Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Geil J. Norris Family Papers, Vault MS 156

Geil J. Norris Family Papers, Vault MS 156

            These New Year cards—printed in Mexico City in 1881 for Sam Brannan and Manual Castro, with the Mexican coat of arms and, yes, real feathers affixed in the shape of birds—are part of the recently cataloged Geil J. Norris Family Papers. Though small, the collection contains many notable and exquisite examples of Californiana documenting the Pico, Castro, and Sanchez families, from which Mr. Norris was descended, throughout the nineteenth century. Highlights of the collection include: an 1844 broadside announcing Thomas O. Larkin’s appointment as United States consul; letters by Zamorano, Pío Pico, Thomas O. Larkin, and Manuel Castro; documents pertaining to the Mexican War, including an 1846 bando and a letter of protest written by the minister of the missions at Santa Clara and San José; and the pictured greeting cards. 

            The cards (and a letter in the collection) tell an interesting story in their own right, suggesting that Mormon pioneer Sam Brannan and Mexican War general Manual Castro were business associates in Mexico in the early 1880s, when Brannan was involved in land speculation schemes in Sonora. The collection as a whole reminds us of the complex and historic interconnections—political, economic, and familial—between Mexico and California.

            A detailed guide to the collection is available on the Online Archive of California:

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? A Salon on Public Histories

The Bill Lane Center for the American West and the California Historical Society invite you to participate in a conversation with Anthea Hartig and Rebecca Solnit, moderated by Jon Christensen.
Fueled by hors d’ouevres, historic libations, and our collective passions as historians
A free event with RSVPs required by May 3, 2012.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The second edition of New California Writing is here!

Join publisher Malcolm Margolin, series editor Gayle Wattawa, and selected contributors for an evening of readings, food, and celebration of our vibrant literary scene. 

Wednesday, May 16 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
California Historical Society
678 Mission St., San Francisco
Free, but RSVP required at

Once again, Heyday has combed through a year’s worth of magazines, blogs, zines, and books, from both major and small publishers, to find the most compelling writing California has to offer. The forty-three pieces in this year’s anthology, culled from thousands of choices, offer a variety of voices that will enliven the mind, expand the imagination, and stretch the heart.
Here is the latest work by established writers—including Jon Carroll, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Caitlin Flanagan, Michael Pollan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Francesca Lia Block—standing alongside that of emerging writers—among them Eric Puchner, Daniel Olivas, Rebecca K. O’Connor, and Manuel Muñoz. Also included is an excerpt from Masha’allah and Other Stories, by Mariah K. Young, winner of the 2011 James D. Houston Award.
This year’s contributors straddle cultural fault lines, look critically at our collective heritage, and wonder at the ever-shifting infrastructure of the state.

This event is co-sponsored by Heyday and The California Historical Society.

Monday, April 16, 2012

George Cruikshank, Charles Dickens’ illustrator & temperance advocate

George Cruikshank, Dickens’ illustrator & temperance advocate

In belated celebration of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, we present a letter from the CHS Collection, written by George Cruikshank, the Victorian caricaturist most famous perhaps for his illustrations of Oliver Twist:

In this 1848 letter, Cruikshank presents his nephew W. Percy Cruikshank to a C. M. Evans of Birmingham. Cruikshank (the nephew) delivered lectures “in the provinces” on The Bottle, his uncle’s popular illustrations on the evils of alcoholism. (On the temperance issue, Dickens and Cruikshank parted ways.)

Despite some preliminary investigation, the provenance of this letter remains a mystery. Did C. M. Evans eventually leave Birmingham for the golden shore of California?
Marie Silva, Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian