Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

August 27, 2013
Sacramento's postwar renaissance explored in new publication

Sac Renaissance.jpgProminent local historian and preservationist William Burg has penned a new history of the cultural and political renaissance that followed Sacramento's postwar redevelopment.

In the early 1960s families, businesses and churches of the West End and Japantown were displaced when sections of the old downtown area--considered to be a slum--were bulldozed for commercial development. Those upended reestablished themselves in other neighborhoods that soon nurtured a resurgence in art, music and political activism.

With oral histories and previously unpublished photos, Burg explores the people and groups who characterized the time, such as the beatniks, Oak Park's Black Panthers, Southside Park's ethnic enclaves, Lavender Heights' gay activist George Raya and the Royal Chicano Air Force.

William Burg is author of four books and numerous articles, including Sacramento's K Street: Where our City was Born published last year.

Sacramento Renaissance: Art, Music and Activism in California's Capital City
By William Burg
The History Press
Paperback, 192 pages, 75+ images

August 21, 2013
New book examines 'unfree' labor in California's history

Freedoms Frontier.jpgAlthough California entered the union as a free state and its original constitution prohibited "slavery or involuntary servitude," in practice the treatment of certain workers was "unfree" to varying extent. Some African American, Native American, Latino, Chinese and child workers found themselves in various states of bound or semi-bound labor conditions.

The story of their struggles and the political and legal battle for freedom fro these diverse groups is told in a new book just issued by the University of North Carolina Press. In Freedom's Frontier, author Stacey L. Smith reconstructs this history through the period of the U.S. Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction.

Smith, an Assistant Professor at Oregon State, conducted her research using previously unexamined court and legislative documents.

Freedom's Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction
By Stacey L. Smith
University of North Carolina Press
hardcover, 344 pages

August 1, 2013
New book examines the unique radicalism of 1960s San Francisco

Radical Sixties_Front.jpgA new history of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s explores the influence that geography had on the development of the region's particular style of radical politics and culture. Author Anthony Ashbolt considers the wide range of singular events and trends -- rock music, hippies, utopian social experiments, student protest, drugs, etc. -- that gave rise to the Bay Area's unique radicalism.

Ashbolt is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Wollongong.

A Cultural History of the Radical Sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area
By Anthony Ashbolt
Pickering & Chatto Publishers
Hardcover, 255 pages

July 24, 2013
Podcast series spotlights new books in history

NBIH.JPGThis blog is always on the lookout for quality audio and video programs in the field of history. We've mentioned the college lectures supplied by iTunes U and C-SPAN, podcast series such as Back Story and My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, and the video courses available through Annenberg's

Recently our radar found New Books in History, a podcast series of interviews with authors of new published works of academic history. Although the subject matter can sometimes be arcane, these discussions are usually lively and accessible. Recent programs featured a provocative study of Russian KGB infiltration of the United States in the mid-20th century and a fascinating look at the experiences of Americans who visited Europe between 1750 and 1860.

New Books in History is part of the New Books Network, a consortium of free audio interview programs with writers from nearly 100 academic disciplines, ranging from the arts and humanities to the sciences and social sciences. Other NBN series of historical interest include New Books in: American Studies, African American Studies, Archaeology, Biography, Communications, Gender Studies, Historical Fiction, Intellectual History, Journalism, Military History, Political Science, Popular Culture and Technology.

You can retrieve and play New Books in History interviews through Apple iTunes or copy-paste the RSS feed into your favorite podcast media player.

July 22, 2013
Book details Folsom Prison executions

FOLSOM PRISON 1.JPGAuthor April Moore will discuss and read from her new book, Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Time Tested Books, 1114 21st St. in Sacramento.

Behind the news: Moore, an illustrator who serves as visual designer for the Northern Colorado Writers Association, recounts the lives and crimes of the 93 men executed at Folsom prison before executions were transferred to San Quentin's gas chamber in 1937. The book is illustrated with prison photographs of each of the condemned men. Moore's novel "Bobbing for Watermelons" was a finalist in the 2008 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Writers Contest.


-- Bee staff

PHOTO CREDIT: One of the thirteen cells at Old Folsom Prison's death row, which no longer exists. The last execution took place in 1927 at Old Folsom. 2001 Sacramento Bee photograph by Jose M. Osorio

July 18, 2013
New book highlights French participation in Gold Rush

RushtoGoldcover.jpgDuring the 1848-49 Gold Rush some 30,000 of the 300,000 people who flocked to California in search of wealth were French. Most of them came to the state by sea rather than overland. Their little-known story is spotlighted in a new historical work, Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848-1854.

Malcolm Rohrbough, University of Iowa emeritus professor, delved into France's Archives to research this international study of a critical period in the history of the American West. His book has been called "completely original" by one reviewer in that it tracks a specific group of people who migrated from a foreign country to California and back again.

Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848-1854
by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
Yale University Press
Hardcover, 368 pages, $40
Kindle edition, $32

July 17, 2013
Author to speak on secret WWII Japanese submarine program

operation_storm_cover.jpgA secret Japanese submarine program during World War II is the subject of the next "Meet the Author" lecture at the California State Military Museum.

This Sunday John Geoghegan will speak about his new book, Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Submarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World War II, that tells the story of the last-ditch plan to bomb U.S. cities with bombers launched from huge underwater aircraft carriers -- the I-400 class "supersubs."

Geogheggan is a journalist who has written numerous aricles about the history unusual technologies for the Huffington Post and other publications. Operation Storm grew from a 2008 article in Aviation History entitled "Japan's Panama Canal Buster."

What: Meet the Author, John Geoghegan
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St., Sacramento
When: 1:00 pm, Sunday, July 21, 1 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 854-1900 or website

Publisher's book website

July 12, 2013
San Francisco Bay's human and natural history examined in new book

The history of San Francisco is not only the story of a great world city, it's also the story of a great body of water that both supported and was impacted by rapid urban growth.

In his natural (and human) history of San Francisco Bay, author Matthew Morse Booker focuses on waterfront and tidal wetlands. It is there that decades of human activity, such as dredging and upriver hydraulic mining, have reshaped, polluted and irrevocably altered the marine environment.

A book review in Boom: A Journal of California calls Down by the Bay "an unsentimental history" that warns: "for almost every action that humans have taken in and around the bay, there have been equal and opposite reactions, usually detrimental to fish, fowl and the fecundity of the environment."

Booker, currently Associate Professor of History at North Carolina State University, leads the Between the Tides project at Stanford University.

Down by the Bay: San Francisco's History between the Tides
by Matthew Morse Booker
University of California Press
Hardcover, 294 pages, $29.95
Kindle edition, $16.47

July 4, 2013
Have a great Independence Day

4th July011.jpg IMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee cartoon by Newton Pratt published on July 4, 1938.

June 14, 2013
Suisun valley and town celebrated in new photo book

Suisun book.jpgThe history of the Suisun Valley goes back centuries when Native Americans populated the region before settlement by the Spanish. The Gold Rush attracted many people to the transportation and commercial crossroads that became Suisun City. The valley eventually evolved into a major agricultural region, producing wheat, fruit and wine.

A new Arcadia illustrated volume celebrates this portion of Solano County with photos borrowed from the Vacaville Heritage Council, Solano County Historical Society and local people. Suisun City and Valley was produced by historian-preservationists Elissa A. DeCaro and L.M. Ewing.

Suisun City and Valley (Images of America series)
By Elissa A. DeCaro and L.M. Ewing
Arcadia Publishing
Paperback, 128 pages, 200 images

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 8,000 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

June 6, 2013
D-Day: 69th anniversary
D Day007.jpg

IMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee political cartoon by Newton Pratt, published June 7, 1944.

May 29, 2013
1906 San Francisco quake and fire documented in new photo book

SFquakebook.jpgOn April 18, 1906 a massive 8.3 earthquake and subsequent fires devastated more than 4.5 square miles of San Francisco buildings and roads.

A new Arcadia photo book brings together dozens of essential images of the city before, during and after the disaster. Authors Richard and Gladys Hansen used photos from their own private collection built over 20 years. History buffs can find many of these photos, plus articles, a timeline and primary documents at the Hansens' website, Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.

Richard Hansen is a historian and photographer who has offered photo shows about the great earthquake since 1970. Gladys Hansen, San Francisco Archivist Emerita, has compiled a Great Register of people who died in and lived through the disaster.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake (Images of America series)
by Richard and Gladys Hansen
Arcadia Publishing
paperback, 128 pages, 200 images

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 8,000 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

May 27, 2013
Have a good Memorial Day

Memorial Day cartoon.jpg

IMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee political cartoon by Newton Pratt, published May 30, 1963.

May 10, 2013
Letters tell adventures of an early 20th century businessman out West

LettersofMyGrandfather-frontcover.jpgPoint Reyes Cypress Press has recently released a softcover edition of a collection of letters revealing the exploits of a successful businessman who left his family in St. Louis to pursue a new life on the West Coast.

Johnson, who was 54 when he emigrated, had many adventures and held many types of jobs as he roamed as far north as Vancouver and as far south as San Diego. Among his occupations was lumberman in Washington, paymaster for the Panama Pacific Exposition, accountant for the biggest hotel in the new Yosemite National Park and employee at the hydroelectric dam on the Merced River. Through his letters Johnson provides a portrait of life and work in the rough-and-ready days of early 20th century California.

Editor Anne R. Dick, is a writer, poet and jewelry maker. She's also author of The Search for Philip K. Dick, her memoir of life with the famed science fiction novelist.

The Letters of my Grandfather, Moses Perry Johnson, 1911-1928
Introduction and endnotes by Anne R. Dick
Point Reys Cypress Press
Softcover, 248 pages, illustrated

News release

April 25, 2013
WPA Guide for California just reprinted

Among the many published items produced by the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression were a series of guidebooks for all 48 states. The American Guide Series featured in-depth essays on the history and culture of the state and descriptions of each city. Each guide also included tourist information and many photographs.

The UC Press has just released a new reprint of California's WPA guidebook. The volume describes "the history, culture, and roadside attractions of the 1930s." Although the material was written anonymously, some prominent authors are known to have contributed to the Guide. They include: Kenneth Rexroth, Harry Partch, Tillie Olsen and Kenneth Patchen.

California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State
Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration
reprinted by the UC Press
paperback, 756 pages
read an excerpt

April 24, 2013
80 years of San Francisco public art celebrated in new history

SFACcover_web800px-200-web.jpgPublic art reflects the character of a city. And a new history uncovers the vibrant, bold culture of San Francisco by examining 80 years of the city's public art. Beginning with the construction of Coit Tower in 1934, writer Susan Wels surveys the great sculptures, diverse music events and innovative community arts programs. Her book is richly illustrated with images by over a dozen photographers.

Wels is also author of Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner, California Academy of Sciences: Architecture in Harmony with Nature and Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It.

San Francisco: Arts for the City, Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932-2012
By Susan Wels
Hardcover, 224 pages, 175 color photos

April 17, 2013
Delta Chinatowns celebrated in new photo volume

Locke book.jpgChinese merchants founded Lockeport (later Locke) in 1915 after the Chinese section of Walnut Grove was destroyed in a fire. The town grew with the expansion of agriculture in the region. At its peak, Locke contained many shops, restaurants, gambling halls and a brothel or two. Today 70 to 80 people live in the hamlet.

A new Arcadia photo book celebrates Locke and other Chinatowns along the Sacramento River Delta. It was compiled by Lawrence Tom and Brian Tom, founder and director of the Chinese American Museum of Northern California in Marysville. The Toms have produced two other Chinese history volumes for Arcadia: Marysville's Chinatown and Sacramento's Chinatown.

Locke and the Sacramento Delta Chinatowns
by Lawrence Tom, Brian Tom
Arcadia Publishing
paperback, 128 pages, 200 images

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

April 12, 2013
New book celebrates the natural history of the Sacramento River

A new "comprehensive guide" to the Sacramento River, considers the history, development and environmental challenges facing that Northern California waterway, its tributaries and wetlands beginning in the pre-European period. Author Bob Madgic describes how Native Americans were supported by the river, how it contributed to the state's economy and how conservationists tried to preserve it from ill effects of mining, chemical spills, dam and levee control.

Madgic is a retired school teacher and principal whose previous writings include Shattered Air: A True Account of Catastrophe and Courage on Yosemite's Half Dome, A Guide to California's Freshwater Fishes and Pursuing Wild Trout: A Journey in Wilderness Values. He was recently interviewed about his latest book by The Redding Searchlight and The Anderson Valley Post.

The Sacramento: A Transcendent River
by Bob Madgic
River Bend Books
226 pages, 190+ photos
Hardback $40, paperback $29.95

April 10, 2013
New history of Old World wine pioneers in California

Calif Vines.jpgCalifornia Vines, Wines & Pioneers, a new history of the Golden State's wine industry that began in 1769 when Franciscan friars planted wine grapes in their first mission at San Diego. Author Sherry Monahan profiles more than 50 Old World pioneers who cultivated historic vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and other counties, explaining their contributions and taking the story up through the twin challenges of Prohibition and the Phylloxera pestilence.

