Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

July 26, 2013
'Rosie the Riveter' remembered in oral history collection

With so many men in serving in the military during World War II, young women moved to the Bay Area to work on the assemble lines that manufactured the guns, ships, tanks and planes needed for the Arsenal of Democracy.

Their wartime experiences these Rosie the Riveters are preserved in recorded interviews compiled by the Regional Oral History Office of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.

Reminiscing about life and work during the war, the women discuss, among other things, the balance between job and family, gender and race relations, and how wartime experiences shaped their lives after the conflict ended.

You can get a taste of the project by watching a brief YouTube video containing snippets of some of the oral histories.

May 24, 2013
USC photo collection is rich in local images

J Street 1907.jpgAlthough the California Historical Society's online photo collection (1860-1960) is comprised mainly with images of Los Angeles and Southern California, you'll find a sizable number taken in Sacramento and surrounding areas.

Some 60 of the 25,000 CHS photographs housed at the University of Southern California Digital Library depict turn-of-the-century scenes of Sacramento: homes, streets, public buildings, people, transportation and river views. Among them are the Catholic Cathedral, State Capitol, Governor's Mansion, Sutter's Fort (before renovation), C.B. Crocker Art Gallery and many others.

The California Historical Society, located at 678 Mission St. in San Francisco, maintains both a museum and research library. Its current exhibition, Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History, an experiment using the Internet to collect stories and materials from the public "to create a richer, more diverse history of the San Francisco Bay."

PHOTO CREDIT: View of J Street in Sacramento, ca.1907. Photograph by Charles C. Pierce, C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, 1860-1960.

May 8, 2013
Expert to speak on model trucks and toy tractors

toy truck.JPGAs part of its Second Saturday Educational Series, Heidrick Ag Center will present Hubert Bryant speaking on the collecting of vintage model trucks and toy tractors.

Bryant will discuss the evolution of the toy vehicle craft, from wood, metal to plastic. Visitors will get to examine items from his personal collection, as well as those from the museum's holdings.

Each month the Center focuses on a different aspect of California agricultural and transportation history. Its permanent collection consists of two main galleries: the Fred C. Heidrick Antique Ag Collection and the Hays Antique Truck Museum.

What: Second Saturday Educational Series: Collectable Trucks and Toy Tractors
Where: Heidrick Ag History Center, 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland
When: May 11, 12 to 2 p.m.
Cost: $10 non-members; $7 members; $5 kids 5-18; kids under 5 free.
For more info: (530) 666-9700 or email

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Heidrick Ag History Center

February 26, 2013
Placer County opens new archives and collections facility

Thumbnail image for Placer logo.JPGAfter much preparation, Placer County will unveil its new archives this week. The facility, which is actually two resources in one, should prove of great value to researchers and genealogists. It consists of the:

Archives: a repository of public records, some dating to the beginning of the county in 1851. These include court case, probate, school, property, voting, naturalization and other documents. There are also 15,000-plus photographs and bound copies of The Placer Herald.

Collections: thousands of carefully preserved artifacts that document centuries of Placer County history. These include baskets, textiles, artwork and many other items.

What: Placer County Archives & Collections Facility Grand Opening
Where: Placer County Government Center, 11526 C Ave., Auburn
When: Feb. 28, 3 to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 530-889-6500 or website

September 27, 2012
HuffPost and SF History Center collaborate on monthly photo display

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SAN FRANCISCO MAIN LIBRARY.JPGThe San Francisco History Center (part of the San Francisco Public Library) has partnered with The Huffington Post to produce "Tales of the City," a monthly display showcasing historic photographs from the Center's collections.

The debut slideshow is 25 years of the Tenderloin (1939-1964), featuring rare images (some never before seen) of the 40-block neighborhood. Among them is the notorious Black Hawk bar in 1961, a 1941 car accident in front of the Hotel Shawmut and the Chop Suey & Del Monte Club on Jones St. in 1962.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aerial view of the San Francisco Public Library. 1996 San Francisco Chronicle photograph by Russell Yip

August 31, 2012
State Library's Caryl Chessman materials now available

Largely forgotten now, Caryl Chessman's name was known worldwide when he went to the gas chamber on May 2, 1960 after twelve years on San Quentin's Death Row. He had been convicted in 1948 on 17 counts of robbery, kidnapping, and rape after his arrest on suspicion of being the Los Angeles area's notorious "red light bandit," and the kidnapping counts became capital offenses under California's version of the "Little Lindbergh Law." Chessman spent his time on Death Row unsuccessfully fighting his conviction on the basis of improper trial procedure (becoming something of a legal expert in the process), and also wrote several books while in prison (some of the texts of which had to be smuggled out for publication). While admitting that he was no angel-having turned to a life of petty crime as a teenager-Chessman maintained his innocence to the end, and even if he was guilty of these particular charges the fact remained that he never killed anyone. All of these factors made him a lightning rod worldwide for the anti-capital punishment forces, and gained him the support of many prominent individuals. Chessman also caused political headaches for California Governor Pat Brown, and was executed despite Brown's personal opposition to the death penalty.

Chessman 1.jpg 

Sacramento attorney Rosalie S. Asher served as Chessman's legal counsel for almost his entire time on Death Row, along with George T. Davis and others for shorter periods (although Chessman basically represented himself in court). He named her executor of his estate, meaning that she kept not only all of the legal documents pertaining to his court battles, but also a great deal of his personal effects (including correspondence), all of his books translated into numerous languages, most if not all magazine articles that were written about him worldwide, general information on the death penalty, and many personal items of her own. Asher donated this voluminous amount of material to the State Library some years back, and after a lengthy arrangement and cataloging process it is now available to anyone who wishes to view it. A basic catalog record can be found in the library's website under the name "Chessman-Asher collection" (it is almost as much about her as it is him), and a more detailed finding aid is available in the California History Room on the second floor at 900 N Street.

Shown here are two items from the Chessman-Asher collection. One is the cover of Chessman's first book, Cell 2455, Death Row, translated into Italian and issued in paperback in 1974. The other is a photograph of Chessman as a child, riding on the shoulders of his father Serge. Chessman 2.jpg

August 10, 2012
Historical topographical maps now online

Brighton 1911.JPGU.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps illustrate in great detail the geographical contours and natural and man-made features of this vast country.  While previously only available in printed form, the switch to digital has meant that 125 years of historical USGS topographic maps are now being made available online.  

Over the past two years, USGS has been converting historical maps from its Topographic Map Archive into a digital format (GeoPDF), and making them freely viewable through the USGS website.  More than 200,000 are now available to search, view and download. The map database serves as a valuable tool for those researching the changing geography of the Sacramento region.  And there are plenty of Sacramento-area maps to choose from: a quick search for Sacramento maps through the USGS Map Locator yields 28 maps of Sacramento-area quadrangles, spanning 1891-2012.

Visit The National Map website to learn more about the digitization of historical maps and other USGS topographic map projects. 

IMAGE CREDIT: Detail of Brighton Quadrangle, U.S. Geological Survey, 1911.

July 19, 2012
Oral history project looking for Bay Bridge veterans
Bay Bridge010.jpg

Did you help design and build the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge? Are you among the toll takers, managers, engineers, maintenance people, painters, architects and others who worked at the bridge between 1936 and 1960?

Well UC Berkeley is looking for you. Specifically the Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office, which wants to add your recollections to the historical record that will help future generations understand the role of the bridge in the development of the Bay Area.

If you (or someone you know) has such experience, contact ROHO Project Manager Sam Redman at or call 510-643-2106.

Incidentally, Caltrans maintains a terrific timeline of Bay Bridge history that's richly illustrated with photos, drawings and other artifacts.

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press photograph of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (looking west from the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel) taken a week before its official opening on Nov. 12, 1936.

