Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

February 28, 2011
Women's History Month celebrated throughout Sacramento

During the month of March, museums and libraries throughout Sacramento will offer up a series of educational exhibits and on-line tools in honor of Women's History Month.

The Sacramento History Museum will host the traveling exhibition, California Woman Suffrage. Developed by the International Museum of Women, the ten panel show celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the California CSH, 1861 City Directory.jpgwoman's right to vote. The small exhibit is designed to introduce visitors to the monumental victory that the women of this state achieved when they won the right to vote after over forty years of intense struggle. This exhibition runs from March 3, 2011 through May 2011.

In addition, the California Gallery at the Sacramento History Museum, which currently hosts exhibits related to Sacramento's role in the California Gold Rush, will emphasize women's experiences during this period. Through images and artifacts, the display will highlight the arduous journey that gold-seekers, settlers, and their families embarked upon in hopes of making a new life in California. This exhibition runs from March 3, 2011 through May 26, 2011.

Along with these two exhibits, the website for the California State Library will feature an informative page-a-day calendar dedicated to the history of women in California. According to the California State Library site, their click-able calendar will allow web visitors to "find out about some of the California women and events that have transformed our state." The useful interactive tool utilizes images and ephemera from State Library collection.

PHOTO CREDIT: An image used in the Sacramento History Museum's "California Gallery" exhibit which depicts an early Sacramento woman's role as business owner and entrepreneur. Courtesy of the Center for Sacramento History, from the 1861 Sacramento City Directory.

February 28, 2011
A Sacramento history primer

Indomitable.jpgWhen this blog began I turned to Kevin Starr's California: A History for a quick overview of the people and events that shaped the Golden State. I also needed a good one-volume history of Sacramento and fortunately found it in Sacramento: Indomitable City by Steven M. Avella.

Like Starr's book, Avella's is packed with names, dates and events, but reads well. Its over-arching theme is summed up in the subtitle -- a reference to the town's Latin motto Urbs indomita. Throughout its 161-year history, Sacramento did manage to survive -- if not flourish -- despite flood, fire, disease, depression and war. And Avella covers it all, from prehistory up to the opening of Raley Field in 2000.

Thumbnail image for brannan.jpgOne bit of Sacramento history that surprised me was the accidental location of the city's commercial district. Samuel Brannan was a land speculator and merchant who wanted to get rich selling goods to prospectors invading the region. He needed a riverfront base for trade and sought property in Sutterville (a settlement about four miles south of the mouth of the American River). When Brannan was refused by Sutterville developer Lansford Hastings, he moved his operation upriver to a spot where K St. is today. As Avella notes: "By this simple act, Brannan established the location of the present-day city of Sacramento, for around this wilderness embarcadero, a new community would arise."

All in all, Sacramento: Indomitable City is an insightful survey of the transformation of a Gold Rush frontier settlement through its evolution as a railroad terminus, government town, military center and modern metropolis. It's worth a look by anyone interested in the subject.

A little about the author: Steven M. Avella is Professor of History of Marquette University. He grew up in Sacramento and has written several books about the town, including Sacramento and the Catholic Church: Shaping a Capital City, The Diocese of Sacramento: A Journey of Faith and The Good Life: Sacramento's Consumer Culture. He's currently working on a biography of Charles K. McClatchy (The Bee's Editor from 1883-1936).

Bee staff writer Dixie Reid wrote an interesting profile of Avella in 2008 when his Good Life was published.

PHOTO CREDIT: Samuel Brannan. The Bancroft Library.

February 25, 2011
Sacramento snow records

snow.JPGThe volatile weather has got folks wondering if it will snow overnight. Weather experts expect just a light dusting in the Valley.

The white stuff doesn't fall often in Sacramento, and the prospect reminds us of past snowfall in the city. When did it last snow appreciably? That's a matter of contention. According to Climate of Sacramento, California, NOAA's almanac of weather records, there have been trace amounts in 2002, 1996, 1988 and 1988. But you have to go back to Feb. 5, 1976 to get any accumulation (2 inches).

NOAA's climate records go back to 1879. In these 132 years snow fell in Sacramento only 42 times (and only 14 times with more than a trace). The biggest month in history was January 1888 when a total of 3.6 inches came down.

The Center for Sacramento History has some vintage Sacramento snow photos in its online catalog, mostly from the Jan. 30, 1922 storm.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chibi, the dog, has second thoughts about wandering around Land Park in the snow. Land Park pro Don Oreb braved the weather to give a putting lesson to 4 year old Rickey Gregson on Feb. 5, 1976. Leo Neibaur / Sacramento Bee

February 25, 2011
Sacramento-made Buster Keaton film to show at Historic Guild Theater

On Sunday, February 27, the Sacramento County Historical Society and alternative cinema group, Movies on a Big Screen, will show the Buster Keaton film, Steamboat Bill Jr. at historic Guild Theater in Oak Park.