Monahan, a professional genealogist and historian, has penned several books on the "Victorian West" and has appeared on The History Channel.

California Vines, Wines & Pioneers
By Sherry Monahan
The History Press
160 pages, 80+ images

April 5, 2013
New textbook explores California history in its Pacific context

Pacific Eldorado.jpgLike any comprehensive textbook on California history, the recently published Pacific Eldorado covers the long sweep of events from prehistory, through Spanish colonization, Gold Rush, statehood and booming development in the 20th century. But it presents this survey in the much larger context of the Pacific Basin, explaining how the state's particular geography shaped its geology, economy, trade, politics, immigration, culture and role in the nation's evolution.

Author Thomas J. Osborne, Emeritus Professor of History at Santa Ana College, has argued in Perspectives on History that the usual Atlantic-centric approach to teaching U.S. History ought to be balanced by a view that considers the manifold influence of the Pacific Rim.

Osborne is also author of  Paths to the Present: Thoughts on the Contemporary Relevance of America's Past and Empire Can Wait: American Opposition to Hawaiian Annexation, 1893-1898.

Pacific Eldorado: A History of Greater California
by Thomas J. Osborne
Paperback, 434 pages, $44.95
also available in Amazon Kindle and CourseSmart e-editions

April 3, 2013
Sacramento Chronicles author at Central Library

sacramento-chronicles-cover.jpgLocal author Cheryl Anne Stapp will be visiting the Central Library on Tuesday, April 9, to discuss her new book, Sacramento Chronicles: A Golden Past (History Press, 2013): 

Sacramento boomed when forty-niners flocked to California, but the road from riverfront trading post to cosmopolitan capital was bumpy and winding. In this collection, historian and local author Cheryl Anne Stapp reveals the setbacks and successes that shaped the city, including a devastating cholera outbreak, the 1850s squatter riots, two major fires, the glamorous Pony Express and the first transcontinental railroad built by Sacramento merchants. Even bursting levees and swollen riverbanks couldn't keep the fledgling city down, as Sacramento hoisted its downtown buildings and streets above flood level. Come discover the diversity of Sacramento's heritage from agriculture and state fairs to war efforts, Prohibition and historic preservation, and explore the historic sites that mark the city's development.

Cherly Anne Stapp is the author of numerous magazine articles, along with the recently published Disaster & Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush through the Civil War (2012), and is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch.  She maintains a history blog at

What: Sacramento Chronicles book discussion
Where: Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento
When: Tuesday, April 9, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
For more info:; (916) 264-2920

March 15, 2013
Communities along the Sacramento Delta honored in new book
delta book.jpg

What do Rio Vista, Iselton, Ryde, Walnut Grove, Locke, Courtland and Hood have in common? They're some of the northern California places featured in the new illustrated volume, Towns of the Sacramento Delta. Author Phillip Pezzaglia traces the origin and development of these pioneer communities whose histories stretch back to the 19th century when river travel and trade flourished.

Pezzaglia is a regional historian and the curator and a board member of the Rio Vista Museum. He also wrote another volume in the Arcadia Images of America series, Rio Vista.

Towns of the Sacramento Delta (Images of America series)
by Philip Pezzaglia
Arcadia Publishing
128 pages, paperback

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

March 8, 2013
New book highlights mid-century California designers

California Design.jpgA new biographical reference book features over 140 illustrated profiles of important California mid-century designers. A Handbook of California Design covers designers, craftspeople and manufacturers who worked in the media of furniture, fashion, textiles, jewelry, ceramics and graphics. Subjects include such notables as Saul Bass and Charles and Ray Eames, as well as lesser-known individuals.

The collection is edited by Bobbye Tigerman, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers
Edited by Bobbye Tigerman
MIT Press
Paperback, 320 pages

March 6, 2013
California's love affair with its coastline is chronicled in new book

ev_lec_helvarg2.jpgPart history, part travelogue and part environmental call to action, The Golden Shore is a multi-faceted paean to California's coastline. This recently released study explores the complex relationship people have with the Pacific Ocean -- beginning with the first native settlements up through the latest marine research. Author David Helvarg considerd the economic, political and cultural forces that have shaped our understanding, use and appreciation of the coast.

Helvarg is founder and Executive Director of the Blue Frontier Campaign, which is dedicated to ocean and coastal conservation. He has produced 40-plus TV documentaries and is also author of Rescue Warriors and Saved by the Sea. Helvarg discussed The Golden Shore in an interview with Imperial Beach Patch.

The Golden Shore: California's Love Affair with the Sea
by David Helvarg
published by Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 353 pages

March 1, 2013
New collection of Harvey Milk's writings and speeches

Harvey Milk book.jpgWhen Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, he became one of the first openly gay public officials in the country. Milk would go on to champion the rights of homosexuals in several high-profile campaigns, including defeat of Proposition 6 (the Briggs Initiative) which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in California public schools. In 1978 Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by former City Supervisor Dan White.

UC Press has recently released a new Harvey Milk collection, consisting of "his speeches, columns, editorials, political campaign materials, open letters, and press releases, culled from public archives, newspapers, and personal collections."

The volume was edited by Jason Edward Black, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and Charles E. Morris III is Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University.

An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk's Speeches and Writings
by Harvey Milk, edited by Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris III
University of California Press
paperback, 280 pages, $34.95
hardcover, 280 pages, $70.00

February 25, 2013
Author to speak on a new history of Sacramento

sac-chronicles.jpgSacramento's evolution from Gold Rush trading post to sprawling state capital was a tortuous road marked by fires, floods, disease, wars and riots. (No wonder its motto is Urbs Indomita -- Indomitable City.) But Sacramento also enjoyed success and growth as an agricultural, transportation, governmental (and later) military hub.

The story of the city's triumphs and tragedies is told in a new general history penned by local writer and historian Cheryl Anne Stapp. In addition to the historical high points Sacramento Chronicles: A Golden Past covers the creation and preservation of key historic sites, such as Sutter's Fort, Governor's Mansion, Folsom Powerhouse, etc.

Stapp is also author of Disaster and Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush through the Civil War. She will read and sign her new book this Thursday at Time Tested Books. Stapp was interviewed about Sacramento Chronicles in a recent episode of Capital Public Radio's Insight program.

What: Sacramento Chronicles with Cheryl Anne Stapp
Where: Time Tested Books, 1114 21st St., Sacramento
When: Feb. 28, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-447-5696 or website

February 22, 2013
State Capitol celebrated in new Arcadia book

Sac Capitol Park.jpgFor five years the Golden State's capital floated from city to city before it landed permanently in Sacramento in 1854. Work on the Capitol began in 1860 and Sacramento's iconic domed building was finally completed in 1873. At the time it was the largest structure west of the Mississippi River.

The State Capitol's history is documented in a new illustrated volume containing some 200 black-and-white images borrowed from the California State Library, State Legislature, State Archives, State Capitol Museum, Center for Sacramento History and other local sources including author John Allen's own collection.

Professor Allen teaches history at American River College. He has guest curated exhibits at the Crocker Art Museum, California State Capitol Museum and the Folsom History Museum.

Sacramento's Capitol Park (Images of America series)
by John E. Allen
Arcadia Publishing
128 pages

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

February 14, 2013
Happy Valentine's Day

Published in The Sacramento Bee, Feb. 14, 1913:

February 5, 2013
Biography explores life of Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman

Mabel McKay.jpgAuthor Greg Sarris has added a new preface to his 1994 biography of Mabel McKay, a respected scholar, basket weaver and medicine woman. Born in Lake County to Pomo parents in 1907, she devoted her years to preserving native culture and spirituality through her remarkable artistry and healing ability. In this volume Sarris recreated her life by weaving together her stories in the traditional manner. His new preface considers McKay's lasting influence.

Sarris is Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Sonoma State University. He is author of Keeping Slug Woman Alive: Essays Toward a Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts, Watermelon Nights, Grand Avenue, and The Sound of Rattles and Clappers: An Anthology of California Indian Writing.

Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream, with a new preface
by Greg Sarris
UC Press
paperback, 182 pages

February 3, 2013
A little Super Bowl history

It's Super Bowl Sunday! Time for a little 49er history.

The San Francisco football team first appeared in the super match-up on Jan. 24, 1982, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in the Pontiac Silverdome. That was the first Super Bowl played in a cold-weather city. Placekicker Ray Wersching helped win the game with an amazing four successful field goals.

The 49ers would go on to win four more Super Bowls in 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1995.

The previous year the other Northern California team -- the Oakland Raiders -- won the championship game against Philadelphia, 20-10.

Thumbnail image for Super Bowl XVI001.jpg

Super Bowl XVI002.jpg

IMAGE CREDIT: Dennis Renault cartoon published before Super Bowl XVI in The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 23, 1982.

January 30, 2013
Weinstock's history talk at Pocket-Greenhaven Library

Thumbnail image for 444-5-weinstocks-cover-blog.jpgLocal author Annette Kassis will visit the Pocket-Greenhaven Branch Library on Saturday for a discussion and signing of her new book on the former Sacramento retailer Weinstock's: Sacramento's Finest Department Store. Her book traces the origins, growth, innovations, decline and closure of one of Sacramento's most famous downtown landmarks.

Kassis provided a preview of the book in an interview posted on the History Press website.

Annette Kassis studied history at CSU Sacramento and UC Santa Barbara. She is a historian specializing in media, advertising, consumerism and popular culture.

What: Weinstock's book discussion and signing
When: Feb. 2, 11 to 12 noon.
Where: Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven branch library, 7335 Gloria Drive, Sacramento
Cost: Free
For more info: (916) 264-2920 or website

January 25, 2013
UC Davis featured in Arcadia college history series

UC Davis opened in 1908 as the University of California Farm. Since then it has grown into one of the nation's leading educational institutions, offering degrees across many disciplines. The evolution of the campus is documented in a new Arcadia volume that's lavishly illustrated with photographs gleaned from the University Archives, as well as the McMurray and Eastman collections.

The book was produced by Dennis Dingemans, retired UCD Professor of Geography, and Ann Foley Scheuring, author of Abundant Harvest -- the definitive history of the university -- and many other books of historical interest.

University of California, Davis (Campus History series)
by Dennis Dingemans and Ann Foley Scheuring
Arcadia Publishing
128 pages
200 b/w images

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

January 17, 2013
'Simeon's Story' author will tell the tragedy of Emmett Till

ASAP NEWS EMMETT TILL.jpgSimeon Wright, civil-rights activist and author of "Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till," will give a free presentation at 4 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Capitol City Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 6701 Lemon Hill Ave., Sacramento; (916) 381-5353.

In the coming-of-age memoir, Wright recalls the horrific scenario surrounding the 1955 kidnap and murder of his teenage cousin, Emmett Till, and the sensational trial that followed. The case had a major impact on advancing the nation's civil-rights movement.

-- Allen Pierleoni

PHOTO CREDIT: Emmett Louis Till, who was 14 when he was killed. AP Photo

January 16, 2013
A scholarly history of the Black Panther Party

Black Against Empire.jpgIn what LA Magazine called the "first comprehensive book on the Black Panther Party, its members, its leaders, and its resistance to the politics of the American government," authors Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. explore the rapid rise and fall of the militant civil rights movement that started in Oakland and eventually spread to 68 U.S. cities.

Based on 12 years of archival research and as well as familiarity with the Panthers' leaders and followers, Black Against Empire cuts through the mythology to reveal the political forces that shaped the organization.

Bloom is a doctoral student and Fellow at the Ralph J. Bunche Center at UCLA. Martin is Professor of History at UC Berkeley.

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
University of California Press
hardback, 560 pages

January 15, 2013
Colfax is latest Arcadia volume

Colfax book.jpgArcadia's latest illustrated community history celebrates the Placer County village of Colfax. Originally called Alder grove, Colfax served as a transportation hub for miners working their claims during the Gold Rush. Later it became the southern terminus of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Author Jan Westmore is a Sierra Nevada foothills resident, writer and photographer. She contributed chapters to Nature Companies, A Walkers Companion (1996) and The Sages Among Us (2012), and has penned more than 50 magazine and newspaper articles. Westmore drew upon private and public collections for images that appear in this new Colfax volume.

Colfax (Images of America series)
by Jan Westmore
128 pages
200 b/w images

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

January 13, 2013
In History's Spotlight: Enriqueta Andazola

Died: July 31, 1980

Known for: Enriqueta Andazola was a longtime Sacramento resident and activist for Mexican American causes beginning in the 1920s.

