Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

June 30, 2011
Exhibits highlight trains used in movies, television

Sierra Petticoat Junction.JPGThe California State Railroad Museum has extended its popular "Rails and Reels" exhibit which explores the important role trains have played in the making of Hollywood movies and television series. The displays feature many railroad-related artifacts, such as train models used in crash scenes of the 1939 epic Union Pacific, station signs used in High Noon and a costume from the 1979 TV movie Orphan Train. Visitors will also find sheet music, movie posters, lobby cards, original film scripts, and promotional items from films going back to the early 1900s.

And speaking of train "movie stars," the vintage steam locomotives of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will be running all three days of the July 4th weekend. Excursion rides take passengers on a six-mile, 40-minute trip through California's Gold Country where many scenes from Hollywood movies were filmed. Visitors to Railtown can also take tours of the historic working Roundhouse where the old locomotives and cars are repaired.

What: Lights, Camera, Action! "Rails and Reels: Hollywood, Trains And the Making of Motion Pictures"
Where: California State Railroad Museum, corner of Second and Streets in Old Sacramento.
When: 10 to 5 p.m. Exhibit runs through Feb. 14, 2012.
Cost: $9 adults; $4 youths ages 6-17; children ages 5 and under are free.
For more info: 916-323-9280 or

What: Steam-Powered Excursion Train Rides Over 4th of July Weekend
Where: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, Jamestown (Tuolumne County).
When: July 2-4.
Saturday & Sunday - trains depart hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday only -- trains depart hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: General: $13 adults, $6 youths ages 6-17, free for children 5 and under.
For more info: 209-984-3953 or visit

News Release

PHOTO CREDIT: Railtown's Sierra No. 3 locomotive dressed in red petticoat for the Petticoat Junction TV series. Courtesy of the California State Railroad Museum

June 29, 2011
Arcadia releases book on Citrus Heights

While the bloggers here at Sac History Happenings try and refrain from adding too much personal detail in our posts, I must confess that the release of Arcadia's book on Citrus Heights is for me, a total delight. I grew up in Citrus Heights, rode bicycles down Van Maren Lane, built forts in the oak trees near Misty Creek, and attended Sylvan MiArcadia Citrus Heights.jpgddle School.

As a youngster, I sensed that my surroundings had some history and heard that the junior high I attended was "pretty old."From the windows of my seventh grade science classroom, I looked out toward Sylvan Cemetery, not knowing that area residents established it as early as 1862.

Jim Van Maren, a descendant of one of Citrus Heights' founding families, authors this small illustrated publication. According to an Arcadia press release, the book's historic images are culled largely from the collection of the Van Maren family, who started farming the community in the 1850s.

The press release also mentions how "Citrus Heights has grown from a farming community settlement to a modern suburb and a favorite place for families to thrive in Sacramento County." Citrus Heights is now an officially incorporated city and is dotted with exceptional contemporary amenities. What I like about the place though, are the remnants of its rural past. There are still groves of oak trees, large lots of land, and plenty of early architecture to enjoy and explore.

I look forward to Van Maren's book and learning more about the past of my hometown.

June 28, 2011
A festival of vintage farming

BALE PRESS.JPGThe Best Show on Tracks, the annual festival of vintage farming, will focus on harvesting this year. Visitors will see demonstrations of antique steam, gas, and diesel tractors, as well as raft horse and mule teams, doing the work of binding, plowing and threshing.

There will also be an old-style horse camp, children's activities, parades and earthmoving demonstrations using classic equipment.

Dry camping is available.

What: The Best Show: Harvest Spectacular 2011
Where: Wallace Ranch, Best Ranch Rd. and County Rd. 100B, Woodland
When: July 1, 2 and 3
Cost: $5 per person per day. Children under 12 free.
For more info: Jess Gilbertson, 530-308-0469 or The Best Show website

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Ken Flower, of Rumsey, guides two horses in operating a bale press, which will be demonstrated at the 2008 Best Show on Tracks. Sacramento Bee photo by Florence Low

June 27, 2011
Interview explores the myth of the transcontinental railroads

Gold Spike.JPGThe Commonwealth Club of California posted a video recording of a recent interview with historian Richard White, author of Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America.

