Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

March 31, 2012
A historical Facebook Timeline for The Sacramento Bee

MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM 1927.JPGLike many businesses using Facebook, The Sacramento Bee's Fan Page went public last Friday. As Anne Gonzales reported recently, local companies are using the new format to further brand themselves and promote their products and services.

The Timeline feature in particular offers newspapers a place to show off archival material in a chronological format. The New York Times, for example, loaded its fan page with a fascinating collection of images tracking its evolution as a company and as a journalistic enterprise. It starts with the front page of the first edition of "The New-York Daily News" (Sept. 18, 1851, price 1 cent) and moving through innovations in printing, editing and distribution, and finally arriving at the Internet era.

The Bee chose to post front pages and photos reporting many of the top news events of the century. Notable among the front pages are the end of WWII in the Pacific, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the John F. Kennedy assassination, the 1927 Folsom Prison riot and the Hindenberg dirigible disaster.

The Bee's historic photos evoke major developments in local history, such as the major floods of 1955 and 1986, the opening of the K Street Mall in 1969, the 1975 attempted assassination of President Ford in Capitol Park and the loss of game seven by the Kings to the Lakers in the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals.

See other newspaper historical timelines on Facebook:
Los Angeles Times

Chicago Tribune
Miami Herald

Wall Street Journal

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium opened in 1927.

March 30, 2012
California and the Civil War exhibit

Nevada City Civil War.JPGAlthough there weren't major battles in California, the state did play a role in the American Civil War, supplying gold and volunteer soldiers to the Union side. But early on Californians were very divided in their loyalties and the state almost sided with the South in 1861.

The story of the struggle between northern and southern sympathizers is told in a new exhibit opening today at the Folsom History Museum. Displays include images of soldiers and politicians, plus period weapons and clothing.

California and the Civil War was designed by Richard Hurley and TJ Meekins, co-authors of Queen of the Nevada Mines, a historical novel set in Nevada City during the conflict. The two writers were interviewed about their research in a recent segment of the KXJZ radio program Insight.

What: California and the Civil War
Where: Folsom History Museum, 823 Sutter St., Folsom
When: March 30 thru May 13, Tuesday thru Sunday, 11 to 4 p.m.
Cost: $4 for adults, $2 for youth, children under 12 free.
For more info: 916-985-2707 or web site.

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Nevada City ACWA (American Civil War Association) Civil War Re-enactment at Pioneer Park in Nevada City 1pm. Photograph by Penny Meyer

March 29, 2012
1940 U.S. Census going online April 2

schedule-closeup-l.jpgGenealogists and historians around the world are waiting with bated breath for the release of the 1940 United States Census on Monday, April 2, 2012.  At 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time), the National Archives will open free online access to the 1940 census population schedules at  Visitors to the website will be able to search, browse or download census schedules, maps and enumeration district descriptions. 

The 1940s census is highly anticipated both because it gives researchers a more recent snapshot and because of the depth of information gathered. In addition to the usual census questions (address, name, age, occupation, etc.), the 1940 schedule includes supplemental questions like name of informant, highest grade completed, county of birth, place of residence in 1935 and income.

In anticipation of the release, the National Archives has added 1940 census forms and information to its website and has posted a short behind-the-scenes video on YouTube showing the work that went into the census project and giving tips for searching the records after April 2. 

Press release

March 29, 2012
Old Sacramento/Jamestown excursion trains ride again

Excursion Train.JPGFor the 29th consecutive year visitors to Old Sacramento can experience railroad history directly via the weekend excursion trains operated by the California State Railroad Museum.

These six-mile, 40-minute roundtrip rides along the Sacramento River are operated by knowledgeable, trained volunteers.

Tickets for the Old Sac excursion trains are available first-come, first-served starting at 10:30 a.m.

What: Weekend Excursion Train Rides
Where: Trains depart from the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot (on Front St. between J and K Sts.) in Old Sacramento
When: Weekends beginning March 31 thru Sept. 2012. Departs hourly from 11 - 5 p.m.
Cost: $10 adults; $5 youths ages 6-17; free for children ages 5 and under ($15 for first class tickets aboard the El Dorado)
For more info: 916-445-6645 or website

News Release

Over in Jamestown (Tuolumne County) volunteers at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park are also getting ready for their excursion ride season to begin this weekend.

Visitors will enjoy 40-minute, six-mile rides through the Sierra foothills pulled by vintage steam and diesel locomotives. Star of Railtown is Sierra No. 3, featured in numerous movies and television shows. Seating is limited so you're encouraged to arrive early to get tickets, which are sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m.

In addition to the train rides, the first weekend's events will include live music, tours of the Roundhouse and demonstrations of the historic, belt-driven machine shop.

What: Weekend Steam-Powered Excursion Train Rides
Where: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
When: Weekends (and Monday holidays) beginning March 31. Train rides from 11 to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free on March 31 and April 1 for Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne residents only (with proof of residency). General: $13 adults, $6 youths ages 6-17, free for children 5 and under
For more info: 209-984-3953 or website

News Release

PHOTO CREDIT: Steam-powered excursion trains are a regular feature in Old Sacramento during the summer. Courtesy California State Railroad Museum

March 28, 2012
Nathaniel S. Colley history unveiled

In October 2010, the Center for Sacramento History (CSH) received the Nathaniel S. and Jerlean J. Colley Papers. On March 22, 2012, CSH staff unveiled a finding aid to these important records, as well as an accompanying online web exhibit, and short film.