Background: Born in northern Mexico, Andazola fled the Mexican Revolution with her husband to the United States, settling in Sacramento in 1917. In addition to raising a family and working for 25 years at a local cannery, she formed a club for Mexican American women, Las Amigas del Hogar, and in 1939 she founded Union Femenie. Andazola sent four sons and a son-in-law off to World War II, and led a group called the Mexican War Mothers. It marked one of the first times locally that Mexican Americans asserted themselves publicly. Andazola also was instrumental in helping organize Sacramento's Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day celebrations.

A highlight: Across the street from the state Capitol stands one of Andazola's dreams: A statue paying tribute to Mexican American men lost during World War II. The likeness of the statue was inspired by one of Andazola's sons from a photograph of him in his Army uniform.

-- Anthony Sorci

January 10, 2013
New book describes California Indian experience from the inside

Bad Indians.jpgPart factual history, part verse and part family chronicle, Bad Indians: a Memoir is a provocative, alternative description of Native American life written from an insider's perspective.

Author Deborah A. Miranda, a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, relates her family's story, her tribe's history and the overall experience of California Indians through a collection of "oral histories, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, personal reflections, and poems." The result is what Frederick E. Hoxie called "a moving, personal account of loss and survival."

Miranda is Associate Professor of English at Washington and Lee University. A writer, poet and critic, she blogs at When Turtles Fly.

Bad Indians: a Tribal Memoir
by Deborah A. Miranda
Heyday Books
Paperback, 240 pages

January 6, 2013
In History's Spotlight: Wilson C. Riles

WILSON RILES.JPGBorn: June 27, 1917
Died: April 1, 1999

Known for: Wilson C. Riles rose from deep poverty in Louisiana to become superintendent of the California public school system and the first African American to hold statewide elective office.

Background: When Riles was young, his mother died, and shortly after, his father. Family friends took him in. Following high school, Riles moved with his foster family to Arizona where he attended Northern Arizona University. He began teaching in a segregated one-room schoolhouse, and continued working in Arizona public schools as a teacher and administrator for 12 years. Riles joined the California Department of Education in 1958, became director of compensatory education in 1965, and a deputy superintendent under then-Superintendent Max Rafferty in 1969. A year later, he ran against Rafferty and won. He was re-elected in 1974 and 1978. In 1982, Riles was defeated by Bill Honig. After leaving office, he headed his own educational consulting firm.

A highlight: Riles was known especially for developing early childhood education programs and pushing parents to become involved in schooling.

-- Anthony Sorci

January 3, 2013
Book explores the history of technology in California

Tech in the West.jpgA new collection of scholarly essays explores the intersection of the history of the American West with the history of U.S. technological achievement.

Where Minds and Matters Meet considers the production of some of the region's greatest projects -- such as San Diego's Panama-California Exposition, the Hetch Hetchy Dam and traffic planning in Los Angeles -- in light of political, social and cultural forces that shaped them.

The volume is edited by Volker Janssen, Associate Professor of History at California State University, Fullerton.

Where Minds and Matters Meet: Technology in California and the West
Volker Janssen (Editor)
University of California Press
Hardcover, 400 pages

January 2, 2013
SHH begins its third year

Old Bee Building.JPGThis blog begins its third year today. It's a good occasion to thank our tipsters (especially the regular ones) who sent us information about items of historical interest.

As mentioned in the first blog posting, the Sacramento region is blessed with extensive historical resources. And we're fortunate to have so many dedicated professionals and volunteers who preserve and make them available in museums, archives and libraries. Our local culture is that much richer for their efforts.

Sac History Happenings aims to support the history community by providing news about the latest exhibits, lectures, tours, meetings, as well as new research, publications and online resources.

SHH also supplements the Sacbee History Section. That web page features related articles written by Bee staffers as well as stories from the paper's wire services. It also contains links to essential historical sites, such as AP's Today in History chronology and the reader photo gallery (where you can display family snapshots of historical interest). If you're a Twitter user, the Bee's history section and blog share a combined feed: @Sac_History_Hap.

Finally I want to thank the blog's co-writers -- Michael Dolgushkin and Amanda Graham -- for their continuing help this past year. They're dedicated experts in the field of historic preservation and research. I much appreciate their professional work and their contributions to SHH.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Sacramento Bee was located on 7th Street between "I" and "J" Streets from 1902 until 1957. Bee archives

December 30, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Walter "Duster" Mails

Walter Mails.JPGBorn: Oct. 1, 1894
Died: July 5, 1974

Known for: Left-handed Walter "Duster" Mails, a Christian Brothers High School graduate, helped pitch the Cleveland Indians to their 1920 World Series win.

Background: Mails was born in the town of San Quentin, where his mother was postmaster. He attended St. Mary's College before reaching the major leagues with the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers) in 1915. Mails was sent back to the minors in 1916. He acquired the nickname "Duster" because of his frequent brush-back pitches. Eventually playing for the Sacramento Senators (later the Solons), he was sold to the Cleveland Indians at the end of the 1920 season. Three years later, he was back in the Pacific Coast League with the Oakland Oaks. After his career, Mails did promotional work for the San Francisco Seals, then for the Giants . He eventually became director of the club's speakers' bureau.

A highlight: A true eccentric, Mails once asked an umpire to throw him out of a game so he could meet his date. The umpire refused. He would also run around minor league ballparks with a megaphone announcing lineups and giving play-by-play.

-- Anthony Sorci

December 25, 2012
"Every Day is a Christmas Day in California"

Xmas Day002.jpgIMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee cartoon by Arthur V. Buel published on Dec. 25, 1912.

December 24, 2012
"City Aglow Awaits the Yuletide"

Xmas Eve001.jpgIMAGE CREDIT: Sacramento Bee illustration published on Dec. 24, 1912.

December 23, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Henry Hathaway

HENRY HATHAWAY.JPGBorn: March 13, 1898
Died: Feb. 11, 1985

Known for: Sacramento native Henry Hathaway directed more than 60 movies, including "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" and "True Grit," starring John Wayne.

Background: Son of a stage actress and manager, Hathaway moved to Hollywood with his family when he was young. He started his career as a child actor in Westerns. After serving in World War I, he returned to Hollywood to work as an assistant director. In 1932, Hathaway directed his first movie, the Western "Heritage of the Desert." He also directed "Brigham Young" (1940); "Call Northside 777" (1948), a notable drama about an ex-con working with the police as an informer; and "Rawhide" (1951). He directed Marilyn Monroe in "Niagara" (1953) and Wayne in two other movies, "North to Alaska" (1960) and "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965).

A highlight: Hathaway was nominated for an Academy Award for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer." Wayne won his only Academy Award for portraying Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn in Hathaway's "True Grit" (1969).

--Anthony Sorci

December 21, 2012
Volume explores California's distinct contribution to modern art

ModernMovesWest.jpgIn the late 19th century the modernist art movement in France influenced a generation of early California artists. Since then the Golden State has reinterpreted modern and contemporary styles into a distinct regional vision characterized by ethnic diversity and democratic openness to artists outside the high culture establishment.

In the new paperback edition of The Modern Moves West, UC Berkeley History Professor Richard Candida Smith traces this development by focusing on three maverick California artists: Simon Rodia, Jay DeFeo, and Noah Purifoy. Smith asserts that Rodia's iconic Watts Tower (constructed 1921-1954) inspired subsequent artists to produce non-traditional, "Naive" works.

The Modern Moves West: California Artists and Democratic Culture in the Twentieth Century
by Richard Candida Smith
University of Pennsylvania Press
264 pages
Paperback $24.95
A volume in the Arts and Intellectual Life in Modern America series

December 16, 2012
In History's Spotlight: George Pardee

gov_pardee_portrait.jpgBorn: July 25, 1857
Died: Sept. 1, 1941

Known for: George Pardee was California's 21st governor, serving from 1903 to 1907. He and his family were the first to live in the historic Governor's Mansion at 16th and H streets.

Background: A San Francisco native, Pardee was raised in Oakland. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, and Cooper Medical College before completing his studies in Germany. His career closely followed his father's (both physicians, both Oakland mayors). As governor, Pardee was credited with playing an active role in overseeing relief efforts after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The Republican also showed a great interest in conservation, forestry and irrigation, and signed a bill creating a University of California farm school, which became UC Davis. After leaving office, he became president of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

A highlight: Pardee Dam, near Jackson, is named after him. Pardee also threw out the first pitch in the first Pacific Coast League game in Sacramento, in which the Senators defeated the Oakland Oaks 7-4 on March 26, 1903.

-- Anthony Sorci

December 11, 2012
Wide-ranging Eames' life and work celebrated in new volume

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

A new, lavishly illustrated volume celebrates the life and work of this extraordinary husband-and-wife team. Drawing upon their own words and images, Eames: Beautiful Details aims to take the reader through a wide-ranging exploration of their unique aesthetic sensibility that transcended traditional artistic and professional boundaries.

Coming next year to the California Museum is a new exhibit honoring the 100th birthday of Sacramento native Ray Eames. Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design will focus on her early life and work before meeting future husband Charles. The displays will feature rarely-seen artifacts from the Eames family collection.

The Museum will also host a benefit event in support of the exhibit on Jan. 26. "A Toast to Sacramento Design" will honor the contributions of Ray Eames and Miles Treaser, Sacramento furniture distributor who died last month. Benefit attendees will get a sneak peek at the Ray Eames exhibit which opens Feb. 23.

December 9, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Art Savage
Art Savage.JPG

Born: July 3, 1951
Died: Nov. 21, 2009

Known for: Art Savage, majority owner of the Sacramento River Cats, brought minor-league baseball back to the area when he relocated the Vancouver Canadians to West Sacramento.

Background: A Texas native, Savage graduated from Texas Tech University. He started work as a tax manager for Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, handling finances for client George Gund, who owned the Minnesota North Stars hockey team. Savage guided Gund's purchase of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers in 1983. When Gund became major owner of the San Jose Sharks, Savage served as chief executive officer from 1990 to 1996. Two years later, he bought the A's Triple-A team in Edmonton, moved it to Vancouver for one year, then to play in Raley Field in 2000.

A highlight: Savage was named The Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year and Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's Sacramento Businessman of the Year in 2000, and Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year in 2001. The River Cats have won three PCL championships and a Triple-A title. For eight consecutive seasons, the River Cats have led all minor league teams in attendance.

-- Anthony Sorci

December 6, 2012
WWII historians to speak at Military Museum

Two Flights.jpgThe next Meet the Author event at the California State Military Museum features two historians speaking on their latest WWII-related volumes.

Dr. David Stles, author of Two Flights to Victory: From the Doolittle Raid to the Enola Gay, will discuss his new biography of the famed aviator. Doolittle Tales covers both Jimmy Doolittle's achievements in early civilian aviation, as well as his extraordinary contributions as a military commander.

Following Styles is Col. Ken Nielsen who will speak on Pressed Steel!, a book recounting the wartime activities of the Pressed Steel Car Company which produced large numbers of armored vehicles during WWII.

What: Meet the Authors -- Dr. David Styles and Col. Ken Nielsen
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St., Sacramento
When: Dec. 8, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 854-1904 or website

December 2, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Mandisa Hundley

Mandisa_Hundley.JPGBorn: Oct. 2, 1976

Known for: Singer Mandisa Hundley, known to most people simply as Mandisa, became nationally known when she finished ninth in the 2006 "American Idol" competition.

Background: Mandisa grew up in Citrus Heights and graduated from El Camino High School. "I don't ever remember not singing," Mandisa said of her early years performing in church (Genesis Missionary Baptist in south Sacramento) and school choirs. She attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and earned a degree in vocal performance. After college, Mandisa remained in Nashville and did session work and performed backup for a variety of artists, including Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood. She auditioned for "American Idol" in Chicago and won over judges with her powerful voice. After the competition, Mandisa toured with Season 5's top 10 finalists. She also penned a book, "Idoleyes," and released her first CD, "True Beauty," earlier this year.

A highlight: In August 2006, Mandisa and the Season 5 finalists performed for 17,000 people at Arco Arena. Mandisa opened the show to thunderous applause with "I'm Every Woman."

-- Anthony Sorci

November 29, 2012
San Francisco's well-known spots featured in new Arcadia volume

SF Landmarks.jpgSan Francisco certainly ranks as one of the world's most distinctive, recognizable cities. A now a newly-released Arcadia photo book documents 493 local, state and national designated landmarks within The City. These include Mission Dolores, Jackson Square, Bank of Italy, Mark Hopkins Hotel and others.

Author Catherine Accardi collected images from various photographic collections, including the San Francisco Public Library History Center and the J.B. Monaco collection.

San Francisco Landmarks (Images of America series)
by Catherine Accardi
128 pages

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

November 28, 2012
This atlas documents California history with maps
Historical Atlas.jpg

Oklahoma University Press has come out with a paperback edition of a well-regarded atlas that documents the range of California history from ancient earthquakes, through Spanish exploration, Mexican settlement, Gold Rush and statehood, up to 20th century military bases, water projects and wildfires. The volume is illustrated with 101 maps, some previously not available to the general public.

