Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

June 5, 2013
Quality history videos available from Annenberg Learner

The West video.JPGReaders of this blog probably have heard of iTunes U, Apple's massive source of recordings of collegiate lecture classes, panel discussions and speeches produced by academic institutions in the United States and Britain.

But I bet you're unaware of Annenberg Learner. It's an impressive online collection of multimedia resources intended to help improve teaching across the K-12 curriculum. The core of the program are quality video series produced in partnership with WGBH, Oregon Public Broadcasting and other public media outlets.

Although designed for teachers, adult learners will enjoy the many video episodes on U.S., European and world history. Streaming versions of the programs are free and generally last about 30 minutes. (You can purchase them as DVDs.)

America's History in the Making: U.S. history from before Columbus through Reconstruction.

A Biography of America: U.S. history told as a narrative rather than a set of facts.

Bridging World History: Global history explained as a complex of interrelated patterns.

The Constitution -- That Delicate Balance: Key decisions, issues and controversies in U.S. legal history.

Democracy in America: Structure and dynamics of federal and state government.

Out of the Past: Archaeological and anthropological insight into the evolution of past civilizations into modern societies.

The Western Tradition: Development of Western civilization seen through its culture, politics, science and industry.

IMAGE CREDIT: "The West," an episode in Annenberg Learner's video series A Biography of America.

May 5, 2013
Valley to Vietnam interviews local veterans

v2v.JPGThis spring, Sacramento Public Library began sitting down with local Vietnam veterans for Valley to Vietnama new storytelling project that is capturing, preserving, and sharing the stories of those who grew up in the Sacramento area and served in Vietnam. The project has produced ten interviews thus far, and continues to seek participants interested in discussing their experiences at home and overseas.

Valley to Vietnam digital stories are available through the library's YouTube channel and on DVD. Access Sacramento has provided recording equipment through a partnership with Sacramento Public Library, and episodes of Valley to Vietnam air on the first Monday of each month, at 8:30 pm, on Access Sacramento's Channel 17.

To learn more about Valley to Vietnam or to suggest an interview, contact project coordinator James C. Scott,, (916) 264-2795.

March 25, 2013
1862 U.S.-Dakota Indian War remembered in film

On Dec. 26, 1862, in the aftermath of the war between the Dakota (Eastern Sioux) Indians and the U.S. Army in Minnesota, 38 Dakota warriors were hanged in what is said to be the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The conflict is recalled in a documentary film that tells the story of Jim Miller, a contemporary Dakota spiritual leader, who in 2009 lead a small group on horseback 330 miles to commemorate the execution that took place in Makato, Minn.

Maidu Museum in Roseville will host a public screening of Dakota 38 this Thursday. The film will be followed by a discussion with Jim Miller and Eric Noyes, Executive Director of American Indian Institute, who will be on hand to answer questions.

Dakota 38 was filmed by Smooth Feather Productions, which has made the full documentary available for free download or streaming on its website.

What: Dakota 38 Screening and Discussion
Where: Maidu Museum & Historic Site, 1970 Johnson Ranch Dr., Roseville
When: March 28, 7 p.m.
Cost: free, but RSVP tickets are required
For more info: (916) 744-5934 or website

Event flyer
News release

February 18, 2013
KVIE documentary examines the life of civil rights activist Nate Colley

NAT COLLEY.JPGKVIE public television celebrates Black History Month with the broadcast of a documentary on the life of Sacramento civil rights advocate Nathaniel S. Colley.

Colley, one of the city's first African American attorneys, was active with the NAACP for some 40 years. As NAACP legal counsel, he filed lawsuits that helped end racial discrimination in local housing. He also taught for 17 years at the McGeorge School of Law and was a power broker in the Democratic Party.

The Time is Now - The Civic Life of Sacramento's Nathaniel Colley was produced in collaboration with the Center for Sacramento History.

What: The Time is Now - The Civic Life of Sacramento's Nathaniel Colley
Where: KVIE ViewFinder documentary
When: Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: website

Bee profile and obituary of Nathaniel Colley

PHOTO CREDIT: Undated Sacramento Bee photograph of Nathaniel Colley by Leilani Hu.

January 16, 2013
Maidu Museum film and docent training

Maidu Museum & Historic Site. The 3rd Saturday Art Walk will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, with the program starting at 7 p.m. for the free event. Monique Sonoquie, filmmaker, educator and activist, will show a film and speak about her experiences working with native elders to document and learn about traditional foods and medicines, oral histories, language and crafts. A training program for future Maidu docents will begin Jan. 22, concluding Feb. 28. Docents lead tours of the museum and historic site to help teach about native culture and the environment. Trainees meet 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for six weeks. Call (916) 774-5934 or visit The Maidu Museum is at 1970 Johnson Ranch Drive, Roseville.

-- Gloria Glyer

January 8, 2013
Huell Howser's Sacramento visits

Howser.jpegHuell Howser, the avuncular public television personality and indefatigable promoter of California's historic and natural treasures, died Sunday. He will be missed by thousands of fans who followed his travels in the Golden State via California's Gold and related TV series.

