Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

October 30, 2012
New book chronicles the adventures of the real Tom Sawyer in San Francisco

Black Fire cover.JPGAlthough historians aren't certain whether Samuel Clemens used his name for the hero of his 1976 novel, the humorist did know a real-life Tom Sawyer in San Francisco in the early 1860s.

Sawyer's was a hard-living firefighter who battle blazes for a volunteer company and helped crack the case of the notorious "Lightkeeper," the notorious arsonist who set six devastating fires in the city during an 18-month period.

Sawyer's heroic exploits and friendship with Twain are told in a new book by Robert Graysmith, Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco. The bestselling writer of true crime books (including Zodiac) Graysmith gathered an impressive amount of historical documents (police reports, newspaper interviews, etc.) to chronicle the fireman's life in the context of the corrupt and violent world of Gold Rush-era San Francisco.

Graysmith also wrote a profile of Tom Sawyer for the October issue of Smithsonian magazine.

October 29, 2012
Learn the tools and techniques of genealogy at the Family History Seminar

MAJ AFRICAN HISTORY.JPGGenealogical novices, experts and everybody in between will find useful training at the next Family History Seminar this Saturday. Participants will be able to attend five of 35 classes covering a range of tools and techniques, including DNA testing, document preservation, newspaper research, vital records, maiden names, German and Eastern European ancestry, military records and much more.

On-site registration is available, but space is limited so pre-registration is encouraged.

What: 7th Annual Family History Seminar
Where: Sacramento Regional Family History Center, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento
When: Nov. 3, 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. On-site registration starts at 7:45 a.m.
Cost: pre-registration and electronic syllabus $10; paper syllabus $10; lunch $ 6.50
For more info: (916) 487-2090 or website

Class schedule
Registration form

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

October 29, 2012
See California Indian basket weaving

SIM Basket Weaving.JPGThis Saturday the State Indian Museum will host a day-long set of basket-weaving demonstrations reflecting a variety of traditional materials, techniques and designs. Guest weavers include Bertha Mitchel, Wintun, Dixie Rogers, Karuk, Jennifer Bates, Miwok, Ardith Read, Yosemite Tuolumne MeWuk, Diana Almandariz, Wintun/Maidu, and others to be announced.

What: California Indian Basket Weaving Demonstrations
Where: California State Indian Museum, 2618 K St., Sacramento
When: 11 to 4 p.m.
Cost: adults $3, children (ages 6-17) $2, children (ages 0-5) free
For more info: (916) 324-8112 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: Basket weaving demonstration at the State Indian Museum. Courtesy California State Indian Museum

October 28, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Jim Breech

Jim Breech.JPGBorn: April 11, 1956

Known for: Sacramento native Jim Breech played 14 years in the National Football League as a kicker, and is the Cincinnati Bengals' all-time leading scorer.

Background: Breech played at Sacramento High School, graduating in 1974. He landed a spot in the Optimist All-Star Game after another player was drafted by a major league baseball team. Breech accepted a scholarship to UC Berkeley, where he played for four seasons. He broke into the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in 1979, then played the next 13 seasons with the Bengals, twice playing in the Super Bowl (1982 and 1989). However, the Bengals lost both times to the San Francisco 49ers. In the second game, Breech kicked three field goals, the last from 40 yards with 3:20 remaining to give Cincinnati a 16-13 lead, but they lost 20-16 when Joe Montana capped a 92-yard drive with a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left. For his Bengals career, Breech totaled 1,151 points.

A highlight: Breech was 9 for 9 in career overtime field goals and didn't miss a field goal or extra point in two Super Bowls. He was elected to the Cal Hall of Fame in 1999.

-- Anthony Sorci

October 24, 2012
Quilts exhibit tour and reception at Sac State

Four Eagles Quilt.JPGSac State's Department of Special Collections and University Archives will host an exhibit tour and reception for Piecing the Past Together: Nineteenth Century Quilts on Sunday, October 28. The exhibit showcases beautiful quilting pieces from the collection of Chris and Carol Gebel which are on display from September 7 through December 20.  Carol Gebel, a local collector and the University's former library services specialist, chose examples from her collection that illustrate the evolving history of the quilt.  Piecing the Past Together is part of a double exhibit on quilts at the University. The Artistry of the Traditional Quilt exhibit runs concurrently in the Library Gallery Annex.

What: Piecing the Past Together: Nineteenth Century Quilts exhibit tour and reception
When: Sunday, October 28, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Where: The University Library, Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), Sacramento State University, 6000 J Street
For more info: 916-278-6144

PHOTO CREDIT: "Four Eagles," ca. 1875, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Julie Thomas.

October 24, 2012
The creepier side of the Governor's Mansion

Governor's Mansion.JPGHalloween continues to haunt Sacramento's museums and historic sites. This weekend dark decor and scary music will set the holiday mood at the Governor's Mansion during its "After Dark" tours.

Storytellers will share tales of past governors and fortune tellers will predict your fate. Costumed guides will lead guests through the creepier parts of the building -- including darkened rooms and "coffin corners."

Proceeds go to help support of the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park.

What: The Mansion After Dark
Where: Governor's Mansion State Historic Park, 1526 H Street in Sacramento
When: Oct. 26 & 27, 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $6 for adults, $4 for youth ages 6-17 and free for children 5 and under
For more info: 916-323-5916 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: California Governor's Mansion. 2012 Sacramento bee photograph by Hector Amezcua

October 23, 2012
Do ghosts haunt Sutter's Fort?

SF Haunted Fort Doctor.jpgSutter's Fort gets in the Halloween spirit next weekend with evening programs designed to reveal the eerier side of Sacramento's oldest structure.

Docents in period costumes will lead visitors on 45-minute walking tours of various darkened rooms (which some believe are still haunted by past inhabitants). They'll also tell stories of how some early pioneers perished in creepy and melancholy ways.

What: 3rd Annual Haunted Fort
Where: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L Street, Midtown, Sacramento
When: Oct. 26 & 27, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $8 per adult, $6 for youth ages 6-17 and free for children 5 years and under
For more info: 916-323-7626 or website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

October 22, 2012
K Street's evolution discussed at book talk

Thumbnail image for K St book.jpgLocal historian and preservationist William Burg will discuss his new book Sacramento's K Street: Where Our City Was Born tomorrow evening at the California State Archives.

From the very beginning, Burg has written, K Street has mirrored Sacramento's commercial development. In this volume he traces the street's evolution from Gold Rush storefront, through its Golden Age as a retail and entertainment powerhouse, up to current efforts to revive downtown's prominence.

Copies of Sacramento's K Street will be available for purchase and signing at this meeting.

What: William Burg -- K Street: Where Our City Was Born
Where: California State Archives, 1020 O St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: SCHS website

October 22, 2012
New film showcases West Coast Modernist architecture

Coast Modern image.JPGAs part of the Sacramento Architecture Festival, the American Institute of Architecture Central Valley Chapter are sponsoring the local screening of Coast Modern, a 2012 documentary that celebrates the Modernist Architecture that graces the West Coast from Southern California to British Columbia.

The filmmakers profile renowned architects who pioneered the style, including Henrik Bull and Pierluigi Serraino who will appear in person at the Crocker to discuss their work after the showing.

Space is limited and advance ticket sales are recommended.

What: Documentary film Coast Modern
Where: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St. Sacramento
When: Oct. 25, 7 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Members $8; college students & youth (ages 0-17) $12; nonmembers $14
For more info: (916) 808-1182

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Twofold Films

October 21, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Rev. Dan Madigan

Dan Madigan.JPGBorn: March 9, 1938

Known for: The Rev. Dan Madigan, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Clarksburg, founded the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) and helped run the program for 30 years.

