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Monday, November 28, 2016

The Halprins continue to make news

Earlier this year, the California Historical Society presented Experiments in Environment, an exhibition about the famous interdisciplinary workshops led by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and his wife, post-modern dancer, Anna Halprin. The exhibition was presented in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first workshop the Halprins held in 1966. The work of the Halprins continues to draw attention from the media and cultural institutions around the country. 

Dance Magazine reminds us that 50 years ago, it featured a cover story (see below) about Anna Halprin and Driftwood City, a project that grew out of the workshops 

Last week, Curbed featured a terrific piece on the role Lawrence Halprin played in influencing the design of city parks and civic spaces across the country. The article was in written, in part, because of a new exhibition on Lawrence Halprin's work that has recently opened in Washington D.C. Created by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (a partner and sponsor of our exhibition) and on display at the National Building Museum, the exhibition coincides with the 100th anniversary of Halprin's birth and features, among other items, more than 50 newly commissioned beautiful photographs of his built works. 

The exhibition includes a terrific online companion. It can be reached by clicking here:. Included in the online exhibition is a link to the exhibition catalog (where the images below are sourced from).  It can be reached directly here. 

Levi's Plaza

Ghiradelli Square


Friday, November 25, 2016

Modoc Chief Kintpuash (Captain Jack): A California Indian Hero

Modoc Chief Kintpuash (“Captain Jack”) in 1864
Creative Commons 
As Native American Heritage Month draws to a close, so, too, do our related exhibitions, Sensational Portrayals of the Modoc War, 1872–73 and Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew. The Modoc War connects these two shows: one features the intense interest the war created throughout the United States and the other displays contemporary portraits of native peoples of the Klamath region—some of them descendants of those who fought in the war.

This blog post commemorates a hero of the Modoc War, Kintpuash, known as Captain Jack (1837–1873). In 1872–73, this Modoc resistance leader led his people from the confines of the Klamath Indian Reservation back to their homeland to fight for the right to live as free people on their ancestral land in the Tule Lake area of northern California.

Klamath Indian Reservation, 1879
US Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Basin Office

The Klamath Indian Reservation had its beginnings in the Treaty of 1864, in which the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin peoples agreed to live together as what was referred to as the “Klamath Tribe” on a reservation in the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon. In exchange for their land—almost 20 million acres—they would be provided necessary provisions on land about one-tenth the size.

Klamath and Modoc Territories and Subgroups in the 19th Century with Modern Town Locations
Courtesy College of the Siskiyous

In the annals of the militarization of the West in the nineteenth century, many promises were made by the federal government, and many were not honored. For one band of Modoc Indians living in the Klamath Reservation the arrangement became untenable.

After a number of years without help and provisions, and under the leadership of Kintpuash with Jim Schonchin, a small group of Modoc men and their families left the reservation and returned to their ancestral lands in today’s Lava Beds National Monument in northern California. Federal troops attempted to push them back to the reservation. As Indian Commissioner Thomas J. Morgan, acknowledged about the government’s long-standing policy, “The Indians must conform to ‘the white man’s ways,’ peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must.” But the Modocs refused to abandon their homeland.

Louis H. Heller, Modoc Leaders Jim Schonchin and Captain Jack, 1873
California Historical Society

Louis H. Heller, Captain Jack’s Family, 1873
California Historical Society

War erupted in November 1872 between the Modocs—about 55 men and their families—and the United States Army. The volcanic landscape of the 47,000-acre lava beds (called the Land of Burnt Out Fires), with its nearly 700 caves, became a natural fortress that the Modocs reinforced to give them an upper hand in battles.

Eadweard Muybridge, The Lava Beds, 1872–73
California Historical Society

In January 1873, as U.S. troops from Fort Vancouver and Fort Klamath pressed the first major assault on Captain Jack’s Stronghold (the Modoc fortress), fog rolled in from nearby Tule Lake, blinding the soldiers as they inched across the rocky terrain. The Modocs moved unseen through lava tubes, killing or wounding dozens of soldiers from below while suffering no casualties of their own.

For about six months, the Modocs successfully fought off U.S. troops, capturing the attention and imagination of people across the country, many of whom were sympathetic to the Modocs for humanitarian reasons.

Captain Jack himself became somewhat of a folk hero. He was then “a man of 30 years of age, a man of square mold, 5 feet, 10 inches in height—a royal-blooded man of more than common heritage,” observed Col. Alfred B. Meacham of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

According to the May 30, 1873, issue of the New York Times, “Each mail brings also to camp an extensive correspondence for Capt. Jack . . . . One wishes Jack to come there and scalp the fellow who wants to win his girl away from him, another assures him he will get plenty of volunteers if he comes to his village, still again he is congratulated on his heroism and told to go on and conquer.”