Over the years, Howser visited parts of the Sacramento region. Here's a partial listing from the Huell Howser Productions website. Some of these episodes can be viewed online. Others are available for purchase on DVD.

Delta Queen (local riverboat) California's Gold #905
Underground Old Sacramento California's Golden Parks #145
Railcars (U.S. National Handcar Races at the California State Railroad Museum) California's Gold #802
Our State's Front Yard (Capitol Park) California's Gold #405
State Library Treasures (in Sacramento) California's Gold #2010
First Theater (Eagle Theater) California's Gold #2001
Governors Mansion (in Sacramento) Visiting...With Huell Howser #417
Hidden Treasures of Sutter's Fort (in Sacramento) California's Golden Parks #154
American River Parkway (along the bike trail) California's Golden Parks #136
Historic Preservation: Winters (downtown and bridge) California's Communities #101
UC Davis (Bike Barn, Arboretum, etc.) Road Trip With Huell Howser #141
Placerville (El Dorado County Historical Museum) Road Trip With Huell Howser #118
Auburn (Placer County Courthouse Museum) Road Trip With Huell Howser #119
Donner Memorial (Donner Lake) California's Golden Parks #112

December 12, 2012
Film documents restoration of the "Movie Star Locomotive"

Sierra No. 3, the most famous of the vintage locomotives operating at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, has appeared in over 100 movies and television shows since 1920. Its credits include High Noon, The Great Race, Back to the Future III, Pale Rider, Little House on the Prairie, Rawhide and Petticoat Junction.

Built in 1891, Sierra No. 3 in 2007 went through a complete three-year restoration at a cost of $1.5 million. The story of this immense effort is told in the 2012 documentary The Sierra #3 Locomotive: A Star is Reborn (part of the "Ultimate Restorations" series of TV specials).

Locally, the PBS station KVIE will broadcast the film on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. and again on Dec. 22 at 5 a.m. You can watch the trailer below.

November 16, 2012
Spielberg film depicts struggle to pass the 13th Amendment

Film-Lincoln.JPGSteven Spielberg's new historical film Lincoln opens today at local theaters. It tells the story of how the 16th president used all his political skills to shepherd the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery through Congress. Lincoln needed passage before southern states rejoined the Union. (See Carla Meyer's movie review.)

The U.S. Senate approved the amendment on April 8, 1864 and the U.S. House on Jan. 3, 1865. It was adopted on Dec. 6, 1865 when a sufficient number of states ratified it. California did so on Dec. 19.

On Dec. 21, 1965, The Sacramento Bee lauded the achievement with reference to Forefathers Day, the obscure celebration of New England Pilgrims that has been eclipsed by the Thanksgiving holiday (whose date was fixed by Lincoln in 1863). The Bee editorialized:

"Tomorrow -- the anniversary of the Landing of the Pilgrims on the world-renowned rock of Plymouth, usually denoted 'Forefather's Day' -- will doubtless be celebrated in every portion of the continent, with more than usual spirit. The sons of New England are scattered far and wide on land and sea; for without arrogating to this class more than their merits deserve, or indulging on invidious sectional comparisons, New England enterprise has penetrated to and made itself felt in every portion of the habitable globe.

"Our country having successfully emerged from a bloody internecine war, which has resulted in the complete triumph of free institutions and the wiping of the black blot of slavery from out national escutcheon forever, there is a particular fitness in the special observance of this day at the present time. The descendents of the Pilgrim Fathers were the first to abolish that relic of barbarism -- African slavery -- which was done in the Constitution adopted by the people of the State of Massachusetts in the year 1780. Could good old Parson Brewster, the pugnacious and self-willed Miles Standish, with the little crowd of determined spirits that embarked at Plymouth, in the mother country, on September 6th, 1620, and landed upon the rock which this event has rendered immortal on the 22nd of the following December, have foreseen the mighty results which were to follow, what must have been their sensations?"

PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Day-Lewis, center rear, as Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from the film, "Lincoln." AP Photo / Disney-DreamWorks II by David James

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 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 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.

September 21, 2012
Showing of two films on Japanese-American baseball

INTERNMENT BASEBALL.jpgFor over a 100 years baseball has played an important role in the life of the Japanese-American community, especially during the internment during World War II. Two films -- one a documentary, one a fictional story -- celebrate this enduring legacy. They'll be shown at a festival this Sunday in Grass Valley.

Diamonds in the Rough: Zeni and the Legacy of Japanese-American Baseball honors Kenichi Zenimura, a talented player and respected manager, who worked tirelessly to promote the American Nisei Leagues. American Pastime is the story of a Japanese-American family who finds strength and self-respect in the internment camps through baseball.

Historian and producer of both films, Kerry Yo Nakagawa, will meet with the audience at the film festival. He was interviewed on a recent KXJZ Insight segment, which you can listen to here.

What: Two films on Japanese-American Baseball
Where: Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra, 360 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley
When: Sept. 23, 2 p.m.
Cost: $15 in advance (call 530-265-5462). $18 at the door.
For more info: (530) 273-6362 or website

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Japanese-American internees watch and play baseball in 1943 at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. Photograph by Ansel Adams. (AP Photo/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

August 30, 2012
Sacramento entertainment history explored in video interviews

William Burg.JPGLast Sunday local historian and preservationist William Burg surveyed the history of Sacramento's music and nightlife scene in a series of informative video interviews conducted by owner Alex Cooper.

Burg, who is author of four local history books including Sacramento's K St: Where Our City Was Born and Sacramento's Streetcars, explained the ups and downs of central city entertainment going back to Prohibition speakeasies, through the jazz era of the 40s-50s and into the rock period beginning in the 70s. He also noted the impact of the area's rich ethnic diversity on local music.

In a separate video, Burg described some of the highlights in the upcoming Sept. 16 Historic Home Tour sponsored by the Sacramento Old City Association (SOCA). This year the tour will focus on the Poverty Ridge neighborhood.

Here are links to SacTV's interviews with William Burg:

Introduction to Sacramento Scene History
Cultural Diversity
Sacramento Music of the 20th Century
Sacramento Scene 80s/90s
Sacramento Culture
SOCA Home Tour 2012

PHOTO CREDIT: Still of William Burg taken from the video recorded Aug. 23, 2012.

July 27, 2012
Crest Theatre to show films on Playland, Sutro Baths

On Sunday, August 5, the Crest Theatre will be screening documentary films on two former beloved San Francisco attractions, Playland at the Beach and the Sutro Baths.  Remembering Playland at the Beach (2010) and Sutro's: The Palace at Lands End (2011) were written and directed by Bay Area filmmaker Tom Wyrsch, who will be in attendance for a Q&A period following each film.  The films will be presented as a double bill for a single admission price.

Remembering Playland at the Beach
This full-length documentary film tells the history of San Francisco's famous 10-acre seaside amusement park, Playland at the Beach. Located next to Ocean Beach, it was torn down in 1972 to make way for a condominium development. Gone now for more than 3 decades, it remains one of the city's lost treasures. (60m)

Sutro's: The Palace at Lands End
Tells the story of San Francisco's privately owned swimming, ice-skating and museum complex built in the late 19th century. Once the world's largest swimming pool establishment, the building burnt down in 1966. The ruins remain today. Journey back in time to revisit Sutro Baths when it was in full operation. A nostalgic trip back in time told by historians and the people that were there. (84m)

What: Playland at the Beach and Sutro Baths documentaries at Crest Theatre
When: Sunday, August 5, 1 p.m. (144 minutes)
Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street, Sacramento
For more info: (916) 442-7378;

May 18, 2012
Documentary on Gov. Pat Brown to screen on KVIE

Brown Family.JPGWith Gov. Jerry Brown front and center in state politics, filmmakers Sascha Rice and Hilary Armstrong's documentary, California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown, seems more than timely.

The doc is a look into the Brown California family dynasty - a dynasty some liken to the Massachusetts-borne Kennedy dynasty. The film's main focus is Gov. Brown's father - the late Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown.

In the documentary, Rice and Armstrong enlist journalists, historians, contemporary thinkers, and politicians (including Jerry Brown) to frame a narrative that offers a political, philosophical, and psychological perspective on Pat Brown.

KVIE will premiere California State of Mind on Monday, May 21, at 10 p.m.

A three min. trailer can be seen here.

-- Edward Ortiz

PHOTO CREDIT: Governor Edmund G. " Pat " Brown poses in front of the Capitol with his family, from left, Jerry, Bernice, Edmund and Kathy. 1962 Sacramento Bee file photo

May 16, 2012
Film asks, what is the "greenest" building?

A 2011 documentary film asks the question, what's the most environmentally and economically sound policy: retrofit old buildings or replace them with new ones? The Greenest Building argues that reuse of existing structures strengthens local economies and community identity, and has less of a negative impact on natural resources and global climate.

The local screening of the documentary this Sunday will be followed by a discussion with Architect Ron Vrilakas who will speak about reuse and preservation in "The Triangle," an infill project in Oak Park.

What: Screening of The Greenest Building documentary film
Where: Guild Theatre, 2828 35th St., Sacramento
When: May 20, 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: SOCA at (916) 202-4815

News release
Event flyer

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.

February 16, 2012
Film documents Japanese internment at Santa Fe camp

internment.JPGTo observe the 70th anniversary of the Executive Order 9066, the presidential order permitting the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the Northern California Time of Remembrance organization is showing a film describing life at the Department of Justice camp in Santa Fe, about which little has been generally known.

The Santa Fe facility housed 4,555 men, whom the FBI considered the most dangerous "enemy aliens," although there was little evidence to support the accusation. Most of these prisoners "were community leaders, teachers, Buddhist ministers and others who the government feared would rally and organize the Japanese community."

Neil Simon, the documentary's producer, will be on hand to answer audience questions after the showing of the film.

