Thursday, April 13, 2017

National Library Week: "Damned Disruptor"

[Portrait of Leland Stanford], California Historical Society, CHS2017_2278
In undertaking a major book project very much about California’s ribald past and how it is shaping its crazy present and fascinating future, I have found the California Historical Society to be an unusually critical component in my work. Having plumbed many regional historical societies from New England, to the Midwest and certainly here in our glorious Golden State, the California Historical Society distinguishes itself time after time as a premier repository of vital historic fact and perspective. More than that is the astonishing help the research librarians at the society so cheerfully and competently supply in my ambitious explorations.

My book, Damned Disruptor: Leland Stanford & the Scandalous History of How One Man Created Silicon Valley’s Upheaval of Almost Everything We Do, (Skyhorse Publishing, NY, expected to be finished sometime next year) relies heavily on primary sources, both unexamined and unappreciated. I initially came to the society’s research library with some skepticism. But from the first I found priceless materials for my work at the California Historical Society such as a surprising letter from John Sutter to Mariano Vallejo that cast a sharp illumination I had not seen anywhere in any research.

As a UC Berkeley history graduate and long–time Bay Area investigative journalist, I know the value of serious archival research and those rare places such as the Bancroft, Huntington and California Historical Society that make it possible. I am indebted to it and all those who work at and support the institution.

Roland De Wolk

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