Monday, October 31, 2011

The Manzanar Fishing Club

Thursday, November 3, 2011, 5:30 p.m.

The Manzanar Fishing Club

Film Preview and Discussion

Free Event at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco

Join us for a special preview of the film, The Manzanar Fishing Club. The Manzanar Fishing Club is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the WWII internment of Japanese Americans from a unique perspective: through the eyes of those who defied the armed guards, barbed wire and searchlights to fish for trout in the surrounding waters of the Eastern Sierra. By emphasizing the evacuees' personal stories this film goes beyond the confinement itself, and instead shows how a courageous few were able to take back a bit of dignity and freedom through the simple act of fishing.  After a screening of the first chapter of the film, a panel discussion will follow. Screenwriter/producer Richard Imamura will be joined by Mas Okui, an internee fisherman whose experiences are discussed in the film, and local historian and author Stan Yogi.  Please RSVP to 415.357.1848, ext. 229 or

Thursday, October 27, 2011

November 12th marks the 75th Anniversary of the Bay Bridge

Construction of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, 1936.
Photograph by Pigott.
California Historical Society, FN-31996
The Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge reminds me of the old Avis car rental ad – We’re Number 2. We Try Harder!

It’s not really a competition, or maybe it is…

When tourists think about bridges in San Francisco, they think of the Golden Gate.  But we who live and work here are more likely to spend time on the Bay Bridge. More than twice as many vehicles cross the Bay Bridge daily (over a quarter million, compared to the Golden Gate’s 120,000).

And, the Bay Bridge is nearly three times longer than the Golden Gate.

Not only that, but the Bay Bridge opened first—November 12, 1936. (The Other bridge opened in May 1937).

(If you want to watch construction crews assemble the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, take a trip to Treasure Island.)

Here are a couple of items from the CHS San Francisco Ephemera collection on the Bay Bridge
·         An invitation from the Governor to witness the opening ceremonies
·         The booklet for the official luncheon commemorating the opening
·         An envelope that was in the first mail bag flown across the bridge
·         And, from 1953, a commuter’s (“communtation”) book of pre-paid toll tickets: 50 tickets for $10 (do the math—that’s $0.20 per crossing).

- Eileen Keremitsis, Reference Staff

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The California Historical Society Welcomes Anthea M. Hartig as New Executive Director

The California Historical Society’s Board of Trustees has selected Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D., to serve as the society’s new executive director. Dr. Hartig was hired following a nationwide search, to lead the state’s official historical society and to support its mission to inspire and empower Californians to make the past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives.

“We have truly found the right chief executive for the 21st Century," CHS Board President Thomas R. Owens offered, "Anthea's deep and varied experience as an historian and non-profit leader is the perfect fit for making this venerable organization relevant and successful."

“As a third-generation Californian, I am honored to lead the 140-year old California Historical Society and to steward one of the richest and deepest collections on California’s diverse heritage,” said Dr. Hartig. Noting the challenges all cultural and heritage organization face today, Hartig adds, "I understand and embrace these difficult times as engaging opportunities to honor all of the Golden State's heritage, whether it is 10 or 10,000 years old."

Dr. Anthea M. Hartig comes to CHS after six years with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she directed the Trust’s Western Office and served the six continental far western states along with Hawai’i, Alaska and the Pacific Island Territories of Guam and Micronesia. Previously Dr. Hartig taught history and cultural studies at La Sierra University in Riverside and graduate courses in historic preservation at the University of California, Riverside from where she holds a Ph.D. and Master’s Degree.

Dr. Hartig’s interest in the relevance of California’s stories and places has come to define her professional and advocational life. She served as a municipal preservation planner for over a decade, and owned a cultural resources consulting firm. She has served on many local, statewide and national history-related non-profit foundations’ boards of directors, including the California Preservation Foundation and the California Council for the Promotion of History, and has published in both academic and professional journals. Under Governor Gray Davis, she served as Chairperson of the State Historical Resources Commission.

Earlier this year Dr. Hartig was honored with the 2011 California Preservationist of the Year award at the 36th annual California Preservation Conference. This prestigious award was presented in recognition of Hartig’s outstanding contributions, exceptional achievements, and more than 25 years of service in the field of historic preservation in California.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gold Rush Fashion in the California Historical Society Archives

In light of our upcoming Gold Rush Fashion event occurring at the California Historical Society on October 26th, we ventured into our photography archives to seek out a few ensembles worn by 19th century miners. 

