Redirect to CHS blog

Thursday, January 26, 2017

California Vintage: Wine and Spirits in the Golden State

The Great Depression—Reclaiming the Good Life 

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s 
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing
Among the widespread struggles in Depression-era California during the 1930s—unemployment, poverty, deportations, strikes—there were some bright spots. Building the Golden Gate and Oakland–San Francisco Bay Bridges (1933–37) and Hoover Dam (1931–36) brought jobs and commerce, power and water to the state. The Los Angeles Olympics (1932) and the Bay Area’s Golden Gate International Exposition (1939) at Treasure Island boosted morale and buffered state and local economies. Cooperative organizations—some of which began in encampments for the poor known as Hoovervilles—demonstrated American ingenuity and provided a way to keep people out of poverty until federal and state relief programs were established.

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Co., 400-430 4th Street, San Francisco, c. 1937 
California Historical Society
Reflecting, perhaps, the same spirit of opportunity and optimism as these events were the wine labels produced by the now-forgotten Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company of San Francisco. Lehmann’s labels graced hundreds of thousands of bottles of mass-manufactured and highly alcoholic wines, invoking deliciously unrealistic fantasies of peace, plenty, and the high-class life.

In their design, the labels—with recurring motifs such as parted curtains, heavy vines, and peaceful fields—combined Art Deco elements with romanticized references to the Middle Ages, the Mission Era, and the Gold Rush. Mythologizing both California’s past and present, they illustrated a vision of social and industrial harmony from which the bitter realities of history were excluded.

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s 
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s 
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

The Lehmann art department flourished in the fast pace of mass production, finding in their daily grind opportunities for seemingly inexhaustible creative invention. The firm’s inventive talent continued to shine in its extraordinary output of individualized labels. Yet even custom labels shared standard colors, backgrounds, and lettering.

Lehmann Printing Presses, c. 1937
California Historical Society

None of the labels is attributed to an identified artist; we do not know the size of Lehmann’s art department or the names of the individual artists who constituted it. Yet each custom label order was treated individually, not as “cheap work,” in owner Adolph Lehmann’s words, but as a unique problem with a design solution to be worked out artistically.

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

Owner Adolph Lehmann believed that a good label was the expression of an idea, conceived and executed with a specific purpose. In his labels, these ideas were expressed in motifs—such as the theater curtain and top hat; the chivalric knight and kindly friar; the heavy vine, peaceful field, and magnificent chateau; the race horse and yacht—whose purpose might be understood as the marketing of the California myth.

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

A beautiful and unsettling example is the Varsity Brand California Tokay label designed for Los Angeles’ Hollenbeck Beverage Co. Two framed vignettes show a padre blessing a kneeling Indian and an oddly modern-looking mission complex. These appear against a classic Lehmann manuscript background, decorated with orderly fields and a plump cluster of grapes, on which the incongruously collegiate brand name, Varsity, is printed in ornate Gothic lettering:

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Wine Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

In the mid-1930s Lehmann pioneered a stock label service, creating catalogs of generic labels with stock vignettes that could be applied to a wide variety of products. As his contemporaries observed, Lehmann’s labels were
“. . . labels of distinction, of artistic quality, created individually for the containers of products for which they are to be used. Fruit and vegetable packers of California and other states of the country recognize the Lehmann labels as being of superior grade, giving to their products an advertising value before the public which only an attractive label could insure; a label which impresses the buyer as having been conceived and executed for the particular food or delicacy which it names. . . . His labels have sold themselves; they have carried their own recommendation without the aid of extensive advertising or numerous salesmen.”
Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Stock Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company Stock Label, 1930s
California Historical Society, Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

In 1934 alone, orders from three large wineries totaled over $100,000 (nearly enough to cover the firm’s annual payroll). Even earlier, in 1931, the business community observed:
“A convincing estimate of the status of the Lehmann Printing & Lithograph Company is indicated in the splendid business reports during the days of so called depression of 1931. Among other figures, it may be mentioned that overtime in some weeks at present amounts to over one thousand dollars per week in wages, and the plant is operating every hour of the day. As a business it is one of the most notable achievements in San Francisco and on the Pacific coast.”
Boxing Labels, Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Co., 1937
California Historical Society

As one journalist began his observations in a 1935 issue of The Inland Printer:
“This is the story of a printer who hasn’t heard about the depression. He started in business in San Francisco in 1911, five years after the ‘fire,’ with a total investment of $190. His plant consisted of a 10 by 15 platen press and a few fonts of type. His rent was $10 a month; his staff, one boy.
“However, this printer had ideas. Today, twenty-four years after that small start, Adolph Lehmann is still the sole owner of Lehmann Printing and Lithograph Company. The first is worth $600,000 and an additional $100,000 is to be spent in the next few months on enlarging the plant and adding new offset and bronzing machines, and other equipment.”
Putting On Labels, Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Co., 1937
California Historical Society

As the wine industry slowly recovered following the repeal of Prohibition and during the Depression, Adolph Lehmann’s business rapidly progressed. Indeed, The Inland Printer saw Lehmann as a model for others:
“Sole owner of printshop says he wasn’t bothered by depression; his ideas, standards can guide you.”
Marie Silva
Acting Director of Library and Archives

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager


  • Lewis Francis Byington and Oscar Lewis, The History of San Francisco, California (Chicago/San Francisco: The S. J. Clark Publishing Company, 1931)
  • D. H. De Michaels, “Builds $190 Shop into $600,000 Plant; Tells Methods,” The Inland Printer (January 1935)
  • Hillel Aron, The Story of Los Angeles/ 1932 Olympics, When Everyone Was Poor; 
  • Jonathan Rowe, Cooperative Economy in the Great Depression; 
  • Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2007


Love California Wine and Spirits? Don’t Miss Our New Exhibition!
Vintage: Wine, Beer, and Spirits Labels from the Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing

December 10, 2016–April 16, 2017
California Historical Society, 678 Mission, San Francisco

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Centennial of the 1917 San Francisco Sex Worker Rights March

San Francisco Prostitutes 1917

Bv Anderson and Devon Angus

In 1917, San Franciscans faced a full plate of political drama and struggle. The Preparedness Day Bombing in the city the previous year, an event that extreme elements of the Chamber of Commerce exploited to attack organized labor, had been both a premonition of the coming Great War and the death knell of radical labor in the city. Within the greater struggle, a courageous and desperate political action was staged by a group of women who were considered to be voiceless and worthless of consideration: the sex workers of San Francisco’s vice districts. Women had been in the vanguard of  political action in the state of California for decades; amongst the first to win the right to vote in the nation in 1911, women’s political groups in the Golden State had a considerable voice in the politics of the era. While club women, often from the middle to upper middle classes, sought to purge the urban landscape of the city’s riotous gold rush past, working class women and sex workers struggled to exist in a world that built wall after wall against any protest they hoped to present.

Long illegal and yet long sanctioned, prostitution and the brothel system were foundational pieces of the mythic West. Tidal in nature, waves of reform and vigilantism dashed against the bulwarks of the vice districts of San Francisco with only temporary successes. The passage of the Red Light Abatement Act in 1913, fully enacted in 1917, broke that stormwall, closing down the infamous vice districts of San Francisco that had grown up with the gold rush city. Anti-vice organizers mounted a rally in January 1917 that they dubbed “Purity Sunday”, weeks before the mass evictions of the vice districts on Valentine’s Day, focused on the moral questions surrounding sex work. “Victims” of the brothel system were to be “saved”, if possible. But what eluded these varied reformers in their campaign was the labor aspect of sex work. 

Reggie Gamble and Maude Spencer, two madams from the Uptown Tenderloin district, aimed to confront “Purity Sunday” by storming the church of one of its main prothesizers, the Rev. Paul Smith. Seeking organizational support from Fremont Older, the editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, a rival to the anti-vice Examiner, Gamble and Spencer planned what would become the first major organized sex worker protest in U.S. history. In 1913, Older had published the memoirs of a sex worker who went by “Alice Smith” as a serial in the Bulletin. The response to the memoir was extraordinary; over 4,000 letters flooded into the paper, many by sex workers themselves. In all, 114 letters to the editor were published by sex workers, speaking candidly about issues they faced that had long went unheard. By 1917 Older, alarmed by the attacks on organized labor in the aftermath of the 1916 Preparedness Day Bombing, had turned the energy of his editor’s pen against the city’s rightward turn. Likewise, with the planned march organized by Gamble and Spencer, Older sought to tie in the sex worker movement with the beleaguered labor movement.

Reggie Gamble stormed the pulpit of the Rev. Smith after leading over 200 sex workers into the church; her speech focused on the economic conditions that surrounded sex workers. The ongoing wage that a working class woman could expect at the time was six dollars a week, which was little more than starvation wages. Needless to say, working class men made considerably more. Facing such economic disparity, especially with children, out of work husbands, or parents to support, many women turned to prostitution simply in order to survive. Others chose sex work as a valid economic choice in a city with few options. Anti-vice reformers, claimed Gamble, entirely missed the point, as she told the congregation:
            “You want the city cleaned up around your church--but where do you want the women to   go? Have you made any arrangement by which they can make their living elsewhere? …            Why don’t you go to the big business houses? Why don’t you go to the legislature and change the conditions? Men here in San Francisco say they want to eradicate vice. If they do, they better give up something of their dividends and pay the girls’ wages so they can live.            You won’t do anything to stop vice by driving us women out of the city to some other city. Has your city and your church a different God, that you drive evil away from your city and your church to other cities and other churches?            If you want to stop prostitution, stop the new girls from coming in here. They are coming into it every day. They will always be coming into it as long as conditions, wages and education are as they are. You don’t do any good by attacking us. Why don’t you attack those conditions?”

Come join in the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of this important piece of feminist and labor history at the Tenderloin Museum on January 25th, followed by a march to the site of the original 1917 demonstration.  You can find out more here: 

Anderson and Devon Angus are the authors of Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute is the winner of the California Historical Society 2015 Book Award. For more information about upcoming events, where to purchase the book, and to read more exclusive content, you can visit

Previous blog posts related to the book can be found at:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Right Out of California, by Kathryn Olmsted

By Kathryn Olmsted

On the surface, the 1930s might seem very distant from the California political scene today.  But if we look deeper, we can see that the decade of the Great Depression shares many similarities with our own time.  There was tension over immigrants and migrants; a polarized society; conservatives who believed that the government supported aliens and agitators; and savvy right-wing businessmen who discovered they could get mass support for their policies if they marketed themselves as populists.  The problems, and the solutions, of the 1930s can teach us important lessons today.

The years of the Great Depression were tumultuous across the nation, but especially in California. The unemployment rate approached 25 percent, while more than one in five Californians survived only because of public relief.  The state’s farm workers were among its most destitute residents.  Whole families picked fruits, vegetables, and cotton; children as young as seven worked alongside their parents for 12-hour days during the harvest season.  Families earned just enough to feed themselves and buy gas to drive their old car to the next picking job.  Some of these workers had lived in California their whole lives, but others had come to the state in hopes of finding a better life.  Mexican immigrants joined Southwestern refugees from the Dust Bowl – the so-called Okies – in searching for jobs in California’s fields.

Mexican farm worker picking melons in Imperial Valley, 1937.
Photograph by Dorothea Lange. Library of Congress, prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection

In 1933, many Americans hoped that things were about to change. Franklin Roosevelt had won the presidency and began to implement his bold policies designed to stimulate economic recovery. Roosevelt’s New Deal guaranteed the right to join a union and bargain collectively for better conditions and wages.

 The new laws inspired California farm workers to form unions and demand higher wages – even though, ironically, the unionization protections did not apply to them. The New Dealers excluded agricultural laborers because they did not want to antagonize powerful Southern plantation owners.  But California’s farm workers did not understand at first that they had been left out of these protections. And so they went on strike.

The largest farm strike in U.S. history hit the San Joaquin Valley in 1933 when growers refused to pay cotton pickers the national minimum wage of 25 cents an hour.  Almost 20,000 workers walked out of the fields in protest. Over the course of 1933, 50,000 California farm workers went on strike. 

            Roosevelt administration officials did not support the strikers, but neither did they support the growers’ violent efforts to break the strike. They threatened to withhold New Deal subsidies from the growers unless they agreed to mediation in the labor dispute. The growers saw the administration’s centrist position – support for mediation – as a great betrayal.  Although in the past these agricultural businessmen had supported a strong, expansive federal government, they now believed that the government, by declining to back them in breaking the strike, was encouraging workers to revolt.  The New Deal’s labor policies pushed many agribusiness leaders to embrace a new kind of conservatism: a conservatism that opposed, rather than supported, big government.

            For the state’s business leaders, the situation went from bad to worse in 1934 when socialist author Upton Sinclair won the Democratic nomination for governor with the slogan that he would “End Poverty in California” (EPIC).  For his own part, Roosevelt did not support Sinclair’s candidacy: the president never endorsed him, and his administration made a secret pact to support the Republican candidate near the end of the campaign. But Sinclair’s victory in the primary seemed to prove the conservatives’ greatest fears about Roosevelt’s programs: the EPIC campaign showed, they said, that the New Deal was nothing more than socialism in liberal clothing.

 To defeat Sinclair, the business leaders of California created new strategies we would recognize in the politics of our own time. They hired the nation’s first political consultants to run a campaign of mis-attributed quotations, faked newsreels, and outright untruths about Sinclairs proposals. Sinclair called the effort against him “the lie factory.” It was the advent of fake news. The consultants had figured out how to equate liberalism with socialism, and socialism with treason.

We think of California as one of the most liberal states in the nation. But it was also the birthplace of some of the most successful ideas and political strategies now used by conservatives.
Wallace Stegner famously said that California is like America, only more so.  The struggles in the California fields were similar to struggles that would take place elsewhere around the country, but they were ahead of their time, as well as more intense. The states multi-racial, multi-ethnic work force foreshadowed the coming transformation of American labor.  The battles over these changes would transform American politics and policy.

Additional articles about Right out of California by Kathryn Olmsted: 

Upcoming Event with Kathryn Olmsted

Katrryn Olmsted will visit the California Historical Society on January 31st to discuss her new book, Right Out of California. To learn more about this event, click HERE

Saturday, January 14, 2017

This Day in History:
Precedent for a Muslim Registry? Presidential Proclamation No. 2537

Notice to Aliens of Enemy Nationalities
February 9, 1942
Courtesy National Archives Catalog
This U. S. Department of Justice notice directed aliens of German, Italian, and Japanese nationalities to apply for a Certificate of Identification by February 28, 1942

Soon to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, President Elect Donald Trump has advocated establishing a registry for Muslim residents in the United States and a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants to United States—components of a war on terror.

On this day, January 14, we look at the alien registry of 1942, a precursor to events across the nation during World War II, which had significant impact on our state’s Japanese American citizens during the war.

January 14, 1942: Only five and a half weeks after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor triggering U.S. entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537. The proclamation required non-citizens of enemy nationality—Italians, Germans, and Japanese—aged 14 and older to register with the United States Department of Justice. These individuals then would be issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality.

Friedrich Roetter’s Application for Certificate of Identification, 1942

Proclamation No. 2537 also sanctioned measures of control over the travel and conduct of aliens, including property ownership rights, and allowed the arrest, detention, and internment of aliens who were in violation of federally designated restricted areas.

The proclamation, in fact, was a follow-up—a second registration as it were—for those aliens who had registered earlier with the 1940 Alien Registration Act, a national security measure. Preliminary tabulations from this Act identified the enemy alien population in the United States as at least 315,000 Germans, nearly 700,000 Italians, and 92,000 Japanese.

Heigoro Endo’s Alien Registration Card, 1940 
Courtesy The Endo Family
As U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle noted in a broadcast, the certificate was to be used “at all times and in all places, for the duration of the war.” Explaining his position he said, “I describe the identification programs as another part of the job of making America safe—safety for the nation against the small minority of alien enemies who may be contemplating trouble, and safety for the great majority of aliens who are above suspicion.” A little over a million aliens of German, Italian, and Japanese origin registered.

Toyo Miyatake, Boys Behind Barbed Wire, 1944
Courtesy of Alan Miyatake
Proclamation No. 2537 ushered in an era of what today is considered a national shame: the relocation and incarceration of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and residents of Japanese descent living in the Pacific Coast region. A month after its issue, on February 19, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the War Department to set aside military areas from which Japanese Americans were excluded, thus paving away for the establishment of “internment” camps to which they were forcibly removed. For the duration of the war these men, women, and children—most of them U.S. citizens—lived in prison camps in California, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas.

Also sent to camps throughout the country were approximately 11,507 German Americans, an estimated 4,500 ethnic Germans and Italians from Latin America, and non-citizen Italian-born individuals, especially Italian diplomats, businessmen, and international students. These camps were operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

German and Italian migrants leaving Philadelphia for a camp in Butte, Montana, August 1941
Associated Press; courtesy of
Despite his advocacy of the Enemy Alien Certificate of Identification, U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle offered a measure of caution. “Let us not be hasty in our judgment of them. Let us not deprive them of their jobs,” he said. “Let us not be suspicious of them unless we have grounds for suspicion. Let us not persecute these people as an outlet of our emotions against the bandits who are at the moment in control of the nations where they were born.”

As the United States revisits its foreign policy and protocols in a war against terror, and as President Elect Trump’s position continues to invite controversy, Biddle’s words are frighteningly relevant.

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

Francis Biddle, Identification of Alien Enemies, an address by the Honorable Francis Biddle, Attorney General of the United States, on Sunday February 1, 1942, 7:15 to 7:30 pm, E.S.T. over the Columbia Broadcasting System, Washington, D. C.;

Karen E. Ebel, Timeline, German American Internees in the United States during WWII;

Lynn Goodsell, “World War II Enemy Aliens Program: Notice to Aliens of Enemy Nationalities,” Oct. 13, 15, 2009, National Archives, Washington, DC;

Abby Phillip and Abigail Hauslohner, “Trump on the future of proposed Muslim ban, registry,” Washington Post, December 12, 2016;

United States Department of Justice, “Regulations Controlling Travel and Other Conduct of Aliens of Enemy Nationalities,” February 5, 1942 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1942);


Don’t miss this CHS event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066:
Thursday, February 23, 2017, 6:00pm
Celebrating the California Historical Society’s 1972 Landmark Exhibition and Book,
Executive Order 9066
Please join the California Historical Society as we celebrate our landmark 1972 exhibition and book of historic photographs, Executive Order 9066. The first to exclusively explore the World War II incarceration of Japanese American citizens and people of Japanese descent, the exhibition premiered at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor and UC Berkeley’s University Art Museum before it traveled nationally. Our program will include individuals and descendants of those who visited the exhibition along with the curator of the Dorothea Lange collection at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). The program will be moderated by historian Charles Wollenberg.

Read More about Executive Order 9066 and Japanese American incarceration on the CHS Blog:

It Can’t Happen Here - Executive Order 9066 Revisited

Day of Remembrance: Executive Order 9066 and the Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II

This Day in History: California Celebrates Fred Korematsu

This Day in History - August 10: The U.S. Rights a Wrong

70 Years Ago Today: World War II Incarceration Camp at Manzanar Closes

Uncovering History through Art and Artifacts: Japanese Internment

 Presidential Proclamation No. 2537

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Highlights from CHS's Cartographic Collection

Fifty-two nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century maps of California have been added to the California Historical Society’s new Digital Library. The images represent a sampling of unique or uncommonly held titles ranging geographically from an 1863 map of the copper region of Del Norte County in the north, to a circa 1866 Topographical Map Showing the Locations of the Sutro Tunnel and the Comstock Lode, to a colorful 1913 townsite map of Date City (now called Calipatria) in Imperial County in the south. In between are city, county, mining, real property, water-supply, road, and railroad maps of various localities throughout the state. Here are six examples:

Skeleton map of the State of California. 
Map 588, California Historical Society.

1. A rare early map is Ransom Leander’s A Skeleton Map of the State of California: Exhibiting the U.S. Township and Range Lines and Boundaries of U.S. Land Districts, the County Seats and the Lines of Equal Variations of the Compass. It was compiled for the California Academy of Natural Sciences, probably in 1853. Ransom came to California in 1851 as U.S. Deputy Surveyor General for California and in that year established the Mount Diablo Base and Meridian lines (the initial points for surveying public lands in most of California and all of Nevada).

Map of the Pleasant Valley Tract at the head of the lake, Oakland [recto]. 
Map 149, California Historical Society.

2. A typical nineteenth-century real estate subdivision is depicted in the 1876 Map of the Pleasant Valley Tract at the Head of the Lake, Oakland. The map announces the auction of “splendid villa lots” at auction by Olney & Co. at the offices of H.M. Newhall & Co. It shows lot numbers with dimensions and building footprints. Henry Mayo Newhall opened his successful auction house in 1850 upon arriving in San Francisco. He later branched into railroads (President of the San Francisco and San Jose Rail Road), real estate, and ranching, purchasing several Mexican land grants in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Perhaps his most important acquisition was the Rancho San Francisco in the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County, which became known as the Newhall Ranch. His heirs incorporated the Newhall Land and Farming Company and founded the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation. The Digital Library contains maps of tracts in Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Official map of Bodie Mining District. 
Map 490, California Historical Society.

3. Tagliabue & Garrard’s Map of Bodie Mining District, Mono Co., Cal., dating from the 1860s, shows the townsite of Bodie as well as claim boundaries, mining tunnels, and tramways and has two views of mills. The map was printed in San Francisco by Grafton T. Brown, the country’s first African American lithographer. Brown was also an important map maker and artist. The Digital Library includes several other examples of his work.

Map of Lancha Plana, Amador Co
Map 142, California Historical Society.

4. The pen-and-ink and watercolor Map of Lancha Plana, Amador Co. (1871) shows buildings, landowners, Chinatown, and a Chinese garden in this former southern mines gold rush community. The map was drawn by U.S. Deputy Surveyor Samuel Bethell. The town, on the north bank of the Mokelumne River, was founded in 1848 as Sonora Bar and eventually grew to about 1,000 inhabitants. It was later renamed after the flat-bottomed boat used to ferry people and goods across the river. Since the 1960s, the remains of Lancha Plana have been at the bottom of Camanche Reservoir.

Lines of the Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California. 
Map 627, California Historical Society.

5. The 1911 Lines of the Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California includes connecting rail and steamship lines of the Los Angeles area’s early commuter network. The “Red Car” system was the largest operator of interurban electric railway passenger service in the world, with more than 2,000 daily trains in the 1920s. It ceased operations in 1950.

Map of a portion of Los Angeles County showing the Abel Stearns' Ranchos
Map 611, California Historical Society.

6. The hand-colored Map of a Portion of Los Angeles County Showing the Abel Stearns' Ranchos was issued in 1874. It shows rivers, land ownership, settlements, railroads, and lands for sale in Orange and part of Los Angeles counties. Abel Stearns (1798–1871) became a major Southern California landowner and cattle rancher. Financial reverses caused by a severe drought forced to him to sell many of his properties.

Funding to scan and make these maps digitally available was generously provided by the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation and David Rumsey. The high-resolution scanning and processing was done by Luna Imaging, Inc.

