New Exhibition Explores American Workforce

Every day, folks are hard at work on farms, in factories, hospitals, schools, fire stations, offices, squad cars, and homes, all helping our communities thrive. In tribute to workers, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum will host the California premiere of "The Way We Worked," a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. "The Way We Worked" will be at the Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park from October 6 through November 16. The Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mexican farm worker, Blythe, Calif., by Charles O’Rear, May 1972. (Nat. Arch., Recs. Environ. Prot. Agency)

Mexican farm worker, Blythe, Calif., by Charles O’Rear, May 1972. (Nat. Arch., Recs. Environ. Prot. Agency)

"The Way We Worked" is adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration. It explores how work has become a central element in American culture, impacting our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities. It traces changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and the increasing use of technology. The exhibition draws from the Archives' rich collections, including historical photographs, archival accounts of workers, film, and audio, as well as local materials.

"We are very pleased to be able to bring 'The Way We Worked' to San Joaquin County and to kick off the California tour," said David Stuart, Executive Director of the Historical Society. "It gives us an opportunity to explore this aspect of our own region's history. We hope that it will inspire many to visit the Museum and to preserve and document the work history of their families and communities."

"We hope folks will join us at the Museum on November 8th from 5 to 7 p.m. for a reception with Exhibit Envoy to launch the California tour," Stuart added.

The San Joaquin County Historical Museum was chosen to be the opening California venue for the Museum on Main Street project—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour six communities in California through July 2014. The California tour is managed by the nonprofit Exhibit Envoy.

To learn more about the Smithsonian's "The Way We Worked" and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit

Exhibit Envoy is a nonprofit organization that has developed and managed traveling exhibitions for small and medium-sized California museums since 1988. See

A New Windmill for the Museum

Did you know that Stockton was once called the "City of Windmills"? According to photographs taken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, windmills were prominent features of the city's skyline at that time. But they certainly aren't anymore, nor do we see many elsewhere in San Joaquin County.

Setting the new windmill in place.

Setting the new windmill in place.

This week, the windmill will become slightly more familiar in the County, thanks to the installation of a new one at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum. The Museum's new windmill won't look any different from the ones we usually see, but it will serve a different purpose.

Unlike many counterparts, the Museum's windmill will not lift water out of the ground. Nor will it generate electricity, like those sleek blades we see off to the side while driving over Altamont Pass, on Highway 580. Instead, it will pump water out of the pond that surrounds the Charles M. Weber Cottage, on the grounds of the Museum, and direct it back to the source in order to aerate the water and keep the pond healthy.

The Museum's new addition is an all-metal Aeromotor windmill. Originally developed in Chicago during the late 1880s, Aeromotor currently represents the standard for the industry. Working Aermotor windmills, some more than a century old, can be found throughout the world.

The Aeromotor profile is an icon of the American West. The Museum's will stand forty feet tall when completed and be crowned with a circle of blades ten feet in diameter. At winds of fifteen to eighteen miles per hour, it will have the ability to generate twenty-six stokes per minute.

Whatever the strength of the wind, the new windmill will also offer a clearly visible landmark, fittingly tied to a historic San Joaquin County theme, for visitors finding their way to the Museum. Travelers on Highway 99 will see it towering off to the west, high above vineyards between Armstrong and Eight Mile Roads.

Helen Dewar: Local Girl Makes Good

Who can resist a good biography, especially when the subject excels at her calling? It doesn't matter whether that person lived long ago or more recently. The story becomes even more compelling when the subject is homegrown and makes a positive impact on the world.


A couple weeks ago, one of the Museum's patrons introduced me to Helen Dewar. Dewar was a hometown girl, born in 1936 and raised in Stockton. After grammar and middle school, she attended the Branson School, in Marin County, and went on to Stanford University, where she edited the Stanford Daily.

Dewar chose journalism as a profession. Her first full-time reporting job was with the Northern Virginia Sun, Arlington, Virginia, where she covered education. In 1961, the Washington Post hired her. Over the next eighteen years, Dewar covered Metropolitan D.C., the Virginia State government, Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, and labor issues. In 1979, her focus shifted to the U.S. Senate.