Made in 1928, the feature-length silent comedy portrays the life of young college graduate "Steamboat Bill Jr." as he desperately follows in the footsteps of his father, a Mississippi steamboat captain. Hilarity ensues when the character, played by Keaton, falls in love with the daughter of his father's business rival.1985-024-0240.jpg

While the film's plotline depicts humorous events on the Mississippi, much of the movie was actually filmed along the Sacramento River. Local residents were employed as extras for the film and Keaton's production team filled local hotels and regularly dined at area restaurants while the picture was made. In addition, Sacramentans helped build a makeshift set along the River.

On the night of the film's showing, local historian William Burg will speak about the movie and its significance to Sacramento's history.

Showtime begins at 7:30 pm and admission is $5.00 per person. Movies on a Big Screen at the Guild Theater is located at 2828 35th Street in Oak Park, Sacramento.

PHOTO CREDIT: The steamboat "Dover" pulls a loaded barge on the Sacramento River, c. 1920. Photograph Courtesy of The Center for Sacramento History, Eugene Hepting Collection,1985/024/0242

February 24, 2011
Two exhibits

ca2259.jpgThe California State Library will have materials displayed in two upcoming exhibits. One is the California State Railroad Museum's "Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & the American Dream," which opens March 4th. These striking labels not only reflect a slice of California history but also bring one back to an early twentieth century pre-computer golden age of graphic art, when commercial advertising presented visually appealing designs containing a distinctly human element. 

Another exhibit of interest will be presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from February 26 to June 7: "Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change." Muybridge was an English photographer who settled in California during the latter half of the nineteenth century, and is often considered the father of the motion picture due to his series of sequential photos which proved that, indeed, horses often have all four feet off the ground while running. The State Library has lent the exhibit an album of Muybridge's "mammoth plates" of California scenes along with several such loose prints, as well as an album of Guatemalan views containing a letter from Muybridge to the attorney who helped get him acquitted of shooting his wife's lover. 


February 23, 2011
Happy Birthday I St. Bridge

bridge.JPGThe modest steel truss bridge that carries trains and cars over the Sacramento River turns 100 this year. Built in 1911 by Southern Pacific, the current structure is actually the fifth bridge at that location, according to today's story written by The Bee's Matt Kawahara.

The I St. Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. You can find more historical information and contemporary pictures on the Bridges Over the Sacramento River web site. There are also many historic pictures available in the online photo database maintained by the Center for Sacramento History.

PHOTO CREDIT: Long before water skiing was popular, some Sacramentans found their fun by "aqua planing" on flat boards, towed behind boats. A man named Carl Brainard skims along the Sacramento River near the I Street Bridge in 1915. Special to The Sacramento Bee.

February 23, 2011
Sacramento Art Deco Society to host lecture on Architectural Tile and Terracotta

Art Deco Society.JPGOn Thursday, February 24, the Sacramento Art Deco Society will continue its Lecture Series with a talk by Bruce Marwick entitled, Architectural Tile and Terracotta - From Arts and Crafts to Art Deco and Streamline Moderne.  According to the program,

the lecture will highlight the rise of architectural terracotta in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Images and samples of architectural terracotta will be shown; highlighting examples of Cincinnati, St. Louis, Tulsa, Los Angeles and Sacramento with discussion on important terracotta manufacturers like Rookwood Pottery and Gladding McBean.

The lecture will be held at the SMUD building (6201 S Street).  Doors open at 7 p.m. and the talk begins at 7:30 p.m.  The Society will provide light refreshments and donations will be taken ($5 for members; $7 for non-members).

February 23, 2011
Historic Cemetery tour celebrates local African American history

cemetery.JPGIn recognition of Black History Month, the Old City Cemetery Committee will conduct a program highlighting the African American community in the 1800s. The tour "will cover 'colored' churches and schools and visit the grave sites of slaves, an abolitionist, an opera star, a restaurateur, church pastors, a Buffalo Soldier, a Civil War solider, and the first African American student at Stanford."

Established in 1849, the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is the oldest existing cemetery in the region. It is the final resting place of many notable Californians including governors, mayors, Civil War veterans, volunteer fireman and countless early settlers.

African American History Tour
Sacramento Historic City Cemetery
Saturday, Feb. 26, 10 a.m.
Located on Broadway at 10th Street, between Muir Way and Riverside Boulevard. Park across the street and enter at the main gate on 10th Street and Broadway.
The event is free but donations are gratefully accepted for the ongoing preservation program.
Call 916-264-7839 for more information.