What: Prisoners and Patriots: The Untold Story of Japanese Internment in Santa Fe
Where: Secretary of State's Auditorium, 1500 11th St., Sacramento
When: Feb. 18, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cost: Donation: $15 for adults, $10 for students over 18, and free for students under 18.
For more info: 916-427-2841 or website

Event flyer
News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Young evacuees of Japanese ancestry wait their turn for baggage inspection upon arrival at the Turlock Assembly Center. Photograph by Dorothea Lange

January 4, 2012
New film documents Sacramento's love affair with the Kings

kings 1985.JPGSmall Market, Big Heart is a new full-length, locally-produced documentary examining the 26-year struggle by the Sacramento community to attract and keep a professional basketball team in this region despite enormous economic challenges. The filmmakers tell this story with interviews with local journalists, politicians, members of the Kings organization and devoted fans.

Small Market, Big Heart premieres Jan. 9, 7 p.m., at the Crest Theatre. You can find ticket information, read media coverage, view a movie trailer and buy a T-shirt on the film's website.

Facebook page
Twitter feed

PHOTO CREDIT: Members of the Sacramento Kings line up for the opening ceremonies for the franchise's first game in Sacramento. Among those identified are players (from left): Reggie Theus, LaSalle Thompson and Eddie Johnson (behind Thompson). 1985 Sacramento Bee photograph by Mitch Toll

December 16, 2011
Ishi's cape featured in Travel Channel program

IshiFurCape_RGB.jpgA California Museum artifact associated with Ishi, the Yahi Indian "discovered" in 1911, will be the subject of the Dec. 20 segment of Mysteries at the Museum on the Travel Channel.

Anthropologist Dr. P. Christiaan Klieger will explain how the fur cape was found and how it shed light on the discredited claim that Ishi was "the last wild Indian in North America."

The cable show runs this Tuesday at 9 to 10 p.m. on Comcast in Sacramento (check local listings for times and channels elsewhere).

The cape is on display in the California Museum's ongoing exhibit, "California Indians: Making A Difference."

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Rare Yahi cape on display in the California Museum's permanent exhibit, "California Indians: Making A Difference." Courtesy California Museum of History

October 28, 2011
Ken Burns film looks at the California Gold Rush

TheWest.jpgRecently I had the pleasure of viewing Ken Burns' The West. Like all of his remarkable documentaries, this 1996 series vividly portrays the American story through images and the words of historical figures and contemporary experts. The filmmakers cover the sweep of U.S. western history from pre-European Indian times through the closing of the frontier at the turn of the century.

Of relevance to this blog is Episode Three, "Speck of the Future," describing the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill that ignited the huge migration of fortune seekers into California. The film chronicles the struggles of the people who worked the gold fields: prospectors from the East, Chinese immigrants, Native Americans, Mexican Americans and those who came from other countries. Though most of the "49ers" failed to strike it rich, entrepreneurs like John Sutter and Sam Brannan did very well selling supplies to miners at exorbitant prices.

The principal commentator in this segment is the late J.S. Holliday, one of the state's preeminent historians and author of The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience. Holliday's book relies heavily on the letters and journals of William Swain, a young prospector from Youngstown, N.Y. who traveled overland to California in April 1849. He returned home the following year defeated and broke. In the film Swain stands in as the archetypal New England 49er who left home and family to chase an elusive dream.

The 8-part documentary is available on DVD or viewable online with Netflix instant streaming. PBS hosts a terrific web site for the series that features a transcript of each episode, resources, photographs, maps, biographies, timelines, lesson plans and even a couple quizzes.

October 5, 2011
Upcoming Women's Suffrage Centennial events

header2.jpgThis Monday is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the voter initiative that gave California women the right to vote. To commemorate this civil rights milestone, many events are planned around the state. In Sacramento there are several opportunities to learn and celebrate women's suffrage, including films, exhibits, reenactments, music and receptions:

Oct. 9

Crest Theatre, 12 to 4 p.m., films and live performance. Seneca Falls, a documentary about America's first women's rights convention in 1848. California Women Win the Vote, a film tracing the political and social battle for suffrage in the state. We Did It for You!, a play that celebrates the struggle for equal rights in U.S. history.

Oct. 10

California Museum, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., gather for craft corner, sign making, storytelling and singing.

Stroll to the State Capitol, 10:30 a.m. Welcome by officials and singers on north steps, 11 a.m. Inside the Capitol, 12 to 3 p.m., Living History suffragists, The Girl from Colorado (short play), Suffrage Singers, reading of Proposition 4 and arguments for and against, pick up Centennial souvenir, take your photo in period clothing or suffrage colors.

California Museum. Authors and book signing, 2:30 to 4 p.m. The Six Star Suffragists presentation, 4 p.m., in the Auditorium. Museum reception and program, 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 11

California State University Sacramento, 6 to 8 p.m., University Union Ballroom. Keynote address by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, plus a panel of experts discussing how women's legal rights have changed since 1911 in the United States.

Oct. 15

State Capitol, 10 to 4:30, Museum docents reenact key moments in the struggle to get the vote. Performance tours leave every 15 minutes from the First Floor Rotunda.


State Capitol Museum, 9 to 5 p.m., We Won the Vote! 100 Years of Equal Suffrage in California, an exhibit documenting suffrage with interactive displays, historical photographs, period campaign materials, clothing worn during the campaign and oral histories.