Historical Atlas of California is co-authored by CSU Fullerton history professor, Warren A. Beck, and Fillmore cartographer, Inez D. Hasse, who also produced the Historical Atlas of New Mexico.

Historical Atlas of California
by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Haase
University of Oklahoma Press
240 pages (paperback edition)

November 25, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Jimmie Yee

Jimmie R. Yee.jpgBorn: Feb. 10, 1934

Known for: Jimmie Yee served 12 years on the Sacramento City Council and was interim mayor for nearly a year. He retired from politics in 2004 but returned in 2006 to run for and win a seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Background: A Sacramento native, Yee spent his teenage years joining other young men at Fifth and N streets as day laborers. A Sacramento High School graduate, Yee earned a civil engineering degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and started his own firm, now called Cole, Yee, Schubert & Associates. He served on the city Planning Commission, and was elected to City Council in 1992. A year later, a racially motivated fire bombing targeted Yee's house along with the offices of the NAACP, Japanese American Citizens League and a Jewish synagogue. In 1999, Mayor Joe Serna Jr. died and Yee, the vice mayor, was appointed to serve out his term.

A highlight: Yee's firm designed the 300 Capitol Mall building next to where his father's grocery store once stood, and the original Arco Arena, Sacramento Convention Center and Sutter General Hospital.

-- Anthony Sorci

November 20, 2012
Weinstock's book talk at Central Library

444-5-weinstocks-cover-blog.jpgLocal author Annette Kassis will visit the Central Library on Tuesday, November 27 (6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.) for a discussion and signing of her new book on a former Sacramento landmark, Weinstock's: Sacramento's Finest Department Store (The History Press, 2012): 

While many Sacramentans will remember Weinstock's spectacular Christmas displays, the signature children's milk bar and the gala openings of suburban stores at Country Club Plaza and Sunrise Mall, historian Annette Kassis goes beyond the storefront to uncover the philosophy that placed Weinstock's at the forefront of business innovation. More than a retail establishment, Weinstock's one-hundred-year legacy brought high fashion, progressive politics and the leading edge of modernization to California's Capital City.

In addition to the presentation, a historical display featuring images, catalogs and newsletters from Weinstock & Lubin Co. will be exhibited outside the Sacramento Room at the Central Library through the month of November. 

What: Weinstock's book discussion and signing
When: November 27, 2012, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, 828 I Street
Cost: Free
For more info: (916) 264-2920;

November 18, 2012
In History's Spotlight: George Stanich

GEORGE STANICH.JPGBorn: Nov. 4, 1928

Known for: George Stanich was one of the area's best all-around athletes. He became a basketball All-American at UCLA, a bronze medalist in the high jump at the 1948 Olympic Games and a professional baseball pitcher in the Pacific Coast League.

Background: At Sacramento City College, Stanich lettered in baseball, basketball, and track and field during the 1946-47 school year. He was the leading scorer for the basketball team, the top pitcher on the baseball team and the top high jumper in the state. After his Olympics appearance, Stanich became the first of legendary coach John Wooden's All-American players at UCLA. As a professional baseball pitcher for the Oakland Oaks, he played in 1950 and 1951. Stanich was also the No. 1 draft pick of the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) in 1950. He became a basketball coach and physical education teacher at El Camino College in Southern California.

A highlight: Stanich was inducted into the Sacramento City College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. When UCLA renamed the Pauley Pavilion for Wooden and his late wife in 2003, the ceremony was attended by 70 of his former players, including Stanich.

-- Anthony Sorci

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

November 11, 2012
In History's Spotlight: John McCrea

John McCrea.JPGBorn: June 25, 1964

Known for: Lead singer John McCrea of Cake is the songwriter of the group's distinctive songs "The Distance," "Never There" and "Sheep Go to Heaven."

Background: McCrea leads a quintet that defies description. Critics still can't resist calling it something: indie, alternative, country, rock, ska, funk ... the list goes on. McCrea moved from Berkeley to Sacramento as a child and formed Cake in 1991. "There's a great scene here, a lot of small places to play and a lot of bands. And the rent is cheap enough to let you put more focus on music," he said in 1995. In 1994, Cake released the album "Motorcade of Generosity." Platinum success came in 1995 with "Fashion Nugget," followed by "Prolonging the Magic" (1998), "Comfort Eagle" (2001), "Pressure Chief" (2004) and the current "B-sides and Rarities," on the band's Upbeat label. McCrea said on NPR's "Fresh Air" in 2005 he was influenced by Hank Williams and Benny Goodman. His songs have been featured in movies such as "Shallow Hal" and "Orange County." Cake is currently touring (Thursday, San Diego).

A highlight: Cake's song "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" is the theme song for NBC's "Chuck."

-- Anthony Sorci

November 9, 2012
New edition of San Francisco photo book

SFThenBook.jpgThunder Bay Press has released the third edition of San Francisco Then and Now, a richly illustrated photo book first published in 2002.

This all-new version features then-and-now photographs of the City's famous landmarks, such as cable cars, Ferry Building, Palace of Fine Arts, and Transamerica Pyramid. It also includes dramatic images of the 1906 earthquake and its aftermath, as well as of the Golden Gate Bridge over the decades.

Co-authors Eric J. Kos and Dennis Evanosky also produced East Bay Then and Now, San Francisco In Photographs and other community history volumes.

San Francisco Then and Now (3rd edition)
by Eric J. Kos and Dennis Evanosky
Thunder Bay Press
144 pages

November 7, 2012
1912 presidential election: "Glad It's All Over!"

One hundred years ago it was a four-way race for U.S. President. Democrat Woodrow Wilson triumphed over Republican William Howard Taft, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene V. Debs. Wilson won a large majority of the Electoral College with 42 percent of the popular vote. He carried the four-county Sacramento region with approximately 49 percent of the vote.

Glad Its All Over.jpgIMAGE CREDIT: Arthur V. Buel's political cartoon appeared in The Sacramento Bee the day of the presidential election of 1912.

November 7, 2012
Native authors to speak, sign books at State Indian Museum

LC BILLY MILLS.JPGThe State Indian Museum continues its local observance of Native American Heritage Month with a full day devoted to Indian literature.

Many notable native writers will be on hand for mini-lectures and book signings. The lineup includes: Beverly Ortiz, (After the First Full Moon in April), Beverly Ogle (Whisper of the Maidu), Albert Hurtado (Indian Survival on the California Frontier), Alicia Funk (Living Wild - Gardening, Cooking, and Healing With Native Plants), Brendan Lindsay (Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873), William Bauer (We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here), Alison Owings (Indian Voices - Listening to Native Americans), James Sandos (Converting California - Indians and Franciscans in the Missions), Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills (Lessons of a Lakota) and Justin Farmer (Basketry Plants Used by Western American Indians).

What: Meet the Authors! Native Literature Showcase
Where: California State Indian Museum, 2618 K St., Sacramento
When: Nov. 10, 10 to 3 p.m. Author mini-lectures scheduled every half hour.
Cost: adults $3; youths (6-17) $2
For more info: 916-324-8112, 916-324-0971 or website

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Author and Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills in his Fair Oaks home. 2000 Sacramento Bee photograph by Laura Chun

November 5, 2012
1912 presidential election "In the Hands of the Jury"

One hundred years ago it was a four-way race for U.S. President. Democrat Woodrow Wilson triumphed over Republican William Howard Taft, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene V. Debs. Wilson won a large majority of the Electoral College with 42 percent of the popular vote. He carried the four-county Sacramento region with approximately 49 percent of the vote.

In the Hands of the Jury.jpgIMAGE CREDIT: Arthur V. Buel's political cartoon appeared in The Sacramento Bee the day before the presidential election of 1912.

November 4, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson.JPGBorn: Aug. 23, 1933

Known for: Wilson served two terms (1991-99) as California's governor.

Background: An Illinois native, Wilson attended Yale University and served in the Marine Corps. He earned his law degree at the University of California. He began his political career in 1960 when he served as an advance man for Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign. The Republican Wilson served as state assemblyman, mayor of San Diego and a U.S. senator before defeating Dianne Feinstein in the 1990 gubernatorial election. Wilson grappled with the state's economic recession in the early '90s. He also battled with the Legislature during a record 64-day budget deadlock in 1992. He rebounded to easily win re-election over Democrat Kathleen Brown in 1994. Wilson, who now works for the law firm Bingham McCutchen, last month [2007] was tapped to help negotiate a deal with the NBA for a new Kings arena at Cal Expo.

A highlight: Bee political columnist Dan Walters wrote in 1998, "It's difficult to summarize Wilson's governorship in a few words, simply because so much has happened. He's had his successes and failures, but he's always been engaged in the battle, easily the most activist governor of recent vintage."

-- Anthony Sorci

November 1, 2012
Congratulations to the 1954 World Series champion Giants

In 1954 the Giants (still in New York) scored a previous four-game sweep in a World Series when they beat the Cleveland Indians in the fourth game played on Oct. 2. With the help of relief pitcher Johnny Antonelli, the Giants squashed a late surge by the Indians to win 7 to 4.

It was the first time in 40 years that a National League team achieved that kind of post-season victory.


IMAGE CREDIT: The Bee's Oct. 2 front page account of the fourth game of the 1954 World Series. (Click on the image to get a larger view.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Breech.JPGBorn: April 11, 1956

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

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

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

-- Anthony Sorci

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Madigan.JPGBorn: March 9, 1938

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

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

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

-- Anthony Sorci

October 17, 2012
Williams history surveyed in new Arcadia volume

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

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

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

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

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

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

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

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

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

-- Anthony Sorci

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

Rene Syler.JPGBorn: Feb. 17, 1963

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

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

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

-- Anthony Sorci

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 30, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Ken O'Brien

OBRIEN_KEN.JPGBorn: Nov. 27, 1960

Known for: A Jesuit High School athlete and first-round draft pick by the New York Jets, Ken O'Brien played 11 seasons as an NFL quarterback.

Background: After graduating from Jesuit, O'Brien played one season for California State University, Sacramento, before transferring to UC Davis. From 1980 to '82, he excelled for the Aggies, passing for 6,673 yards and 44 touchdowns. He was part of the famous NFL "quarterback draft" in 1983. O'Brien was selected by the Jets as the 24th in the draft, after John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly and Tony Eason but three picks before Dan Marino. He played 10 seasons for New York and one for the Philadelphia Eagles, passing for 25,094 yards and 128 touchdowns. In the third week of the 1986 season, O'Brien threw for 465 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-45 overtime win against the Miami Dolphins. O'Brien was selected to play for two NFL Pro Bowl teams.

A highlight: O'Brien has been inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame, Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame and the Division II football Hall of Fame.

-- Anthony Sorci

September 23, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Carl Mather

Carl Mather.jpgBorn: 1894
Died: Jan. 25, 1918

Known for: An Air Force test pilot, Mather was killed in an air collision in 1918. Mather Field, later Mather Air Force Base and now Mather Airport, was named for him.

Background: Carl Spencer Mather earned his pilot's license at age 16. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps, but five days later, he was killed at Ellington Field in Texas. The remainder of his class was restationed at Mills Field and requested that the facility be renamed in Mather's honor. In January 1919, Mather graduated its 11th class of pilots and training ceased. For the next 22 years, the base lay dormant. As war raged in Europe in 1941, Mather was reborn to train thousands of World War II pilots, navigators and bombardiers. The base's resurgence continued through the Korean War with the addition of Strategic Air Command nuclear bombers. In 1988, Mather was shuttered. In 1995, Mather was reopened as a 2,675-acre cargo airport. An additional 1,432 acres became Mather Regional Park.

A highlight: In 1988, Mather had 1,962 civilian workers and 5,652 military personnel and an annual payroll of $154 million.

--Anthony Sorci

September 17, 2012
Memorial marks 40th anniversary of the Farrell's tragedy

LN FARRELLS FIREMAN.JPGThe public is invited to a memorial ceremony Sunday marking the 40th anniversary of the 1972 plane crash into a Farrell's ice cream parlor on Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento that killed 22 people. A jet from nearby Sacramento Executive Airport crashed into the ice cream shop shortly after takeoff. Sunday's ceremony takes place at 1 p.m. at the city's Public Safety Center, 5770 Freeport Blvd.

Info: Firefighters Burn Institute at (916) 739-8525 or email

-- Bee Staff

Also, see The Bee's anniversary resources on

Gallery of historic photos taken of the crash
Archive of The Bee's 1972 stories
Readers remember the disaster
NTSB report on the causes of the accident

PHOTO CREDIT: Firefighters and police officers rescue survivors of the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor air accident on Sept. 24, 1972. Sacramento Bee photograph by Leo Neibaur

September 17, 2012
Historian to discuss challenges facing the state parks

Catherine Millard.JPGThis Saturday the Governor's Mansion will host a talk and book signing by Catherine Millard, a historian and author of 14 books, including her latest The Dismantling of America's History, in which she warns about the threat to essential historic landmarks such as the Governor's Mansion.

