Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

May 16, 2011
It's frog jumping time!

frog jump.jpgSacramentans got a taste of amphibian fun at the recent 37th annual Capitol Jumping Frog Contest, won by "Unicorn" the GOP entrant.

But the main event happens this week: the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee. This four-day extravaganza is a full-blown agricultural fair featuring craft, food and livestock exhibits, entertainment, rodeo, carnival and, of course, frog jumping.

The practice of prodding frogs for sport goes back decades and is inspired by "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," a 1865 short story that brought much fame and national attention to Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Clemens visited Angels Camp during his sojourn in California and Nevada described in the semi-autobiographical Roughing It.

MARK TWAIN.JPGIncidentally, in Chapter 56 of Roughing It Clemens rhapsodizes about the varying landscape, flora and climate as he travels from Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. Though he finds Sacramento's "Eternal Summer" a bit of a bore:

One never sees Summer-clothing or mosquitoes in San Francisco--but they can be found in Sacramento. Not always and unvaryingly, but about one hundred and forty-three months out of twelve years, perhaps. Flowers bloom there, always, the reader can easily believe--people suffer and sweat, and swear, morning, noon and night, and wear out their stanchest energies fanning themselves.

Clemens also spent time camping near Lake Tahoe (Chapter 22 and 23 of Roughing It). His description of that pristine setting:

We plodded on, two or three hours longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us--a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still! It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.

The exact location of Clemens' lakeside camp is a matter of some controversy because of an effort to rename a section of the shoreline "Sam Clemens Cove." The Bee's Tom Knudson reported on Friday that a federal panel has rejected the idea.

What: Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee, "Pirates of the Carrots & Beans"
Where: 101 Frogtown Road, Angels Camps, CA
When: May 19-22
Cost: Buy discounted online e-tickets here
For more info: 209-736-2561 or

PHOTO CREDITS: Tim Marshall of San Jose urges his frog Heads Up to jump 17 feet, 3-3/4 inches at the Calaveras County Fair. 1982 Sacramento Bee photograph. Samuel Clemens in 1884. Courtesy The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Conn.

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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

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