News release
Event program
Event flyer

October 4, 2011
Sacramentans found a way to drink during Prohibition

prohibition.jpgThe debut of a Ken Burns documentary is always a big occasion for history buffs. This time the filmmaker tells the story of the century-long fight to outlaw liquor in the United States and the consequences of that 13-year ban. Prohibition started on Sunday and concludes today on KVIE Channel 6 at 8 p.m. You can also view it with the PBS iPhone/iPad application.

But how did Sacramento fare during the dry time? According to a 1999 Bee article by Dixie Reid (attached), local denizens didn't sacrifice much in the way of spirits. In fact, the city was considered one of the "wettest" places in the state, supporting many speakeasies and a flourishing moonshine trade out in the countryside.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nationwide prohibition began Jan. 16, 1920. This photo shows beer being dumped into Lake Michigan in Chicago. UPI

September 30, 2011
Capradio's Insight visits the Governor's Mansion

Gov Mansion.JPGBroadcasting live from the Governor's Mansion, Insight (the KXJZ daily interview program) devoted last Tuesday's show to the state parks that are slated to close due to California's budget crunch.

Host Jeffrey Callison discussed the pending park closures and their implications with Director of the Department of State Parks, Ruth Coleman, and the District Superintendent for the Capital District of California State Parks, Catherine Taylor. He also spoke  with Bob and Debra Warren, the son and granddaughter of former governor Earl Warren, about prospects for keeping the Historic Governor's Mansion open.

Later Callison was led through a tour of the Mansion by long-time docent Albert Howenstein. A video recording of this part of the program is available on the Capradio web site. There you can also view vintage photos of the 1877 home, as well as images of other houses used as governor residences.

Bee columnist Dan Walters was also on hand to describe the homes, ranches, mansions and lofts that governors lived in since the Governor's Mansion stopped being the executive residence.

PHOTO CREDIT: Historic Governor's Mansion. 2006 Sacramento Bee photograph by Jose Luis Villegas

August 30, 2011
Watch the film about Ishi, the last Yahi Indian

Thumbnail image for ishi film.jpgThe centennial anniversary of the "discovery" of Ishi is getting a lot of attention this week, including the special Ishi exhibit at the California Museum.

As The Bee's Steve Magagnini reported yesterday, Ishi's reputation as a "noble savage" endeared him to generations of children and "made him one of the most beloved American Indians, celebrated in books, plays and film."

Speaking of films, the award-winning documentary Ishi, the last Yahi is available for free online viewing on the SnagFilms web site. This 1992 production recounts the story of Ishi's emergence, his collaboration with anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and his final years as a teacher and informant for a lost way of life.

California Museum news release

July 27, 2011
Road Trip to the Mother Lode

Huell Howser, the avuncular host of the PBS California's Gold series, recently took his Road Trip crew on a ramble through the Mother Lode country of Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. Along the way they saw several historic sites reflective of the region's Gold Rush past.

The episode begins with a stop at the Mark Twain Cabin Marker, erected on the site where the author supposed stayed during his brief sojourn in the Mother Lode. From there Howser checks out the Murphys Historic Hotel, the Moaning Cavern Adventure Park, the Ironstone Vineyard and Museum and the Angels Camp Museum. The program ends with leaping amphibians competing at the Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee.

It's a fun video which you can watch with your computer's web browser.

IMAGE CREDIT: Huell Howser visits the Angels Camp Museum to see the expanded Mark Twain exhibit.

July 21, 2011
Film explores the sustainability of older buildings

greenest.pngHere's a question for environmentalists. What's more sustainable, renovating and reusing an older structure or erecting a brand-new "green" building? A new documentary film argues that keeping existing buildings is often more economically, ecologically and socially sustainable for the community and the world

The Greenest Building will be shown in Sacramento at the Crest Theatre on Monday. Following the screening, a panel of local architects, green builders, developers, planners and advocates will discuss  the implications of adaptive building reuse for Sacramento.

What: The Greenest Building documentary film.
When: July 25, 7-9 p.m.
Where: The Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street, Sacramento
Cost: Free
For more info: call 916-455-2935 or see

News release and film flyer

July 20, 2011
An amble through State Fair history

California State Fair.JPGThe Eichler Homes blog scores another hit with a beautifully-illustrated posting on the history of the California State Fair when it was located at Broadway and Stockton. The Fair moved to that site in 1909 and left for Cal Expo in 1968.

Included in the piece are family snapshots, vintage color postcards and a newspaper advertisement for the Fair. There's also a Bee newspaper photo of a man blasting off in a Bell Aerosystems rocket belt. But the kicker is the video clip of two locomotives crashing head-on as "entertainment" at the 1913 State Fair.

You can view many more historic State Fair photographs using the Center for Sacramento History online catalog.

PHOTO CREDIT: Children sit atop one of the Golden Bear statues in front of the Agriculture Building at the old State Fair grounds. 1957 Sacramento Bee file photo

July 14, 2011
John Muir in the New World

TEDDY.JPGThe Public Broadcasting Service has much expanded the full-length video offerings on its web site. I was happy to see the American Masters documentary on John Muir is still available online even though it aired back in April.