But the adulation was short-lived. On April 11, 1873, the Army and Modocs held a peace commission. In his bid for a settlement, Captain Jack requested a reservation of 6 square miles on the lava beds. Indians could live there, he reasoned, white men couldn’t. When it became clear that the two sides would not come to terms, Captain Jack opened fire and a battle ensued, resulting in the deaths of General Edward R. S. Canby—the only U.S. general lost in an Indian conflict—and Reverend Eleazer Thomas.

With the tide now turned against the Modocs, the government renewed its attempts to drive the Modocs out of the lava beds. Joined by 70 Warm Springs Indian scouts, 675 U.S. soldiers with four batteries of artillery besieged Captain Jack’s Stronghold for two days, but as few as eight Modoc men continued to fend them off.

Eadweard Muybridge, Warm Springs Indian Scouts in Camp, 1872–73
California Historical Society

Add captioEadweard Muybridge, The Modoc Stronghold after Its Capture, 1872–73
California Historical Society

The Modocs were nevertheless driven from their advantageous position. A loss of morale led several men to desert Captain Jack and help the forces hunting him. It was not until the first of June, a remarkable six months after the conflict began, that Captain Jack and his closest allies finally surrendered. They were brought to Fort Klamath, where they were sentenced to death for the murders of General Canby and Reverend Thomas.

Fort Klamath Graves of Boston Charley, Black Jim, John [Schonchin] Schonchiss, and Captain Jack, Executed October 3, 1873
Courtesy Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

Boyd Cothran, Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press)
Cheewa James, The Tribe That Wouldn’t Die (Happy Camp, CA: Naturegraph Publishers, 2008)
The Oregon Experience: The Modoc War, documentary, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregon Historical Society;  
Jeff C. Riddle, The Indian History of the Modoc War;

Closing Soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

News roundup: CHS receives $1M grant for Old Mint

(L to R) Michael J. Sangiacomo, President of the Board of Trustees of the California Historical Society (CHS), San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, Anthea M. Hartig, PhD, Executive Director and CEO of CHS, Senator Mark Leno, and Assemblymember Phil Ting. 

Yesterday, the California Historical Society announced that the State of California is investing $1,000,000 in our efforts to work with the City of San Francisco on the Old Mint Restoration Project.

Read some of the extensive coverage that our announcement received below:

San Francisco Business Times: Old Mint will get $1 million grant to begin facelift

San Francisco Chronicle: New plan to restore Old Mint: Will it be on the money?

KRON Channel 4: $1M state grant announced for old San Francisco US Mint restoration plans

Curbed San Francisco: Troubled Old Mint nets $1M, needs $99M more

CBS Bay Area:$1 Million Grant Could Lead To Refurbishment Of Old U.S Mint

SF Bay News: Grant sets table for Old Mint restoration

Hoodline: City Secures $1 Million To Develop Proposal For Old Mint’s Future

San Francisco Examiner: Old U.S. Mint to receive $1 million grant for restoration

Donation Drive for La Casa de las Madres


Join the California Historical Society in support of La Casa de las Madres to help local women, teens, older adults, and children seeking emotional or physical refuge from domestic violence.

Guests who drop off toys or toiletries will receive free admission to our gallery.

Please drop off the following at our office from Saturday, November 26-January 3. 

·         Full size containers of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, or deodorant
·         New, unwrapped toys for age ranges – Boys 4-10 years old, Girls 1-10 years old, Tweens, and Teenagers up to 18 years old. Suggested items include block sets, board games, animal figures, Legos, puzzles, and books.

CHS will give these donations to La Casa to provide survivors of domestic violence with the simplicities that we take for granted.

La Casa provides half of the city’s emergency domestic violence shelter beds and is the only organization enabling access to safety 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 
Help support these women and families by donating your new items. 