July 16, 2012
"Rob on the Road" show featuring State Library treasures rescheduled

The KVIE "Rob on the Road" program originally scheduled for 7:30PM on  July 16, reported in this blog on July 13, has been rescheduled for Monday, July 23, also at 7:30. Special Collections Librarian Emeritus Gary Kurutz will take everyone to the deepest recesses of the California State Library's fabled vault, and will showcase rare books, photos, and manuscripts.

After airing on KVIE this episode will be available for national distribution by the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

PS: If you miss the program, you can stream it online here.

July 13, 2012
Rare State Library items subject of TV program

Kurutz.JPGOver at the California State Library, the most valuable artifacts are housed in "The Vault," a climate-controlled room containing the rarest books, photos, manuscripts and other documents. The public seldom gets to see these treasures, but KVIE viewers will have an opportunity when the Rob on the Road program showcases the facility's special collections on July 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Rob Stewart and his crew spent two days at the State Library recording with Emeritus Special Collections Librarian Gary Kurutz, who explained the historical significance of such holdings as James Marshall's hand-drawn gold discovery map and John James Audubon's life-size color engravings of The Birds of America.

Produced weekly by KVIE, Rob on the Road explores Northern California people and places and their inspiring stories. You can view full episodes on the program's web site.

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Gary Kurutz, Special Collections Librarian at the State Library, removes an item from a shelf inside a temperature-controlled vault in the new library building. 2001 Sacramento Bee photograph by Randy Pench

July 5, 2012
News from the California History Section

Drop by the California History Room at the State Library, Room 200 at 900 N Street in Sacramento, between 9:30 and 4:00 Monday through Friday, and see its book display from July: "Bloomin' California." Selected for your reading pleasure are books on California botany, ranging from a 1930 state textbook on California wildflowers to a book on the gardens of Alcatraz to another on that state icon, the California Poppy (and while you're visiting, take a look at the California Room's own poppies that amazingly, magically, never wilt!).


Off the downstairs rotunda, the annual Juneteenth exhibit is still on display, showcasing the contributions of African-Americans to California's history. And in the second floor rotunda you can still see the popular California Calls You exhibit, featuring the often graphically striking promotional materials that have inspired people to visit or move to California over the years. Also on display are a few items from an upcoming exhibit on California sports, which will replace California Calls You in the near future.

Recently processed manuscript collections include material on renowned food writer M. F. K. Fisher, the California Alpine Club, the San Pedro-built ship USS Grama, and California attorney William C. Mathes. And issue #103 of the California State Library Foundation Bulletin is soon to be released, which will include articles on Yosemite artist Thomas Almond Ayres, foundation board vice-president George Basye, the many books and reports issued in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the pre-bridge Golden Gate, and another recently processed manuscript collection: that of former California State Senator and San Francisco Supervisor Quentin L. Kopp.

sunshine apts.bmpIncluded here for The Bee readership's viewing pleasure are two images from the California History Section's photograph collection: a woman and emu at San Francisco's fabled Woodward's Gardens, and the Sunshine Apartments on Los Angeles' Bunker Hill before the neighborhood was almost entirely leveled.

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 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 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.

December 28, 2011
Sanborn maps give detailed snapshot of American cities

Sanborn detail.jpgHistorical fire insurance maps drawn by the Sanborn Map Company are widely regarded as an invaluable tool for researching the history, growth and development of American communities.  Founded in 1866, the Sanborn Map Company served as a leading American producer of fire insurance maps for nearly 150 years.  The company produced large-scale, color-coded plans of about 12,000 U.S. cities, towns and neighborhoods, with details on construction, building materials and use for each building - data that at the time was used to estimate fire insurance liabilities. Today, they are valued by researchers and scholars in such fields as geography, architecture, city planning, family history and urban archaeology. 

Many libraries and archives in the Sacramento provide access to the Sacramento maps in print, microfilm and digital formats.  Local institutions that carry Sanborn maps in at least one of these formats include the California State Library, Sacramento Public Library, Center for Sacramento History, and Sacramento State University Library.