Background: Madigan was born in Limerick County, Ireland. He attended high school and seminary in that country. He was ordained in June 1964 for the Diocese of Sacramento and ministered in Del Paso Heights. He was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in east Sacramento in 1972. Four years later, he was appointed to Immaculate Conception Church in Oak Park, where he started the food bank. In 1987, the operations moved to the site of the old Arata Bros. grocery store at 34th Street and Third Avenue. By working 17-hour days, Madigan grew it into one of Sacramento's largest nonprofits, raising $7.3 million in 2005 and ministering to thousands every year. The enterprise has grown to feature more than a dozen services, including a clothes closet, child services and a computer clubhouse.

A highlight: Thursday's Run to Feed the Hungry, which benefits the SFBFS, has grown every year since it debuted in 1994. Last year's event raised more than $500,000.

-- Anthony Sorci

October 19, 2012
Library's haunted history tour returns

Haunted Stacks.jpgHaunted Stacks, the Central Library's annual spooky movie screening and haunted library tour, will be returning for its third year on Friday, October 26.  The library will screen a classic scary flick in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria from 7-9 p.m., and take participants on "haunted" tours of the Sacramento Room in the old Carnegie library while the film is playing.  Decorations and undead characters will transport tour-goers back to 1900.  Among the ghosts haunting the old library will be the first Sacramento City Librarian, Caroline G. Hancock, and Adelbert B. C. Devendorf, a Civil War veteran who was a victim of accidental poisoning by strychnine, taken legitimately for chills.  The program will contain some thrills and chills and is recommended for ages 10 and up.

What: Haunted Stacks
When: Friday, October 26, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento
Cost: Free; No advance registration is required, but tour space is limited - guests are encouraged to arrive by 7 p.m. to sign up.
For more info:; (916) 264-2920

October 17, 2012
Williams history surveyed in new Arcadia volume

williams book.jpgA new Arcadia photo book documents the history of the Colusa County town of Williams, established in 1874 as the village of Central (later renamed for W.H. Williams who laid out the townsite). Author Patricia Ash filled the volume with 200 black-and-white photos gleaned from the Sacramento Valley Museum and private family collections.

Ash, a fourth-generation Williams resident, writes a local history column for the Williams Pioneer-Review.

Williams (Images of America), 128 pages, $21.99.

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly 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.

October 16, 2012
Lecture celebrates contributions of Jews in the West
Levi Strauss.JPG

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis will present a lecture on the Jewish experience in the West by Marc Dollinger, professor of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University.

Prof. Dollinger is author of Quest for Inclusion, Religion as a Public Good: Jews and Other Americans on Religion in the Public Square and Jewish San Francisco as well as co-editor of California Jews.

What: Jews of the West, with Marc Dollinger, Ph.D.
Where: Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Rd., Davis
When: Oct. 21, 3 to 5 p.m.
Cost: free and open to the public
For more info: email Steve Cohen or call 530-753-2197

PHOTO CREDIT: Levi Strauss, who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans in San Francisco in 1853. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co.

October 15, 2012
The roots of California country-western music explored in film
Open Country.jpg

The Crocker Art Museum and the Center for Sacramento History have teamed up to host a preview of Open Country, a documentary that explores the roots of California country-western music via archival footage and interviews with folklorists, historians and fans. Filmmakers and UCD professors Jesse and Glenda Drew will be on hand to discuss their research.

Live "high powered hillbilly and honky tonk music" will be performed by northern California band The Alkalai Flats.

A limited number of seats will be on sale the day of the event. Advance tickets may be purchased online. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Sacramento History Foundation.

What: Live Cinema Presentation: Open Country Preview and the Alkali Flats Performance
Where: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 18, 7 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $6 Members, $10 College students and youth 17 and under, $12 nonmembers. Purchase tickets online or call 916-808-1182.
For more info: 916-808-7000 or website

October 15, 2012
New Capitol exhibit features Depression-era public art

WPA mural.jpgDebuting today at the State Capitol is an exhibit of artwork commissioned by the California State Parks during the Depression (1934-1942). Funded by state and federal work relief programs, these commissions helped keep talented artists employed during the economic slump.

"California Treasures" features art from a 450-item collection that encompasses mural paintings, easel paintings, watercolors, pastels, and ink and pencil drawings. Included in the exhibit are: color drawings of plants and birds of Mount Diablo; watercolors of the redwood trees of Big Basin; and Clarkson Dye's oil painting impressions of California landscapes.