As Center for Sacramento History Interpretive Specialist Heather Downey writes, "Nathaniel Colley, affectionately known by friends and colleagues as 'Nat,' devoted himself to the improvement of his community. As one of Sacramento's earliest African American lawyers, Colley spent 50 years helping to shape the course of social reform across Sacramento, California, and the nation.

A brilliant trial attorney, Nathaniel managed a successful Sacramento law firm, paving the way for groundbreaking anti-discrimination lawsuits and arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Together with his wife, Jerlean, Nathaniel raised five children and led numerous civic organizations. His legacy lives on in this collection, comprised of awards and accolades, photographs, and the insightful speeches, letters, and articles for which Nathaniel Colley was renowned."


The Colley collection documents the legal and civic activities of Nathaniel Colley, and is primarily comprised of speeches, statements, editorials, and publications. The finding aid provides a complete description of the collection, and is available through the Center for Sacramento History's website, as is the online exhibit, "The Time is Now: The Civic Life of Sacramento's Nathaniel Colley." The short film, seen above, is also accessible through the Center for Sacramento History's Youtube page.

March 27, 2012
Old Sacramento underground tour season begins

Old Sac underground.jpgFor the third consecutive year the secrets of subterranean Sacramento will be revealed when the Underground Tours resume this Saturday.

As before, docents in period garb will take visitors to excavated foundations and enclosed pathways and explain the amazing effort that produced California's only successful street-raising project.

Participants should be prepared to walk on uneven surfaces and under low ceilings. These tours are popular, so advanced ticket purchases are recommended.

What: Old Sacramento Underground Tours
Where: Sacramento History Museum, 101 I Street in Old Sacramento
When: March 31 thru Nov. 2012. Departing every half hour 10:30 to 3 p.m. weekends thru May. (Check website for updated tour times June thru November.)
Cost: $15 for adults; $12 for Historic Old Sacramento Foundation members; $10 for children. Advance online tickets available now.
For more info: 916-808-7059 or

News Release

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Historic Old Sacramento Foundation

March 26, 2012
April Fools' Sacramento history at Central Library

April Fools.JPGApril Fools' Day celebration events are generally few and far between, but this year the Sacramento Public Library will bring together local history and the upcoming holiday in an exciting new program:

The Royal Sacramento Lyceum and Hall of Antiquities, Curiosities, Rare Tomes and Manuscripts invites you to attend an historical lecture to be given by renowned resident historians James Scott and Amanda Graham, who will speak with vivid manner upon incredible occurrences in Sacramento history. As all subjects shall contain wild fabrications, guests are encouraged to attend with friends of a trusting disposition. The lecture will be held at the Central Library at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon of April 1st.

What: April Fool's Sacramento History
When: April 1, 2012, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: Central Library (828 I Street), East Meeting Room
Cost: Free
For more info: (916) 264-2920;

March 25, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Al Geiberger

Al Geiberger.JPGBorn: Sept. 1, 1937

Known for: Al Geiberger won 11 tournaments on the PGA Tour, including the 1966 PGA Championship. He became the first golfer to break 60 in an official PGA Tour event when he shot a 59 at the Danny Thomas-Memphis Classic in 1977.

Background: Born in Red Bluff, Geiberger grew up in Sacramento, playing often at the nine-hole Land Park course from ages 5 to 15. He won the Land Park Junior Club championship before moving to Santa Barbara as a teenager. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1959 before turning professional and played on the 1967 and 1975 Ryder Cup teams. During his historic 1977 round at the Colonial Country Club, at which he earned the nickname "Mr. 59," he shot a 13-under-par round and remains the only player ever to win a tour event without shooting a round in the 60s. He shot 72-59-72-70 -- 273 (15-under par) in the event. He also won 10 tournaments on the Senior PGA Tour, now called the Champions Tour.

A highlight: Geiberger's son Brent, also a professional golfer, has won two PGA tournaments. Another son, John, is golf coach at Pepperdine University.

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.

March 23, 2012
Writings of pioneer women featured in Sierra College journal
Jessie Fremont.JPG

Snowy Range Reflections, Sierra College's journal of Sierra Nevada history and biography, observes Women's History Month with an issue devoted to Northern California pioneer women.

On the Sierra Nevada: Women Writers of the 19th Century features excerpts of memoirs, travel sketches and other writings of fourteen remarkable individuals.

Included in this collection are Jessie Benton Fremont's first impressions of the rough and ready life in Mariposa County, Caroline Churchill's sketch of Lake Tahoe as it existed in the 1870s, and Eliza Poor Donner Houghton's memory of death and survival in the fateful winter of 1846-47 at Donner Lake.

Previous editions of Snowy Range Reflections (published twice a year since 2008) may be viewed for free on the Sierra College Press web site.

News release

IMAGE CREDIT: A young Jessie Benton Fremont (wife of explorer and military leader John C. Fremont) in a portrait by T. Buchanan.

March 22, 2012
Online photo database includes vivid historic images of Sacramento

Sac view from Capitol.jpgPhotography was a new medium when the San Francisco firm of Lawrence & Houseworth began documenting the early development of Northern California and Nevada in 1852. For over 40 years the company produced hundreds of vivid landscapes, portraits and stenographs.

Many of these images were preserved by L&H in three catalog albums used for print sales. Fortunately for present-day historians digital scans are now available online in a photo database maintained by the Society of California Pioneers.

You can easily find items in the nearly 1,500-image collection via keyword searching or browsing. Browsing categories include topics, such as mining and railroads, as well as places such as Nevada and San Francisco. Sacramento is tagged on some 55 images (but note: some of these refer to Sacramento St. in San Francisco.) Included are some remarkable pictures of the city's riverfront, bridges, streets and buildings.

Founded in 1850, the Society of California Pioneers is the state's oldest historical organization. Today the group functions as "a not-for-profit museum, library, and cultural organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge and appreciation of early California history for the benefit of present and future audiences of all ages."

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento City from the new Capitol Building, looking northwest -- the Sacramento River in the distance, circa 1860-70. Lawrence & Houseworth collection. Courtesy Society of California Pioneers

March 21, 2012
Sacramento Spring Antiquarian Book Fair

2001.JPGSpring is upon us, which means that once again we can enjoy the Sacramento Spring Antiquarian Book Fair taking place on Saturday, March 24, from 9:45 AM to 5PM at the Scottish Rite Temple located at 6151 H Street. Numerous book dealers will be on hand, many of whom will feature books on Sacramento, California, and Western Americana. You will also find volumes on art, natural history, science fiction, aviation, and photographs as well as cookbooks, children's books, and varied ephemera. In addition, you can get appraisals on the rare books you already have. General admission is $5.00, but there are plenty of free admission coupons floating around if you know where to look.



For further information contact 916-849-9248,, or 2003.JPG

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March 20, 2012
There is nothing new under the sun

NN001.JPGAs one can tell by my profile, I work in the California History Section at the State Library. We recently acquired a collection pertaining to a California pioneer woman that contained non-cited newspaper clippings, so I perused the California Room's extensive collection of newspaper microfilm, focusing on 1962 and 1963, to identify these.

While my goal was successful, I was especially struck by the subject matter of other articles I came across. Kids were not learning anything in school. Right-wing extremists were attempting to hijack the Republican Party. Public employees' salaries and benefits were being blamed for our economic ills. A 12-year-old boy shot his entire family.

Fifty years later, when I hear folks complain that the world is going to hell in a hand basket as they pine away for the "good old days," I cannot help but laugh. It is indeed true that "the more things change, the more they remain the same," and this might be the most important lesson history can teach us.NN002.JPG

March 19, 2012
Sacramento's venerable Zanzibar Club revisited

ZANZIBAR MUSIC.JPGFrom 1941 to 1949 Sacramento's Zanzibar Club hosted some of the top jazz and blues musicians in the country. Its history would have been lost had not Keith Burns found a collection of memorabilia from the venerable West End night spot.

At the next Sacramento County Historical Society Awards Dinner, Burns, along with historian Clarence Caesar, will share photos and artifacts and explain the role the Zanzibar played in the local African American community.

The event includes dinner and music provided by the Sacramento swing band The Harley White Jr. Orchestra.

What: A Night at the Zanzibar
Where: Dante Club, 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento
When: March 27, 6 p.m.
Cost: $40, members of the Sacramento County Historical Society or Sacramento Old City Association. $50, general public. Reserve a spot by March 22 at Brown Bay Tickets.
For more info: William Burg, 443-6265 or website

Event flyer
2005 Bee story about the Zanzibar

PHOTO CREDIT: Zanzibar club at 6th and Capitol in Sacramento, was one of several black jazz clubs that attracted both black and white patrons in the '30s  '40s and '50s.

March 19, 2012
A brief history of Beale Air Force Base

Beale002.jpgThe California State Military Museum recently posted a compact, but detailed, history of Beale Air Force Base (known at different times as: Camp Beale, Beale Air Force Military Reservation; Camp Beale Military Reservation; Air Force Facility S-2; Marysville Armored Training Camp; Beale Triangular Division Camp; and Beale Bombing and Gunnery Range).

The facility is named for Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a prominent surveyor, rancher, explorer and military leader who supplied the U.S. government with information about California during the mid-1800s. He later became a diplomat, serving as Ambassador to Austria-Hungry.

Camp Beale was established in 1942 as a training base for the 13th Army Armored Division. The nearby mining town of Spenceville was rebuilt as a mock German Village used by Beale soldiers to learn urban combat techniques. During World War II the facility also housed a German POW camp, chemical warfare school and military hospital.

In 1948 Camp Beale became Beale Air Force Base whose initial mission was to train bombardier-navigators. In subsequent years the base was home to various commands and aircraft, such as jet trainers (T-38), strategic bombers (B-52), airborne tankers (K135) and reconnaissance planes (U2 and SR71).

Today Beale is a part of the Air Combat Command (the merger of the Strategic Air and Tactical Air Commands) which supplies air combat forces to commanders in war zones.

PHOTO CREDIT: Some 48,000 people attended an Open House at Beale Air force base on May 7, 1976. In the foreground is the Lockheed U2 and to the right is the SR71 "Blackbird" reconnaissance aircraft. Sacramento Bee photograph

March 18, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Sam Brannan

BRANNAN_SAM.JPGBorn: March 2, 1819
Died: May 14, 1889

Known for: California's first millionaire, Sam Brannan owned a store at Sutter's Fort during the Gold Rush. He was also a real estate magnate who, with John Sutter Jr., subdivided 4 square miles along the Sacramento River, selling parcels for $200-500.

Background: A Maine native, Brannan moved to Ohio and New York before embarking with other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for California via ship around Cape Horn. Brannan established himself in San Francisco before opening the Sutter's Fort store where he stocked gold-panning supplies and profited handsomely. He became a leader of a group of Mormons who staked a claim on what became Mormon Island (now covered by Folsom Lake) but was later excommunicated. During the 1850s and 1860s, he bought land throughout the state and in Hawaii. He lost most of his fortune in a divorce settlement.

A highlight: Brannan's legacy is evident at Brannan Island in the Delta, Sam Brannan Middle School in Sacramento and Brannan Street in San Francisco. He also founded the village of Calistoga.

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.

March 17, 2012
UC Davis professor to lecture on epidemiology of Donner Party disaster

JamesMargaretReed.jpgUC Davis Director and Professor Stephen A. McCurdy, MD, MPH, will present his research on the epidemiology of the Donner Party disaster at the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society on March 21. Dr. McCurdy previously explored this topic in an article for the Western Journal of Medicine, and continues to use the Donner Party experience in discussions with medical students about statistics and epidemiology,

The Donner Party remains an indelible part of California's history. The party, eventually comprised of 90 individuals, approximately half of whom died by journey's end. Yet the force of mortality did not act equally on all in the group. Dr. McCurdy will address risk factors and lessons that are still relevant today.

What: Epidemiology of Disaster: The Donner Party
When: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (5380 Elvas Ave., Sacramento)
Cost: Free
For more info: (916) 452-2671

IMAGE CREDIT: [James F. and Margaret Reed, Donner Party survivors], undated; Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

March 16, 2012
Illuminated Manuscripts at the State Library

1005.JPGIlluminated manuscripts are hand-written manuscripts whose texts are embellished with elaborate decoration. The purest definition of this term involves illustration done in gold or silver, but it has expanded to include other handwritten texts accompanied by decorative design. This is a primarily Western tradition (although similar styles existed in the Far Eastern and Islamic worlds and are usually referred to by different names) and dates back to late Antiquity, when illuminated manuscripts were responsible for preserving much Greek and Roman literature that might otherwise have been lost. The majority of the surviving illuminated manuscripts date from the middle ages and are primarily religious in nature. This tradition lasted into the Renaissance as well.    


During the mid 19th century, artists became interested in imitating the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Now on display in a new exhibit-Illumination and Color Printing During the Victorian Era-in the State Library's first floor gallery are several rare examples from this Gothic Revival era in which artists decorated manuscripts with gold, silver, and other bright colors produced from semi-precious stones. With the introduction of chromolithography or printing in color, publishers could produce in quantity spectacular reproductions of this attractive form of page decoration made to look like the page leaves created by the monks and scribes of the 10th - 14th centuries.  In addition, Illumination and Color Printing During the Victorian Era includes books ranging from a late Middle Ages Horae or Book of Hours to the spectacular Arion Press 2000 Millennium Bible with original illuminated initials created by noted calligrapher Thomas Ingmire of San Francisco, as well as examples of books actually bound in papier mâché and made to look like carved wooden bindings from the Middle Ages. Illumination and Color Printing During the Victorian Era will be on exhibit until April 30.


In conjunction with this exhibit, this month's A Night at the California State Library program will feature "Illuminated Manuscripts" with internationally known antiquarian bookseller John Windle. Windle specializes in illuminated manuscripts, early and fine printings, and illustrated books. He will be discussing the history and making of illuminated manuscripts, and the State Library's History Librarian Emeritus, Gary F. Kurutz, will present rare pieces from the California State Library's collection and the stories behind them. A Night at the California State Library will take place Wednesday, March 21. The doors open at 5PM, and the presentation begins at 6PM. The State Library is located at 900 N Street in Sacramento. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to Rebecca Ann Fontaine at or 916-653-9942. Light refreshments are generously sponsored by the California State Library Foundation.1007.JPG
March 16, 2012
New Arcadia volume examines Lake Tahoe's western shore
Tahoe West Shore.jpg

This week Arcadia released its latest illustrated book on the history of Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe's West Shore traces the evolution of the "Jewel of the Sierra" from its European discovery in 1844 through its development into one of the world's prime vacation spot.

Author Carol A. Jensen utilized beautiful images borrowed from private collections and archives, such as the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, the Tahoe Yacht Club, and the California State Library.

Arcadia Publishing is 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 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

Lake Tahoe's West Shore (Images of America), 128 pages, price $21.99.

March 15, 2012
Women Win the Vote! presentation at Arden-Dimick Library

Suffrage Campaigns in Calif.JPGIn honor of Women's History Month, local historian Carolyn Martin will visit the Arden-Dimick Library on March 21 and discuss the story of women's suffrage through stories and pictures. Dressed in period costume, Ms. Martin will share how a daring campaign in California ignited a national movement, resulting in full voting rights for American women in 1920.

What: Women Win the Vote!
When: March 21, 2012, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Arden-Dimick Library (891 Watt Ave., Sacramento)
Cost: Free
For more info: (916) 264-2920;

IMAGE CREDIT: San Francisco Call, July 4, 1909, pg. 5.

March 14, 2012
Dinner celebrates the Fiddletown Schoolhouse Sesquicentennial

The 150th anniversary of the construction of the old Fiddletown School will be celebrated in Amador City with a festive dinner and silent auction.

The 1862 schoolhouse replaced an earlier building destroyed by fire. It served Fiddletown's children until 1955 when it closed and the classes were moved to Plymouth. Historic restoration began in 1964 and since then several major repairs have been accomplished by the Fiddletown Preservation Society. Currently the schoolhouse's entire foundation will have to be renovated.

The dinner next Thursday will benefit the ongoing effort to restore the Fiddletown School. If you can't attend but want to help out, you can send a tax-deductible donation to the Fiddletown Schoolhouse Restoration Fund, PO Box 53, Fiddletown, CA 95629.

What: Fiddletown Schoolhouse Sesquicentennial Celebration
Where: Imperial Hotel, 14202 Old Highway 49, Amador City
When: March 22, 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $50 per person. Proceeds benefit the restoration of the original Fiddletown/Oleta Schoolhouse. Reservations for the dinner are required by March 17. RSVP with an entree selection to or by calling (209) 245-6999.
For more info: Elizabeth Squire, (209) 245-6999

News release

March 14, 2012
Sacramento's West End

WestEnd1.jpgSacramento's old West End is the subject of a new featured historic photograph collection in the Sacramento Public Library's website. The West End extended from the waterfront to about 7th St. between I and L. This was Sacramento's original business district during the eventful days of the Gold Rush. Names hallowed in California history such as Mills, Brannan, and Sutter were associated with the area and its buildings. In fact, "The Big Four" -- Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker -- planned the Central Pacific Railroad in this very neighborhood. The West End was truly the heart of Sacramento, but by 1950 the area, exacerbated by waves of foreign and domestic immigrants drawn to the city by World War II employment, had become an overcrowded slum, sometimes described as the worst skid row west of Chicago. During the late 1950s and early 1960s most of the West End was razed and redeveloped, although a two-block-wide sliver adjoining the waterfront survives today as Old Sacramento.

A look at the photos presented in this online exhibit provides valuable insight into the problems facing downtown today. They were taken about 1960 when the bulldozing of the West End had barely gotten underway, and show a neighborhood whose architectural integrity was mostly intact. Several historic hotels, among them the Western, the Golden Eagle, and the Dawson House, still existed along with the 1852 D. O. Mills Bank, the "Big Four" building, and others. The structures were certainly rundown but could have been rehabilitated. Indeed, The Bee warned in 1958 that Sacramento had been given an unparalleled opportunity to create a historic district which would rival that of New Orleans.

But it was not to be. Redevelopment was all the rage nationwide, with its associated "out with the old and in with the new" philosophy characteristic of the postwar era. Sacramento's answer to its downtown's ills was to build a shopping mall replacing the old retail districts on J, K, and L streets, which would presumably bring back the old customers who had fled to the suburbs. The anchor tenant of this development, Macy's, insisted that it would not build in downtown Sacramento unless a freeway offramp was located conveniently nearby, meaning that Interstate Highway 5 was built east of the river rather than west. Fortunately, the freeway took a swing east to preserve Old Sacramento rather than barrel straight along the river and cut the city off from its waterfront.

WestEnd2.jpgSo what do we have today? A rebuilt but half-empty shopping mall located in the middle of a moribund downtown that no one seems to really know what to do with. Sacramento could have possessed a world-class tourist attraction, but chose instead to follow the call of "progress." Old Sacramento does an admirable job of contextualizing its old buildings and sites, but the entire old downtown could have more effectively presented the history and culture of Sacramento and California (as well as that of the varied ethnic communities that resided within the West End).

Take a look at these photos and their accompanying captions at (the upper photo presented here shows the old D. O. Mills Bank building at 226 J Street with a redevelopment project sign attached, while the lower image shows the old Merchant's Exchange Hotel at 114-120 I Street). Then visit Old Sacramento to enjoy what we have left, and imagine what might have been.

March 13, 2012
Aviation history talks at the Military Museum

forgotten_aviator_medium.jpg150219652_medium.jpgThe next Meet the Author lecture at the California State Military Museum is a doubleheader featuring two aviation history experts.

Barry S. Martin, author Forgotten Aviator, will speak on Royal Leonard, the pioneering airman whose career spanned early racing, barnstorming and mail delivery through World War II when he fought with the "Flying Tigers" in China. James Franklin Grey, author of Vanishing Contrails, a memoir of his 22 years in the Air Force which included flying missions over war-torn Europe and piloting the B-29.

What: Meet the Authors: Barry S. Martin and James Franklin Grey
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St., Old Sacramento
When: March 17, 1 p.m. (Martin) and 3 p.m. (Grey)
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 854-1904 or email

March 13, 2012
Pioneer women's role celebrated at Sutter's Fort

Sutter's Fort woman.JPGSutter's Fort observes Women's History Month with a "Hands on History" program giving visitors are real taste of frontier life with stories, demonstrations and do-it-yourself activities.

You'll learn some of the many tasks frontier women did in the mid-1800s: baking, churning butter, preparing large meals and cooking with ironware. Kids will have the chance to write on a slate, have penmanship lessons, read from a 19th century primer and participate in a fun "History Hunt."

What: Hands on History: The Role of Women on the Frontier
Where: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L St., Sacramento
When: Saturday, March 17. Fort hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cannon firing demonstrations: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. Musket demonstrations periodically throughout the day.
Cost: $7.00 per adult (18 and older), $5.00 per youth (ages 6-17), free for children 5 years and under.
For more info: Call 916-445-4422 or visit the web site

News release

Speaking of Sutter's Fort, Sacramento's Hometown Tourist Blog recently visited the historic site and wrote up the experience in a detailed posting accompanied by some nice photos. The Blog is written by three local women who explore the city as "local tourists."

PHOTO CREDIT: Wendy Rosell demonstrates "women's work" at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park during Women of the Fort Living History Day in 2007. Courtesy Benjamin Fenkell

March 12, 2012
Social media as a genealogy tool

In this Internet age genealogists have begun using social media to find information they can't get from the usual print and online sources.

At the next Root Cellar membership meeting guest speaker Lorenzo Cuesta will share tips on using sites like Facebook and Twitter for family history research. He'll site examples of valuable information found on social media and explain how to get started with these tools.

What: "Expand Your Genealogical Findings with a Facebook Group" with Lorenzo Cuesta
Where: Citrus Heights Community Clubhouse 6921 Sylvan Rd.
When: March 14, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: free, non-members welcome
For more info: contact Sandi Benward, 916-412-351.

March 11, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Jesse Unruh

UNRUH_JESSE.JPGBorn: Sept. 30, 1922
Died: Aug. 4, 1987

Known for: Called "one of California's most influential public officials in the 20th century," Jesse Unruh served as Assembly speaker from 1961 to 1969 and state treasurer from 1975 until his death.

Background: A Kansas native, Unruh hitchhiked to California as a teenager. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Unruh enrolled at the University of Southern California. While still a student, he ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 1948. After graduating, he established himself as a grass-roots leader in the Democratic Party. On his third try, in 1954, Unruh won a legislative seat and quickly worked his way up through the ranks. In 1966, Unruh was a key architect of Proposition 1-A, creating the state's full-time Legislature. He unsuccessfully ran for governor against Ronald Reagan in 1970 and for mayor of Los Angeles in 1973.

Highlights: Unruh wrote California's landmark Civil Rights Act and a host of consumer protection, civil liberties and anti-poverty laws. He also turned the obscure state treasurer's office into an investment powerhouse with clout in both the state and nation.

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.

March 9, 2012
What's cooking?

1004.JPGOnce again a new month has arrived, and the theme for the March book display in the California History Section at the State Library is "What's cooking? -- California cookbooks."

The California Section staff has selected a variety of cookbooks which explore the tremendous diversity of cooking styles in California, reflecting the state's extraordinary mix of ethnic cultures, its often innovative cooking styles, and the history of changes in its cuisine (among the books on display is one of my own favorites, Recipes from the Russians of San Francisco, featuring many of the scrumptious delights that came from my great-grandmother's kitchen when I was a youngster).

1002.JPGThe books are displayed on the shelves across from the lockers in Room 200 at 900 N Street, and come from both the California Section's circulating and non-circulating collections--so drop on by weekdays between 9:30 and 4:00 and have a look!

March 9, 2012
Pearl Harbor survivor to speak at Sierra College

Arizona.jpgNevada City resident Louis Conter was a 20-year-old quartermaster on the USS Arizona when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was one of only 334 of 1,511 crew members who survived that day. Later he became a Navy pilot serving with a PBY Catalina flying boat squadron during the war.

A renowned keynote speaker, veteran's advocate and education philanthropist, Conter will discuss his WWII experiences next Wednesday at Sierra College.

What: Louis Conter, Pearl Harbor Survivor
Where: Sierra College NCC Campus N12 Multi Purpose Center (Multipurpose Center), 250 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley
When: March 14, 7 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $5 general, $3 seniors and students - suggested donation
For more info: 916-660-7202 or web site

PHOTO CREDIT: Smoke and flames rise from the USS Arizona during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, shown in this AP/U.S. Navy photo.

March 8, 2012
Tour of historic McClatchy Library's second floor

McClatchy Childrens Room.jpgOn March 10, the Friends of the McClatchy Library will open up the historic building's second floor for a special behind-the-scenes tour. Guides will share the history of the floor as well as plans for its preservation and future use. Registration is required at the circulation desk and space is limited.

The McClatchy Library building was designed by Northern California architect Rudolph Adam Herold in the early 1900s for Charles and Ella McClatchy and their family. The house became a library in 1940 after Eleanor McClatchy and Charlotte Maloney presented it to the City of Sacramento as a memorial to their mother. In its early years, the library was devoted to Sacramento's young people, though for the last 60 years, it has served all ages. 

What: Tour of McClatchy Library Second Floor
When: March 10, 2012, 10:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.
Where: Ella K. McClatchy Library (2112 22nd Street, Sacramento)
Cost: Free; Sign up at circulation desk
For more info: (916) 264-2920;

IMAGE CREDIT: Ella K. McClatchy Young People's Library, Children's Room on 2nd floor made from one bedroom and sleeping porch, ca. 1945. From the Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library.

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March 8, 2012
Enter your family's story in the Root Cellar writing contest

family tree.JPGRoot Cellar, the Sacramento Genealogical Society is seeking entries for this year's Family History Writing Contest.

The group is looking for "factual articles about family or local history, character sketches, or memoirs," relating "the experiences of a family or individuals, revealing their character and personality." Entries should be between 500 and 2,000 words in length.

Contest prizes include a "six month membership to's World Edition, Family Tree Maker 2012 software, year's membership to Fold3, admissions to Root Cellar's seminar and society memberships."

You don't have to be a member of the Society to participate.