PHOTO CREDIT: Local historian Dr. Bob LaPerriere leads a tour of pioneer brewers buried at the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. The Old City Cemetery Committee, a volunteer group, organizes many free tours with historical themes. 2011 Sacramento Bee photo by Manny Crisostomo.

February 22, 2011
Yolo County museum looking for history-minded docents

By Dixie Reid

Yolo County Historical Museum is seeking volunteers to share the story of its lovely Gibson House with the public.

Docent training is 10 a.m.-noon Thursday at the museum, located at 512 Gibson Road in Woodland. Refreshments will be served.

Gibson House, according to the museum's website, is Woodland's only historic home that's open to the public.

There is the main 11-room house and several outbuildings, including a blacksmith shop and barn. Gibson House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

For more on volunteer opportunities, call the museum office at (530) 666-1045 or email

Another contact is Carol Conley at (530) 662-0628 or

For more about the museum:

Call The Bee's Dixie Reid, (916) 321-1134.

February 22, 2011
Calisphere celebrates Black History Month with photo collections

council.jpgCalisphere, UC Berkeley's portal to the online resources of the California Digital Library, is commemorating Black History Month with five themed collections of photos illustrating the state's  evolving African American community from the Gold Rush through the 1980s:

Gold Rush Era to 1900
The Struggle for Economic Equality (1900-1950s)
Community Life (1950s-1980s)
Politics and Community (1970s-present)
Civil Rights and Social Reform (1950s-1970s)

Each theme is accompanied by a brief historical overview and suggested uses by teachers. In addition there are links to California-related pictures of famous African Africans such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

PHOTO CREDIT: Afro-American Council, 13th annual meeting, Oakland, 1907. Bancroft Library.

February 21, 2011
Seven notable lectures on California history

img005.jpgIn the category of oldies -- but goodies, we're lucky to have online access to seven informative and enjoyable lectures on California history recorded at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library in 2002 and 2003.

Produced in conjunction with KQED radio, these presentations were given by three well-known experts in the field: J.S. Holliday, one of the most eminent of the state's historians and author of The World Rushed In, a celebrated study of the Gold Rush; James J. Rawls, history instructor at Diablo Valley College and author of the widely used textbook California: An Interpretive History; and Robert H. Hirst, General Editor and Curator of the Mark Twain Papers & Project.

The lectures range in time and topic, but taken together, they're a terrific addition to one's education in Golden State history:

* The California Mission as Symbol and Myth (Rawls). Changing public perception of the Spanish Missions through the decades.
* Like America Only More So: The Origins and Power of California's Image (Holliday). The free-for-all Gold Rush set the stage for the entrepreneurial spirit that characterized the state in later years. 
* Heaven on the Half-shell: Mark Twain in California (Hirst). Clemens' time in the state was brief, but important in his development as a writer.
* California's Greatest Thirst: A Glance at the Contentious History of California's Water (Rawls). Good summary of the development of massive water systems that allowed the growth of California's cities and agriculture.
* An Entrepreneurial Genius: Henry J. Kaiser (Holliday). A vivid portrait of the industrialist who built huge bridges, dams and revolutionized health care.
* Kick out the Southern Pacific (Rawls). A look at the Progressives who took on the entrenched power of the railroads.
* A Library for California (Holliday). The development of the Bancroft Library from its beginnings as a private collection to becoming the foremost resource for the study of Califoria and Western United States history.

PHOTO CREDIT: Prospectors dig for gold at Auburn Ravine in 1852. Photo courtesy of the California State Library.

February 18, 2011
Sacramento's Saloons: presentation and display

This Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. the Sacramento County Historical Society will host James Scott and Steve Abbott as they present the colorful history of early Sacramento saloons. James Scott, a Sacramento Room librarian and local historian, will explore the history of Sacramento's antebellum-era saloons through a PowerPoint presentation with period images, music and stories. He'll discuss how these houses of drinking and gambling served many other uses for the community, from bathhouse to polling place. Collector Steve Abbott will be on hand to display his impressive collection of antique whiskey memorabilia.

When: Tuesday, February 22, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) building - 5380 Elvas Ave., Sacramento

For more information: (916) 443-6265.

February 18, 2011
A teapot mystery

Thumbnail image for Sac6_Teapot_silver logo.jpgThe Bee received an email from Phil Watts in Colorado asking if we might help him identify the origins of a silver teapot he bought last year at an auction. The teapot has an intriguing "Sacramento 6" logo superimposed on a clock face, and the silver mark on the bottom indicates the year 1925. (You can click on the images below to call up high-res versions.)