What: "California Treasures: Artwork of the Great Depression" Exhibit
Where: State Capitol Museum, Historic Archives Room, 10th & L Sts., Sacramento   
When: Oct. 15 through May 17, 2013. Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Complimentary.
For more info: 916-324-0333 or visit website

News Release

IMAGE CREDIT: Mural by James Fitzgerald. Courtesy California State Capitol Museum

October 14, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Leo A. Palmiter

Leo PALMITER.JPGBorn: Aug. 13, 1919
Died: Dec. 26, 1999

Known for: Leo A. Palmiter served four decades as an educator, the last 11 years as superintendent of Sacramento County schools.

Background: Born in Long Beach, Palmiter was reared in Chico, where he graduated from Chico High School and Chico State College. After marrying the former Betty Foord in 1940, they moved to Toyon, Shasta County, where his first teaching job included driving the school bus. Next they moved to Colusa, where he taught elementary school until 1945. He was a principal and superintendent of the Del Paso Heights School District from 1946 to 1950, when he became a deputy superintendent in Sacramento County. In 1969, he succeeded Ted Smedberg as superintendent. During his tenure, Palmiter pushed for a consolidated county Office of Education facility, which opened in 1976.

A highlight: Palmiter told The Bee his most satisfying accomplishments were developing the special education and regional occupational programs. The Leo A. Palmiter Junior/Senior High School, which serves students in grades 7-12, is named for him.

-- Anthony Sorci

October 12, 2012
PBS documentary examines history of the California state parks

preview1.pngLocal PBS station KVIE will be air a new two-part documentary highlighting the history of and current threat to California state parks. California Forever tells the story of the park system from its earliest effort to preserve Yosemite in 1864 up to through the current battle to keep the venues open.

Producers David Vasser and Sally Kaplan were inspired to make the film after following the controversy over the proposed Orange County Toll Road which would cut through the San Onofre State Beach.

Episode One: The History of California State Parks (Oct. 15, 10 p.m.). Traces the creation of the parks and profiles some of the individuals and groups who fought to preserve the sites for future generations.

Episode Two: Parks for the Future (Oct. 22, 10 p.m.). Presents the current challenges facing the parks and the efforts to protect existing sites and to create new sites, especially in urban settings.

You can watch episode previews and purchase DVD recordings on the California Forever website.

October 11, 2012
Historic City Cemetery offers tour just for kids

LC CEMETERY RUBBINGS.JPGIt's a family affair at the Historic City Cemetery this Saturday at a tour designed just for children. Here's a fun opportunity to explore the cemetery's wildlife and to learn about Sacramento history through mysteries, secrets and tall tales well told by knowledgeable guides.

What: Children's Tour
Where: Historic City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
When: Oct. 13, 10 a.m.
Cost: free, but donations appreciated
For more info: 916-264-7839, 916-448-0811 or website

Event flyer
News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Kirt Baker, a third-grader at Crocker Riverside Elementary School, rubs a design from a headstone in the City Cemetery onto a piece of paper. Baker and his classmates were culminating a social studies unit on the history of Sacramento. 1999 Sacramento Bee photograph by Laura Chun

October 11, 2012
Capitol Living History event recreates 1906 election

CM 1906 Election Votes for Women.jpgAs the current election season comes to a conclusion, the State Capitol Museum honors the politics and politicians of the past with a "Living History" recreation of the gubernatorial election of 1906.

Played by docents in period clothing, four candidates -- Democrat Theodore Bell, Republican James Gillett, Independence League nominee William Langdon and Socialist Austin Lewis -- will explain their positions in speeches (given during 15 minute plays repeated throughout the day). Suffragettes will also be present to campaign for their right to vote.

Visitors at the event can attend a 1906 press conference and rally and vote for one of candidates.

What: 1906 Election Day Living History Event
Where: State Capitol, 10th St. between L and N Sts., Sacramento
When: Oct. 14, 10:30 to 3:45 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-324-2088 or website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Docents portray turn-of-the-century suffragettes. Courtesy California State Capitol Museum

October 10, 2012
Acorn Day honors local native traditions

acorn day.jpgGuests of all ages are invited to this year's Acorn Day, the State Indian Museum's educational program honoring the acorn, a staple of Native American diet in the region.

Diana Almandariz, a Wintun/Maidu, will demonstrate the art of processing acorns for food. Visitors will have the opportunity to sample traditional acorn mush and flatbread. And kids will get the chance to play traditional native games and try traditional arts & craft activities.

What: Acorn Day 2012
Where: State Indian Museum, 2618 K St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 13, 10 to 2 p.m.
Cost: $5 per adult (18 and older), $4 per youth (ages 6 to 17), free for children 5 and under. Includes Museum admission.
For more info: 916-324-0971 or website

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Vince LePena of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center shows third graders how to separate acorn meat from shell pieces with a winnowing basket. 1995 Sacramento Bee photograph by Anne Chadwick Williams

October 10, 2012
SacMod bike tour of mid-century homes and buildings

Design Ride.jpgSacMod (the Sacramento Mod-Century Modern Association) presents its third and last guided bike tour of the season this Sunday.

The tour begins at the Hot Italian restaurant, where riders will learn about the mid-century influence on that building's style. From there knowledgeable guides will lead the group past where Ray Eames grew up as a child, as well as several MCM stops on the way to South Land Park, including two MCM homes owned by SacMod co-founders (interiors shown only to those on the bike tour).

Riders are encouraged to dress in their favorite mid-20th century outfits.

What: SacMod Design Ride
Where: Tour starts at Hot Italian, 1627 16th St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 14, 12 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: website

October 10, 2012
Coloma's premier historical event returns

coloma.JPGThis weekend Coloma brings the Gold Rush back to life with its premier interpretative event.

Visitors will enjoy live music demonstrations of gold panning, rope making, blacksmithing, spinning, weaving, basket making and more. Volunteers in period dress will sell wares, tell miners' stories and portray historic figures, such as John Marshall whose gold discovery sparked the migration of thousands to California.

Children will be treated to games, hands-on activities and period music and songs.

What: Coloma Gold Rush Live
Where: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park (directions)
When: Oct. 12-14, 10 to 4 p.m.
Cost: Parking is $10 per vehicle
For more info: call (530) 622-3470 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: Ed Allen portrays James W. Marshall, who discovered gold in Coloma in 1848. 2009 Sacramento Bee photograph by Michael Allen Jones

October 9, 2012
Ghost tours haunt Old Sacramento again
Thumbnail image for OSghosts.jpg

Old Sacramento prepares for Halloween with the return of "Ghost Tours," These evening strolls led by knowledgeable docents will intrigue you with tales of California's spooky history going back to the 1800s. Learn about the city's infamous places and hear stories of ghosts, murder and mayhem.

Tours last about an hour and are not recommended for kids under six. Advanced ticket sales are recommended.

What: Living History Ghost Tours in Old Sacramento
Where: Sacramento History Museum
When: Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27. Tours begin at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, and 9:00 p.m.
Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for youth ages 6-17.
For more info: 916-808-7059 or visit

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Historic Old Sacramento Foundation

October 9, 2012
Spookomotive haunts the rails again

What happens when you cross Halloween with a vintage train in Old Sacramento? You get "Spookomotive," the Sacramento Southern excursion train offering scary, but family-friendly, rides this month.

Spookmotive decorated with spiders, cobwebs and cornstalks, and operated by an entertaining "skeleton" crew, will take passengers on 40-minute rides down the Sacramento River. All tickets are sold on a first-come basis at the CP station on the day of the ride, except for rides on the first-class El Dorado car, which may be purchased online.

