On the Edge

Who says history is boring? Lots of people. All too often, conventional wisdom sees history as a disjointed smattering of names, dates, and battles. Often it has tended to equate the study of history with the accomplishments of males. What often gets overlooked, however, is an expanded definition that includes not only stories of men, but also of women, children, science, technology, culture, religion, transportation, and ethnic minorities. The list could go on and on to cover the full scope of human experience over time.

The photograph at left was taken in San Joaquin County. How many negative stereotypes about history does it shatter? It doesn't involve politics, the military, or men, and appreciation of the image doesn't require memorization of dates. It certainly doesn't tell me that our ancestors led boring lives, or that either the questions it raises or the story it tells lack interest. To me, at least, the photo suggests that history can actually be interesting, even a little edgy.

The image of the woman on the motorcycle is one of about two hundred recently given to the Museum in response to an appeal made on this blog last year (May 2, 2012). This particular collection originated with a member of the Stockton Motorcycle Club. Unfortunately, the identity of the rider is unknown, though we do know that she sits astride an Indian motorcycle that probably dates from the 1930s. Other subjects represented in the collection include motorcycle races in Stockton, Lodi, and Micke Grove; hill climbs near Tracy; group photos of motorcyclists from a variety of eras; and individual shots of male and female riders in an array of settings.

The San Joaquin County Historical Society has a mission to preserve and promote the history of the County in all its complexity. It welcomes additions like this collection of motorcycle photographs. For information about how to contribute historical material—and to help keep learning about the past interesting—send me a message at leighjohnsen@sanjoaquinhistory.org.

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