Millard argues that to lose any of these precious artifacts is to lose "their immeasurable contribution to the social, natural, cultural, educational and economic development of the entire country."

What: Author Appearance & Book Signing Opportunity
Where: Visitor's Center at the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park, 1526 H Street in Sacramento
When: Sept. 22, Noon to 2 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-323-5916 or website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Historian Catherine Millard. Courtesy Governor's Mansion State Historic Park

September 16, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Illa Collin

ILLA_COLLIN.JPGBorn: Jan. 24, 1932

Known for: Illa Collin served the longest tenure -- 28 years -- on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors before stepping down in 2006.

Background: A Rock Springs, Wyo., native, Collin was the daughter of a coal miner and homemaker. Her father was killed in a mining accident when she was 10. She married her husband, Don, in 1957 and they and their three daughters moved to Sacramento in 1967. Collin joined the League of Women Voters and eventually became its president. She was also served on the state Reclamation Board, the city Planning Commission and two county advisory panels. When the 2nd District supervisorial seat opened in 1978, Collin was set to support Sacramento City Councilman Robert T. Matsui. When he opted to run for Congress, Collin ran for the seat herself. Finishing second among 12 candidates in the primary race, she won a runoff to become the second woman elected to the board. During her tenure, Collin played an integral role in defining the shape and feel of suburban development.

A highlight: Collin holds the board's record for longest-serving supervisor, ahead of James R. Garlick (1941-1960) and Sandra Smoley (1971-1992).

-- Anthony Sorci

September 14, 2012
One Book celebrates Constitution

book covers.jpgThe Sacramento Public Library has chosen two books for this fall's Big Read/One Book program to celebrate our nation's founding documents: The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, edited by Richard Beeman, Ph.D; and Constitution Café by Christopher Phillips, Ph.D.

One Book begins on September 18, the day after the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Free events including author presentations, special exhibitions, craft programs, performances, book discussions and film screenings will explore the history and enduring legacy of the U.S. Constitution through the end of October at a number of library locations. In addition, two displays will go up in the lobby of the Central Library: a panel display on our nation's constitution and an exhibit case featuring Sacramento Room treasures on the history of the U.S. and California constitutions.

Copies of both books will be on sale at the authors' presentations and free copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights will be available at all Sacramento Public Library locations during Constitution Week (September 17-21). 

All One Book events are listed in the Sacramento Public Library's online events calendar. For more information, visit or call (916) 264-2920.

September 9, 2012
In History's Spotlight: George Barris

George BARRIS.JPGBorn: Nov. 20, 1925

Known for: George Barris is a renowned custom car designer who created such famous Hollywood vehicles as the Munster Koach and the Batmobile.

Background: An Illinois native, Barris was raised in Roseville and graduated from San Juan High School in 1943. George and his older brother, Sam, learned about cars and customizing at area auto shops. George created his first custom car from a used 1936 Ford convertible before graduating from high school. The brothers opened a custom car shop in Los Angeles after World War II. Sam specialized in metal craftsmanship while George mainly worked on designing, painting, managing and promoting. Movie studios took notice, which led to George designing cars for films, TV shows and stars, including the Batmobile for the mid-'60s "Batman" TV show. He took a 1955 Lincoln-Mercury Futura concept and transformed it into a 5,500-pound black icon.

A highlight: George Barris and his creations make numerous appearances at auto shows, including the annual Sacramento Autorama. At that show, the coveted Sam Barris Award is given to the car featuring the best metal work, paint and finish.

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

September 2, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Earl Warren

earlwarren.JPGBorn: March 19, 1891
Died: July 9, 1974

Known for: Earl Warren was U.S. chief justice for 16 years (1953-69) after serving a record 10 years, nine months as California's governor (1943-53).

Background: A Los Angeles native who grew up in Bakersfield, Warren earned his law degree at UC Berkeley before becoming district attorney for Alameda County. In 1939, he became the state's first attorney general born in California. Three years later, the Republican defeated incumbent governor Culbert Olson. He was also the running mate of Thomas Dewey, who was narrowly defeated by Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential election. Warren is best known for his years as chief justice, during which racial segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional and the "one-man one-vote" ruling caused a major shift in legislative power. He also headed the commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A highlight: In August 2007, it was announced that Warren will be one of 13 people who will be inducted next month into the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts Hall of Fame.

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

August 26, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Deena Brush Mapple

DEENA_WATERSKI.JPGBorn: March 3, 1960

Known for: The West Sacramento native is considered one of the most accomplished water skiers of her generation, claiming 26 national titles, 22 national records and 68 professional tournament titles. She also became the first woman to hold the world slalom and jump records simultaneously.

Background: Brush Mapple began water skiing when she was age 2, grabbing an extended garden hose from the back of a power boat and wearing an oversized life jacket and homemade wooden water skis on Lake Winchester, near Clarksburg. Her mother, Carroll, was a national competitor in her youth. Brush Mapple went on to win the junior girls national slalom title in 1972 and 1973 and the girls national jump title in 1975, while attending James Marshall High School (now River City) in West Sacramento. She earned a spot on the U.S. Water Ski Team seven consecutive times. In 1987, she married Andy Mapple, another world-renowned water skier. Between 1987 and 1990, she won 38 consecutive jump championships. She continued to excel in her sport before retiring in 1995.

A highlight: Brush Mapple was elected to the Water Skiing Hall of Fame in 2000.

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

August 22, 2012
New book on history of Weinstock's

444-5-weinstocks-cover-blog.jpgLocal historian Annette Kassis has recently published a book through History Press on the history and legacy of Weinstock, Lubin & Co., a retail giant that was headquartered in Sacramento for more than a century.

Weinstock's: Sacramento Finest Department Store traces the humble beginnings, impressive growth, business innovations and eventual decline and closure of Sacramento's landmark department store with emphasis on the business philosophy and practices behind the store's successes.

In an interview posted on the History Press website, Kassis provides a preview of the book.

Annette Kassis studied history at CSU Sacramento and UC Santa Barbara.  She is a historian and researcher specializing in media, advertising, consumerism and popular culture, and her past work experience includes almost 20 years as co-owner of K&H Advertising, LLC, a Sacramento-based advertising agency.

Weinstock's: Sacramento Finest Department Store by Annette Kassis (History Press), 144 pages, $19.99

August 21, 2012
Muckrakers' battle with Central Pacific told in new book

RailroadWarbook.JPGAt the end of the 19th century two muckraking writers -- one a newspaper man, the other a novelist -- challenged one of the nation's most powerful corporations, the Central Pacific Railroad.

The image of the California-based railroad as a exploitative, manipulating monster was vividly drawn in Amborse Bierce's series of articles written for the San Francisco Examiner after the CP managed to avoid repaying federal loans. Using Bierce's work and other sources, Frank Norris later crafted the fictionalized account of farmer versus railroad in the naturalistic novel, The Octopus.

The battle between the two writers and the company is freshly told in The Great American Railroad War, a new work by Dennis Drabelle, contributing editor of The Washington Post Book World. Drabelle describes how the railroad developed, grew into a formidable economic and political power and subsequently attracted the ire of Bierce and Norris. Kirkus Reviews calls it a "a nicely crafted portrait of monopolists and muckrakers."

The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took On the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad
St. Martin's Press, 320 pages, $26.99

August 20, 2012
New guidebook for San Francisco's Chinatown

SFChinatownbook.gifSan Francisco's Chinatown is the nation's oldest Chinese enclave. Historian and retired architect Philip P. Choy has produced a richly illustrated volume that celebrates the history and architecture of this remarkable community, tracing its development from earliest pre-earthquake days through its transformation into a tourist venue.

In addition to many historical and contemporary photographs, San Francisco Chinatown includes walking tours and a building-by-building description of the most important sites.

Choy taught the nation's first college course in Chinese history at San Francisco State and has served on the California State Historic Resource Commission, on the San Francisco Landmark Advisory Board and five times as President of the Chinese Historical Society of America. He is author of The Coming Man: 19th Century American Perceptions of the Chinese and Canton Footprints: Sacramento's Chinese Legacy.

Read an excerpt from the book on the Huffington Post.

San Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History and Architecture by Philip P. Choy
City Lights Publishers, 184 pages, $15.95

August 19, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Bob Wilkins

Bob Wilkins.JPGBorn: April 11, 1932
Died: Jan. 7, 2009

Known for: A Sacramento television staple for 16 years, Wilkins hosted "Seven Arts Theatre," then later "Creature Features," where he would introduce a horror or science fiction movie, show half of it, then would interview stars in that genre during intermission.

Background: In the early 1960s, Wilkins worked for KCRA-TV Channel 3, writing and producing commercials. In 1966, he was offered his own show at 11:30 p.m. Saturdays. Eschewing a ghoulish outfit, Wilkins wore a a conservative suit and tie, sat in a rocking chair, wore horn-rimmed glasses and smoked his trademark large cigar. He became a pop culture fixture, especially after his "Creature Features" show debuted in 1971 on KTVU-TV Channel 2 in the Bay Area. That year, his local show moved from Channel 3 to KTXL-TV Channel 40, where it ran until 1982. Christopher Lee, William Shatner, Mark Hamill and Boris Karloff were some of the stars who appeared on his show.

A highlight: Speaking about why his show gained an early audience, Wilkins told The Bee in 2001, "There were no videotapes, no VCR machines. If you wanted to see an old movie, you had to be in front of the television at a particular time. And that made it more special."

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

August 16, 2012
Hetch Hetchy story told in a new illustrated book

Hetchbook.jpgThe controversial damming of the Tuolumne River in the Hetch Hetchy Valley brought needed water to the Bay Area beginning in 1934. John Muir and other conservationists fought the project for years prior to its approval by Congress in 1913. Today, there is serious discussion of removing the dam and restoring the valley to its natural condition.

The story of the huge engineering effort that tamed the valley for water and power is the subject of a new "Images of America" volume published by Arcadia.

Author Beverly Hennessy,  who served as communications director for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, drew upon the extensive SFPUC photo archive for images documenting some 100 years of Hetch Hetchy and O'Shaughnessy Dam history.

Hetch Hetchy (Images of America), 128 pages, $21.99.

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

August 15, 2012
New Arcadia photo book on Coloma

Colomabook.jpgThe discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 sparked the Gold Rush and utterly transformed California. It also transformed Coloma from a sleepy backwater into a thriving mining town of 10,000 in a matter of months.

Local author Barbara Sederquist traces the history of Coloma from boom time through a period of agricultural development, up to the establishment of the State Historic Park and growth as a tourist venue.

Photographs in this Arcadia volume come mostly from collections housed at the Marshall Gold State Historic Park and the California State Library.

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

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

August 12, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Walter Christensen

Walter Christensen.JPGBorn: June 26, 1901
Died: May 15, 1996

Known for: The former Sacramento mayor's efforts to rejuvenate downtown earned him the nickname "Father of the K Street Mall."

Background: A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Christensen was the son of immigrants from Denmark and the youngest of four children. He was living in San Diego when World War II broke out and was drafted into the Army. After the war, he worked in retail stores in San Diego before moving to Sacramento as general manager and then as owner of The Eastern, a J Street department store. A natty dresser who always wore a bow tie, Christensen was a jovial man who served on dozens of civic boards and committees. He served on the Sacramento City Council from 1962 to 1970, including a stint as mayor in 1966-67. Christensen is remembered as the City Council member who perhaps fought hardest to develop the pedestrian mall. Though the mall, built in 1969, remains controversial, Christensen maintained it was a great idea.

A highlight: When Christensen retired, he would drive downtown from his Land Park residence five mornings a week and stroll along the K Street Mall, greeting passers-by. "Sometimes people come up to me and say, 'Hello, Mr. Mayor.' That makes my day," he said in 1984

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

August 7, 2012
Pioneering California women profiled in new book

A brand new book profiles 40 remarkable women who contributed to the development of the state, broke barriers and opened opportunities for generations of women to follow.

In a publisher's Q&A the co-authors of Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present say they included "many multicultural women who lived in diverse time periods and parts of the state. Some of the women are well-known while others have been overlooked or unacknowledged."

Among them are Julia Morgan, California's first licensed architect and Hearst castle designer, Josephine McCracken, writer and environmentalist who helped preserve the Redwoods, Dolores Huerta co-founder of the United Farm Workers and actress Mary Pickford who helped create United Artists Pictures.

Dr. Gloria Harris is a trained psychologist who taught women's studies at San Diego State University and chaired the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. Hanna Cohen is a librarian, public affairs consultant and advocate for the homeless. Both are board members of the Women's Museum of California.

Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present
Authors: Gloria G. Harris and Hannah S. Cohen
Publisher: The History Press
192 pages
$19.99 at Amazon

August 5, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Thomas P. Raley

RALEY_THOMAS.JPGBorn: April 8, 1903
Died: Dec. 27, 1991

Known for: Raley parlayed a small Placerville store that opened in 1935 into one of the largest supermarket chains in the West.

Background: An Arkansas native, Raley was the 13th of 14 children of a Baptist preacher and farmer. After graduating from business college in Springfield, Mo., he moved to Los Angeles and went to work for an ice and cold-storage firm. He later was a store manager for Safeway Stores in San Francisco. With less than $1,000 in capital, Raley opened his first store in El Dorado County. He advertised his store as "the nation's first drive-in market." In 1942, he opened stores in Sacramento. His innovations included a self-service meat counter and debuting the "superstore" concept which merged markets and drugstores. The company, which in 1993 purchased the Bel Air chain and in 1998 the Nob Hill Foods chain, owns 116 stores in California and 13 in northern Nevada.

A highlight: Speaking about his life, Raley once told an interviewer, "My business is my vocation, my recreation. It's my everything. When I want to relax, I go down to my stores."

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

July 29, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Scott Pruett

Scott Pruett.jpgBorn: March 24, 1960

Known for: Roseville native Scott Pruett, a professional race car driver for 26 years, has won nine major championships. In 1989, he was the Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year.

Background: Pruett began driving go-karts when he was 9 and in 1981 won the World Karting Championship. He continued to excel in other racing divisions, winning International Motorsports Association championships in 1986 and 1988, and Trans Am titles in 1987, 1995 and 2003. He began racing Indy cars in 1988 and started the 1989 Indy 500 race in the 17th spot. He finished 10th and competed three more times (1991, '92 and '95). He began driving in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Nextel Cup) in 2000. He won the 2006 Grand American Rolex Series champion and placed second in this year's series, only two points behind the leader.

A highlight: Pruett was voted an International Race of Champions legend in 2005 in the road-racing category. He and his wife, Judy, have authored three children's books, "Twelve Little Race Cars," "Twelve More Little Race Cars" and "Rookie Racer."

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

July 25, 2012
Russians in early California celebrated in book and festival
So Far From Home.jpg

For thirty years between 1812 and 1841, Russian explorers maintained an outpost on the northern California coast which flourished for a time as a farming, manufacturing and fur-trade center. These early entrepreneurs established the first windmills, brickyards and shipbuilding in the state. They also systematically mapped the region and studied the local plants and animals.

Using government documents, personal journals and letters, cartoons and excerpts of novels, retired archaeologist Glenn J. Farris has compiled a lively anthology that chronicles the history of Fort Ross and its diverse residents: Kashaya, Coast Miwok and Alaskan Natives, Spanish, Mexicans, Americans, as well as Russians. So Far From Home: Russians in Early Calfornia, published recently by Heyday Books ($21.95, 352 pages), is intended for both general readers and historians.

Fort Ross Historic State Park was created in 1909 to preserve the site and educate the public about the contributions of the Russian pioneers to California's economic and cultural development. To celebrate the bicentennial of its founding, Fort Ross staff and volunteers have organized an extensive two-day festival filled with traditional food, crafts, music, dance, and theatrical performances. A highlight is the special appearance by the Pyatnitsky Russian Folk Choir, the world-renowned folkloric ensemble from Moscow.

What: Fort Ross Bicentennial Weekend
Where: Fort Ross Conservancy, 19005 Coast Highway One, Jenner
When: July 28 (10 to 7 p.m.) and July 29 (10 to 4:30 p.m.)
Cost: $35 per car
For more info: 707-847-3437 or website

Event poster
Event schedule

July 23, 2012
California History honors the Golden Gate Bridge and Julia Morgan

Groundbreaking architecture, big and small, is celebrated in main articles of the latest edition of California History (the journal of the California Historical Society).

"Bridging the Golden Gate: a Photo Essay" (page 9) is a richly illustrated historical survey of the movement of people between Marin County and San Francisco from the earliest years of Spanish exploration up to the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. Vintage maps, photos, paintings, drawings, posters and other images vividly invoke the conception, design and construction of one of the architectural wonders of the world.

"Women Who Build: Julia Morgan & Women's Institutions" considers early feminism in the state by examining "the most expansive body of architecture designed of, by, and for women." Central to the piece is Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in California. Although best known for her work on the grandiose Hearst Castle, Morgan built dozens of buildings commissioned by women to serve and empower women and girls. These include: the Asilomar Conference Center; the Mills College library, gymnasium and bell tower; YWCA buildings in Pasadena, Riverside, Hollywood, Oakland and San Francisco's Chinatown; and the Women's City Club in Berkeley.

Locally, Morgan is known for her design of the Goethe House (aka Julia Morgan House) at 3731 T St. in the Elmhurst neighborhood. The 7,200 square-foot historic treasure was put up for sale this year by the Sacramento State College Foundation. Current asking price: $1.7 million.

July 22, 2012
In History's Spotlight: R. Burnett Miller

MILLER_BURNETT.JPGBorn: Sept. 2, 1923

Known for: Sacramento native R. Burnett Miller served as the city's mayor and on the City Council. He was one of the area residents featured in the recent Ken Burns documentary "The War" on PBS.

Background: Miller, whose father ran a lumber business, graduated from McClatchy High School. He was a college sophomore when World War II began. He served in the 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division, during the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Miller earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He later went to Georgetown University before joining the family business. He served on the City Council from 1971 to 1977 and was appointed interim mayor in 1982, after Phil Isenberg was elected to the state Assembly. Miller, an arts lover, has raised funds for many local organizations, including Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento Symphony and Sacramento History Center.

A highlight: Miller is the great-great grandson of Henry Burnett, who in 1865 founded the Telegraph Mill on Eighth and P streets. The business became Burnett & Sons Planing Mill & Lumber Co

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

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 15, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Herbert Bauer

BAUER_HERBERT.JPGBorn: Jan. 21, 1910

Known for: The Davis resident is notable for his work in Yolo County -- he was the county's public health officer who initiated the first Family Services Agency, was a charter member of the county's Mental Health Association, joined in organizing the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services and was a founding member of the Yolo County Medical Society.

Background: Bauer, who specialized in internal medicine, and his wife, Hanna, a clinical psychologist, moved to Davis in 1949. Six years later, he became the county's public health officer. Working out of the basement of the county courthouse, Bauer conducted well-baby clinics, parenting classes, polio immunization clinics and tuberculosis detection. He brought the first family planning clinic to the county. After retiring at age 61, he completed a child psychiatry residency at the UC Davis Medical Center and practiced child psychiatry for the next 20 years.

A highlight: Bauer has received numerous awards for his health-related work. In 2006, the Herbert Bauer M.D. Health, Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Building opened in Woodland. The facility is a one-stop service center for Yolo County residents seeking alcohol, drug and mental health programs.

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

July 11, 2012
History authors to visit State Fair

Thumbnail image for calstatefair2012.pngStarting tomorrow and every day of the 2012 California State Fair, visitors will have the opportunity to meet a variety of writers at the Authors Booth (inside the A/B building).

Among the participating authors are historians and historical novelists, including:

Michael Paul Frazee (military history novels)
Max Rodrigues Garcia (Holocaust family history)
Jacquelyn Hanson (historical romance)
Kevin W. Hecteman (railroad history)
Tom Myers (local architecture photography)
Elizabeth Pinkerton (local history)
Alton Pryor (California history)
Maya Torngren (WWII family history)
Naida West (local historical novels)

Author Booth Schedule

July 11, 2012
A travel guide to California's ghost towns

Ghost Towns of CA.jpgVoyaguer Press, publisher of dozens of travel books on out-of-the-way places in America, just released a new guide to 70 long-gone boomtowns that flourished in the early years of the state.

Ghost Towns of California provides visitors with useful maps, driving and hiking directions, town histories and photographs to plan their trips to these former mining camps and pioneer villages. Among the close-by Mother Lode sites featured are Coloma, Georgetown, Amador City, Volcano, Mokelumne Hill, Campo Seco, Murphys, Columbia, Chinese Camp and Nevada City.

Author Phillip Varney has photographed some 600 ghost towns in the western United States which have been documented in eight guidebooks.

Ghost Towns of California: Your Guide to the Hidden History and Old West Haunts of California
By Philip Varney
Paperback, 240 pages
Published by Voyageur Press

July 8, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Greg Vaughn

VAUGHN GREG.JPGBorn: July 3, 1965

Known for: Sacramento native Greg Vaughn was a four-time All-Star outfielder who hit 355 home runs and drove in 1,072 runs during a 15-year career with five major league teams.

Background: Vaughn was raised in south Sacramento and attended John D. Sloat Elementary School before starring at Kennedy High School and Sacramento City College. He then played for the University of Miami and was drafted five times before signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in June 1986. He made his major league debut in 1989. He was traded to the San Diego Padres during the 1996 season. He enjoyed his best season with the Padres in 1998, when he hit 50 home runs and drove in 119 runs for the National League champions. He hit 45 home runs for Cincinnati, where he was sent via a trade in 1999 before signing as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He completed his career with the Colorado Rockies in 2003.

A highlight: Vaughn hit two home runs in the opening game of the 1998 World Series, but the New York Yankees rallied from a 5-2 deficit to win 9-6. The Yankees went on to sweep the series

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

July 1, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Henry Wells

Born: Dec. 12, 1805
Died: Dec. 10, 1878

Known for: Henry Wells, along with partners including William Fargo, was the president of Wells Fargo & Co., which opened in Sacramento during the Gold Rush to compete with another express company. Today, Wells Fargo is a financial services company with 158,000 employees.

Background: A Vermont native who grew up in New York state, Wells established express service between New York City and Buffalo carrying mail at less than the government rate. In 1844, he and Fargo formed Wells Fargo & Co. to handle express service to the West. Sacramento was the main gold dust center when Wells Fargo Bank was founded on March 18, 1852. They set up shop on Second Street before moving to the Hastings Bank Building, which still stands in Old Sacramento. The panic of 1855 closed many banks, but Wells Fargo survived with a $103,000 surplus. In 1857, $43 million was taken out of California mines, most of it carried by Wells Fargo.

A highlight: Two of Wells Fargo Bank's five museums are in Sacramento: at the main bank on Capitol Mall and in the Hastings building.

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

June 27, 2012
History Press publishes first Sacramento volume

K St book.jpgHeads up Arcadia -- there's a new kid on the block. Local history publisher History Press (which expanded into California last year) has announced its first volume for the Sacramento region.

Sacramento's K Street: Where Our City Was Born is an illustrated history of the commercial heart of the town. Author William Burg traces the street's evolution from Gold Rush storefront, through the boom times of hotels, department stories and movie palaces, up to contemporary downtown renewal.

Burg, a prominent local historian and preservationist, borrowed many of the book's images from the rich archives at the Center for Sacramento History.

Sacramento's K Street will be available in local stores next month. Meanwhile you can preorder it from History Press or Amazon.

P.S. See publisher's Q&A with author.

Sacramento's K Street: Where Our City Was Born
By William Burg
160 pages, over 70 images

June 25, 2012
Dixon vet's ship models help teach WWII naval history

Holbrook 2.jpgHeber Holbrook, 88, is a survivor of both the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the Naval Battle at Guadalcanal. As a way to remember his wartime experiences, he's made a hobby of collecting museum-quality models of important WWII naval ships.

The collection includes the USS Arizona (which sunk at Pearl Harbor), the USS Juneau (which was destroyed at Guadalcanal) and the USS San Francisco (on which Holbrook was wounded during the Guadalcanal battle).

As reported recently in the Dixon Tribune, Holbrook has been collecting ship models for 20 years. Eventually he wants to see the replicas donated to a naval museum on the West Coast. Until then he's loaned the Arizona for display at the Dixon Chamber of Commerce.

You can read the full profile of Mr. Holbrook on the Tribune's Facebook page.

Holbrook 1.jpg

PHOTO CREDIT: Heber Holbrook, right, and stands next to a model of the USS Arizona on display at the Dixon Chamber of Commerce. Looking on is Chamber Chief Administer Carol Pruett and Chamber President Bert Gaulke. Below, the USS Arizona replica made by Model Ship Masters of Los Angeles. Courtesy the Dixon Chamber and Dixon Tribune

June 24, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Mark Goodson

Mark Goodson.JPGBorn: Jan. 24, 1915
Died: Dec. 18, 1992

Known for: A Sacramento native, Goodson was the producer of dozens of television shows and creator of numerous game shows, including "The Price Is Right," "Family Feud" and "To Tell the Truth."