Watts is a railroad history buff. And because the teapot came with a conductor's bell punch, he strongly suspects the pot came from an old Sacramento train -- perhaps a parlor car of the Sacramento Northern Railway, an interurban electric rail line that operated in the first half of the 20th century.

One other possibility is that "Sac 6" was used on the SS City of Sacramento, a ferry that ran between Vallejo and San Francisco in the 1920s. Apparently the ferry line offered companion fares with the Sacramento Northern Railway. That could explain the connection between the teapot and the train conductor's bell punch.

Of course the teapot could have come from a local hotel or coffee house, but Watts is betting on the train. Now folks at the California State Railroad Museum weren't able to identify the piece. So we appeal to this blog's readers. If you have any insight into the origin of the teapot or the meaning of the "Sacramento 6" logo, let us know in the comments below.

Watts is also interested in hearing from people who have memories of the regional interurban trains of that period, particularly the opulent dining cars. It was a long time ago, but you never know. You can email him directly at:

Thumbnail image for Sac6_Teapot_silver 2.jpgThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sac6_Teapot_Marks 2.jpg

February 17, 2011
Sac Public Library honors America's unheralded black soldiers

By Dixie Reid

Sacramento Public Library will screen Frank Martin's four-hour documentary "For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots" in two parts - on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 - at the Valley Hi-North Laguna branch library.

Showtime is 6:30 p.m. both days.

This is an excerpt from the film's website, :

If prevalent and accepted accounts of American History - both scholarly and those portrayed by Hollywood - are to be believed, the face of the United States Armed Services was white.

The truth is over 5,000 Black soldiers fought in the American Revolution. And though most were not recognized as citizens or even free man, more than 200,000 took up arms in the Civil War. Over 380,000 African-Americans served in WW I and more than 2,000,000 defended this country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Yet most accounts of their valiant actions are absent from history books and contemporary film.

"For Love Of Liberty: The Story Of America's Black Patriots" finally, and for the first time, sets the record straight.

The library presents the documentary in celebration of Black History Month.

Valley Hi-North Laguna Library is at 7400 Imagination Parkway, Sacramento (off Bruceville Road and south of Cosumnes River Boulevard.)

For more information: (916) 264-2920,

Call The Bee's Dixie Reid, (916) 321-1134.

February 17, 2011
Shasta Dam history shared in two upcoming lectures

SHASTA DAM.JPGCalifornia wouldn't be California without the Central Valley Project to control and store water for cities and farming. A key component of the system is Shasta Dam which was completed in 1945. If you want to know more about the construction of this engineering marvel, consider a drive up to the Shasta Dam Visitor Center where there will be history talks offered on Feb. 19 (1:30 pm) and Feb. 23 (3:00 pm). There's a nice writeup on the lectures by the Redding Searchlight.

The program is jointly sponsored by the Shasta Historical Society, the Shasta Lake Heritage and Historical Society and the U.S. Reclamation Bureau Northern California office. The three groups are digitizing a collection of 12,000 images documenting the building of the dam. A lot of them are already available online through the SHS searchable photo database.

PHOTO CREDIT: Shasta Dam and reservoir as seen from the Shasta-Oroville transmission line structure No. 5 on March 28, 1945. Sacramento Bee file photo.

February 16, 2011
Old Sac upgrade plan includes archaeological site

OldSac.JPGAs part of an ambitious general plan to expand and upgrade the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, officials are considering an excavation site where Gold Rush era artifacts will be unearthed and put on display.

As today's Bee story explains, the existing historic area reflects life in Sacramento after 1850. There's precious little illustrating what the town was like when the discovery of gold brought thousands to the region. So one idea is "to build a split-level display with 1870-era structures at current ground level and sub-grade access to artifacts and displays from 1849."

Three alternative upgrade plans were presented to the public on Jan. 19. These include expansion of the historic area into the railyard, as well extension of the excursion train to Land Park and beyond. You can view illustrated summaries of each design online. There's also a PowerPoint presentation. Even if you didn't attend that meeting, the OSSHP Planning Team wants your feedback on the alternatives. You can fill out the online comment form, or email them directly at

PHOTO CREDIT: Elementary school students from Oakland play on the grassy slope across from the Railroad Museum. Officials are mulling using the open area built over buried buildings and artifacts to highlight different eras in the city's history. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee

February 16, 2011
News from the California State Military Museum

MainGallery.jpgThe California State Military Museum has announced that one noticeable upcoming change at its facility will be the presence of uniformed military personnel in its working staff, a reflection of the museum's relationship with the California State Military Department. The museum also reports that almost 6000 visitors walked through during Sacramento Museum Day on February 5th. Among recent acquisitions to the museum's collection are two World War II Japanese Type 99 light machine guns, a section of fuselage from a Japanese Kamikaze plane that crashed into the USS California on January 6, 1945, and several U.S. Army organizational flags. The museum is also looking to expand its collection of old military weapons for future exhibits.