By Phil Hoehn
Phil Hoehn has a master's degree in library science from UC Berkeley and worked as a
map and earth sciences librarian for three decades at the UC Berkeley Library, the Stanford
University Libraries, and the David Rumsey Collection.

It Can’t Happen Here - Executive Order 9066 Revisited

Book Cover, Executive Order 9066 (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972)
California Historical Society

The purpose of this exhibit would not be to point an accusing finger at those responsible; nor should the exhibit strive for a tone of scholarly or historical impassivity. Rather, the effort of the exhibition should be to strengthen a viewer’s appreciation for the precariousness of our rights and freedoms. And hopefully the viewer would come away with a deeper, more personal interest in the human rights of others.
                                     Richard Conrat, author and curator, Executive Order 9066, 1972
On the day after Pearl Harbor in 1941, Berkeley resident Charles Kikuchi expressed his concern for the Japanese Americans known as Issei, pre-1924 Japanese immigrants to the United States, also called “first generation”: “I should have confidence in the democratic procedures, but I’m worried that we might take a page from Hitler’s methods and do something drastic towards the Issei. I hope not. I don’t give a damn what happens to me, but I would be very disillusioned if the democratic process broke down.”

In fact, the democratic process—the Constitution itself—did “break down,” and nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent—most of them U.S. citizens—were forcibly removed from their homes along the West Coast and sent to domestic concentration camps.

Assembly Centers and Internment Camps, 1942–46
Courtesy Japantown Atlas

December 7, 2016, was the 75th anniversary of America’s entrance into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This year many institutions, including the California Historical Society, are planning exhibitions and programs to mark the 75th anniversary of events that followed Pearl Harbor—most notably the relocation and incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent following Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.

Interior Page, Executive Order 9066 (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972)
California Historical Society

As a new U.S. administration prepares to assume governance, cultural institutions across the country are assessing how to address the changing—and fear-provoking—political climate, with many turning their attention to the history of civil liberties and civil rights in the United States. The imprisonment of nearly 120,000 individuals from 1942 to 1945 is often part of the conversation.

On this day in 1972 the California Historical Society launched a landmark exhibition and accompanying book, both titled Executive Order 9066, which documented these events through photographs by well-known photographers, most notably Bay Area photographer Dorothea Lange.

Dorothea Lange, Grandfather and Grandchildren Awaiting Evacuation Bus,
Hayward, California, May 8, 1942

Many of the photos are familiar to us now: California residents, tags around their necks, awaiting the buses that would take them away from their homes and communities; horse stalls turned into temporary living quarters until the camps were ready; the sign “I am an American” posted the day after Pearl Harbor by a Japanese American storeowner awaiting evacuation.

Dorothea Lange, Horse Stall Barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942
Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration

Dorothea Lange, I Am an American, Oakland, California, March 1942
Courtesy Library of Congress

But before 1972 most Americans had not seen these images and were even unfamiliar with the events they documented. Through CHS’s exhibition Executive Order 9066 the images of Japanese incarceration were widely displayed for the first time. Curated by Richard and Maisie Conrat, the show toured the country to widespread acclaim.

Consisting of duplicate exhibits, each with over 60 photographs and accompanying archival material, the show opened simultaneously on January 5, 1972, at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco and the University Art Museum in Berkeley. Culled from thousands of photographs taken for the War Relocation Authority (WRA) by Lange, Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Charles Mace, Toyo Miyatake, and others, the exhibitions appeared at major museums across the country, including the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Exhibition Announcement, Executive Order 9066, 1972
California Historical Society

In the Bay Area, record-breaking numbers of people attended the two exhibits. At the de Young Museum, 20,000 viewed the photos within the first week, and over the course of their relatively brief runs attendance at both museums approached 220,000 visitors. The exhibits also traveled to smaller venues, reaching audiences at the University of Nebraska, Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey, Grossmont College in El Cajon, California, the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, and at venues in Idaho, Connecticut, Arizona, Missouri, and Utah, among other states. It even traveled to three sites in Hawai‘i as well as to Japan.