To learn more about the important work La Casa de las Madres does, go to the website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Jack London, 100 years later

Jack Londom
One hundred years ago today, Jack London died in Sonoma County at the age of 40. He remains one of the most widely read American writers and is known for the many adventures that he shared with the world. London was also an accomplished photographer, producing nearly twelve thousand photographs during his lifetime.  In honor of London's passing exactly 100 years ago, several California newspapers have featured pieces about London over the past several days. See these links below:


The California Historical Society has written often about Jack London, including this piece from 2011:

Christened John Griffith Chaney on January 12, 1876, Jack London was born near 3rd and Brannan Streets in San Francisco California. Sadly his birthplace burned in the Great Earthquake and Firestorm of May 1906.  Click Here to read London's account of the disaster, first published by Collier's on May 5th 1906. In 1953 the California Historical Society placed a plaque at the site of his childhood home, honoring London's memory and many contributions to the literary world.   London was a prolific American writer, photographer, activist and journalist.  His fiction, novels and essays  gained him world-wide fame and fortune.   He was one of a group of writers who pioneered the nascent genre of commercial magazine fiction.  White Fang and Call of the Wild endure as his most memorable novels, yet he penned many popular essays, exposés, articles and short stories.  

Jack London's flask, 1907
Sterling Silver, Snake Skin, Glass
Collection of the California Historical Society
Gift of Albert Bender
London's flask is in the permanent collection of the California Historical Society.  After London died his wife Charmian gave the flask to his friend George Sterling, most likely the one who originally presented London with the flask. Sterling then gave the flask to Albert Bender, a great philanthropist of the Bay Area arts and cultural scene in the early 20th century. The flask is one of Bender’s many gifts to CHS and it is one of the earliest acquisitions of the permanent collection.

Jack London Resources on the Web:

Jack London Online Collection

Jack London State Historic Park

The World of Jack London

New Day Dawns for the 1874 Old U.S. Mint

Construction of U.S. Mint, taken from roof of Lincoln School looking S.W., San Francisco, 1873, photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC-RM-Muybridge_007

$1 Million Grant from State of California Provides Critical Funding to Explore the Creation of a Vibrant History Center in the Treasured Landmark

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (November 22, 2016) – Efforts to restore the 1874 Old U.S. Mint and transform the historic treasure into a center of history, culture, and learning received a major boost today. The State of California awarded a $1 million grant to the California Historical Society, in partnership with the City and County of San Francisco, to explore, plan and conduct the required studies to help advance the next phase of development and implementation of the Old Mint Restoration Project.

The announcement was made at the 1874 Old U.S. Mint where community leaders and supporters of the project toured the iconic building and celebrated the beginning of a new chapter in the restoration plans, pledging their support for ensuring success in the future.

The $1 million grant, approved by the California Legislature and Governor as part of the 2017 budget, was supported through the work of many partners and supporters, including State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

“Today marks an important milestone for helping restore the Old Mint,” said Senator Leno. “This $1 million grant provides important resources to ensure a successful venture that will benefit our entire state. The Old Mint is a true landmark that reflects California’s glorious past while envisioning its brilliant future.”

“Transforming the Mint is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that the lessons of history help us fight for a just future for everyone," said Assemblymember Phil Ting. "Our values of inclusion and innovation in San Francisco ultimately prevail in California and our nation. I am excited to see how this facility will remind us of that."

In March 2016, after a competitive RFP process administered through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the City and County of San Francisco announced the selection of the California Historical Society, the State’s official historic society, as its lead cultural partner on the restoration project.

“The Old U.S. Mint represents an important piece of San Francisco’s rich history,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “This grant provides critical funding that will bring us closer to restoring this iconic landmark into a center for culture and learning for all San Franciscans and visitors to our great city.”

The grant will be administered by the California State Library through the California Historical Society in partnership with the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development. The funding allows the California Historical Society to continue collaborating with the City of San Francisco, the State Library, and other partners to fully explore and design the organizations’ new home in the Old U.S. Mint and building an important cultural, learning and historical center within its granite walls and foundation.

“The California Historical Society is deeply honored to continue our work with the City of San Francisco, the State of California and so many cultural partners, towards the rehabilitation of this remarkable community asset,” said Dr. Anthea Hartig, Executive Director and CEO. “We are thrilled to receive this generous grant and embrace the prospect of helping to transform this historic building into a center of culture and learning for the people of San Francisco, for everyone in the Golden State, the nation, and the world.”

The California Historical Society was selected as the lead partner with the City for the restoration of the Old Mint through a Request for Proposal process. CHS has already performed initial feasibility studies and the new funding marks an important milestone in helping advance the next phase of development strategy that will include conducting a capital campaign feasibility study, developing a full business and financial plan, market study and revenue analysis, and designing of a Community Cultural Commons among other priorities. Through an agreement with the City and CHS, the work will conducted over the next two years with the result being a full reuse and rehabiliation proposal of the Old Mint that will be submitted to City policy-makers for review and approval, as needed.