What: "Spookomotive" Train Rides
Where: Trains depart from the Central Pacific Passenger Station, Old Sacramento State Historic Park
When: October 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 & 28. Hourly 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children 5 and under
For more info:916-445-6645 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: "Spookomotive" operates under the command of a "skeleton crew" for three weekends in October. Courtesy California State Railroad Museum

October 8, 2012
Hone your genealogy skills at Family History Day

FHD gallery view.JPGAre you interested in researching your family's history, but don't know how to begin? Well Family History Day is just the place to learn about the tools and techniques of genealogy. Choose from 20 novice-level classes covering a wide range of topics, including census and vital records, cemeteries, maps, ethnic research, use of archives and libraries, and the Internet.

There will also be behind-the-scenes tours of the State Archive collections, exhibits by over 25 local and national organizations, and the opportunity to browse the Root Cellar Genealogical Library there at the Archives. As in past years, some of the FHD volunteers and exhibitors will be dress in period attire.

For the first time a class syllabus containing teacher handouts and exhibitor list will be available. The cost is $5 and you can reserve a copy now.

What: 14th Annual Family History Day
Where: California State Archives, 1020 O St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 13, 8:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 653-7715 or FHD Blog

Class Schedule
News release
Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Previous Family History Day as seen from the Gallery at the California State Archives. Courtesy Root Cellar

October 7, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Rene Syler

Rene Syler.JPGBorn: Feb. 17, 1963

Known for: The Del Campo High School graduate spent nearly 20 years as a television reporter and anchorwoman, including four years as one of the hosts of CBS' "The Early Show."

Background: Syler was born at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and grew up in Sacramento. She was a scholar-athlete at Del Campo before graduating from California State University, Sacramento, in 1987. She landed her first television reporting job in Reno, became an anchorwoman there, then in Birmingham, Ala., and Dallas. She joined three other hosts -- Harry Smith, Hannah Storm and Julie Chen -- in a revamped "Early Show" in 2002. She left the show in December 2006. Early this year, she had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. She didn't have breast cancer, but had previous biopsies performed, and both of her parents had the disease.

A highlight: In April 2007, Syler published a book, "Good Enough Mother." Syler's book examines parenting and features her and children, Casey and Cole, on the cover. In 2006, she was given one of five distinguished service awards by the California State University Alumni Association.

-- Anthony Sorci

October 5, 2012
California firm invented political consulting in the 1930s

Sinclair cartoon.jpgWith millions of dollars spent on campaign advertising this election season, it's interesting to read about the origin of political consulting and note that it all started in California. The New Yorker recently published a fascinating profile of two San Francisco entrepreneurs who invented the techniques of modern political persuasion.

The team of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter founded Campaigns, Inc. in 1933. Author Jill Lepore explains that although their first job was to help defeat a referendum sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric, the firm would make its mark working for big business interests. In 1934 it managed some of the negative publicity used to defeat Upton Sinclair, the Socialist writer and Democratic nominee running for governor on a platform known as End Poverty in California (EPIC).

Later Whitaker and Baxter would apply their public opinion techniques to twice defeat Gov. Earl Warren's payroll tax funded health insurance proposal. Based on those successes, Campaigns, Inc. would be hired by the A.M.A. in 1949 to stop Pres. Harry Truman's national health insurance initiative, which they effectively labelled "socialized medicine."

Whitaker and Baxter worked behind the scenes on many state and national issues and so their role in 20th century politics is less known, but important nonetheless, because the methods they invented to manage political opinion have been perfected over the years and are still used today by organizations of all types.

IMAGE CREDIT: Gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair is depicted as The Pied Piper, who would lure thousands of unemployed people from other states by "his fairy promises of employment and a life of ease." Oct. 10, 1934 Sacramento Bee political cartoon by Arthur V. Buel. (Click image to see a full-size version.)

October 4, 2012
Elk Grove commemorates California statehood with weekend festival

EG MUSUEM 3.JPGThe 1850 announcement of California's entry into the Union will be commemorated this weekend in the first annual "living history" event jointly sponsored by the Elk Grove Historical Society and local branch of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

Docents in period garb will portray C.W. Coote, Sacramento Gambler "Clany" the Honest Gambler, Dr. Moore, Fire Lady, and Saddle Sore reacting to the news of statehood. In addition, there will be tours of the historic Stage Shop Hotel and Jail, cannon firings, antique firearms display, gamblers tent and sarsaparilla saloon, performances by the Sacramento Committee of Vigilance and old-timey music by the Faulkner Family Band.