IMAGE CREDIT: San Diego, California, Wide View and Detail; courtesy

December 13, 2011
CSH gets Suttertown News archive

Tim Holt.jpgThe Center for Sacramento History last week announced that Tim Holt, former Suttertown News publisher, has donated the complete run of that defunct publication to the city archive. Back in 1994 Holt gave the Center over 2,000 of its photographs.

In its day Suttertown News was the "other" alternative paper in Sacramento. Holt began publishing in 1975 to champion community activism, vintage architecture and bohemian culture of the central city. In its first edition it opposed a proposed 18-story hotel at 18th and L Sts. and rallied against the growing "Manhattanization of Sacramento." As Holt recalled in a 1994 Bee op-ed piece:

The challenge to conservative Sacramento, and ultimately City Hall, would come from a downtown community inhabited not only by artists and writers but also by alternative-style entrepreneurs who set up crafts stores, restaurants, coffee houses and art galleries. They were joined by more solid, mainstream types, mostly state workers, who aimed for an elegant, House Beautiful existence in rehabbed downtown Victorians.

Suttertown News ended publication in Dec. 1993 because "we simply ran out of money" explained Holt in a Bee interview. It was tough for the paper to make ends meet and the competition from the expanding News & Review didn't help.

Holt subsequently moved to Dunsmuir where he is active in local politics and railroad history. He continues to write and is author of Song of the Simple Life, a collection of essays on sustainable living.

PHOTO CREDIT: Time Holt in the Suttertown News office in 1982. Sacramento Bee photograph by Leilani Hu

September 30, 2011
Reminder: Sacramento Archives Crawl is tomorrow

The first ever Sacramento Archives Crawl will give the general public a unique opportunity to view some very rare and interesting items during tomorrow's open house at four of the city's largest historical collections. People who visit the facilities will be treated to historic treasures from 21 Northern California institutions, as well as "behind-the-scenes" tours of archival storage and work areas.

I was privileged to attend a "media preview" of the Crawl at the Center for Sacramento History. Among the fascinating artifacts we were shown: papers of Nathaniel S. Colley, Sacramento's nationally known civil rights attorney; memorabilia documenting the 100th anniversary of the California's women's suffrage; a photographic exhibit from Sirlin Photography Studios featuring portraits of Sacramento leaders Pete Wilson, Willie Brown and Heather Fargo.

Puente boots.JPGFrom the collections vault: an eight-inch long grasshopper dating back more than 150 years; items from the Eleanor McClatchy collection including 19th century theater posters, rare books, publishing materials and a Gold Rush-era map of the region; police evidence and prosecution displays from the Dorothea Puente murder case.

Sacramento Archives Crawl is the kickoff event for the region's observance of American Archives Month. Libraries, museums, special collections all around the state will celebrate with a variety of events.

What: Explore History: Sacramento Archives Crawl
When: October 1, 2011, 11 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)
Cost: Free
For more info:

PHOTO CREDITS: An eight-inch long grasshopper dating back more than 150 years which originated in the Isthmus of Panama. Rubber boots and digging tools belonging to convicted mass murderer Dorothea Puente. 2011 Sacramento Bee photographs by Lezlie Sterling.

September 21, 2011
New online library offers historic Sacramento city public records

Sacramento city officials have unveiled a new online collection containing more than 100,000 public records, including Meeting minutes, resolutions and city ordinances passed by the City Council going back to 1921. Other types of documents, such as building permits and board/commission minutes will eventually be added.

The City of Sacramento Records Library may be accessed via the Basic or Advanced Search interfaces. With simple search you just type in a word or phrase. The advanced search lets you modify keyword searching with date range, type of material (ordinance, resolution, etc) and legislative body (Council, Planning Commission, etc.). The records appear in PDF format.

This is certainly a useful resource for those researching neighborhood histories.