The California State Military Museum is located at 1119 Second Street in Sacramento, and staff there can be reached by phone at 916-854-1900.

February 15, 2011
Donner Memorial State Park offers Donner Party snowshoe hike

While winter is the off-season for many snow-covered parks, this might be the best time of year to learn about the treacherous overland journey experience at Donner Memorial State Park.  The Emigrant Trail Museum is open daily from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. year-round.  In addition, the park will be offering the last of three Donner Party snowshoe hikes this Saturday, February 19.  Hikers will gather at flagpole in front of the Emigrant Trail Museum for the 1-hour tour, which begins at 11 a.m. There is a mandatory $8.00 per vehicle parking fee.

For more information about the hike and other interpretive programs, contact the Park office at (530) 582-7892.

February 14, 2011
Root Cellar publishes 2nd volume of Sacramento Coroner records

Root Cellar, the local genealogical group, recently published the second volume of Sacramento County Coroner records, 1887-1969. An important source of data for family historians, this new collection consists of three books: Record of Inquisition Certificates, 1903-1907; Coroner's Record of Inquests, 1903-1909; and Coroner's Record -- Alphabetical, 1903-1914. Together these records yield essential bits of information including: "place, date or cause of death; date and arrangements for burial; and property description and name and relationship of the person receiving such property."

Researchers may consult this and other materials at the Root Cellar Library. Or you may purchase Volume II by using the online form on the Root Cellar website.

Read the full press release.

February 11, 2011
Civil liberties historians to speak at Manzanar "Day of Remembrance"

preview.gifFeb. 19 marks the 69th anniversary of the Executive Order 90066, the presidential directive that authorized the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II. It's also the Day of Remembrance at the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the internment camps.

This year authors Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi will speak on civil rights struggles in the state's history. Their 2010 book, Wherever There's a Fight; How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California, "captures the sweeping story of how freedom and equality have grown in California, from the gold rush right up to the precarious post-9/11 era." Lectures are scheduled for Saturday, February 19 and Sunday, February 20 at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 the Manzanar Interpretive Center. Manzanar is located at 5001 Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence, Calif.

If you can't get over to Manzanar, you can meet the writers at two upcoming appearances in the region: March 5, 7 p.m. at Davis Avid Reader, 617 2nd St.; and March 6, 4 p.m. at Sacramento Avid Reader, 1600 Broadway. Both readings are free and open to the public.

Incidentally, the Wherever There's a Fight website has some useful historical resources, including Resources for Educators and a California Civil Liberties Timeline.

February 10, 2011
Six important figures in Sacramento black history

observer.JPGIn their continuing coverage of Black History Month, Sacramento Press reporters have posted brief profiles of six individuals who figured prominently in city's African American community.

Featured are: William Alexander Leiderdorff, a major landowner in the 1840s; Archy Lee, a Mississippi slave who fought for freedom after moving to Sacramento with his owner; Nathaniel Colley, civil rights activist and one of the city's first black lawyers; Bill and Kathryn Lee, co-founders of the Sacramento Observer; and Ray Charles, the city's first black fire chief.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Observer co-founders William and Kathryn Lee have designated their son, Larry Lee (left) to be the publication's next publisher. They are pictured in a meeting room of the Observer's office in 2000. Sacramento Bee photo by Chris Crewell.

February 10, 2011
Auto Museum curator is a car buff with impressive credentials

CAM.jpgNathan Smith, who became the new curator of the California Automobile Museum last October, comes from a long line of car buffs going back to his great-great-grandfather, an early car dealer, and his grandfather, a past president of the Society of Automotive Historians. "We joke that it's genetic in my family and it skips a generation," he observed in an interview in the latest issue of Inside the City (p. 45).

Smith brings to his job a passion for vehicles and an impressive set of credentials: a bachelors in historic preservation and a masters in museum studies. He sees himself as primarily an educator and believes that "through the prism of automotive history, we can explore the cultural, social, technological, aesthetic, economic, and industrial history of our city, state, nation, and world over the last two hundred years."

Currently, the California Automobile Museum is offering three exhibits that ought to interest the car enthusiast and non-enthusiast alike:

Automobilia: November 13, 2010 through Summer 2011. This exhibit is "dedicated to the artistry and influence of Italian auto manufacturing on the world's auto industry and will house a rare and rotating collection of memorable and exotic cars with an Italian pedigree."

Going Green: It's Good for the Planet: Ongoing. "An exhibit displaying and telling the story of clean fuel alternatives." It features a number of electric and fuel cell vehicles.