What: First Annual Living History Celebration of the News of California's Statehood
Where: Elk Grove Heritage Park, 9941 East Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove
When: Oct. 6 and 7, 10 to 5 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 685-8115

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: President of the Elk Grove Historical Society, Tom Russell, looks over the exterior of the Elk Grove Hotel and Stage Stop Museum. 2003 Sacramento Bee photograph by Lezlie Sterling

October 3, 2012
October is Harvest Haunt month at Railtown

RailtownDepot28.JPGRailtown's "Harvest Haunt" excursion trains will be running every weekend this month. Sierra No. 3, the steam locomotive seen in countless movies and TV shows, will pull passenger cars on Saturdays. On Sundays, other steam or vintage diesel engines will take over.

In addition to the 40-minute rides in beautiful Mother Lode country, visitors this Saturday will also enjoy live music, entertainment, caboose tours, track cars and a look at the belt driven machine shop.

What: Harvest Haunt Express Train Rides
Where: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, Jamestown
When: October 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28. Hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Train rides -- $13 for adults, $6 for youths ages 6-17 (children under five are free)
For tickets and information: 209-984-3953 or website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Sierra Railway locomotive No. 28, a vintage 1920s engine, pulls the Railtown excursion train. Courtesy of the California State Railroad Museum

October 2, 2012
Julia Morgan exhibit documents a celebrated architecture career

JULIAMORGAN HOUSE.JPGYesterday the State Library opened a month-long exhibit celebrating the career of California's first licensed architect, Julia Morgan. The displays focus on her use of terra cotta produced by the Gladding, McBean factory in Lincoln. Morgan incorporated terra cotta in the design of three important projects: the San Francisco Examiner Building, the Post-Enquirer Building in Oakland, and the Methodist Chinese Mission in San Francisco. Also included in the exhibit are rare photographs and periodicals documenting her work.

The debut coincides with start of the 2012 Julia Morgan Festival that will be observed at venues around California, many of which were designed by Morgan herself.

What: Julia Morgan Exhibit
Where: California State Library Rotunda, 900 N St., Sacramento
When: Oct. 1-31, 9 to 5 p.m., Mon. thru Fri.
Cost: free
For more info: website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: The living room of the Julia Morgan House in Sacramento. 2011 Sacramento Bee photograph by Paul Kitagaki, Jr.

October 1, 2012
Sacramento Archives Crawl back for second year

DPSAC2011-03-01edit.JPGOn October 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., special collections and archives from throughout the region will showcase their rarely-seen treasures for the 2nd annual Sacramento Archives Crawl.  Participants will tour among four host locations (California State Archives, California State Library, Center for Sacramento History, and the Sacramento Public Library's Sacramento Room), viewing displays from more than twenty archives, talking with archivists, and going on behind-the-scenes tours (State Archives and Center for Sacramento History). 

This year's crawl theme is Building Sacramento, Building Communities. Items on display will include drawings and early photos of the State Capitol (California State Archives), watercolors from Gladding McBean ceramics company (California State Library), Tower Records memorabilia (Center for Sacramento History) and historic maps showing the growth of Sacramento from pre-Gold Rush days to the 1970s (Sacramento Room).

Guests can visit the locations in any order and will be issued a crawl passport at their first stop. Those who visit at least three host locations will take home a set of limited-edition commemorative coasters with images of Sacramento landmarks.

What: Sacramento Archives Crawl
When: October 6, 2012, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: California State Archives (1020 O Street), California State Library (900 N Street), Center for Sacramento History (551 Sequoia Pacific Blvd.), and Sacramento Room, Central Library (828 I Street)
For more info:

Press release

2012 Archives Crawl Passport

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Archives Crawl at the Sacramento Room, Central Library (828 I Street), October 1, 2011. Photograph by Amanda Graham

About Sac History Happenings

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

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

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

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

Amanda Graham

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

Pete basofin

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

October 2013

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

History headlines on