In this provocative book White debunks the myth of the cross-country railroads as well-managed, financially successful ventures that united a nation and "civilized" the West. Rather, he concludes these were huge, poorly-run boondoggles, heavily subsidized by the federal government (in loans, grants and military protection) and prone to repeated financial failure. Further, they were built decades before the market for shipping and passenger transport was large enough to justify the great investment, and so did little to benefit the country in the short term. In fact White argues the railroads disrupted the rational, humane and ecologically-sound settlement of the West.

In this interview, White, a professor of history at Stanford, draws parallels between the "gilded age" greed and corruption that undergird the development of the transcontinentals with the dysfunctional financial and political conditions that gave rise to our current economic recession.

Founded in 1903, the Commonwealth Club is the oldest and largest public affairs forum in the country. Clubs events are broadcast as a weekly radio series and are available on demand via Internet podcast. Two past programs also touch on California history:

* Scandal, Intrigue and Drama in California History, Oct. 9, 2009. Four authors discuss the risk-taking, entrepreneurism and class conflict that define the state's past.

* Kevin Starr: California's Golden Dreams, Sept. 24, 2009. The state's preeminent historian considers the political, social and cultural forces that transformed California in the 1950s.

PHOTO CREDIT: May 10, 1869 at Promontory, Utah, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Photograph by Alfred A. Hart.

June 26, 2011
In History's Spotlight: James Ben Ali Haggin

Haggin.JPGBorn: Dec. 9, 1822
Died: Sept. 13, 1914

Known for: James Ben Ali Haggin owned most of Rancho Del Paso in northern Sacramento County where he developed the world's largest and most successful horse breeding farm. At one time he owned 1,000 thoroughbreds, and in 1886 his namesake, Ben Ali, won the 12th Kentucky Derby.

Background: Haggin was the son of Ferah Temple Haggin, a prominent Louisville, Ky., attorney. He came to Sacramento in 1850, and by 1860 was a successful attorney in San Francisco. His partner and brother-in-law, Lloyd Tevis, was sued in 1862 by the owner of 44,374-acre Rancho Del Paso. Tevis won and he and Haggin acquired the land, which today is bordered by the American River, Northgate Boulevard, Manzanita Avenue-Fair Oaks Boulevard and Rio Linda's U Street. They sold it in 1910 for $1.5 million.

A highlight: Haggin's legacy here is very apparent: Ben Ali Temple and Activity Center, across from Hagginwood Park; Ben Ali School; and at least seven Haggins or Hagginwoods, including Haggin Oaks Municipal Golf Course. And streets are named for his horses -- Frienza, Dixieanne and Salvator.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

June 23, 2011
Gold Rush buildings in miniature at the airport

miniatures.jpgIf you fly this summer, you may be pleasantly surprised to see an exhibit of miniature buildings from California's Gold Rush era at the airport.

This display of 28 hand-made replicas by Tony Quattrociocchi is sponsored by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission through its Art in Public Places program.

The airport exhibit includes models of Sutter's Fort, Fort Ross, Fourth Ward Schoolhouse, and the riverboat Young America. You can see photos accompanying the Sacramento Press story posted last week.

What: California Gold Rush Buildings Recreated in Miniature by Artist Tony Quattrociocchi
Where: Sacramento International Airport - Terminal B
When: June 20 - Sept. 3, 2011
Cost: free
For more info: Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Sutter's Mill. Courtesy Tony Quattrociocchi.

June 22, 2011
What's that Milk Farm sign on I-80?

milk farm.JPGSummertime is travel time. And if you're driving west on Interstate 80 past Dixon, you may wonder about that lonely "Milk Farm" sign just off the highway.

There's nothing around that curious sign except weeds. But Milk Farm was once a flourishing retail complex with gas stations, restaurant, gift store, fruit stand, and overnight cabins. There was even a kiddie train and pony rides. It was a real tourist mecca.