What: 2012 Family History Writing Contest
Who: Root Cellar, the Sacramento Genealogical Society
When: Aug. 1, deadline for submissions; Oct. 1, winners notified.
Cost: free
For more info: Contact the Preserves Editor or see web site.

Contest brochure

PHOTO CREDIT: Library volunteer Bernard Marks shows the family tree of his wife, Eleanor J. Marks to patrons at the Sacramento Public Library. 2010 Sacramento Bee photograph by Autumn Cruz

March 7, 2012
Congratulations to the Sacramento County History Day qualifiers
Thumbnail image for FLU PROJECT.JPG

National History Day is a year-long competition in the area of historical research, writing and analysis (sort of history's equivalent of a science fair for primary and secondary school students around the country). Contestants who qualify at the regional level go on to compete at state gatherings where winners are chosen for the national competition.

This year's NHD theme is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History. Students choose a related event from local, state, national or world history and present their research in one of six formats: 2-D display, documentary video, exhibit, paper, performance or website.

The first leg of the 2012 competition, Sacramento County History Day, was completed last Saturday at Rosemont High School. Regional entries ranged from California's Proposition 98 to the Treaty of Versailles, from the Black Death to Walt Disney. Students who qualified at this level have the opportunity to attend California History Day, scheduled for April 27-29 in Riverside.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in Sacramento History Day!

Complete list of the 2012 Sacramento County History Day Qualifiers
Videos of the 2012 Documentaries
Photos of the 2012 competition events

PHOTO CREDIT: Ashleen Kishore, left, Nazeela Sabir and Khanh Nguyen of Valley High won 2nd place ("The Flu Kills 20 Million") in the Senior Group Exhibit at the National History Day competition in Washington D.C. in 2007. Sacramento Bee photograph by Michael Allen Jones.

March 7, 2012
Bay Area TV archive is a portal to the past

RFK in Sac.JPGThere's nothing like old broadcast recordings to conjure up historical moments. So we're fortunate to have the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, a collection of "over 4000 hours of newsfilm, documentaries and other programs produced locally in the Bay Area and Northern California between 1939-2005." Founded in 1982, the TV archive is maintained by the Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.

The recordings document important local events and feature a variety of activists, politicians, entertainers and other celebrities, such as Joan Baez, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Unruh, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ken Kesey, George Moscone, and many more. About four percent of the footage (about 200 hours) have been digitized and is viewable for free on Archives website. Eventually the entire collection will be accessible online.

You can browse or search the whole collection by keyword and date. And you can also watch videos from the already-digitized online collections.

Among the 16 Sacramento-related videos that are online:

* News report on Robert Kennedy's campaign stop at the Sacramento Municipal Airport. May 16, 1968
* News report on the United Farm Workers protest in Sacramento. April 10, 1966.
* Interview with Gov. Ronald Reagan. Jan. 16, 1969.
* Press conference with Secretary of State Jerry Brown. April 9, 1970.

IMAGE CREDIT: Robert Kennedy shakes hands with well-wishers at the Sacramento Municipal Airport. From the May 16, 1968 news report by CBS5 KPIX-TV.

March 6, 2012
African American genealogy seminar

Family History.JPGBeginning, intermediate and advanced classes on African American family genealogy will be offered at a day-long seminar this Saturday. The workshops cover everything from using basic research tools to writing your family's history.

Keynote speaker is writer-reseacher Antoinette Broussard, author of books and articles on black history, biography and culture. Her topic is "The Militant Matron: Dr. Nettie J. Craig Asberry," an early civil rights leader in Washington State.

What: Seventh Annual African American Family History Seminar
Where: LDS Family History Center, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento
When: March 10, 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
Cost: $20 (includes materials and workshop; optional lunch is $6.50).
For more info: 916-487-2090

Event flyer and workshop schedule

PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth W. Stephens, left, 73, of Elk Grove and Hester McCoy Snider, 82, of Rocklin attends the 4th Annual Family History Seminar at the Sacramento Family History Center. 2009 Sacramento Bee photography by Michael Allen Jones

March 5, 2012
Sacramento One Book chooses two books on the U.S. Constitution

Penguin Guide.jpgThe Sacramento Public Library is going for broke this year with its Sacramento One Book program, celebrating two books rather than one, according to director Rivkah Sass.

Appropriately for an election year, the library's main book choice is "The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution" by constitutional scholar Richard Beeman (Penguin, $12, 224 pages), Sass announced.

"The book is set in a small colony where a group of terrorists is plotting the overthrow of a king," Sass joked about the guide to the making of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. "Much like the characters in the movie 'Oceans 11,' each has a special skill."

The library's "companion" selection, "Constitution Cafe," is by educator Christopher Phillips (W.W. Norton, $24.95, 321 pages).

"The Penguin Guide" is described as "a marvel of accessibility and what every American should have: a compact, fully annotated copy of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution and amendments." Visit Beeman at

Publishers Weekly magazine writes of "Constitution Cafe": "In an era of hyper-partisanship, it's refreshing to read instances of Americans from all political persuasions holding rational and respectful conversations with one another." Visit Phillips at

California Reads: Sacramento One Book asks everyone in our community to read the same book and participate in events online and at library branches, schools and other venues. Programs will be tailored to adults, teens and children, and will include hands-on activities, films, music, writing projects, and group readings and discussions. The program is on track to start in mid-September and run through October.

