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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Los Angeles Landmark with a 116-year History Reopens

(Detail) Anton Wagner (Photographer), Mexican team working at Hill and 3rd Street, 1932
Los Angeles: 1932–33 by Anton Wagner, PC 017, California Historical Society

Eighty-five years ago, Anton Wagner, a young German PhD student, photographed Mexican laborers at the foot of Angels Flight—the short railway that carried passengers up and down a steep incline to Bunker Hill, then a neighborhood of Victorian mansions, in downtown Los Angeles.

Originally built in 1901, when a ride cost a penny, Angels Flight brought millions of people to and from the shopping area of downtown Los Angeles from its location at Hill and Olive Streets. It closed in 1969, a casuality of urban redevelopment, and reopened in 1996 at a new site half a block south. This time, its use was short-lived: A fatal malfunctioning caused its closure in 2001, and it lay broken and abandoned for the rest of the decade.

Angels Flight Funicular, view from lower end, in 2004
Photo: John Sullivan
Finally, in 2010, the small railway reopened, only to be closed again in 2013 when a derailment stranded a number of passengers above a downtown street. When an investigation revealed public safety hazards, the Public Utilities Commission forced another closure.

Today, the famous funicular—one car ascends as the other descends—reopened to great fanfare, as the following images celebrate. CHS Director of Exhibitions, Jessica Hough, braved the 100-degree heat today to take a ride on the newly restored Angels Flight. She sent these images and video (see below) from today's event!

And a video on Angels Flight today!

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager
Anton Wagner’s 1932–33 photographs of Los Angeles are housed at the California Historical Society and may be viewed online at

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

California Floods, 1850–2017

Floodwater flows past a discarded boot in San Jose during the Bay Area storm, February 20, 2017

Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle; photo: Scott Strazzante

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017, we have seen an overwhelming array of images of the unrelenting rain and floods that have made the region home to terror, devastation, and despair.
Today we recall some of California’s major floods since our statehood began

January 1850: Sacramento

Detail, View of Sacramento City as it appeared during the great inundation in January 1850

Drawn by nature by Geo. W. Casilear & Henry Bainbridge (New York: Litho. of Sarony, c. 1850)
Courtesy, California State Library

1907: Oroville

Flooded streets in Oroville, 1907
California State Library
February–March, 1938: Los Angeles

Flooding at West 43rd Place near Leimert Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1938

1964: Northern California

Oroville Dam during the Northern California flood, Dec. 23, 1964
California Department of Water Resources; photo: Bob Mortensen
1997: Northern California
Detail, Flooded homes in Olivehurst, January 3, 1997
San Francisco Chronicle; photo: Vince Maggiora

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

Read more about California floods on the CHS blog:

National Monuments: The Politics of Our Cherished Lands

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Courtesy Carrizo Plain Conservancy

It was 153 years ago this June 30 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, which granted to the State of California the stewardship of the “Yo-Semite Valley” and the “Mariposa Big Tree Grove” on “the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation; shall be inalienable for all time.”
Thus began our national dedication to preserving wilderness areas while simultaneously allowing for their public use. Though it struggled to meet these two seemingly contradictory objectives, the Yosemite Grant Act is often regarded as the birth of the national park idea, which was formalized in the establishment of the National Park Service 101 years ago on August 25, 1916.

Carleton Watkins, River View, Cathedral Rock, Yosemite, 1861

California Historical Society

On August 25, the summertime anniversaries of the Yosemite Grant Act and the National Park Service were tainted by the recommendations by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to downsize at least three national monuments, opening the way for potential development of the nation’s natural resources. Since Donald Trump’s executive order last April to “end another egregious abuse of federal power,” environmentalists and others have anxiously awaited the results of Secretary Zinke’s review of 27 national monuments designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
Six national monuments were included in Zinke’s review with the criteria that they were not barriers to economic growth and energy development and that local input had been sought in their designations: Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequioa, Mojave Trails, San Gabriel Mountains, Sand to Snow National Monument.

Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California

Although none of the six have been singled out as yet, Californians cannot help but question the future of the state’s preserved lands. Among the most popular national monuments in the state—and nation—are Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and Muir Woods in Marin County.

Muir Woods National Monument

Courtesy Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives

Priceless expressions of America’s heritage, national monuments are places of natural significance with historical cultural, and/or scientific interest: geological sites, marine sites, volcanic sites, historical sites, and sites associated with Native Americans. Although they are set aside for protection, and may only be created from land already owned by the federal government, re-designations, altered boundaries, and even eliminations of national monuments—by acts of Congress or the President—offer a disturbing perspective of uncertainties in the protection of our most cherished lands.