The restaurant closed in 1986 after a windstorm damaged its roof. Despite efforts to revive Milk Farm, it died a slow death.

Check out Bil Paul's recent "Then and Now" column in Dixon Patch explaining the rise and fall of the landmark.

PHOTO CREDIT: A bulldozer begins demolition of the a former gas station on the Milk Farm property in January 2000. Sacramento Bee photo by Dick Schmidt

June 21, 2011
Sacramento Public Library continues tradition of summer reading

McClatchy.jpgEarlier this month, the Sacramento Public Library launched its 2011 Summer Reading program, One World, Many Stories.  Through the program, the library challenges people of all ages to read books, explore library resources, and attend some of the more than 600 programs offered across 28 branches.  As we launch a new year, it's fitting time look back at the roots of children's reading in Sacramento.

Fruitridge 1968.jpgIn 1919, just one year after the construction of the new main library, the Sacramento Public Library joined others across the country in celebrating Children's Book Week.  In November of each year, the library installed displays, dispersed reading lists, and distributed posters, and dozens of local merchants planned Book Week window displays.

By the 1930s, library branches were hosting summer reading clubs for children.  The first mentioned by name was the Jig-Saw Zoo Reading Club, which claimed many readers in 1947 and continued for the next 20 years.  Other special summer reading clubs sprung up at the children's branches.  In 1953, the McClatchy Branch Library, then still a "Young People's Library," ran a Summer Space Flight reading club.  In 1967, children joined the Smokey the Bear Reading Program, and in 1969, they were challenged to "Read at Yard of Books." 

Over the intervening decades, the Sacramento Public Library has continued its tradition of offering engaging summer programs that encourage reading outside of the classroom.

For more information about the 2011 Summer Reading program, visit or call (916) 264-2920.

PHOTO CREDIT: Top: Children sit for summertime Story Hour at the McClatchy Branch Library for Young People (by McCurry Foto Co., ca. 1945); Bottom: Boys stand with books and certificates outside the Fruitridge Branch Library (1968). From the Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library.

June 21, 2011
Mark Twain stamp to be unveiled in Old Sacramento

Mark Twain Stamp.jpgThe U.S. Postal Service is honoring Mark Twain with a new stamp that will debut in Old Sacramento. The public is invited to attend the stamp's dedication which will be accompanied by a Boy Scout Color Guard and a performance by an actor impersonating the writer.

The new postal stamp will be available for purchase at that time.

What: Mark Twain Postage Stamp Launch & Dedication
Where: Central Pacific Passenger Station, Old Sacramento State Historic Park (Front St. between I and J Sts.)
When: Saturday, June 25, 1 p.m.
Cost: Free
For more info: 916-808-7059 or or

News Release

June 20, 2011
Check out historic Chico

BIDWELL.JPGSummer has finally come to Northern California. History buffs will doubtless be looking for educational day trips and Chico is one interesting destination.

It has a long, rich history that goes all the way back to 1850. That's when John Bidwell acquired the 28,000 acres comprising Rancho del Arroyo Chico. Arriving in 1841, Gen. Bidwell was part of the first American settler group to travel overland to California. For a time he worked for John Sutter in various capacities. In 1848 he made his fortune in gold discovered along the Middle Fork of the Feather River. Bidwell used his mining gains to purchase the Chico land grant and establish a major farming/ranching operation there.

The Chico News & Review recently published a helpful illustrated article on the city's history and historic attractions you can visit. These include the Bidwell Mansion, Chico Museum and Stansbury House.

You can also find a lot of basic information on Chico's history on the town's Wiki site.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Bidwell Mansion was built in 1865. 2001 Sacramento Bee photo by Christine Vovakes

June 19, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Molly Ringwald

MollyRingwald.jpgBorn: Feb. 18, 1968

Known for: A Roseville native, actress and singer Molly Ringwald starred in a trio of films -- "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" -- that helped usher in the 1980s "Brat Pack" era.