Background: Goodson was born to Russian immigrants Abraham E. and Fanny Gross Goodson. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1937. Two years later, he created his first game, "Pop the Question," for San Francisco radio station KFRC. In 1946, he and radio writer-director Bill Todman formed Goodson-Todman Productions. They developed methods that would serve them throughout their careers: Goodson refined the game-show format and Todman tested flaws in the rules and worked out the financial angles. Some of their shows included "What's My Line" (1950-67), "To Tell the Truth" (1956-67), "Concentration" (1958-73), "Match Game" (1973-1979) and the second version of "The Price is Right," which debuted in 1972.

A highlight: Goodson earned a Lifetime Achievement for Daytime Television Emmy Award, and in 1993 he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

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

June 22, 2012
Book explores the politics and culture of the 1980s

The Eighties.jpgIf you're of a certain age, the 1980s don't seem like a subject for historians. Too fresh in memory for some, but not for Sacramento State history professor Joseph A. Palmero.

Palmero is author of a new textbook The Eighties, a survey of political, cultural and technological developments is intended "to deepen students' understanding of the 1980s and pique their curiosity to learn more about the decade." The period is, of course, dominated by the Reagan presidency and much of the book covers his election, administration and domestic and foreign policies.

But there's also space devoted to non-governmental politics (nuclear freeze, race relations, gay rights), health (HIV/AIDS), popular culture (Madonna/Springsteen, Hip-Hop, culture wars) and business (technology, Wall Street, S&L Crisis).

KXJZ's new radio host Beth Ruyak interviewed Prof. Palmero about The Eighties in a recent episode of Insight.

June 17, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling.JPGBorn: Aug. 30, 1973

Known for: Lisa Ling, who grew up in Carmichael, is a television journalist who has been a co-host on ABC's "The View" and is a special correspondent on "The "Oprah Winfrey Show."

Background: A Del Campo High School graduate, Ling was 16 when she was picked to be a host of "Scratch," a syndicated TV show for teens made in Sacramento. Two years later, she was a reporter for Channel One, a network broadcast in middle and high schools. By 25, Ling was Channel One's senior war correspondent. She reported from dozens of countries and produced eight documentaries for PBS. In 1999, she joined the "The View" morning talk show led by Barbara Walters. She left the show in 2002 to become host of National Geographic's series "Explorer," where she reported on issues as varied as a drug war in Colombia and female suicide bombers in Chechnya. She also conducts investigative reports for the "Oprah" show, including follow-ups on Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings.

A highlight: In April 2001, she completed running the Boston Marathon with a time of 4:34 while raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer.

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

June 11, 2012
Author to speak on WWII armored vehicle maker

Pressed Steel.jpgThe State Military Museum's next "Meet the Author" lecture features Kenneth Nielsen speaking on Pressed Steel!, a book recounting the wartime activities of the Pressed Steel Car Company.

Founded in 1899 to manufacture freight, passenger and street railway cars, Pressed Steel would become one of major producers of armored vehicles for the U.S. Army. The firm made large numbers of essential M4 Sherman tanks during WWII and later produced the M7, M12 and M40 self-propelled guns and the T-29 Heavy Tank.

Nielsen is a retired Lieutenant Colonel who served in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps. He currently is Commander of the California Center for Military History.

What: Pressed Steel!: An American Company's Contribution to Victory in World War II
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St.
When: June 12, 1 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-854-1900 or website

June 10, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Albert A. Van Voorhies

Died: April 26, 1906

Known for: Albert A. Van Voorhies was a prominent businessman who operated a harness and saddlery factory. He also built a notable house in what is now the Aklali Flat neighborhood of Sacramento.

Background: Born in New Jersey, Van Voorhies came to California in 1853. Trained as a saddle and harness maker, he came to Hangtown (now Placerville) in 1855 and opened a wholesale and retail business during the later stages of the Gold Rush. His business thrived. He was often called "The Prince" because, according to the book, "Vanishing Victorians," he was considered "the finest type of cultured pioneer." He ran a wholesale-retail leather goods store downtown and also a harness factory, producing more than 150 horse collars a day.

A highlight: In 1868, Van Voorhies built a stuccoed brick home in the Italianate and Georgian style at 925 G St. The home was later scheduled to be replaced by a parking lot, but was saved. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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

June 3, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Alice Miller

ALICE MILLER.JPGBorn: May 15, 1956

Known for: The Marysville native is one the area's most successful golfers, winning eight tournaments during a 15-year career on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.

Background: Miller, who honed her game at Plumas Lake Golf and Country Club in Marysville, graduated from Arizona State University in 1978, the first year she competed on the LPGA tour. She captured seven LPGA events from 1983-85, including four in 1985. That year, she won the Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament, one of the LPGA's major events. Asked about her success during those three years, she told The Bee in 2003, "I think it was just a matter of getting in position enough times that sooner or later you just fall out of the tree. And once you do as a young player, you realize you don't have to play perfect golf to win. I think people who haven't won think everything has to go their way." She earned $1.1 million during her playing career.

A highlight: Miller was the LPGA's Comeback Player of the Year in 1991, when she won the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff. She has also served as president of the LPGA's executive committee.

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

May 27, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Richard Rodriguez


Known for: A native Sacramentan, Richard Rodriguez is an award-winning essayist and author.

Background: Rodriguez, a Mexican American, grew up in east Sacramento. His family was among the first Latinos to move into the middle-class, white neighborhood. His father worked in a shop that made false teeth. His mother also worked, ultimately as a typist in Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown's office. He used his painful memories about his youthful assimilation in his 1982 autobiography, "Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez." He received a bachelor's degree from Stanford University and a master's degree from Columbia University. A contributing editor at New America Media in San Francisco, he was a regular essayist on PBS' "MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour." His other books include "Mexico's Children," "Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father," which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and "Brown: The Last Discovery of America." His works have also appeared in numerous magazines.

A highlight: Among his awards, Rodriguez received a 1997 George Foster Peabody Award for his "News Hour" essays on American life.

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

May 25, 2012
New Arcadia volume explores American River Canyon history

Amer River Canyon.jpgThe North and Middle Forks of the American River are a natural resource that has undergone great changes beginning with the 1849 Gold Rush. This transformation is documented in dozens of historic photos of bridges, dams, trains, trestles, mining and recreation collected in American River Canyon, a new Arcadia Images of America volume.

Local historians Rodi Lee and Michael G. Lynch accumulated over 1,200 archival images in researching the book. They used photographs from the State Library, UC Berkeley Bancroft Library, Placer County Archives and the Historical Society, and numerous federal and state agencies.

American River Canyon (Images of America), 127 pages, $21.99.

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, beautifully illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

May 20, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Peter J. Shields

Peter Shields.JPGBorn: April 4, 1862
Died: Sept. 28, 1962

Known for: Known as the "father" of UC Davis, Shields formulated the idea in 1899 to place an agriculture school in the Central Valley. In 1905, he wrote most of the legislation to establish the college.

Background: Born in Hangtown Crossing (now part of Rancho Cordova), Shields grew up on a farm, graduated from Christian Brothers College (now high school) and studied law. A law partner of Hiram Johnson, Shields chose the bench while the fiery Johnson opted for politics, eventually becoming California's governor. Shields was elected to a Sacramento Superior Court judgeship in 1900 and held it until he retired in 1949 at age 87. Then for another dozen years, he traveled daily from his 23rd Street home to the law office he maintained downtown. In addition to his judicial duties, his diverse interests included his work as a co-founder of McGeorge School of Law and as an advocate of agricultural education and the improvement of California livestock. He was known for developing a notable herd of Jersey cattle.

A highlight: Shields Library at UC Davis is named for him, as is a Rancho Cordova elementary school.

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

May 16, 2012
Local WWII POW to appear at Aerospace Museum

Kovar.jpgLocal author Len Kovar will appear during the Armed Forces Day celebration at the Aerospace Museum of California this Saturday. He'll be on hand to sign books and share his his war experiences as depicted in the memoir WWII Prisoner of War: How I Survived.

Kovar served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bombardier-navigator based in Italy. On his 11th mission his B-24 was shot down and he parachuted into Hungary. Eventually the Germans captured him and he suffered as a POW for nine months surviving various camps and forced marches.

Saturday is also Open Cockpit Day at the Museum. it's a special opportunity for kids to explore the inside of many of the aircraft on display. In addition, there will be radio controlled flights by the Mather Aerospace Modelers and other activities throughout the day.

What: Meet the Author: Len Kovar
Where: California Aerospace Museum, 3200 Freedom Park Dr., North Highland
When: May 19, 9 a.m.
Cost: $5 museum admission. Free for active military and their families.
For more info: (916) 643-3192

News release

May 13, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Jerome C. Davis

Jerome Davis.jpgBorn: 1822
Died: Oct. 6, 1881

Known for: Jerome C. Davis was a rancher and landholder for whom the city of Davis, originally called "Davisville," is named.

Background: An Ohio native, Davis arrived in California in 1845 as part of Capt. John C. Fremont's topographical survey expedition. In the early 1850s, Davis started the first dairy in Yolo County with Col. Joseph B. Chiles. With the help of Davis' father, Isaac, the farm prospered until the mid-1860s. Davis deeded the ranch to his father in 1866. A year later, Isaac Davis sold part of his ranch to the California Pacific Railroad. In 1868, the railroad filed a plot for the new town of Davisville. In 1917, the community incorporated. The "ville" was dropped from its name about the same time.

A highlight: In 1905, legislation was approved for the establishment of a state agricultural school. A year later, purchase of 778 acres of the original Jerome C. Davis ranch formed the basis for the University Farm School. It grew into a branch of Berkeley's College of Agriculture in 1922, then into a separate campus - the University of California at Davis - in 1959.

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

May 6, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Steve Cook
Steve Cook.JPG

Born: Jan. 13, 1957

Known for: Roseville native Steve Cook captured 15 career titles, including three major championships, on the Professional Bowlers Association tour.

Background: Cook played only baseball at Oakmont High School and didn't begin bowling seriously until age 17. He began competing in junior leagues, then adult leagues. He eventually began practicing every day at Fireside Lanes in Citrus Heights. He joined the PBA tour in 1977, earned $14,500 and was second in Rookie of the Year balloting. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound lefthander became a staple on the sport's televised Saturday broadcasts, appearing 40 times during his 15-year career. He won the 1981 Tournament of Champions, the 1983 Touring Players Championship and the 1986 BPAA U.S. Open. He earned more than $800,000 in prize money during his career. The Granite Bay resident now owns Steve Cook Bowling Supply based in Sacramento.

A highlight: Cook was elected to the PBA Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Sacramento Bowling Association's Hall of Fame in 2004. He bowled a perfect 300 game 27 times during his pro career.

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

April 29, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Guy West

GUY WEST.JPGBorn: April 15, 1898
Died: July 12, 1983

Known for: Guy West was the first president of what became California State University, Sacramento, when the school opened in 1947. He served until 1965.

Background: An Arkansas native, West taught and was an administrator at New Mexico Western College before moving to college in Chico in 1933. There, he was professor, director of research, registrar and dean. In 1947, West was appointed president of then-Sacramento State College. The college shared space with Sacramento Junior (now Community) College until 1953, when classes began on the present east Sacramento site. During his tenure, the campus's buildings and athletic fields took shape, and enrollment increased from 235 in 1947 to 6,282 in the 1964-65 academic year. Enrollment during the 2006-07 academic year reached 28,529.

A highlight: Besides CSUS, the president's legacy lives on with the Guy West Bridge, which opened in 1967 for pedestrians and is modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge. It connects the campus with what is now the Campus Commons neighborhood.

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

April 26, 2012
This Week in History, Marysville style

Appeal Democrat.JPGA mainstay of community journalism, many newspapers run historical columns summarizing news stories from decades gone by. These generally spotlight items from past editions that are published at milestone intervals (25, 50, years ago, etc.). The availability of microfilm copies of the paper make these tidbits easy to find.

If you're interested in Yuba and Sutter County history, check out This Week in Local History, the Marysville Appeal-Democrat timeline feature. Each column references news stories from five, ten, 25, 50 and 100 years in the past, drawing on precursor papers the Marysville Appeal (founded 1860) and Marysville Evening Democrat (founded 1884). You can find past columns on the paper's web site.

The latest item from ten years ago concerned the brisk sale of the Sacramento Kings bobblehead dolls in town. Apparently the debut of last player doll -- Scot Pollard -- brought long lines of buyers to two Marysville-Yuba City Carl's Jr. restaurants. You have to wonder if Kings bobbleheads would generate even a quarter of the interest today.

Incidentally The Associated Press produces its own Today in History that is national and international in scope. You can browse about a year's worth on They include those celebrity birthdays you see on page A2 of The Bee.

PHOTO CREDIT: A section of The Appeal-Democrat from Dec. 1955 displaying the devastating flood that almost inundated Marysville. Courtesy Jerry Matthews

April 22, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Joe Carnahan

Joe carnahan.JPGBorn: May 9, 1969

Known for: Sacramento-based director and screenwriter Joe Carnahan has gained acclaim for his movies, including "Smokin' Aces" and "Narc."