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager


Emily Guerin, “California’s national monuments will not be eliminated but may be modified,” Environment and Science, KPCC, August 24, 2017;

National Parks Conservation Association, “Fact Sheet: What Is a National Monument?” May 3, 2017; monument?gclid=CjwKCAjwuITNB

Neeti Upadhye, Natalie Reneau, and Robin Stein, “The Debate over National Monuments,” New York Times, May 13, 2017
Yosemite Valley Grant Act, Senate Bill 203;


Learn more about CHS’s collection of Carleton Watkins mammoth plate photographs of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove, 1861–1881:

Read our National Parks blog series, “A Mirror of Us”:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Photos and Video from the Launch of Teaching California

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) stands at the podium to announce a $5 million state grant to the California Historical Society. The California Historical Society will work with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: an innovative, free, online resource of instructional materials to support the State’s new History-Social Science Framework. Also pictured: Dr. Anthea Hartig, CEO & Executive Director, California Historical Society.

Kate Bowen, 5th Grade teacher at Patwin Elementary School in Davis, California, stands at the podium at the California Historical Society in San Francisco to explain the positive impact the new $5 million state grant will establish and implement Teaching California: an innovative, free, online, resource of instructional materials to support the State's new History-Social Science Framework will have on her students and fellow teachers. Also pictured: Assemblymember Phil Ting and Michael J. Sangiacomo, Chair, CHS Board of Trustees. 

Nancy McTygue, Executive Director of the California History-Science Project, Dr. Brent Stephens, Chief Academic Officer, San Francisco Unified School District and Dr. Anthea Hartig, Executive Director, California Historical Society listen as Assemblymember Phil Ting announces a $5 million state grant to the California Historical Society (CHS). CHS will work with the California Historical-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: an innovative, free, online resource of instructional materials to support the State's new History- Social Science Framework.

Dr. Anthea Hartig, Executive Director of the California Historical Society, and Assemblymember Phil Ting view materials from the California Historical Society archives that will be included as part of Teaching California: an innovative, free, online resource of instructional materials to support the State’s new History-­Social Science Framework. 


News Release: $5 Million State Grant to Help Transform K-12 History Education

News Release: $5 Million State Grant to Help Transform K-12 History Education

California Historical Society to lead statewide effort with California History-Social Science Project

Initiative will digitize historic archives and create free, innovative online resources to foster better understanding of California’s history, improve student literacy and promote civic learning and engagement

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Efforts to transform K-12 history education in California received a major boost today with Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announcing a $5 million state grant to the California Historical Society (CHS).  CHS will work with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: an innovative, free, online resource of instructional materials to support the State’s new History-Social Science Framework. 

The objective of the program is to ensure California’s large historical and archival resources, starting with those held at CHS, are readily accessible to all K-12 students to foster better understanding of the state’s history, improve student literacy, and promote civic learning and engagement.  The initiative creates a sustainable model for instructional material development in history-social science as well as other content areas. 

“The tools of our education system must adapt to the tech we use every day. This $5 million investment by the state will provide students and their teachers with the resources they need to learn about – and from – the people, places, and events that have shaped California for thousands of years,” said Assemblymember Ting, who spearheaded funding for the new initiative. “Teaching California will adopt the model of today’s multimedia age to innovative learning.”

Through Teaching California, CHS and CHSSP will develop dynamic, expansive online curriculum composed of primary and secondary source materials, drawing upon CHS’s vast archival resources and those of the libraries across the state and nation.  These resources will be carefully curated and tailored to provide K-12 teachers and students with online resources they need to analyze and understand the past.  Critically, these materials will also embody an interpretation of history that places California at the center of the study of the past by offering local and state examples of national and worldwide histories, highlighting the rich, varied, and impactful contributions of Californians. 

“The California Historical Society is honored to help lead this program and work together with educators throughout the State to help implement California’s new History-Social Science Framework,” said Dr. Anthea Hartig, Executive Director of CHS. “Teaching California helps ensure that California teachers and students will have access to the rich, complex history that has made our state what it is today.”

Teaching California, helps implement California’s new History-Social Science Framework, which was adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in July 2016. The CHSSP served as the primary writer of the new Framework, which outlines an instructional approach that promotes student-centered inquiry and encourages students to develop clear and persuasive arguments based on their own interpretations of the past, using relevant evidence.  The Framework also details how teachers can teach students history-social science, while at the same time developing their proficiency in English, as outlined in the Common Core and English Language Development Standards. 

“At the heart of Teaching California is a one of a kind partnership between a state historical society and a statewide network of history educators, working together to help California students understand and appreciate the contributions of Californians to our national history and our global past.” said Nancy McTygue, Executive Director of the California History-Social Science Project. 

Teaching California will offer schools, teachers, and students a free and classroom-ready collection of resources designed to engage children in exciting and inspiring investigations of the past.  At the same time, the collection will offer teachers a research-based approach to improve student reading, writing, and critical thinking.