Man standing near a hat marking the spot where gold was first discovered in Placerita Canyon, [s.d.]
California Historical Society Collections at USC Libraries Special Collections. CHS-11926
In the photograph above, a miner indicates through the placement of his hat upon the stacked rocks the location of where gold was first discovered in Southern California, in 1842.  Working-man leather boots protect his soles and thighs, while the gentleman sports wool trousers, an item that is quite current as fashion today looks toward the hand-tailored aesthetic.  A wool vest and newsboy cap completes his ensemble, resulting in a dapper miner, ready to be photographed. 

Although the presence of females in mining towns was rare, female miners apparently joined the ranks as these two photographs found within our photography collection prove.

Woman with rifle, Chrome Red Mountain, ca. 1920s.
Photographer: Unknown. FN-21416. CHS2011.721.
California Historical Society, Ralph H. Cross Coll. 
Woman in mining outfit, Virginia City, ca. 1919.
Photographer: Unknown. CHS2011.693a.
California Historical Society photography collection.

The reverse of the photograph above gives us a little more insight into how this particular lady and perhaps others too, felt about their mining garb:

This is the outfit you have to wear when you go down in the mine at Virginia City.  Do I look like a boy?

Considering at the time women were still clad in hoopskirts and bodices, one could see why our lady feels (and looks?) like a boy.  Her oversized coat, broad-rimmed hat, and long trousers in fact function as the opposite of at-the-time female apparel: to protect the wearer from dirt and injury. 

In relation to a female presence in the mines, our archivist, Marie Silva pointed to an interesting publication of letters found in our reference library known as, The Shirley Letters.  These letters were composed by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clapp (1819-1906), better known as “Dame Shirley,” who traveled in the mid-19th century to the Sierra Nevada from San Francisco to be with her husband.  Along the way, Shirley stayed in two mining towns known as Rich Bar and Indian Bar, and in her letters she provides an excellent account of the miners’ mannerisms:

I think that I have never spoken to you of the mournful extent to which profanity prevails in California…Whether there is more profanity in the mines than elsewhere, I know not; but during the short time that I have been at Rich Bar, I have heard more of it than in all my life before.[1]

Portrait of a prospector with his burros during the days of the gold rush, ca.1900.
Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, 1860-1960.
California Historical Society Collections at USC Libraries Special Collections. CHS- 7810

Shirley’s hand-written accounts of drunken and gambling-addicted miners help paint a picture in our minds of the type of people miners were, but it’s from these rare images from our collection that we’re able to visually verify that indeed, the style adopted by miners complimented their environments: utilitarian, casual, and of course, tailor-made. 

I look back at these images, and besides being overwhelmed by the feelings of nostalgia, I in fact feel envy, as I sit writing this in my dress slacks and collared shirt. 

Jared Ledesma
California Historical Society volunteer

[1] The Shirley Letters from the California Mines: 1851–1852.  Introduction by Carl I. Wheat. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), 49.

Gold Rush Inspired Fashion Show

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

Gold Rush Inspired Fashion Show

$5 Suggested Donation, Free to California Historical Society Members

The City College of San Francisco Fashion Department and California Historical Society present Gold Rush on October 26. View Gold Rush inspired fashion from local designers. Reception begins at 7:30pm with fashion show to follow at 8:00pm. Please RSVP to Event is at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


            My husband and I spent last weekend in Downieville, a tiny old town set like a glittering gem high in the northern Sierras. Here, the Downie River flows into the north fork of the Yuba River, as delicate mists rise and fall from the surrounding mountains. The spirit of the place is one of overwhelming sublimity. The story of Downieville’s human presence, however, is marked by volatile transformations – ecological, economic, and demographic – much like the history of California itself.