Dropped and Chopped: Jan. 27 through March 27. "Explore the classic years of traditional [hot] rods and customs between 1946 and 1960, including Sacramento's notable cars and legends such as Dick Bertolucci, George Barris, Harry Westergard and Don Tognotti."

PHOTO CREDIT: 1913 Rauch Lang Electric Vehicle, part of the "Going Green" exhibit. Courtesy California Automobile Museum.

February 10, 2011
Judges and volunteers needed for Sacramento County History Day

NatlHistoryDay.jpgThe 2011 Sacramento County History Day competition will take place on Saturday, March 12, 2011, at Rosemont High School, and volunteers are being sought to assist with judging student submissions and helping to make the event run smoothly. 

For this year's competition, students in grades 6-12 will be presenting well-researched projects on the theme of "Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences." Contest categories include performance, documentary, website, exhibit and paper.  Sacramento County History Day is part of the larger National History Day program and students who perform well in this competition may go on to compete at the state or national level. Judges and volunteers are needed at all levels of the competition to evaluate entries, provide helpful feedback to students, and assist with registration and other duties.

Applications for judges/volunteers are due by February 11, 2011.  Please visit the Sacramento County History Day website to learn more and submit an application.

February 9, 2011
Barry Melton at Constable Jack's

This is a reminder to Northern California music history aficionados that the Barry "The Fish" Melton Band will be performing at Constable Jack's in Newcastle this coming Saturday night, as seen below on the flier designed by yours truly. This same band, more or less, will also be appearing on Friday, February 25th at the Saloon, 1232 Grant Avenue in San Francisco.


HTS 2011-02-12.jpg 




February 9, 2011
Black struggle for education in Victorian Sacramento

SCHS.JPGThe Sacramento County Historical Society maintains a partial online collection of back issues of Golden Notes, the group's scholarly journal originating in 1954.

To commemorate Black History Month, SCHS uploaded the Spring 1999 edition, Ungraded School No. 2 Colored: The African American Struggle for Education in Victorian Sacramento by Marilyn K. Demas. In this in-depth study, Demas, retired teacher and activist with the Old City Cemetery Committee, recounted the "tenacity, courage and ingenuity" of Sacramento African Americans in the 1800s who overcame prejudice and segregation to obtain decent schooling for their children. Central to the story was Sarah Mildred Jones, a teacher at Ungraded School No. 2, who later became principal of Fremont Primary School when it was integrated by the Sacramento Board of Education in 1894.

A 2004 Bee article profiled Demas and describes how her work at the Old Sacramento School House Museum led to her research on early California educators.

February 8, 2011
Introduction to Contributor Rebecca Crowther

My name is Rebecca Crowther and I am an Associate Archivist at the Center for Sacramento History (CSH.) I'm really excited to be joining the group of writers and archivists that contribute to Sac History Happenings. I've been following the blog from its start and already see what a valuable resource it is. It helps keep local history buffs informed about history-related events in our area, but also has the potential to introduce non-history types to significant stories from Sacramento's past-- and to provide them with tools to learn even more.

I should mention a few things about myself. I'm a local gal, born and raised in the Sacramento region. I've called everywhere from Roseville to Clarksburg home, and as a child, cruised the streets of Citrus Heights by bicycle and crossed the Freeport Bridge by foot. I've taken in much of our local surroundings, often with a camera in tow. I received my very first point-and-shoot when I was 12 years old and it was at that young age that I realized the unique magic that takes place within a camera. It snaps up a single moment and captures it for all time. This life-long fascination with documentation now works in to my career.

One of my primary professional responsibilities is to care for the photographic collections at the Center for Sacramento History (CSH). I'm also responsible for making CSH's historic images available to the public. Along with photographs, CSH (a Sacramento City and County funded agency) holds governmental records, private manuscript collections, moving image collections, and an impressive array of museum artifact collections. These holdings are held in the public trust and are available for research or are on display throughout the community.

CSH2.jpgCSH is open for research by appointment only. You may call (916) 808-7072 to speak with an archivist about scheduling an appointment during normal research hours. We also have a website where a small amount of research may be conducted on-line.

We encourage you to browse the website or give us a call. We'd be glad to assist you.

February 8, 2011
KVIE to rebroadcast "African Americans in California's Heartland"

house.jpgTo help celebrate Black History Month, the local PBS station KVIE is rebroadcasting a two-part Viewfinder episode on the African American experience in Sacramento and Northern California.

Part 1: African Americans in California's Heartland (Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.). Highlighting education, church and civil rights, this segment looks at the history of black people in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada from the gold rush to 1960. It chronicles the struggles and accomplishments during the state's first 100 years.