For other information, call (916) 264-2920 or visit

-- Allen Pierleoni

March 5, 2012
New photo exhibit celebrates steam railroading

Thumbnail image for Steam rail book.jpgThis Saturday the California State Railroad Museum will debut a new exhibit based on the illustrated book Steam: An Enduring Legacy, the Railroad Photographs of Joel Jensen. Fifty dramatic black-and-white images selected from the volume celebrate the era of steam locomotives, which ended around 1960.

In addition to the exhibit, Joel Jensen will appear at the Museum this Sunday for two special presentations and book signings.

What: Steam: An Enduring Legacy, the Railroad Photographs of Joel Jensen - Exhibit & Presentation/Book Signing Opportunity
Where: California State Railroad Museum, Old Sacramento State Historic Park
When: Exhibit - March 9 thru July 29, 2012. Presentation/Book Signing - March 11, 2012 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Cost: $9 adults, $4 youths ages 6-17, free for children ages 5 and under (regular Museum admission)
For more info: 916-445-6645 or visit the California State Railroad Museum.

News Release

March 4, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Carlos Alazraqui

Carlos Alazraqui.JPGBorn: July 20, 1962

Known for: A Sacramento native, Carlos Alazraqui is a comedian and actor best known for his voice work in movies and television, including the Chihuahua in the "(degrees)Yo quiero Taco Bell!" advertisements.

Background: Alazraqui was born in Sacramento, moved to Concord at an early age but returned to graduate from California State University, Sacramento. He then embarked on a career as a comedian and began competing in Sacramento at open-mike nights. Four years later, he won the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. His big break came in 1995 when he became the voice pitchman for Taco Bell. His catch phrase, Spanish for "I want Taco Bell!" became a pop culture flash point. He then lent his voice to an array of television programs, including "Rocko's Modern Life" on Nickleodeon, and movies, including "Happy Feet."

A highlight: Since 2003, Alazraqui has portrayed Deputy James Oswaldo Garcia in the Comedy Central TV show "Reno 911!" In February, the show was spun off into a movie, "Reno 911: Miami!"

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.

March 2, 2012
See 'Cars of the Stars' at Auto Museum exhibit

JamesDean.bmpThe black Mercury coupe James Dean drove in Rebel Without a Cause and Erik Estrada 's motorcycle from CHiPs and other famous vehicles from film and television are part of the new California Automobile Museum exhibition "Cars of the Stars."

The exhibit runs through March 31, The "Rebel" car, on loan from Reno's National Auto Museum, has been at the Sacramento museum since the fall.

The museum at 2200 Front Street is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admission 5 p.m.) every day. Admission is $8 adults, $7 seniors 65 and older, $4 students. Children 4 and younger are free.

For information, call (916) 442-6802 or visit the museum site.

-- Carla Meyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy California Automobile Museum

March 2, 2012
A documentary about Charles and Ray Eames

Eames061.jpgAlthough Charles and Ray Eames are best known for their distinctive Mid-Century furniture designs, the couple also made important contributions to art, architecture, photography and film.

Thumbnail image for Eames chair.JPGA new documentary on their extraordinary careers will be shown at the Crest Theater as a benefit for The California Museum which will use the proceeds to create an exhibit this fall to commemorate the 100th birthday of artist and Sacramento native Ray Eames.

Following the screening there will be a special presentation by director Jason Cohn and Llisa Demetrios of the Eames Foundation. Cohn will be interviewed about the film during Monday's Insight radio program on KXJZ.

What: "Eames: The Architect and The Painter" screening at Crest Theater, a benefit for The California Museum
Where: Crest Theater, 1013 K St., Sacramento
When: March 6, 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Cost: $15. Advance tickets on sale at the Crest Box Office, by phone at 916-442-7378 or online at
For more info: The California Museum

Event flyer

P.S. The Eames documentary is available on the Netflix Instant Streaming service.

PHOTO CREDIT: (right) Former Sacramentan Ray Eames and her husband, Charles. 1975 Sacramento Bee file photograph. Charles Eames designed this fiberglass-shell armchair with rockers in the 1950s. Cowles Syndicate Inc.

March 1, 2012
Roots Cellar debuts its web site redesign

Last week Root Cellar, the Sacramento Genealogical Society, launched a redesigned, easier-to-navigate web site. Check it out. It's loaded with useful information and links for the family historian.

There's a calendar of upcoming meetings and classes, an online catalog for the group's Library and a helpful bibliography of essential genealogical resources on the Internet.

March 1, 2012
Library of Congress historical maps online

California_1650.jpgThe Library of Congress digital collections represent a broad sampling of the institution's vast physical holdings. They include newspapers, photographs, films, audio recordings, and an impressive collection of U.S. maps from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division which date from the discovery and exploration of the nation and cover a wide range of topics.

Among the Library of Congress online collection includes many maps that would be of particular interest to researchers of Sacramento and California history. The collection is broken down into six categories: Cities and Towns, Cultural Landscapes, Conservation and Environment, Military Battles and Campaigns, Discovery and Exploration, and Transportation and Communication.  Highlights include a ca. 1650 pen-and-ink and watercolor map of California shown as an island, detailed bird's-eye sketches of dozens of California cities (1850s-1900s), and railroad maps showing transcontinental and California lines.

Maps can be searched by topic, date, location, creator or title, and almost all are free of copyright restrictions. All of the online Library of Congress geography and map collections are available at

IMAGE CREDIT: [Map of California shown as an island], Joan Vinckeboons, ca. 1650. Henry Harrisse collection ; v. 2, map 10. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.

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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