Background: Ringwald was born to blind jazz pianist Robert Scott Ringwald and homemaker Adele Edith. The family moved to Los Angeles when she was 10 so that she could pursue an acting career. (Her family later moved back to the area.) She worked on stage and in television, but it was starring in the 1980s films that made her a household name. Ringwald has spent the better part of her career trying to distance herself from her earlier work via independent film roles, stage forays and a stint living in France. Last fall, she performed in Sacramento at the Community Center Theater in a touring production of "Sweet Charity."

A highlight: She grew up singing for her father's traditional and swing bands in Sacramento. In 1974, the 6-year-old Ringwald stood on a chair to reach the microphone while performing at the first Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

June 17, 2011
100 years of women's suffrage in California

We Won the Vote 1911 -Sacramento Bee.jpgPrior to passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote in 1920, California granted the same right to the state's women in the special election on Oct. 10, 2011. To celebrate that achievement, the Sacramento History Museum yesterday unveiled a new exhibit celebrating 100 years of California suffrage.

Visitors to the Museum can gain a better understanding of the social and political struggle through interactive displays, historical photographs, period campaign materials, clothing worn during the campaign and oral histories.

The exhibition will move to the State Capitol Museum on Oct. 1 and remain there through Sept. 30, 2012.

What: We Won the Vote! 100 Years of Equal Suffrage in California exhibition
Where: Sacramento History Museum, 101 I Street in Old Sacramento
When: June 16 thru Sept. 16. Museum open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Cost: Museum admission $5 for adults; $3 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children five and under
More info: 916-808-7059 or

News Release

IMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee editorial cartoon.

June 16, 2011
Suttertown News founder Tim Holt to speak at Time Tested Books

Before there was the News and Review, Midtown Monthly, or Sacramento Press, local readers flipped through pages of a neighborhood publication called Suttertown News. Founded by Tim Holt in 1977, the small paper, which ran until 1994, focused on issues of community, activism, politics, and the city's arts and cultural scene.

Blog1995-026-0362.jpgThis Sunday, Holt makes a return to Sacramento as guest speaker for the Sacramento Living Library. He'll chat about his time in our community, the Suttertown publication, and his current life as a writer in Dunsmuir, California.

In addition to Holt's talk, guests can view a small exhibition of images from the Center for Sacramento History's Suttertown News Collection. The display will run through the night of Holt's talk and is currently on window display at Time Tested Books.

The Sacramento Living Library takes place on the third Sunday of every month at Time Tested Books. Doors open at 6:30 pm and talks begin at 7pm. Time Tested is located at 1114 21st Street, Sacramento. The event is free and all are invited.

PHOTO CREDIT: Suttertown News Staff, c. 1986, Center for Sacramento History, Suttertown News Collection, 1995/026/0362

June 15, 2011
California State Library Foundation Bulletin

ca2258.jpgJack London.jpgThe California State Library Foundation, though its membership fees and outside contributions, helps support the programs, services, and collections of the State Library. One of the benefits of foundation membership is receipt of its California State Library Foundation Bulletin, which is "published when [they] are able," usually two or three times a year. Copies are available to the public for purchase in the library's California History Room, but past and present issues can also be viewed online at

The current issue of the Bulletin available online is number #99 which, like the rest, features numerous articles of historical interest tied in to the library and its collections. The lead feature is on Gold Rush era San Francisco musicians Stephen C. Massett and Joseph F. Atwill, and includes contemporary sheet music from the California collection. Following is an article on Jack London's White Fang by former Talisman Press proprietor Robert Greenwood, whose analysis of the novel is complemented by stunning photographs from the library's collection depicting its 1898 Klondike Gold Rush setting. And not only does the library own a presentation copy of the book signed by London, but its special collections also contain the Talisman Press archives.

Another article in Bulletin #99 highlights trade card and citrus crate labels donated to the State Library from the collection of the late Dean L. Mawdsley, dating back to a pre-computer era when advertising and commercial art was hand-created by skilled artists (an amazing Sunkist California Dream orange crate label is featured on the Bulletin's cover). The donation of former State Librarian Gary E. Strong's California mystery book collection is highlighted, and in an article on the October 4, 2010 "Snapshot Day" to gather State Library usage data, library regulars will recognize some of the smiling faces depicted.