September 7, 2011
Unique Mexican War Letter Acquired by State Library

The California State Library recently acquired a letter from Mexican Minister of War Jose Maria Tornel y Mendivil to California Commissioners Andres Castillero, D. Manuel Castanares, and Jose Maria Castanares, dated July 25, 1846 after war had broken out between the United States and Mexico. It was ca2443 Tornel Letter Web.jpgwritten and sent from Mexico City and urged its recipients to defend California, telling them that "in case the Territory of California should be invaded by forces of the United States, you are authorized to use all resources to defend her with all your patriotism, keeping in mind the importance of the National Integrity."

What makes this letter remarkable is that it provides the first evidence that Mexico tried to keep California from falling into the hands of the U. S. (as well as the revolts led by local Californios). No copies of this letter or its text exist in other libraries, nor are there any other known letters ordering the defense of California.

Tornel's dates of birth and death are not known for certain, but he came from Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico and became a Mexican Army general and a politician. For most of his career he allied with Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

August 24, 2011
John Muir letters featured in Calisphere themed collection

MuirPortrait.jpgCalisphere very recently announced the release of a new Themed Collection featuring the Letters of John Muir (1838-1914).  The collection of 22 letters draws from over 6,500 pieces of Muir's correspondence that were digitized and made available through Calisphere and the Online Archive of California in October 2009. Letters from the renowned California naturalist were selected to document three of his roles: Scientist, Writer, and Activist. In addition to images and transcriptions of the letters themselves, the themed collection includes a biographical sketch and links to Analysis Tools.

The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections contributed the complete collection of Muir's correspondence. The project was supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

PHOTO CREDIT: John Muir, 1838-1914 (by Edward Hughes, ca. 1902). Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-53148.

August 11, 2011
Sacramento's Rock and Radio Museum reopens

This weekend's Second Saturday festivities will include something exciting for local music/history buffs.

After a two year hiatus, the Sacramento Rock and Radio Museum will reopen its doors, allowing the public to once again view an impressive collection of posters and ephemeral materials dedicated to the history of music and rock and roll in Sacramento.Sea of Bees by Laura Edmisten.jpg

The museum's curator is well-known radio personality, Dennis Newhall, and many of the items on display come from collections he gathered while working at the now defunct, but still infamous, KZAP radio station.

Posters from Sacramento's 1930s radio days are part of the display, as are contemporary posters from the area's punk rock scene. Big names like the Rolling Stones and the Doors appear in the collection, as do the names of smaller local acts, like those depicted in the work of Sacramento screen print artist Laura Edmisten.

Currently, the Rock and Radio Museum is open once a month in conjunction with the Second Saturday Art Walk. Additional hours are available by appointment.

For more information visit:

Sacramento's Rock and Radio Museum is now located at 907 20th Street. The grand re-opening takes place this Saturday evening, August 13.

IMAGE CREDIT: Sea of Bees Gig Poster, Courtesy Laura Edmisten.

August 4, 2011
Collection of Town & Country designer at Public Library

Town and Country.jpgThe papers of John W. Davis, a local mid-century architectural designer, are now open for research in the Sacramento Room at the Central Library. Davis worked for many years in partnership with local developer Jere Strizek to design and construct the Town & Country Village shopping center and affordable homes in the Town & Country community.  His papers consist of correspondence, plans, photographs and clippings documenting his design work between 1946 and 1954.

Town and Country home.jpgTown and Country Village opened in 1946 as one of the first shopping centers in the region.  A couple years after its completion, Strizek and Davis began building low-cost family homes in the surrounding area to boost profits. By 1949, there were 5,000 living units in the Town and Country suburb, and the nationally-recognized Town and Country Village with 61 stores welcomed customers from throughout the Sacramento area and beyond. Design plans, nearly 100 photographs, and extensive clippings in the papers of John W. Davis offer invaluable insight into Town and Country's early years.

To view the finding aid for the Davis papers and other small manuscript collections available in the Sacramento Room at the Central Library, visit the Sacramento Public Library page on the Online Archive of California website.

PHOTO CREDIT: Top - Town and Country Village shopping center, ca. 1955. Bottom - Town and Country home design featured in Parents' Magazine (February 1952). Both from the John W. Davis papers, MC 16, Sacramento Room, Sacramento Public Library.

