JULY 2014


In June 1864, as the Civil War raged in nearby Virginia, a war-weary Congress considered establishing a park for the use and recreation of all Americans, to be administered by the state of California. Introduced by California Senator John Conness, the Yosemite Grant was the first act of the federal government to protect scenic landscapes. 

The nation had learned about Yosemite just as political strife was driving the Union into civil war. Carleton E. Watkins’ mammoth-plate and stereo-view photographs - perhaps suggesting Yosemite as a place for the nation’s wounded psyche to heal - helped convince Congress to pass the act. 

On June 30, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, guaranteeing the preservation of 39,000 acres “of the Yo-Semite Valley and of the land embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove...  inalienable for all time” - as the nation’s first protected wilderness, and paving the way for a national park system. 

This Thursday July 10, author and consulting historian for our current exhibition -Yosemite: A Storied Landscape - will join us for an evening lecture on the history of the Yosemite Grant Act and the birth of Yosemite National Park. Jen Huntley is the author of The Making of Yosemite: James Mason Hutchings and the Origin of America's Favorite National Park and is professor of humanities at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV.

CHS poppy only

CC-H44(1882)_001   Exhibition-Preview   14320207829_8c0dd387e5_o
California Past & Present(ly) Processed

For lovers of curiosities and catalogs, the California Historical Society’s Commercial Catalogs Collection (1851-1981) is sure to delight. Organized by company name, the catalogs advertise a wonderful variety of objects rare and ordinary: aquatic plants and water lilies, asbestos sad irons, barbers’ supplies, bits and spurs, carnation cuttings, caskets, fishing rods, floating bra swim suits, harnesses and saddles, hats and caps, imitation diamond jewelry, orchids, pharmaceutical preparations, sea shells and natural history specimens, sheet music, surgical instruments, tents and awnings, and typewriters. In his catalog of 1882, Hermann, the Hatter, of 336 Kearny Street, presented a series of cleverly named hats, including the “Custer,” “Darwin,” and “Bon Voyage.” One wonders if the actual hats were as captivating as the gorgeously illustrated catalogs in which they were advertised.
  ON View now: YOSEMITE: A STORIED LANDSCAPE Yosemite, in all its profound beauty, is often imagined in a pristine state untouched by humankind. But its human history spans millennia.About 6,000 years ago, humans came to the Yosemite Valley. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Ahwahneechee had lived there for generations and had little contact with non-natives. Then, beginning in 1849, the Gold Rush shifted the focus of the nation and the world to California—and Yosemite was forever changed. At this 150-year anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, establishing the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as the nation’s first protected wilderness we look anew at this remarkable place. With Yosemite: A Storied Landscapeexhibition, enhanced eBook, and public program series—we bring to life surprising, poignant, revealing, and sometimes tragic stories that inhabit this land as densely as its waterfalls and trees.


  Digitizing History: Baths and bathingsuits

California has 3,427 miles of tidal coastland, and June is prime time to enjoy the beaches, bays and waterways of the Golden State. This collection of swimsuit ephemera and photographs remind us that, while standards of modesty change, everyone loves the beach. The set, full of remarkable photographs and amazing advertisements, is now available in the public domain as part of the California Historical Society Commons on Flickr
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