Many will find interesting the article in Bulletin #99 which relates the successful efforts of library staff members Vincent Beiderbecke and Matthew Bartok to photograph the Maynard Dixon mural Pageant of Tradition, on the wall of Gillis Hall in the old Library and Courts Building at 914 Capitol Mall, undertaken at a time when the room had been cleared prior to the structure's renovation. This is a fascinating story about the challenges involved in building a tracking, dolly, and lighting setup addressing the specific circumstances of this project. 

Shown here are photos of Gillis Hall in the old Library and Courts Building showing Dixon's mural and the system developed to photograph it, the Sunkist label on the cover of California State Library Foundation Bulletin #99, and a photo of Jack London from the California History Room collection.

_DSC5206 Edit.jpg

June 15, 2011
Tour of Nevada "Rome" Powerhouse to explore birth of hydroelectric power

Yuba.jpgThe Nevada County Land Trust's "Treks through Time" are guided by experts and explore historical points of interest throughout the foothills and mountains of the Sierra Nevada.  This June 19, local historian Dale Johnson will invite trekkers on a visit to the historic Rome Powerhouse on the Yuba River, the birthplace of hydroelectric power in the 1890s. The tour will include the remains of the dam on Lake Vera followed by a short drive and hike to the powerhouse. Dale will use storyboards to describe the creation of the powerhouse and its impact on the use of hydroelectric power in California, including the formation of PG&E.  Carpooling in 4WD vehicles is recommended.

What: Tour of Rome Powerhouse on Yuba River
When: Sunday, June 19, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $12 for members; $17 for nonmembers
For more information: Treks Coordinator Melony Vance -, 530-272-5994 ext. 1

June 15, 2011
Sutter's Fort under three flags

Cannon firing.JPGBefore California became a state in 1850, three national forces -- Mexican, American and independent -- struggled for control over the territory. Sutter Fort's "Hands on History" series continues with a program describing the tension and uncertainty of that period.

Visitors will witness cannon firings and musket demonstrations, listen to mock public debates and examine period weapons. Younger folks will get to re-create colorful period flags of their own.

What: Hands on History: Three Flags, One Fort
Where: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L Street, Sacramento
When: Saturday, June 18. Fort hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cannon firing demonstrations: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
Cost: $6.00 per adult (18 and older), $4.00 per youth (ages 6-17), free for children 5 years and under
For More: Call 916-445-4422 or visit

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Cannon firing at Sutter's Fort. 2005 photograph by Steve Prey

June 14, 2011
Test yourself with the sample U.S. history exam

News outlets are reporting that U.S. children continue to perform poorly on standardized history tests. In fact American students are less proficient in history than in any other subject, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In the 2010 exam only 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors scored at a proficient level.

I'll leave the hand-wringing to the experts. But I challenge blog readers to answer the sample questions from the NAEP history test. You can choose items from the Grade 4, Grade 8 and Grade 12 level exams. Here's one from Grade 12 that Californians will appreciate:

Question 3 of 5

American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. The expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnishes the forces dominating the American character. The true point of view in the history of this nation is not the Atlantic coast, it is the Great West.
- Frederick Jackson Turner, 1893

Turner made his speech about the importance of the American frontier partly in response to

A.   the closing of the frontier recorded in the 1890 census
B.   United States efforts to limit European immigration to frontier regions
C.   the elimination of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment
D.   the great numbers of western pioneers who lost their farms

The answer is A. (See Turner's complete essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History.")

June 14, 2011
Exhibit documents Californians' experience during WWI

Capitol Museum.jpgToday begins a new year-long exhibit at the State Capitol Museum which documents -- through letters and artifacts -- Californians' experience of World War I, both here and abroad.

The display features correspondence from Edward Bates to his family in which he vividly describes conditions on the front lines in France.