July 25, 2011
Sacramento Room expands open hours

Sacramento Room.jpgThe Sacramento Public Library's Central Library recently adjusted its evening hours, and the Sacramento Room is now open for research an additional two hours each week. The Sacramento Room, located on the 2nd floor of the Central Library (828 I Street), houses the special collections and archives of the Sacramento Public Library -- resources on Sacramento history, California history with an emphasis on Northern California, printing and book arts history, books by local authors and music by local musicians. Researchers are welcome during open hours without appointment.

The new Sacramento Room hours are:

Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Tuesday 1-8 p.m.
Wednesday 1-6 p.m.
Thursday 1-6 p.m.
Saturday 1-5 p.m.

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

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.

May 13, 2011
Sacramento Public Library offers free genealogy help
Central Library.jpg

Throughout the year, the Sacramento Public Library offers a variety of free programs to assist family history enthusiasts with their research.  Supported by a strong genealogy research collection located on the 4th floor at the Central Library, these workshops and lectures are useful for directing genealogists toward a wealth of online and print resources.  Programs include Book a Genealogist workshops with one-on-one help to resolve roadblocks in family history research, lectures on a variety of topics given by genealogy specialists from Northern California, and computer classes covering online research.  

The next program in the lecture series is taking place this Sunday, May 15, and will cover the research of property records, including land grants, land claims, deeds, and homestead and patent records. 

What: Land Ahoy! Locating Property Records, a presentation by Genealogist Cath Madden Trindle
Where: West Meeting Room, Central Library (828 I Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814)
When: Sunday, May 15, 2011, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
For more info: or (916) 264-2920

April 22, 2011
New acquisition for State Library

The California State Library's California History Section recently received a donation from the great-granddaughter of San Francisco art dealer Matthew C. Ansbro. The majority of this collection consists of correspondence to Ansbro from Ukiah artist Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937), who trained at the California School of Design of the San Francisco Art Association, and painted portraits of primarily younger members of Mendocino County's Pomo tribe. Her husband John Wilz Napier Hudson became an expert on the Pomo language, and collected baskets and other artifacts for the Field Museum of Chicago.

This collection also includes correspondence to Ansbro from renowned California illustrator and muralist Maynard Dixon. One of these letters contains a drawing of an Arizona Native American woman; also included is a Dixon pencil drawing of St. Francis. These illustrations add to the knowledge of his body of work.  

Seen below is a photo of Maynard Dixon painting his mural Pageant of Tradition on the wall of the Gillis Reading Room in the Library and Courts Building at 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento.

Maynard Dixon.bmp

March 18, 2011
Visit the National Archives at San Francisco for regional history

sf-regional-archives.jpgThe National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but in addition to its facilities in the Capital area, the agency operates presidential libraries and records centers across the country. San Francisco (San Bruno) is home to one of the Pacific Region records centers and is a worthwhile destination for anyone researching genealogy or looking for historical records from Federal agencies and courts in Northern California.

The National Archives at San Francisco has archival holdings dating from the year California joined the Union (1850). These holdings include documents, photographs and maps, and cover a range of topics of particular interest to our region, including Asian immigration, migrant labor camps, public land use, WWII employment, agriculture, aviation and mining. The records center also receives copies of many significant National Archives publications on microfilm, which include records that support the study of U.S. history, political science, genealogy and more since the Revolutionary War. In addition, the Archives provides access to extensive genealogical holdings such as census, naturalization and military service records.

For more information and to begin your research at the National Archives at San Francisco visit or call (650) 238-3501.

PHOTO CREDIT: National Archives at San Francisco facility in San Bruno, California. Courtesy of

March 16, 2011
News from the California State Military Museum

The California State Military Museum has recently acquired a German Mauser Gewer 1871/84 11mm rifle, a collection of several hundred unit insignia, and a Vietnam-era RT-10 rescue transmitter-receiver. On Saturday, March 19 at 1PM the museum will be hosting a lecture and booksigning for Expendable Warriors: The Battle of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War by Bruce B. G. Clark. On April 10 at 1PM will be a similar event for Final Flight: The Mystery of a WW II Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra by Peter Stekel.