Background: A Delaware native who grew up in Detroit, Carnahan moved to Sacramento and took a job in the promotions department at Channel 31. He made short films before completing the independent movie, "Blood Guts Bullets and Octane," which was filmed in and around Sacramento and shown at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. His breakthrough came in 2002, with the edgy, violent drama "Narc" starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. The film, which cost $2 million to make, earned raves at the Sundance Festival. Most recently, he directed "Smokin' Aces," with an ensemble cast featuring Jeremy Piven.

A highlight: "Narc" was a finalist for Sundance's prestigious Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. A filmmaker with an independent streak, Carnahan told The Bee in 2002: "I'll never leave Sacramento. I find it difficult to work in Los Angeles. ... I do what I want to do. I don't answer to some studio flack. I'd rather make small movies about a couple of people than some big blockbuster."

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

April 16, 2012
Folsom author to speak on Japanese Internment

Kiyo Sato.JPGAward-winning author Kiyo Sato will speak at Sacramento State on her family's experiences in an internment camp during World War II.

Prior to the war, Sato and her eight siblings grew up on a thriving family farm near Sacramento. The 1942 Executive Order 9066 forced them to relocate to the Poston Internment Camp in Arizona. The trauma of moving and giving up everything is recounted in Sato's book Kiyo's Story: a Japanese-American family's quest for the American Dream.

This lecture program also features Mas Hatano, a docent for the California State Railroad Museum and the California State Museum, who was interned at the Tule Lake camp during the war.

What: Kiyo Sato speaking on the Japanese Internment
Where: Foothill Suite, University Union, California State University Sacramento
When: April 18, 12 to 1:15 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: website

PHOTO CREDIT: Kiyo Sato of Folsom stands at Sacramento City College with her book entitled Kiyo's Story. 2009 Sacramento Bee photograph by Hector Amezcua

April 15, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Bob Forsh

Bob_Forsch.JPGBorn: Jan. 13, 1950

Known for: Sacramento native Bob Forsch won 168 games, including two no-hitters, during a 16-year pitching career, mainly with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Background: Forsch was a star player at Hiram Johnson High School. He struck out a record six consecutive batters during the 1968 prep playoffs and led the Warriors to the first Tournament of Champions title that year over Grant. Drafted by the Cardinals, he made his major league debut in 1974. He won 20 games in 1977 and led the Cardinals in victories six times. He no-hit the Phillies in 1978 and the Expos in 1983. An excellent hitter, Forsch won the Sporting News' Silver Slugger Award in 1980 and 1987 and hit 12 career home runs. He also played in three World Series with the Cardinals.

Highlights: Forsch's older brother, Ken, threw a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves in 1979, making the Forsches the only siblings to pitch no-hit games in major league history. Ken Forsch also played 16 years in the majors, winning 114 games. Bob Forsch was the winningest pitcher (93 games) in the history of St. Louis' old Busch Stadium, which was demolished in 2005.

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

April 8, 2012
In History's Spotlight: William Curtis

CURTIS_WILLIAM.JPGBorn: Aug. 11, 1831
Died: Jan. 27, 1907

Known for: William Curtis was patriarch of the family partnership that built the Curtis Park neighborhood and donated the land for the neighborhood's park in 1919, stipulating that it be named for Curtis.

Background: A Massachusetts native, Curtis arrived in Sacramento in 1852. Two years later, he took over his brother's 200-acre homestead on what is now Montgomery Way, establishing a farm and dairy. By 1882, Curtis and his wife, Susan, owned the entire southeastern portion of what is now the Curtis Park neighborhood. Curtis was elected to the county Board of Supervisors in 1893 and served for eight years, becoming chairman his last two years. He was a Republican, remembered for improving roads. The Curtis Park neighborhood land was subdivided in three phases: late 1880s, early 1900s and early 1920s.

A highlight: A building boom during the Roaring '20s brought new schools, including Bret Harte and Sierra elementaries (the latter now the Sierra 2 Center), to the area. Nearby, Christian Brothers School and what was then Sacramento Junior College also were built during that decade.

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

April 2, 2012
Sierra College creates museum guide

Sierra College's electronic journal, called "The Journal of the Sierra College Natural History Museum," has just published a new issue with a valuable resource for history buffs - a directory of about 200 museums, libraries and other cultural organizations in the Sierra Nevada region.

Seventeen California counties, including Sacramento, are represented in the journal, accompanied by a short, explanatory description of the venue, contact information and a photo gallery. It also features a special section highlighting the Sierra College Natural History Museum.

For more information and to purchase the electronic journal, go to or through the college website at

-- Sam McManis

April 1, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Sab Shimono

Sab Shimono.JPGBorn: July 31, 1943

Known for: Sacramento native Sab Shimono has fashioned a long acting career in television shows, movies and Broadway plays.

Background: Shimono was born in an apartment on Third and L streets in Sacramento. During World War II, Shimono's family was relocated to the Tule Lake camp in Northern California and then to Amache, Colo., as part of Executive Order 9066, which uprooted more than 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry. When Shimono's family returned home, his father opened the Diamond Cafe on K Street. Shimono attended Sacramento High School and then University of California, Berkeley, where he took acting classes. He made his Broadway debut in "Mame," with Angela Lansbury. His film credits include "Presumed Innocent." On TV, he's appeared in "2 1/2 Men", "Friends" "Seinfeld" and "M.A.S.H." He also has won awards for his work in regional theater, including San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

A highlight: He was the voice of Uncle on the hit TV series "Jackie Chan Adventures." He also has provided voice work for "The Simpsons."

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

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

Al Geiberger.JPGBorn: Sept. 1, 1937

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2012
New Arcadia volume examines Lake Tahoe's western shore
Tahoe West Shore.jpg

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

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

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, beautifully illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Allen Pierleoni

March 5, 2012
New photo exhibit celebrates steam railroading

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

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

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

News Release

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

Carlos Alazraqui.JPGBorn: July 20, 1962

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

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

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

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

February 29, 2012
The Japanese internment remembered in Bee news story and photos

Internment.JPGFeb. 19 was the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. Signed by Franklin Roosevelt a few months after U.S. entry into World War II, the document authorized the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

The Bee observed this milestone with an article by Anita Creamer that examined the lasting psychological impact of the internment on the children of those who were evacuated to remote camps. Some researchers believe the wartime experience of parents have left scars of low-level depression and insecurity on the next generation.

The story is accompanied by two large photo slide shows.

Executive Order 9066: Legacy of Shame includes many historic images of interned Japanese by the renowned photographer Dorothea Lange. There are also contemporary pictures by the Bee's Paul Kitagaki, who has embarked on an ongoing project to photograph veterans of the camps and their descendents.

Unknown Japanese Internment Photographs contains over 200 historic pictures by Lange, Ansel Adams and others. Many of the people in these photographs are unidentified. If you recognize any of them, please contact Paul Kitagaki at The Bee.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans of the Mochida family are Hiroko Mochida, 69, and seated Miyuki Hirano, 72, photographed May 21, 2006. The Mochida family operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in the Eden Township, now Fremont, Calif. Their father, Moriki Mochida raised snapdragons and sweet peas. They were interned at the Tanforan Assembly center and the Topaz Interment Camp during WWII and when they returned they had lost their business and had to start over. Copyright 2012 by Paul Kitagaki Jr.

February 26, 2012
In History's Spotlight: James L. Gillis

GILLIS.JPGBorn: Oct. 3, 1857
Died: July 27, 1917

Known for: As state librarian beginning in 1899, James L. Gillis led the movement to establish a county library system in California. He also extended the use of the State Library to the general public.

Background: An Iowa native, Gillis and his family moved to Sacramento in 1870. In 1894, he became chief clerk of the Assembly Committee of Ways and Means. He was also keeper of the archives of the secretary of state. In 1898, he was appointed a deputy in the State Library, then became state librarian. In 1909, the Legislature passed a law allowing each county to install a tax-supported library controlled by a board of supervisors and managed by a qualified librarian.

A highlight: In 1899, the State Library was in the Capitol and had more than 100,000 volumes. Its use was restricted to state officials, legislators, clergy and press. Gillis opened it to the general public. He also helped create the first union catalog in the country -- the California Information File -- and the Books for the Blind department at the State Library.

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

February 19, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Steve Sax

Steve Sax.JPGBorn: Jan. 29, 1960

Known for: Steve Sax, a second baseman and West Sacramento native, played 14 seasons with four major league teams. He was a five-time All-Star and National League Rookie of the Year.

Background: Sax graduated from Marshall (now River City) High School. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being picked in the ninth round of the 1978 summer draft. Sax was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1982, hitting .282 and setting a club rookie record with 49 stolen bases. He followed that up by hitting .281 and stealing 56 bases in 1983. He played for the Dodgers through the 1988 season, when Los Angeles upset the Oakland A's in the World Series. He then played three seasons with the New York Yankees, two with the Chicago White Sox and completed his career with Oakland in 1994. After moving to Loomis, Sax ran as a Republican for the 4th Assembly District in 1995 but withdrew in early 1996.

A highlight: In 1986, Sax batted a career best .332 but lost the National League batting title by a point to Montreal's Tim Raines. He amassed a career batting average of .281 and 444 stolen bases.

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

February 14, 2012
Love letters from the Vietnam War

Maness book.jpgIn a serious nod to Valentine's Day, the California State Military Museum will host a program describing one American soldier's heart-felt correspondence to his wife from the jungles of Vietnam.

It's Lonely Here in Hell: Love Letters from Nam is a collection written by James Dennis Piper who was drafted in August 1966 and killed in action just eight months later. His wife Michelle entrusted the letters to local author Charity Maness who put them in a historical context in this book.

What: Charity Maness, author of It's Lonely Here in Hell: Love Letters from Nam
Where: California State Military Museum, 1119 2nd St., Sacramento
When: Feb. 18, 1 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-854-1904 or website

February 12, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Joan Lunden

LUNDEN.JPGBorn: Sept. 19, 1950

Known for: A Fair Oaks native, Joan Lunden (originally Blunden) co-hosted ABC's "Good Morning America" from 1980 to 1997.

Background: Lunden grew up in what is now the Phoenix Field subdivision. She attended California State University, Sacramento, and became a news anchor at Channel 3 (KCRA). After working in New York, she joined "Good Morning America" in 1976 as a consumer reporter. Four years later she was named co-host with David Hartman, and later with Charles Gibson. On the show, she traveled the world, covered five Olympic Games, four presidents and two royal weddings. Since leaving the show, she has hosted a prime-time series, "Wickedly Perfect," and has written books, including her latest, "Growing Up Healthy: A Complete Guide to Childhood Nutrition, Birth Through Adolescence." She also appeared as herself in the 2005 movie "Thank You for Smoking."

A highlight: Among some of her on-air feats during her "GMA" run were flying in an F-18, hang gliding, dog sledding, river rafting, ice climbing and bungee jumping.

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

February 8, 2012
Lake Tahoe skiing remembered in photos, postcards

Lake Tahoe skiing.jpgHistorian, lecturer and photographer Mark McLaughlin has authored two new volumes for Arcadia devoted to the history of Lake Tahoe skiing. McLaughlin tells the story of the development of the sport with images found at the Donner Summit Historical Society, North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and private collections,

Skiing in Lake Tahoe (Images of America), 128 pages, price $21.99.
Skiing at Lake Tahoe
(Postcards of America), 15 pages, price $7.99.

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, beautifully illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

February 6, 2012
Beer in Mother Lode history
breweries book.jpg

The importance of beer production in Sacramento history is generally known. But less known is the proliferation of breweries in the foothill region that began in the Gold Rush. Now a new Arcadia illustrated volume aims to document the historic Gold Country breweries and the people who operated them.

Local archaeologists R. Scott Baxter and Kimberly J. Wooten co-authored this book and several others in the Images of America series, including Shenandoah Valley and Amador Wine Country and Sutter Creek.

Breweries of the Gold Country (Images of America series) is now available for purchase for $21.99.

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, beautifully illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles celebrating communities all across the country.

February 5, 2012
In History's Spotlight: Richard Marriott

MARRIOTT.JPGBorn: Feb. 7, 1918
Died: June 4, 2000

Known for: Richard Marriott served nearly eight years as mayor and 16 years on the City Council.

Background: Born in Ely, Nev., Marriott later moved with his family to Nevada City. He graduated from Nevada City Union High School in 1935, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of San Francisco in 1940, and did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. After World War II, he began selling newspaper advertising. He then worked briefly for the Catholic Herald in Sacramento before joining the Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin, where he worked as editor and manager. He entered local politics in 1959, when there was no district system. He served two two-year terms as mayor. At that time, the council picked the mayor from its members. In 1971, Marriott won a four-year term in the first citywide mayoral election.

A highlight: In 1975, Marriott was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Four years later, he was named deputy secretary of the Health and Welfare Agency. He retired in 1982.

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