A. D. Coleman, reviewing the exhibition for the New York Times wrote, “It is not a pretty picture, but it is a major document, all the more painful for its gentleness and grace.” Writing for the San Francisco Examiner, Dexter Waugh noted, “Museums generally tend to capture the past under glass, darkly and dustless, but this exhibit . . . is painfully fresh, as alive as many of the people who once lived out the war in muddy Tule Lake, bleak Manzanar in the Owens Valley, or one of the eight other relocation centers.” And Paul Allman, in the Richmond, California, Independent wrote, “I cannot urge you to see this show. I am too involved to see the show clearly. It makes me too angry and too ashamed. Maybe that is the best recommendation I can give it.”

In addition to the widely reviewed exhibition’s appeal, all 10,000 copies of its accompanying book of photographs, also titled Executive Order 9066, sold out by March 1972.

Los Angeles Times Book Review Featuring CHS’s Executive Order 9066, February 27, 1972
California Historical Society 

There were objections to the exhibition. Some in the Issei (“first generation”) community were uncomfortable with the public exposure aspect of the photos, while Richard Conrat noted that members of the Nisei (“second generation”) community “wanted me to leave well enough alone.” Others felt that the exhibition characterized the Japanese American community as too passive.

The San Francisco Examiner received negative letters, one accusing CHS of “running down our country.” In Los Angeles, following an interview with Richard Conrat, the NBC-TV affiliate received over 50 “nasty hate calls” questioning the loyalty of Japanese Americans during the war and likening them to Japanese soldiers. Host Robert Abernathy noted that “Sometimes, even when you are forewarned, you can’t help but gag at the cesspools of prejudice that bubble up from time to time into sickening view.”

Today, however, the exhibition and book are universally lauded for helping to break new ground—both within and outside of the Japanese American community, both locally and nationally. Executive Order 9066 appeared a couple of years after 1970 exhibition Pride and Shame at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle, Washington, and during its five-year showing throughout that state and a year before the 1973 publication of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s renowned memoir Farewell to Manzanar.

Farewell to Manzanar, Children’s Book Edition (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1942)
California Historical Society

As the Densho Encyclopedia, which documents Japanese American life during WWII, observed, it was “part of the changing attitudes to the Japanese American wartime experience in the early 1970s that led to the Redress Movement of the 1980s.”

Today, on the 45th anniversary of CHS’s Executive Order 9066, the exhibition and book are also seen as a vivid and graphic warning about the fragility of civil liberties. In the book’s epilogue, retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Tom C. Clark, who was also Civilian Coordinator for the forced relocations during the war wrote: “Let us determine to abide by the lessons that Executive Order 9066 teaches us—first, that the mere existence of a legal right is no more protection to individual liberty than the parchment upon which it is written, and second, that mutual love, respect, and understanding of one another are stronger bonds than constitutions.”

Dorothea Lange, Pledge of Allegiance at Rafael Weill Elementary School, San Francisco, a Few Weeks Prior to Evacuation,” April 20, 1942
Courtesy Library of Congress

Alison Moore
Guest writer

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

“Executive Order 9066” (Exhibition), Densho Encyclopedia;

Maisie Conrat and Richard Conrat, Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans (San Francisco: California Historical Society and Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1972). Reprinted, Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1992.


Don’t miss this CHS event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066:
Thursday, February 23, 2017, 6:00pm
Celebrating the California Historical Society’s 1972 Landmark Exhibition and Book, 
Executive Order 9066
Please join the California Historical Society as we celebrate our landmark 1972 exhibition and book of historic photographs, Executive Order 9066. The first to exclusively explore the World War II incarceration of Japanese American citizens and people of Japanese descent, the exhibition premiered at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor and UC Berkeley’s University Art Museum before it traveled nationally. Our program will include individuals and descendants of those who visited the exhibition along with the curator of the Dorothea Lange collection at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). The program will be moderated by historian Charles Wollenberg.