What: "Californians Over There! California's Role in the First World War"
Where: California State Capitol Museum, Attorney General's Exhibit Room, First Floor of the Capitol, 10th & L Streets, Sacramento
June 14, 2011 through June 1, 2012
Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free
For More: Call 916-324-0333 or visit

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: California soldiers boarded cross-country trains to New York City where they embarked on ships destined for Europe and fighting at the Western Front. Photo courtesy of the California State Capitol Museum

June 13, 2011
Arcadia releases two books on Truckee

truckee.jpgArcadia Publishing is well known for producing small, beautifully illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 6,000 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

This blog will announce Arcadia publications of regional interest as they are published. The most recent offerings are two volumes by Truckee historian and journalist Sherry Jennings.

Truckee (Images of America)

"In just over 150 years, Truckee has morphed from a collection of lawless rough-and-tumble settlements to a close-knit community with a sense of adventure at its core. The Truckee area was also at the cornerstone of many 19th-century technological innovations. From logging that kept trains stoked and fed Nevada mines to an ice-harvesting industry that transformed refrigerated transportation and the largest paper mill west of the Mississippi, Truckee proved its engineering mettle."

Truckee (Postcards of America)

"In this collection of vintage-photograph postcards, Sherry E. Jennings explores the town's past."
June 12, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Stan Hack

Thumbnail image for stanhack.jpgBorn: Dec. 12, 1909
Died: Dec. 15, 1979

Known for: A Sacramento native, Stan Hack was a five-time All-Star third baseman who played 16 seasons (1932-47) and in four World Series for the Chicago Cubs.

Background: "Smiling" Stan Hack was a clerk in a Sacramento bank before he played for the Sacramento Solons in 1931. In his only season playing for the city's Triple-A club, the Sacramento High School product batted .352 with 232 hits and 128 runs. He was then sold to the Cubs for $50,000. As a Cub, the left-handed batter amassed a career .301 average and twice led the National League in hits, stolen bases and singles. Mainly a leadoff hitter, Hack smacked 57 home runs, drove in 642 runs and stole 165 bases during his Major League career. He batted .348 in 69 World Series at-bats. He also compiled a 199-272 record as a manager for the Cubs (1954-1956) and St. Louis (1958).

A highlight: On Oct. 8, 1945, Hack's double with two outs in the 12th inning gave the Cubs an 8-7 win in the sixth game of the World Series. It is the last World Series game the Cubs have won.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

June 10, 2011
Jimmy Doolittle at McClellan

DOOLITTLE.JPGHere's a followup to a blog posting about the Doolittle Raiders practicing short takeoffs in Willows: a well-researched article about preparations for the famous bombing run with an emphasis on the aircraft modifications done at McClellan Field.

The Doolittle Raid, of course, was a morale-boosting attack on the Japanese mainland early in the war. The B-25 Mitchell bombers used in the operation normally takeoff on long, land-based runways. But Lt. Col. James Doolittle had the audacious idea of launching them from an aircraft carrier.

As Ronald H. Bailey and Susan Zimmerman write in the June World War II magazine, Doolittle supervised the B-25 training and retrofitting with a meticulous eye -- all while keeping the mission secret from virtually everyone, including McClellan maintenance workers. The article relates many interesting details on how the planes were specially modified to take off from the USS Hornet, make their attack on Japan and fly on to China.

PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. Army Air Corps Maj. Gen. James Doolittle fastens a medal on the tail of a 500-lb. bomb that he and the crew of sixteen B-25s dropped on Tokyo during a surprise raid on April 18, 1942. Associated Press photo

June 9, 2011
California Questers forming new chapter in Sacramento

Governor's mansion.bmpIf you're interested in donating your time to help with the preservation and restoration of local artifacts, memorials, historic buildings, landmarks and other educational projects, consider joining a new California Questers chapter now forming in the in the Sacramento area. Questers is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1944 and headquartered in Philadelphia with 800 chapters around the United States, 35 in California. Questers work on defined projects, often with local historical societies' preservation and restoration efforts including lighthouses, historic homes, monuments, and artifacts in museums and missions. This year the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park has been the benefactor of efforts of the California Questers, working with the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park staff to identify acquisition needs. This has led to a series of projects, each of which contributes to the restoration of this state historic park and Sacramento landmark.