John Muir, of course, was the 19th century naturalist, author and father of the conservation movement who tirelessly advocated for preservation of the Yosemite Valley and other wild areas of the Sierra Nevada. He played a central role in the development of the U.S. National Parks system.

John Muir in the New World examines the early life and experiences that shaped this icon of California history. The film paints an intimate portrait of the man with reenactments shot in some of the beautiful places that Muir traveled: Wisconsin, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra Valley of California, and the Alaskan glaciers.

Muir wrote prolifically on the need to preserve the natural world. You can get a sense of the power of his prose in an 1876 essay that appeared in the Sacramento Daily-Record Union. Here Muir argues for the conservation of the Sierra Nevada forests, explaining their essential role in the health of the overall ecosystem. (I found this piece by searching the California Digital Newspaper Collection.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Yosemite, circa 1906. Library of Congress.

July 12, 2011
African Americans on the overland trail

Recently, the Center for Sacramento History partnered with the Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program at CSUS to help create a new living history project. "Sweet Freedom's Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails, 1841-1869" explores the stories of African Americans who were part of the great overland trail migration of the nineteenth century. The program will include a replica wagon like that built by Hyrum Young, an African American wagon maker in Independence, Missouri. Young built some of the wagons used by the ill-fated Donner Party.

The team of volunteers led by Joe Moore and Roy Korb are using an authentic overland wagon undercarriage from c. 1860. The undercarriage was restored by a South Dakota company, but Moore, Korb, and team, used the wood/fabrication shop at the Center for Sacramento History to create remaining parts of the wagon. The attached slideshow/video depicts the four-month project:

For more information about "Sweet Freedom's Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trials, 1841-1869", you may contact Project Director, Joe Louis Moore at (916) 278-5363.

July 5, 2011
Eagle Theater offers Silent Movie Festival

thekid.JPGAs part of Time Travel Weekends (described in a prior post), the Eagle Theatre is offering a series of weekly silent movie nights featuring classic films from 1900-29. The movies are accompanied by audience sing-alongs, plus music, mini skits and comedy routines by performers in period costumes.

What: Silent Movie Festival!
Where: Eagle Theatre, Old Sacramento State Historic Park
When: 7 p.m., Saturday evenings thru August 27, 2011
Cost: Minimum $5 donation at the door
For more info: 916-808-7059 or

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in "The Kid"

May 27, 2011
Golden Gate Bridge is 74

GoldenGate.JPGToday is the 74th anniversary of the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge linking San Francisco and Marin County. To celebrate Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, put together a neat online exhibit on the festivities of May 27, 1937.

It's got a brief historic video showing airplanes flying overhead, warships steaming by, the parade of cars, etc. There's also a slideshow of black-and-white photos documented the construction and celebration. Finally there's Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta, the official souvenir program that's filled with pictures, advertisements, schedules, and articles about the bridge's construction and the prominent movers and shakers who made it happen.

Worth a look.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Golden Gate Bridge is shown after catwalks spanned the north (top) and south towers at the end of 1935. Sacramento Bee file photo.

May 17, 2011
The Crest Theatre's premiere

crest.JPGIf you're a fan of classic movie palaces, you'll appreciate "1949: Crest Theatre's Gala Premiere," a recent posting on the Eichlerific blog. Supplemented with vintage photos, advertisements, news clippings and video, the article describes the grand re-opening of the Crest on Oct. 6, 1949. The event was a huge deal for Sacramento, attracting more than 5,000 people including movie stars and prominent city and state officials. It's a nice bit of research and worth a look.

Eichler.JPGEichlerific, Eichler Homes in Sacramento is dedicated to the Mid-Century Modern single-family houses built in California by the Joseph Eichler company starting in the late 1940s. These bold, distinctive homes were inspired by modernist architects in particular Frank Lloyd Wright. The mission of the blog is to celebrate the legacy and historical context of these unique residences in the region.

PHOTO CREDITS: The Crest Theatre on K St. 2010 Sacramento Bee photo by Andy Alfaro. Interior of an Eichler home in South Land Park. 2004 Sacramento Bee photo by Owen Brewer.

May 13, 2011
New journal discusses Sacramento's country music roots

At the start of spring, the University of California Press released a new arts, culture, and history-based publication called Boom: A Journal of California.

The first issue features several scholarly articles which address California's economic and social difficulties (titles include "How to Fix a Broken State" by Joe Matthews and Mark Paul, and "Race and the Mythology of California's Lost Paradise" by Daniel HoSang.) A music-related article by Jesse Drew, Associate Professor of Technocultural Studies at UC Davis, addresses something slightly different.

The article, titled "Country Music's California Heart," discusses the musical genre's reputation as an art form steeped in traditional or conservative values, and the ways in which those values may be at odds with California as a place of "nontraditional lifestyles, radical protest movements and a rejection of the status quo." In the article, Drew considers where California Country music fits into the vast political spectrum.

2001-x03-126.jpg"County Music's California Heart" features images obtained from the Center for Sacramento History and makes specific reference to longtime Sacramento resident Bob Wills, his western swing band, the Texas Playboys, and the bygone era of Wills Point (an entertainment venue located near today's I-80 off ramp to Auburn Boulevard.) Some Sac History Happenings readers may be surprised to know that country music has locally established roots...