Importantly, leaders from San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), along with several educators and history advocates from across the state participated in the announcement at the California Historical Society’s headquarters.  With its exhibition galleries and free research library as a backdrop to illustrate resources that will be available through the new initiative, they had an opportunity to see first-hand rare artifacts and documents from the CHS archives that will be digitized as part of the program. 

Dr. Brent Stephens, Chief Academic Officer, SFUSD, spoke to the significance of the grant, saying, “SFUSD’s path-breaking work in teaching with primary source materials has proved to increase student engagement and learning. We look forward to working together to create Teaching California and enhance history education here and around the State.”

Kate Bowen, who leads teacher training programs for the CHSSP, said the new materials will give her fifth graders at Patwin Elementary School in Davis a deeper understanding of history, adding, “the partnership between the CHS and CHSSP will give educators around California a golden opportunity to engage students in history.  The carefully selected online sources will be ideal for teachers and students.”

The $5 million grant was approved as part of the FY 2017/2018 fiscal budget (Assembly Bill 99, Section 82), which was introduced by Assemblymember Ting, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.  San Francisco Unified School District will contract with CHS to administer the grant in partnership with CHSSP to develop the resources for California schools.  CHS and CHSSP will work with the State Department of Education to make the online resources available and accessible to all teachers statewide. 

About the California Historical Society:  Founded in 1871, the California Historical Society (CHS) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire and empower people to make California's richly diverse past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives—in order to create a more informed and just future. CHS provides access to residents of the State of California to its vast collection, research library, exhibitions, publications, and over fifty educational programs annually representing a wide range of California communities, perspectives and experiences. Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature declared CHS the State’s official historical society in 1979. In 2015, the CHS established the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Educational Fund to both honor Mrs. Hearst’s remarkable legacy and to work to change the very face of K-12history education in California. Also that year, CHS laid the foundations for its Digital Library, which launched in the autumn of 2016, with the support of the California State Library, the Hearst Foundations, the Henry M. Newhall Foundation, the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation, and David Rumsey. In partnership with the City and County of San Francisco and with the support of the State, CHS is now undertaking a comprehensive feasibility analysis to develop a sustainable rehabilitation project of the Old U.S. Mint (1874) as its new headquarters and as vibrant history and cultural center.  For more information, please visit

About the California History-Social Science Project:  The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), a network of scholars and teachers dedicated to improving student literacy and learning in history-social science, served as the primary writers of the new Framework. Each year, the CHSSP – headquartered at UC Davis – serves more than 4,000 teachers in over 150 different professional learning programs at local schools and universities. The CHSSP has also developed a wide variety of free instructional materials, including its History Blueprint series, which featured an instructional approach that integrated the Common Core and History-Social Science Standards. The CHSSP is part of the California Subject Matter Projects, administered by UC Office of the President. For more information, please visit

Click HERE to view photos and videos from the announcement event at the California Historical Society.

Friday, August 4, 2017

History Keepers: Eleven Stories that Moved Los Angeles

For more than two hundred years, our community, our Los Angeles, has been molded and shaped by its people. In small ways and big, individuals impact the city, inching us collectively one way and then another. This exhibition tells eleven compelling stories that are part of our city’s complex fabric. Some are stories of promise, others are of despair.

The Sunset Limited
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Union Station Historical Society 

           Garden Court Apartments, Front Entrance, 1976 
 Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Two of them aren’t specifically about people. One is about a train with staying power, and another is about a building that despite a promising pedigree came to a violent end. But they still have something to teach us about both loss and endurance. 

Special issue of La Raza, September 3, 1970, with cover photographs by Raul Ruiz of the Silver Dollar bar where Ruben Salazar was killed
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Records on the Homicide Investigation of Ruben Salazar, USC Libraries, Special Collections                                         

The objects on view come from university libraries, museums, and nonprofit organizations. We invited caretakers of these collections to bring forward objects and share with us the histories that they illuminate. The librarians, historians, archivists, collectors, volunteers, and local citizens who maintain these collections are the keepers of our history. They devotedly research, organize, store, and repair these items and make them available to the public in person, online, in exhibitions, and through publications.

In the retelling, these stories that have shaped our city move us emotionally in the present, helping us to understand how we got to where we are, and perhaps better see where we are going. Should we ever forget or lose sight of our past, we need only return to these primary source materials to once again illuminate our history.

Courtesy of UCLA Library Special Collections
Ruth Strout McCandless with Nyogen Senzaki

History Keepers: Eleven Stories that moved Los Angeles
August 4, 2017 – October 1, 2017
El Tranquilo Gallery & Visitor Center Olvera Street
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
Tuesday-Friday 10am- 3pm Saturday/Sunday 9am-4pm
Learn More