If research and the study of antiques appeals to you, be sure to attend the first California Questers informational meeting at the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park, 1526 H Street in Sacramento, on Saturday, June 11, at 11 a.m. Come one, come all, and join a worthwhile and rewarding effort that supports the preservation and restoration of historical landmarks.

For further information contact 408-267-3879 or

June 8, 2011
Muscle car tune up workshop at the California Automobile Museum

If you're the type of person that enjoys wrenching on classic autos, then the California Automobile Museum (CAM) has an upcoming workshop for you! This Saturday, June 11, 2011, CAM is offering a six-hour course is muscle car maintenance.

According to the event calendar, the class "teaches tune up for '60s and '70s era muscle include the cranking system, engine condition, ignition and advance, base timing, fuel system performance tests, and service tests."

untitled.bmpThe course is certain to offer plenty of helpful tips for souping up your vehicle, plus it's a great way to meet like-minded car buffs and to support your local history museum community.

The California Auto Museum is located at 2200 Front Street, Sacramento, 95818. The class takes place on Saturday, June 11, 2011 from 9am to 3pm. Tickets are $85 for non-members, $75 for members. For additional information call: (916) 442-6802 or visit the museum website at:

June 7, 2011
Learn 1850s-style gambling on the Empress Hornblower

Empress.jpg If James Bond had lived during the Gold Rush, he'd approve of "Casino Royale on the River," a leisurely cruise on the Empress Hornblower complete with dinner, dancing and 1850s-style games of chance, including Three Card Monte, Shut the Box, Faro and more.

The Historic Old Sacramento Foundation is hosting the event and all proceeds go to support its educational and interpretive programs

What: Casino Royale on the River: Where Old Sacramento Meets Monte Carlo!
Where: Aboard the Empress Hornblower, located at Old Sacramento waterfront
When: Friday evening, June 10
Time: 6-9 p.m. Empress sails promptly at 7:15 p.m.
Cost: $75 for adults; $125 for VIP tickets that include a pre-event reception at the Sacramento History Museum
For More: 916-808-7059 or

News Release

June 6, 2011
Was merchant ship the first casualty of the Pacific war?

oblivion.jpgThe California State Military Museum continues its "Meet the Author" series with a talk by Stephen Harding. Harding's book, Voyage to Oblivion, delves into the mystery of the cargo ship Cynthia Olson, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The writer attempts to answer some intriguing questions. Did the sinking of the merchant ship precede Pearl Harbor? And could have her SOS have alerted the American command to the massive attack to come?

Stephen Harding is a defense journalist who has covered conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and, most recently, Iraq. He is the author of seven books and many magazine articles focusing on military, maritime and aviation subjects.

What: Meet the Author: Stephen Harding
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St., Sacramento
When: June 8, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 854-1904 or

Event notice

June 5, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Robert Matsui

ROBERT MATSUI.JPGBorn: Sept. 17, 1941
Died: Jan. 1, 2005

Known for: For 26 years, Robert Matsui, a Sacramento native, represented the 5th Congressional District. He was a leader in improving flood protection for the area and helped pass the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

Background: During most of World War II, Matsui and his family were confined in the Tule Lake internment camp. He graduated from McClatchy High School in 1959 before earning degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Hastings College of the Law. Matsui won his Greenhaven-area City Council seat in 1971, the first Japanese American elected to the council. He was elected to Congress in 1978. Ten years later, he co-authored a bill that gave $20,000 apiece in cash reparations and an apology to surviving Japanese American internees. He was re-elected to Congress 13 times before dying of complications from a rare blood disorder.

A highlight: "It's a very emotional day for us," Matsui said when President Reagan signed the reparations bill into law. "It demonstrates that we as a nation do believe in the Constitution and the rights of individuals."

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

June 3, 2011
Juneteenth at the California State Library

It cannot be denied that African-Americans have played an important role in California's history even before the Gold Rush, in fact, preceding the American conquest. Many are familiar with the fact that William A. Leidesdorff, John A. Sutter's business associate and fellow landowner, was of mixed African and Danish ancestry, but fewer know that Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, also claimed African blood. In recognition of this heritage, the California State Library has for the last several years displayed a Juneteenth exhibit of choice California African-American items from its collection, celebrating the date in 1865 when America's last slave was freed.