Part 2: African Americans in California's Heartland: The Civil Rights Era (Feb. 19, 11:30 p.m.). Continuing the story into the tumultuous 1960s, this segments describes how Sacramento changed with the movement for equality in housing, education and employment.

The web sites associated with the two films are worth a look. There you'll find transcripts, photos, video and audio, lesson plans and links to related resources.

Hat Tip: The Sacramento Press.

PHOTO CREDIT: In the early 1900s, cement layer Wallace Smith, his wife and daughter owned this home on Riverside Blvd. near the city cemetery. This outlying area of the city was considered acceptable for blacks. Photo courtesy of Earlene Gray Woods.

February 7, 2011
Newly available collection at the State Library.

Historians specializing in early California history will want to examine the newly-processed Landon Fellom San Jose document transcriptions in the California History Section at the State Library. Fellom, a former miner, printer, and Department of Automobile Registration employee, transcribed several hundred San Jose documents from 1791 to 1850 and translated them into English. The writers and correspondents read like a "who's who" of pre-American conquest California, with the names Pico, Estudillo, Micheltorena, Vallejo, Sunol, Berreyessa, and Sutter prominent among them. Topics contained in these documents include local municipality expenses, requests to build chapels, treatment of Native Americans, control of drinking and gambling, and English frigates seen offshore. Papers from 1846 onward often deal with the transfer of power from Mexico to the United States, and feature names such as Fremont and Kearny.  

February 7, 2011
Ronald Reagan's California governor archives

reagan.jpgAs the state and nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, it's a good opportunity to browse his presidential archives for materials related to his tenure as California's 33rd Governor (1967-74).

The Reagan collections at the University of Texas include extensive gubernatorial document files covering both official and political activities: speeches, public statements, press conference transcripts, budget documents, staff and Cabinet papers, schedules, correspondence, etc. There are also audiotape recordings of the Governor's speeches, press conferences, TV appearances, interviews, etc.

Unfortunately there is a limited (though growing) number of items that are available in full online. But you will find about a dozen transcripts of key speeches and public statements, including inaugural addresses and messages on crime, college tuition and water.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Ronald Reagan walks into the California Assembly chamber to deliver his State of the State address. Behind him at left is Assemblyman Robert Monagan of Stockton, Jan. 9, 1968. Sacramento Bee photo by Frank Stork.

February 5, 2011
Exhibit recounts California freedom riders

freedomride.jpgStaring today and running through May 29 is a new California Museum exhibit recounting the lesser-known "freedom ride" that departed Los Angeles for Houston in August 1961.

The Freedom Rides involved groups of civil rights activists -- young and old, black and white -- traveling by bus, train and plane to the South to challenge segregation and Jim Crow laws. They were often met with angry mobs, arrests and beatings. The eleven Californians who boarded the train in Los Angeles were arrested while staging a sit-in at Houston's Union Station coffee shop. Police jailed the protesters and segregated them by race and gender. All the white men were beaten by other prisoners who were egged on by guards, according to a recent interview with one of the Riders. You can see historic photos at the Freedom Riders Foundation web site.

"Get on Board" exhibit features newspaper clips, photographs, political buttons, manuscripts and oral histories. It's presented in partnership with the California Legislative Black Caucus and the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum.

The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts
1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-7524

PHOTO CREDIT: Freedom Riders from California are held at Harris County jail in Houston after refusing to post $500 bonds. Photo by the Associated Press.

February 5, 2011
Railtown recruiting volunteers and offering special shop tour

railtown.jpgOkay history fans: where in Northern California can see a 19th century train that's appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, such as Petticoat Junction, Wild Wild West, Back to the Future Part III and Unforgiven?

It's the Railtown 1897 Historic State Park in Jamestown (Tuolumne County), home to the preserved trains, repair shops and roundhouse of the Sierra Railway. It's a great attraction for railroad buffs. You can even take a short ride behind a vintage steam-powered locomotive.

On Feb. 8 Railtown is offering a special behind-the-scenes shop tour. This is a good opportunity to see ongoing restoration projects, as well as the recently restored Sierra No. 3, the "Movie Star" engine. The tour will go from 10 to 12 p.m. and the cost is included with park admission: $5 for adults, $3 for youths ages 6-17, children under five, free.

Railtown is also recruiting volunteers to serve as Car Hosts, Ticket Agents, Tour Guides, Public Greeters, and Fire Patrol Operators (entry level engine crew). No previous experience is required, but you must submit an application by Feb. 20 to be considered for volunteer training beginning in March. Interested people are invited to a Volunteer Open House (Feb. 12 at 10 a.m.) where you can learn more about the park and its activities.

For more information about the Railtown Shop Tour and volunteering, call 209-984-3953 or visit

Press releases

PHOTO CREDIT: The restored Sierra No 3 steam engine emerges from the roundhouse at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, Calif., July 2010. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli.