California Office of Historic Preservation Officer Julianne Polanco praised the announcement, saying, “We are pleased to see a collaborative process between the California Historical Society and the City of San Francisco focused on the very important Old Mint Building, a National Historic Landmark. When historic buildings are rehabilitated, not only are jobs created, skills are gained as new life rises from within. In doing so, a physical, tangible place to engage our shared history, inspire and create new memories, and set the framework for a thriving future is realized.

The SF Mint was constructed in 1874 to serve a burgeoning state and local economy, and is one of the few buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake. The United States Old Mint opened in 1874 and served as one of the official repositories for the country's gold reserves for decades. The 100,000-square-foot building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and the federal government transferred the Old Mint to the city in 2003.

About the California Historical Society: Founded in 1871, the California Historical Society (CHS) is a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and empower people to make California's richly diverse past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives – and to promote a more just and informed future. CHS enacts its mission with a wide range of library, exhibition, publication, education, and public outreach programs that explore the complex and continuing history of the State. CHS is headquartered in San Francisco, and in 2015, the organization lead a citywide effort to celebrate the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. For more information, please visit

About the Office of Economic and Workforce Development: The Office of Economic and Workforce Development's (OEWD), under direction of Mayor Lee, provides city-wide leadership for workforce development, business attraction and retention, neighborhood commercial revitalization, international business and development planning. OEWD’s programs are responsible for strengthening San Francisco’s many diverse neighborhoods and commercial corridors. For more information, go to:
[Progress of Construction, U.S. Branch Mint. [two-story] N.W. corner 5th & Mission, San Francisco, 1871.] , photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2009.174

[Construction of the old San Francisco Mint building, 1873], courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2016_2245

Postcard, United States Mint, San Francisco, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2016_2244
[Progress of Construction, U.S. Branch Mint. [three-story] N.W. corner of 5th & Mission, San Francisco, 1871.] , photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2009.181

[Progress of Construction, U.S. Branch Mint. [one-story] N.W. corner of 5th & Mission, San Francisco, 1870.] , photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2009.180

U.S. Mint, San Francisco, photograph by Taber, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2016_2246

24. Mint, Aydelotte photographs of San Francisco, Calif., following the 1906 earthquake and fire, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC 003_002

[Beginning construction of the U.S. Mint, N.W. corner of 5th & Mission, San Francisco, 1869], photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC-RM-Muybridge_004

Construction of the U.S. Mint, from Mission St., San Francisco, 1870, photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC-RM-Muybridge_005

Construction of the U.S. Mint, N. side showing 5th & Jessie at left, San Francisco, 1873, photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC-RM-Muybridge_006
Construction of U.S. Mint, taken from roof of Lincoln School looking S.W., San Francisco, 1873, photograph by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy, California Historical Society, PC-RM-Muybridge_007

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Native American Heritage Month: Occupying Alcatraz (1969–71)

Aerial View of Alcatraz Island during Indian Occupation, Teepee at Center, 1971
Courtesy National Archives, San Bruno
This month, the California Historical Society honors Native American Heritage Month with a look at the nearly 19-month-long Indian occupation of Alcatraz and the enduring outcome that came to fruition 40 years later. Through imagery and the voices of those who were there, we revisit this event, a defining moment in the Native American civil rights movement.
On November 20, 1969, a group of American Indians successfully breached a Coast Guard blockade and made landfall on Alcatraz Island, shut down by the government six years earlier. The group, which called itself Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) claimed the land by “right of discovery,” and, some said, earlier treaties between Indians and the federal government. Previous attempts to claim Alcatraz in 1964 and the spring of 1969 had led to the Coast Guard blockade.

American Indians Arriving on Alcatraz Island, 1969
Photograph by Vincent Maggiora, San Francisco Chronicle Collection
California Historical Society
"We hold The Rock" 
Richard Oakes, Mohawk, Occupation Leader
Issues around land—its meaning, the rights to it, and the abrogation of those rights—are frequently at the heart of modern land claims, as evidenced by current protests over the oil pipeline near North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands. One hundred years before the occupation of Alcatraz, the Modoc War of 1872–73 in far northern California presaged the later occupation with a similar claim to native lands and a months-long standoff between the native peoples of the Klamath Basin area and the federal government. The site is now memorialized as part of the Lava Beds National Monument.

John Trudell, Spokesperson, American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island, August 1970
Photograph by Barney Peterson, San Francisco Chronicle Collection,
California Historical Society
“If you wanted to make it in America as an Indian, you had to become a hollow person and let them remold you. . . . Alcatraz put me back into my community and helped me remember
who I am. It was a rekindling of the spirit.”
John Trudell, Santee Sioux
At times during the occupation of Alcatraz, there were reportedly hundreds of members of more than 20 tribes on the island. The occupation focused worldwide attention on the ongoing grievances of American Indians and gained support from national celebrities, local residents, labor unions, and other organizations that helped supply the occupiers with food and medical supplies.