08a-DAG Miner Montage.jpgThis year, the library has added something new to its Juneteenth commemoration in the shape of a daily calendar for the month of June, visible on the home page of its website. Each page highlights notable California African-American personalities, achievements, and events, from the state's first printing of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to skilled mountain scout James P. Beckwourth to the stunning, stylized art of Sargent Johnson. Included are many of California's notable Black political figures, among them Byron Rumford and Willie Brown. Also seen is heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson training in San Francisco for his bout with Al Kaufmann.

And everyone is welcome to stop by the library's rotunda at 900 N Street in Sacramento between 9:30 and 4 Monday through Friday, check out this year's Juneteenth exhibit, and marvel at the variety of items from the library's rich collection, ranging from nineteenth-century African-American school pioneer Jeremiah Burke Sanderson to the twentieth-century's Black Panther Party.ca2370 Edit.jpg


June 3, 2011
Sacramento Public Library to digitize local yearbooks

Review 1921.jpgThrough generous funding from the Sacramento Public Library Foundation, the Sacramento Public Library's Sacramento Room will begin the next phase of its ongoing scanning project this June - the digitization of 100 yearbooks from ten local schools (1902-1949). Full-text searchable yearbooks will join the 3,000 historical Sacramento-area photographs, postcards and menus already available online through the Sacramento Room Digital Collections.

The 100 yearbooks chosen for this project offer an invaluable window into nearly 50 school years at some of Sacramento's most notable institutions, including Sacramento High School, St. Joseph's Academy, San Juan Union High School and C. K. McClatchy High School. They contain portraits useful in identification; descriptions of curriculum, clubs and activities; poetry, art and articles by students; and personalized notes and drawings that make each copy unique.

Backstage Library Works will provide scanning services and the collection will be hosted through CONTENTdm digital collection management. The collection should be freely accessible online by September 2011.

PHOTO CREDIT: Front cover of the February 1921 Sacramento High School Review.  From the Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library.

June 2, 2011
A celebration of Sutter Fort's Environmental Living Program

fort.jpgUPDATE: This event has been cancelled due to expected unseasonably bad weather.

For 35 years Sutter's Fort has provided fourth graders with a direct experience of pioneer life through its Environmental Living Program. Students spend 24 hours impersonating people of 1840's California and doing their typical work and play activities, such as cooking, blacksmithing, spinning, candle dipping, covered wagon packing, square dancing and craft making.

To celebrate the program, the Fort is inviting alumni and the public to a special evening event that includes a cannon fire, pioneer dinner, Gold Rush-era live entertainment, pioneer dancing, hands-on craft activities and docent storytelling.

What: Twilight: Return to the Fort
Where: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L St., Sacramento
When: June 4
6 p.m. -- Gates open
6:15 p.m. -- Cannon fire welcome
6:30 p.m. -- Pioneer dinner
7:30 p.m. -- Music, dancing, crafts and storytelling
Cost: $35 for adults; $20 for children (under 17)
For more info: 916-445-4422 or

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: David Lubin Elementary School students ride in covered wagons from their school in East Sacramento enroute to Sutter's Fort to begin during the Environmental Living Program. 2002. Sacramento bee photograph by Andy Alfaro

June 1, 2011
Law and order focus of Old Cemetery tour

Howell.JPGIn California's early days police, firefighters and lawyers struggled to save lives, keep the peace and establish the rule of law. Docents Jane Howell and Nancy Laran tell their stories at the upcoming Sacramento Historic City Cemetery tour.

What: Police, Fire, and Legal Lore Tour
Where: Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway
Free parking across from the 10th St. Gate
When: June 4, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free, but donations appreciated
More info: 916-448-0811, 916-264-7839 or Old City Cemetery

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Jane Howell tells the story of John Corcoran during a lantern tour of the Old City Cemetery. 2006 Sacramento Bee photo by Kevin German

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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