February 4, 2011
What Mark Twain didn't say

Twain.jpgTrue or false, did Mark Twain say: "whiskey is for drinking, but water is worth fighting over"?

Despite the many politicians who have used the quip (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis, Dianne Feinstein, among them), scholars maintain there's no evidence the humorist wrote it.

"I have never run across that quotation," says Clemens biographer Jerome R. Loving who has combed through the extensive Mark Twain collection at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. Loving was interviewed for the recent McClatchy DC Bureau story describing the controversy.

Speaking of Twain, much has been made of his connection to Sacramento, where he reported for the Daily Union. But as the attached 2005 Bee story explained, the writer's relationship to this city -- and Northern California in general -- was fleeting at best. Still, that hasn't stopped historians, tourism concerns and newspapers from promoting it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Twain Monument in Utica Park at Angel's Camp, Calif. 1985 photo by Skip Shuman / Sacramento Bee.

February 3, 2011
Film uncovers the "hidden" transcontinental railroad

Bloomer Cut.jpgMost people know about the heroic, monumental construction of the transcontinental railroad across the Sierra in the 1860s. But few know that portions of the original railroad lay hidden from public view sometimes miles from the current route. A new documentary celebrates this historic treasure and calls for its preservation.

Last Friday producer Bill George and railroad historian Chris Graves discussed The Hidden Wonder of the World; the Transcontinental Railroad Today from Sacramento to Donner Summit on the KXJZ radio show Insight. The film takes viewers to the "the abandoned granite tunnels, stunning trestles, gigantic cuts and breathtaking scenery" traversed by the Central Pacific Railroad.

Hidden Wonder of the World debuted last October in Colfax during the First Transcontinental Railroad Chautauqua, a conference whose goal was "to preserve, publicize and promote study of the history of the First Transcontinental Railroad from Sacramento to Nevada and its impact on the people along the route."

UPDATE: KVIE-TV will broadcast the film on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. You can purchase a DVD copy now for $15.95.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bloomer Cut in Auburn was the first major hurdle in the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. Photograph by Shen-Chih (Sam) Cheng. Courtesy Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

February 3, 2011
California Ephemera Project online

CaliforniaEphemeraProject.JPGThe California Ephemera Project (CEP), a joint effort of several San Francisco institutions to provide access to their extensive California ephemera collections, has completed its work and uploaded twelve finding aids through the Online Archive of California (OAC). 

The California Historical Society; San Francisco Public Library; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society; and Society of California Pioneers were chosen as the initial partners for the 2009-2010 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to provide access to collections of California ephemera. In the past two year, they have processed and described more than 600 linear feet of ephemeral material.  The project website gives an overview of the collections:

The ephemera collections described span from 1850 to the present, and contain advertisements, announcements, brochures, catalogs, menus, pamphlets, billheads, theater programs, clippings, bylaws, flyers, tickets, travel guides, and more. Collections represent California businesses, associations, schools, institutions, and clubs; events ranging from world's fairs and earthquakes to parades and protests; buildings and structures, including the construction of Bay Area bridges; and extensive biographical files on both well-known and little-known Californians.

Collection guides are searchable through the new project website at Those interested in reading about the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into the project can check out the CEP blog at

February 2, 2011
San Francisco History Expo

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society will be holding the first ever San Francisco History Expo at the old United States Mint, 5th and Mission Streets, on February 12th and 13th from 11AM to 4PM. Admission is free. Numerous San Francisco historical organizations will be participating, and the Expo will feature performances and displays. If you travel down for this event you will also not want to miss the 44th California International Book Fair, which will take place on February 11th through the 13th at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th Street in San Francisco. Much good Northern California material is always available at this event, but you will also gaze in wonder at the high-ticket items brought by European book dealers.

February 1, 2011
Free admission to local museums this Saturday

museumdayS.JPGDecisions, decisions. How to spend the once-a-year Sacramento Museum Day this Saturday, February 5th? With free admission to 26 local museums, there's a lot to choose from.

Here's a good opportunity for the whole family to experience the "Capital City's incredible wealth of art, history, science and wildlife." For the history-minded, consider the California Museum, California State Capitol Museum, California State Railroad Museum, Governor's Mansion, Museum of Medical History, Sacramento History Museum, Sutter's Fort among others.

Participating facilities will offer free admittance between 10 and 4 p.m., with every museum closing at 5 p.m. There's a free shuttle bus and parking is available at most sites.

PHOTO CREDIT: Crowds line up in Old Sacramento near the Railroad Museum to get into the Discovery Museum during Museum Day 2000. Sacramento Bee photo by Chris Crewell.

About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

History headlines on