Parents and Teachers, known today as the PTA), and endowed scholarships for women students at the University of California at Berkeley, where—as the first woman Regent of the University of California from 1897 until her death in 1919—she played an incalculable role in the university’s development.

In this photo essay, we honor this dedicated, deeply thoughtful, caring, and forward-thinking woman who bettered society in the most fundamental of ways.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day: April 22

Denis Hayes, Stanford University graduate and national coordinator for the first Earth Day, at Washington, DC headquarters, 
April 22, 1970
Courtesy of
“April 22 seeks a future worth living.” 
—Earth Day organizers’ manifesto, New York Times, 1970
Forty-six years ago—April 22, 1970—more than 20 million people around the country gathered to demonstrate a growing awareness of environmental abuses. An outgrowth of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s, the nationwide event known as Earth Day sparked the passage of landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973), as well as the establishment of the United States Environmental Protections Agency (1970).

Today the California Historical Society observes Earth Day with a photograph from our collection that influenced the outcome of the first environmental legislation in California and the American West.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Mirror of Us
CHS Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial and National Park Week

“The Bakery,” Pinnacles National Monument, date unknown
California Historical Society
“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” 
—Western historian and author Wallace Stegner, 1983
From Redwood National Park in the north to Joshua Tree in the south, California’s parks are as varied and diverse as the population of the Golden State itself. The oldest, Yosemite, was established in 1890; the youngest, Pinnacles, graduated from monument to park just three years ago, on January 10, 2013. Each California park has its own kind of beauty and all are a reflection of the society into which they were born.

In celebration of our national heritage, The National Park Service has declared April 16 to April 24 National Park Week. This year, the NPS—in conjunction with its centennial anniversary on August 25 and in partnership with the National Park Foundation—is offering free admission at every national park during National Park Week.

The California Historical Society joins the celebrations with the following images from the CHS and NPS collections of the geological and springtime delights at Pinnacles National Park.

Monday, April 18, 2016

This Day in San Francisco History: Earthquake!

Street cracked near the San Francisco waterfront, 1906 California Historical Society
Street cracked near the San Francisco waterfront, 1906
California Historical Society
At 5:15 on Wednesday morning, April 18, 1906, an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude jolted San Francisco, waking the city’s more than 400,000 residents. Buildings and homes toppled. Fires lasting several days destroyed what the earthquake did not. Thousands fled. Approximately 3,000 perished. The city lay in ruins.

Enveloped in dim light and smoke-induced darkness, survivors found crude shelters and joined bread lines. The sick and injured were brought to makeshift tent camps, where they were fed and received medical attention. About 250,000 people were left homeless, finding relief in numerous refugee camps, supply stations, police stations, hospitals, and post offices around the city.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This Day in Los Angeles History: April 10, 1962—First Game at Dodger Stadium

Racing for Seats on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, April 10, 1962 
Photograph by John Malman/Los Angeles Times; 
It wasn’t the Dodgers’—or Los Angeles’s—first Major League Baseball game on the West Coast. But the match between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds on April 10, 1962, marked a new beginning for the transplanted New York team: the first game at their newly built Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine north of downtown Los Angeles.

52,564 spectators attended, kicking off a season that drew 2.7 million fans, the most in baseball history up to then. Still, despite the city’s excitement over the new stadium, that auspicious start was tainted by earlier events leading to an entire community’s dissolution.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Landscape Planned for Living: Lawrence Halprin’s Levin Family Garden

Lawrence Halprin, The Irving Levin Garden, San Anselmo, 1951
Courtesy of Fred Levin
Gardens were a wonderful testing ground for details and a great learning experience for how things are constructed. When gardens were successful they provided great personal joy and led me to some interesting discoveries and friendships. 
—Lawrence Halprin, A Life Spent Changing Places 
A 2016 magazine article titled “Taming the Tilt” describes a hilly backyard in San Francisco’s Castro District as “unusable” and a “tangled mess of greenery.” The homeowners, notes the author, “craved a California-style outdoor space for grilling, entertaining and gardening.” The solution? Create three levels, or “rooms,” separated by retaining walls and filled with mostly native, drought tolerant plants, in subtle hues of gray and gray-green, with “hits of purple.” 

There was a time, however, when this concept ran counter to the prevailing inclination to create landscapes that mimicked traditional gardens in less arid parts of the country. In 1951, Irma and Irving “Bud” Levin broke with that tradition.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in its article “A Garden Planned for Three-Level Living,” when the Levins purchased a San Anselmo, California, home with a slightly sloping half-acre lot—described as being “tangled, disorganized [and] run-down”—rather than fighting this “jungle,” they hired newly-minted landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to create a new kind of garden environment.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hooray for Opening Day!