Information regarding subscriptions to Boom: A Journal of California may be found at the following link: and details regarding Jesse Drew's current film project "Big Country: The Politics of Country Music" may be found through his website: 

IMAGE CREDIT: Postcard of Wills Point, Courtesy of the Center for Sacramento History, City of Sacramento Collection, 2001/x-03/0126

April 21, 2011
Former WWII pilot's widow takes flight in a B-17

B-17.JPGTo honor the memory of her late husband, Iris Taggart, 84, has worked tirelessly to bring restored World War II warplanes to Sacramento for demonstrations at Mather Airport. Recently she took a ride on the "Liberty Belle," a B-17 bomber maintained by the Liberty Foundation. The Bee's Randy Pench captured the experience in a short video. Mrs. Taggart was profiled in a 2008 Bee article.

Thumbnail image for Taggart.JPGRobert "Tag" Taggart served as a B-17 co-pilot during the WWII. He flew 30 missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. Later Maj. Taggart flew C-47s during the 1948 Berlin Airlift. He remained in the Air Force until 1966 and passed away in 2005. Read more details about his life in the Bee obituary.

April 5, 2011
Sacramento Modern Architecture, movie night at the Crocker

Modern Architecture enthusiasts won't want to miss the special screening of "Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman," which plays this Thursday night at the Crocker Art Museum. The film "celebrates the life and career of Julius Shulman, whose photographs brought modern architecture and progressive architects into the American mainstream."

Presented in collaboration with the Crocker, SacMod (the group that brought you last summer's incredibly successful Sacramento Mid-Century Home Tour), and the American Institute of Architects Central Valley, the film has some local significance, as Shulman photographed at least one building in town-- The National Youth Admistration building designed by Richard Neutra.

Gretchen Steinberg, a founding member of the SacMod group explains additional significance that the film has to our community, "I think the film highlights the importance of great design and underscores the need for further celebration, education and preservation of our excellent mid-20th century architecture. The architects that Shulman worked with believed they could change the world through better design. That spirit and excitement is alive and well here in Sacramento's design community; I would like to see it ecouraged and nurtured." Those who are interested in discovering more about Shulman's photographic work, Mid-Century architecture, and Modern designers should plan on seeing the one-night screening of "Visual Acoustics." For those interested in local Modern architecture, Steinberg's "Sacramento Mid-Century Modern" blog is certainly worth checking out.

"Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman" plays at the Crocker Art Museum on Thursday, April 7 ("Thursdays 'til 9") and has a run time of about 80 minutes. Director Eric Bricker will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion. Admission is $6 for Crocker Members, $12 for Non-members.

March 21, 2011
Jim Henley's "Small Bites of Sacramento History"

In the early 1960s, a Sacramento State graduate student by the name of Jim Henley had two choices. He could either earn midterm credit in his public history course by taking a written examination or he could participate in the difficult cleanup of a burned-out building in Old Sacramento. Surprisingly, the young man opted to do the grueling hands-on work. 

The less conventional approach to coursework not only introduced Henley to the profession of historic preservation, it gave him his first taste of the seedier side of Sacramento's then "skid row". Only moments after arriving at the field site for the first time, Henley witnessed a horrific altercation between two men that eventually led to murder. Despite the fact that Old Sacramento was quite rough in those days, Henley recognized its positive potential.

Over a period of forty years, Henley grew from an inspired graduate student to the primary advocate for Sacramento history, eventually becoming official City Historian. He played an active role in the establishment of Old Sacramento as an historic district, helped build the Sacramento History Museum, and oversaw the development of the City's archives, currently known as the Center for Sacramento History

In the accompanying video, James E. Henley, who retired from the role as City Historian in 2007, discusses one of fifty-five "Small Bites of Sacramento History." In this installation, he provides the background story to Sacramento's central city gridded street pattern.


Over time, Sac History Happenings will feature additional segments from "Small Bites of Sacramento History." Henley's "bites" may also be accessed through the Center for Sacramento History's YouTube channel. 

March 14, 2011
State Library's "Food for Thought"

The California State Library will resume its "Food for Thought" event series on March 16 with a screening of the film The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Florence "Pancho" Barnes was a 1920s aviatrix who went from rebellious tomboy to Mexican revolutionary to barnstormer to Hollywood stunt pilot. 

This event will take place in the library's California History Room located in Room 200 at 900 N Street. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the program starts at 6 with time for discussion afterwards. Due to limited seating, attendees must RSVP to Rebecca Fontaine at 916-653-9942 or

February 25, 2011
Sacramento-made Buster Keaton film to show at Historic Guild Theater

On Sunday, February 27, the Sacramento County Historical Society and alternative cinema group, Movies on a Big Screen, will show the Buster Keaton film, Steamboat Bill Jr. at historic Guild Theater in Oak Park.