American Indian Woman and Child, Alcatraz Island, November 1969
Photograph by Dave Randolph, San Francisco Chronicle Collection,
California Historical Society
 “It was idealistic, and the generosity of the spirit of the people proved that we could change anything. People on the island were very strong about freedom of speech, freedom of dissent.
I saw the importance of dissent in government."
Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Nation
Delivering Food, American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island, November 1969
Photograph by Vincent Maggiora, San Francisco Chronicle collection
California Historical Society
We're Indians, all of us, and we belong on Alcatraz. Indians never had prisons—yet here, in this white man's prison, we have found freedom for the first time.”
La Nada Means, Shoshone Bannock
By 1971 conditions on the island, which had been challenging from the start, deteriorated to the point where, on June 10, armed federal agents stepped in and removed the dozen or so people who remained. In 1972 the island became a national historic site as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Coast Guard Protecting American Indian Property, November 1969
Photograph by Vincent Maggiora, San Francisco Chronicle Collection, 
California Historical Society
"The occupation of Alcatraz exceeded our wildest dreams. It caused major changes in government policies toward Indians."
Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall, Chippewa
FBI and GSA Officers Reassert Federal Ownership of Alcatraz Island, June 11, 1971
Photograph by Vincent Maggiora, San Francisco Chronicle Collection, 
California Historical Society
"It’s easy to pass off the Alcatraz event as largely symbolic, but the truth is the spirit and dream of Alcatraz never died, it simply found its way to other fights.”
Benjamin Bratt, Actor and Alcatraz Occupier (tribe?)
In the aftermath of the occupation, federal policies toward Native Americans changed. Many tribal lands were returned. Native American activism continued, such as the occupation of Wounded Knee (1973). Of more enduring impact, in 2011 “We Are Still Here,” a permanent multimedia exhibition documenting the occupation, opened in the Alcatraz cellblock basement. The exhibition satisfies one of the demands of the occupiers: to establish a cultural center on the island.

“We Are Still Here,” 2011
Courtesy Richard Oaks Multicultural Center
“This exhibit is going to allow us to tell our story behind it. It’s going to allow us to express ourselves in a way that America hasn’t heard our voice. It’s going to give to a lot of tribes that have lost their ways and touch with their own culture, because of assimilation, lack of the language.”
Frankie Rivera, Navajo
Entrance, “We Are Still Here” Exhibition, 2011
Courtesy, San Francisco State News; photo by Philip M. Klasky
 “A lot of native kids don’t know the history of Alcatraz, they know a little bit about it, but they don’t know why we did it, and the reasons that we did it, and how it changed everything, how it started a whole new way of looking at yourself as an indigenous person.”
Michael Horse, Yaqui/Mescalero Apache

The exhibition, which opened on November 20, 2011, was produced by students and faculty at San Francisco State and California State University East Bay. It was esigned to mark the occupation that began on the same day of 1969.  In addition to the exhibition, signs of the occupation are still visible to visitors of Alcratraz today.

Alison Moore
Strategic Initiatives Liaison

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

Alex Arbuckle, “When Native American activists took control of Alcatraz for 18 months”;

“Exhibit on historic 1969–71 occupation of Alcatraz Island Opens,” San Francisco State News;

Meredith May, “American Indians get permanent exhibit at Alcatraz,” San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 21, 2011;

National Native American Heritage Month (2016);

National Park Service, Alcatraz Island, “We Hold the Rock”;

National Park Service, Lava Beds National Monument, “The Modoc War”;

Lulu Orozco, “Alcatraz Exhibit Highlights Native American History, Golden Gate Express, May 1, 2014;

San Francisco State University, Bay Area Television Archive, “Occupation and Ownership of Alcatraz Island”;

Malia Wollan, “Antigovernment Graffiti Restored, Courtesy of Government,” New York Times, Dec. 24, 2012;


Now on View at the California Historical Society

Two exhibitions about Native Americans bridge the past and present:

Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew features portraits of members of the Klamath, Modoc, and Pit River Paiute tribes, some of them descendants of Modoc War survivors.

A selection of Modoc War images by Eadweard J. Muybridge and Louis H. Heller from the California Historical Society collection are some of the objects displayed in Sensationalist Portrayal of the Modoc War, 1872–73.