The Yosemite Club Closes Its Doors

The year 2010 marked the end of the line for Stockton’s Yosemite Club, a venerable cultural institution in San Joaquin County for more than a century. However, its memory will live on, thanks partly to a gift of financial and administrative records, photographs, and memorabilia that the Club has given to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum. An invitation to one of the Club’s parties in January 1914 is shown below.

Stockton’s Yosemite Club was one of a handful of all-male social clubs that formed in the city shortly after California’s Gold Rush. According to historian Bob Shellenberger, organization guidelines dating from 1889 required applicants to be “of full age, of good moral character, and of respectable standing in the community.” They also established an initiation fee of fifty dollars, a sizable sum in those days, which went far to assure a membership drawn from the wealthiest layers of white society. Early initiates included such pillars of San Joaquin County as Benjamin Holt, Sheriff Thomas Cunningham, pioneer vintner George West, and flour magnate George Sperry.

During the last half of the twentieth century, membership in the club expanded to include Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, and women. Over time, however, declining numbers proved unable to support expenses and the decision was made to disband.

Public access to the collection awaits formal acceptance by the San Joaquin County Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, arrangement of the material, cataloging, and preparation of a finding aid to facilitate research.

A brief and entertaining history of the Yosemite Club can be found in the summer 1993 issue of the San Joaquin Historian, a periodic publication of the San Joaquin County Historical Society, copies of which can be read online.

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