Made in 1928, the feature-length silent comedy portrays the life of young college graduate "Steamboat Bill Jr." as he desperately follows in the footsteps of his father, a Mississippi steamboat captain. Hilarity ensues when the character, played by Keaton, falls in love with the daughter of his father's business rival.1985-024-0240.jpg

While the film's plotline depicts humorous events on the Mississippi, much of the movie was actually filmed along the Sacramento River. Local residents were employed as extras for the film and Keaton's production team filled local hotels and regularly dined at area restaurants while the picture was made. In addition, Sacramentans helped build a makeshift set along the River.

On the night of the film's showing, local historian William Burg will speak about the movie and its significance to Sacramento's history.

Showtime begins at 7:30 pm and admission is $5.00 per person. Movies on a Big Screen at the Guild Theater is located at 2828 35th Street in Oak Park, Sacramento.

PHOTO CREDIT: The steamboat "Dover" pulls a loaded barge on the Sacramento River, c. 1920. Photograph Courtesy of The Center for Sacramento History, Eugene Hepting Collection,1985/024/0242

February 17, 2011
Sac Public Library honors America's unheralded black soldiers

By Dixie Reid

Sacramento Public Library will screen Frank Martin's four-hour documentary "For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots" in two parts - on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 - at the Valley Hi-North Laguna branch library.

Showtime is 6:30 p.m. both days.

This is an excerpt from the film's website, :

If prevalent and accepted accounts of American History - both scholarly and those portrayed by Hollywood - are to be believed, the face of the United States Armed Services was white.

The truth is over 5,000 Black soldiers fought in the American Revolution. And though most were not recognized as citizens or even free man, more than 200,000 took up arms in the Civil War. Over 380,000 African-Americans served in WW I and more than 2,000,000 defended this country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Yet most accounts of their valiant actions are absent from history books and contemporary film.

"For Love Of Liberty: The Story Of America's Black Patriots" finally, and for the first time, sets the record straight.

The library presents the documentary in celebration of Black History Month.

Valley Hi-North Laguna Library is at 7400 Imagination Parkway, Sacramento (off Bruceville Road and south of Cosumnes River Boulevard.)

For more information: (916) 264-2920,

Call The Bee's Dixie Reid, (916) 321-1134.

February 8, 2011
KVIE to rebroadcast "African Americans in California's Heartland"

house.jpgTo help celebrate Black History Month, the local PBS station KVIE is rebroadcasting a two-part Viewfinder episode on the African American experience in Sacramento and Northern California.

Part 1: African Americans in California's Heartland (Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.). Highlighting education, church and civil rights, this segment looks at the history of black people in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada from the gold rush to 1960. It chronicles the struggles and accomplishments during the state's first 100 years.

Part 2: African Americans in California's Heartland: The Civil Rights Era (Feb. 19, 11:30 p.m.). Continuing the story into the tumultuous 1960s, this segments describes how Sacramento changed with the movement for equality in housing, education and employment.

The web sites associated with the two films are worth a look. There you'll find transcripts, photos, video and audio, lesson plans and links to related resources.

Hat Tip: The Sacramento Press.

PHOTO CREDIT: In the early 1900s, cement layer Wallace Smith, his wife and daughter owned this home on Riverside Blvd. near the city cemetery. This outlying area of the city was considered acceptable for blacks. Photo courtesy of Earlene Gray Woods.

February 3, 2011
Film uncovers the "hidden" transcontinental railroad

Bloomer Cut.jpgMost people know about the heroic, monumental construction of the transcontinental railroad across the Sierra in the 1860s. But few know that portions of the original railroad lay hidden from public view sometimes miles from the current route. A new documentary celebrates this historic treasure and calls for its preservation.

Last Friday producer Bill George and railroad historian Chris Graves discussed The Hidden Wonder of the World; the Transcontinental Railroad Today from Sacramento to Donner Summit on the KXJZ radio show Insight. The film takes viewers to the "the abandoned granite tunnels, stunning trestles, gigantic cuts and breathtaking scenery" traversed by the Central Pacific Railroad.

Hidden Wonder of the World debuted last October in Colfax during the First Transcontinental Railroad Chautauqua, a conference whose goal was "to preserve, publicize and promote study of the history of the First Transcontinental Railroad from Sacramento to Nevada and its impact on the people along the route."

UPDATE: KVIE-TV will broadcast the film on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. You can purchase a DVD copy now for $15.95.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bloomer Cut in Auburn was the first major hurdle in the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. Photograph by Shen-Chih (Sam) Cheng. Courtesy Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

January 26, 2011
Oak Park Walking Tour, the video

US Bank.jpgThe Center for Sacramento History recently posted on YouTube a video recording of Prof. Robin Datel's lecture on the making of the Central Oak Park Walking Tour. Datel, chair of the CSUS Geography Department, introduced the project at the Guild Theater last October. She outlined the methods and sources she and her students used to identify important landmarks.

The walking tour begins at the Lewis Building (corner or 35th St. and Broadway) and ends at US Bank (3rd Ave. and Broadway). Check out the Sacramento Bee's story and photo gallery describing this "bite-size history of Sacramento's earliest suburb."

PHOTO CREDIT: US Bank Building, formerly the Oak Park branch of Sacramento Bank, 1965. Courtesy the Center for Sacramento History, the Sacramento Bee Collection.

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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