View of the Downie River Bridge. It was here that a Mexican woman (Juanita or Josepha) was murdered by a Downieville lynch mob in 1851.
           Downieville was named after William Downie, a Scot who arrived at “The Forks” (where the two rivers converge) in November 1849. His diverse company included Jim Crow, a “Kanaka” or Hawaiian; seven African Americans; a Native American; and Michael Deverney, an Irish boy. At Durgan Flat, Jim Crow discovered gold in a pot in which he had a boiled a freshly caught salmon. (That this noble fish once swam so high into the Sierras is a sad reminder of the destruction of the California salmon runs.) By 1851, five thousand immigrants had descended on Downieville to mine its rivers and dry diggings for gold. Mining continued long after the Gold Rush came to an end, much of it conducted by Sierra County’s once-significant Chinese community.

            CHS’ library and archives has many photographs, ephemeral items, and other materials that document the changing history of the Downieville area. One of the most fascinating is a photograph album of Chinese men and women in Sierra County, dated between 1890 and 1930 and pictured here:

The album was kept by justice of the peace John T. Mason and includes 176 identification portraits of Chinese men and women, many of whom lived in Downieville. Presumably kept as an informational tool to aid in the enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act, this album now serves as a rich and precious source of historical and genealogical insight. The guide to this album, which includes the name, occupation, and place of residence of each person photographed, can be found on the Online Archive of California:

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

Sources consulted for this blog post include:

  • James J. Sinnett, Downieville: Gold Town on the Yuba, Mountain House Books, 1983.

  • Mildred Brooke Hoover, Hero Eugene Rensch, Ethel Grace Rensch, and William N. Abeloe, Historic Spots in California, Stanford University Press, 2002.

  • Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The 6th-Annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar

Saturday, October 22, 2011, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Look for the California Historical Society at the LA History Bazaar . The 6th-annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar will take place in the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the University of Southern California campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the event is free and open to the public.  

Learn about our Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection and the Title Insurance and Trust Company (TICOR) Collection as well as ongoing California Historical Society projects and our archives.

History comes alive once again on Saturday, October 22, 2011, as dozens of Southern California’s rare and archival materials come together at the 6th-annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar.

The daylong event is hosted by the USC Libraries and presented by L.A. as Subject, a research alliance of libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions dedicated to preserving the region’s rich history.
Serious researchers, history buffs, and Californiana enthusiasts will be able to experience a number of Southern California exhibits, documentary film screenings, educational sessions, and other public programming. A distinguishing feature of the bazaar is that unique, private collections are represented alongside materials from large institutions, helping to tell a more complete story of Los Angeles history that includes less-visible archives.

More than 80 exhibitors will be part of this year’s event, including USC Warner Bros. Archives, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Film Archive, the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archive, the Wally G. Shidler Historical Collection of Southern California Ephemera, the Autry National Center Museum of the American West, the LA84 Foundation Sports Library, the Japanese American National Museum, the Gazin Image Archive, the Boyle Heights Historical Society, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, the Filipino American Library, the Los Angeles City Archives, and the Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan Presidential libraries.

Women and the Everyday City: Public Space in San Francisco, 1890-1915

Women and the Everyday City: Public Space in San Francisco, 1890-1915

Monday, October 17, 2011, 6:00 p.m.

Book discussion with author Jessica Ellen Sewell

Free event at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco

In Women and the Everyday City, Jessica Ellen Sewell explores the lives of women in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. A period of transformation of both gender roles and American cities, she shows how changes in the city affected women's ability to negotiate shifting gender norms as well as how women's increasing use of the city played a critical role in the campaign for women's suffrage. Focusing on women's everyday use of streetcars, shops, restaurants, and theaters, Sewell reveals the impact of women on these public places–what women did there, which women went there, and how these places were changed in response to women's presence. Book will be available for purchase at event. RSVP to 415.357.1848, ext. 229 or

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Century of Landscapes Closing Reception & Yerba Buena Gallery Walk

Tomales is Golden. J. Le Grue

Century of Landscapes Closing Reception & Yerba Buena Gallery Walk

Saturday, October 15, 2011, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Free Event at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco and the surrounding

Meet artists and enjoy the closing reception for A Century of Landscapes: Selections from the California Art Club. You may also take a walk around our gallery's Yerba Buena neighborhood and visit the many participating galleries during the Fall Yerba Buena Gallery Walk. The Gallery Walk will feature free admission and refreshments, along with ample opportunities to experience art. The participating galleries offer a diverse look at contemporary, emerging, and established artists working in a variety of mediums.