Obak Mouthpiece Cigarettes Base Ball Series, 1910
Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, California Historical Society
Spring is here and soon the crack of the bat will echo throughout California’s four Major League Baseball parks—from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco. To celebrate Opening Day we’ve delved into our archives locker room and “dug out” some of our truly favorite things.

CHS is home to the amazing Dick Dobbins Collection of memorabilia from the Pacific Coast League. The PCL - sometimes called the Third Major League - is not connected to the Majors, but has sent some mighty fine players there, including Joe Di Maggio, Ted Williams, and Tony Lazzeri. The collection is primarily made up of material from the Oakland Oaks, San Francisco Seals, and Los Angeles Angels.

So, in the words of one of our local favorites, San Francisco Giants broadcaster, Mike Krukow, “Grab some pine, Meat!” and let’s play ball!

Selections from the Obak Mouthpiece Cigarettes Base Ball Series, 1910

Elmer Criger, Los Angeles Angels
Position: Pitcher; Bats: Left; Throws: Left; .276 Lifetime ERA
Joseph Briggs, Sacramento Sacts
Position: Outfielder; Bats: Right; Throws: Right; .267 Lifetime Batting Average
Harry “Fighting Harry” Wolverton-Oakland Oaks
Positions: Third Baseman & Second Baseman; Bats: Left & Right; Throws: Right; .278 Lifetime Batting Average
Nick Williams, San Francisco Seals
Position: Outfielder; Bats: Right; Throws: Right; .241 Lifetime Batting Average
Walter “Rosy” Carlisle, Vernon Tigers
Position: Outfielder; Bats: Left & Right; Throws: Right; .260 Lifetime Batting Average
Alison Moore
Strategic Initiatives Liaison

Tim Evans
Graphic Designer

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

¡Murales Rebeldes!: Contested Chicana/o Public Art

Barbara Carrasco, L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective (1981)
Today the J. Paul Getty Foundation announced that 43 museums and cultural institutions from Santa Barbara to San Diego will be creating exhibitions focused on Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. The program—Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA—will take place in the fall of next year, and we are very pleased to announce that we are participating in this collaboration of arts institutions in Southern California!

In partnership with LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a cultural center focused on the Mexican-American experience in Los Angeles and Southern California, CHS will present ¡Murales Rebeldes!: Contested Chicana/o Public Art. The exhibition will look at the way in which Chicana/o murals in the greater Los Angeles area have been contested, challenged, censored, and even destroyed.

Murals became an essential form of artist response and public voice during el movimiento/the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and particularly after the Chicano Moratorium’s formation in 1968 and the powerful march in East Los Angeles in 1970. .Murals were a means of expressing both pride and frustration at a time when other channels of communication were limited for the Mexican-American community.

The exhibition will explore murals by Barbara Carrasco, Roberto Chavez, Sergio O’Cadiz, among others. Through photography of the murals, sketches, related art works, and ephemera, the exhibition will tell the story of the mural from its genesis to its end.

Mexican-American artists developed imagery to communicate their struggles, assert their rights as citizens, and as author and co-curator Guisela Latorre writes in Walls of Empowerment, “aid in the formation of a Chicana/o nationalist identity.” While asserting cultural identity via this evolving visual vocabulary, artists also used murals as public platforms to protest against the injustices of institutionalized racism, including police brutality, educational inequality, inferior working conditions, and persisting colonial legacies.

It is difficult to underestimate the personal, political, and artistic significance of the creation of murals in the vast Los Angeles region, as LA has proven fertile ground for thousands of murals. Chicana/o murals have often been sites of controversy. The ways in which their creators provoke the dominant cultural norm and challenge the assumed historic narrative have often resulted in the desecration, whitewashing, or destruction of these works of art. Outright neglect and mistreatment of murals, as well as dismissal of their artistic and historical value, also threaten the survival of these works.

In this exhibition in the historic heart of Los Angeles, LA Plaza and CHS will examine the iconography, content, and artistic strategies of key Los Angeles area Chicana/o murals that have made others uncomfortable to the point of provoking a contrary response, delving into the murals’ complicated creation and subsequent disturbing history of censorship.

¡Murales Rebeldes!: Contested Chicana/o Public Art will open on September 4, 2017  and will be on view through January 29, 2018 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!

Jessica Hough
Director of Exhibitions

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Type Tuesday - Japan Paper Company

Today we feature paper samples from the Japan Paper Company of New York and Philadelphia. Each of these samples are printed on paper that mimics the grainy  look of the wood furniture promoted.


Booklet printed on Japanese Wood Veneer, from the Japan Paper Company

Booklet printed on Japanese Wood Veneer, No. 55, from the Japan Paper Company

More beautiful ephemera from the Japan Paper Company can be found in our Kemble Ephemera Collection.

Jaime Henderson