Below, from the California State Military Museum's collection, is a section of fuselage of a Japanese aircraft that crashed into the U.S.S. California during the American landings at Lingayen Gulf in the Phillipines on January 6, 1945.



March 15, 2011
Calisphere remembers Rosie the Riveter

rosies.JPGThe Allies were able to win World War II partly because the United States transformed its industrial capacity to produce the massive amount of weapons, ammunition and equipment needed by the troops. With so many men in uniform, women stepped up to fill the labor shortage in war industries. Richmond was the center of west coast ship building. By the end of the war one-third of the 90,000 workers there were women.

Calisphere, the University of California's catalog of digitized historical resources, celebrates Women's History Month with a collection of photos from the Richmond Shipyards. A few of these were taken by famed photographer Dorothea Lange. The most amusing image is a dress code poster that advises female workers not to come to work in high heels, jewelry and nylon stockings.

The contributions of "Rosie the Riveter" (or "Wendy the Welder," as she was known in California) are memorialized at the WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond. The park has a terrific online exhibit filled with articles, photos, artifacts and oral histories of women shipyard workers. In 2000 The Bee published a story about the planning of the Rosie the Riveter memorial which later opened in 2003. The article includes an interview with Ollie M. Hawkins, an African American woman who started working in the shipyards at age 18.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richmond Shipyard welding crew. Courtesy of the Clem Family and the Rosie the Riveter Project

March 11, 2011
Internet Archive offers wealth of Sacramento history resources

illustratedhisto00davis_0005.jpgPerhaps one of the most useful sites for accessing public domain print resources on early Sacramento history is the Internet Archive. In addition to capturing and preserving Internet sites, the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization founded in 1996, has spent years building an impressive digital library that draws from the collections of numerous repositories and digital libraries. Contributors include Harvard University, the Library of Congress and Project Gutenberg.

The Internet Archive is the home to nearly three million texts, half a million movie recordings and over 800,000 audio recordings, all in the public domain and freely accessible. Items of particular interest to those researching Sacramento history include early county histories, biographies of Sacramento-area pioneers, and transcripts of hundreds of oral histories captured by the Regional Oral History Office at the Bancroft Library. Visitors can conduct full-text searches and view titles using a special in-browser interface, or they can choose to access documents in a variety of other formats including PDF, ePub (for most e-books) and Kindle.

Visit to search the Internet Archive and to learn about other Internet Archive projects.

IMAGE CREDIT: Title page of An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California by Winfield J. Davis, 1890.

March 7, 2011
Robert Louis Stevenson Galleys in State Library Collection

A recent addition to the California History collection at the State Library are printer's galley proofs from the unpublished 1880 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Amateur Emigrant. These galleys, numbered 17 through 20 and all on one sheet, were hand-corrected by Stevenson himself and also by editors Sidney Colvin and C. Kegan Paul. Stevenson wrote The Amateur Emigrant as the first part of an account of his journey to America in 1879 (along with The Silverado Squatters). Criticism from family and friends postponed its publication until 1895, when The Amateur Emigrant was issued in highly edited form after Stevenson's death (portions of it appeared as "Across the Plains" in Longman's Magazine during 1883).

Galleys of most of the original edition of The Amatuer Emigrant reside in the Beinecke Collection at Yale University, which contains only a photocopy of numbers 17 through 20. This particular piece was long a part of the collection of San Francisco bookseller John Howell.

Below, from the State Library collection, is an early twentieth century photo of the "Stevenson House" in Monterey. Originally owned by Don Rafael Gonzales, this structure, as the French Hotel, was where Robert Louis Stevension stayed during his visit to California in 1879. 

Stevenson house.bmp 


February 16, 2011
News from the California State Military Museum

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

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

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

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

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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