She excelled in that position. In fact, she accomplished something difficult to imagine in today's political environment: She won praise from both sides of the aisle.

At the time of Dewar's death in November 2006, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called her "a legend in Washington [and] a reporter in the best traditions of the profession—an eye for detail and a keen sense of truth. Helen," he said, "ensured that her readers had a true reflection of the major stories in the capital."

On the other side of the aisle, Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) described her as "a journalist of the highest caliber. She was a true Washington reporter whose love of the Congress and determination to ask the right questions earned the respect—and occasionally the fear—of those she covered….I will especially miss Helen's sharp wit," continued Kennedy, "and the way her humor would inspire laughter even in the midst of a tense Senate battle."

Dewar received numerous awards: the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress (1984), the Washington Post's Eugene Meyer Award (1987), induction into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Press Club Foundation (2006).

Dewar died in Alexandria, Virginia, of complications related to breast cancer. Her life stands as a reminder that the list of noteworthy San Joaquin County natives includes women as well as men and that it extends well beyond careers we most often connect with agriculture, the foundation of the County's economy.

Naked Babies in the Mail

Understanding the past can be hard. Sometimes, we accidentally make it even harder with mistakes that send us sailing off the charts.

Last week, I came across an interesting postcard in the Museum's collections. It dates from the early years of the twentieth century and features a baby posing innocently without a stitch of clothing. Here's the way we describe it in our catalog:

Unidentified, fully clothed baby (ca. 1900), delighted not to be sitting in a cold and darkened box.

Unidentified, fully clothed baby (ca. 1900), delighted not to be sitting in a cold and darkened box.

"A photographic postcard of a baby sent to [name of recipient]."

"Really?" I muttered to myself. "Did the people at that time really send naked babies through the mail?"

In my mind, I could see an animated conversation between a mother and her daughter.

"Mommy," the little girl says excitedly, "we have a package at the door!"

"Wonderful," replies the mother. "Why don't you bring it into the house and open it?"

So the daughter drags the box inside and tears into it. She opens the lid, claps her hands, and squeals with delight.

"Mommy," she exclaims, jumping up and down, "it's a baby, and it's naked!"

Never underestimate the importance of sentence structure, proper grammar, and punctuation. I'm reminded of a little book published several years ago titled Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Read one way, the title invites us to visualize a gentle Koala munching dinner high up in a Eucyluptus tree. Add commas, however, and we have a hungry serial killer on the run.

Personally, I think the description of our photograph should read "Photograph of naked baby printed on postcard, which was sent to [name of recipient]." Or something like that. I doubt very much that our ancestors entrusted babies—clothed or unclothed—to the postal system.

But they did send photos of naked babies through the mail, which certainly would be daring in today's legal environment.

I'm not that brave, so I won't post the picture on this blog. But I do intend to change the wording in the catalog. It's the least I can do as a professional to promote accuracy and understanding. Besides, I can't stand the thought of how cold it might have been in a little cardboard box.

Sacramento Archives Crawl 2013

In celebration of National Archives Month, archives and special collections libraries from throughout the Sacramento region will showcase their rarely seen holdings for the public in the Third Annual "Passion for Preservation: Sacramento Archives Crawl." The event occurs on Saturday, October 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Sacramento. Historic treasures from more than twenty Northern California institutions will be on display at four downtown host locations: the California State Archives, the California State Library, the Center for Sacramento History, and the Sacramento Public Library.

Map of San Joaquin County, ca. 1910, full-size copies of which will be on sale at the Historical Society's exhibit.

Map of San Joaquin County, ca. 1910, full-size copies of which will be on sale at the Historical Society’s exhibit.

Participants will "crawl" between four host locations, all located within downtown Sacramento. At the four locations, the public can view archival collections on display and take behind-the-scenes tours. In addition, representatives from other archives and special collections libraries will be at the host locations to discuss their archival collections—historic photographs, rare books, historic artifacts—and answer questions about how to connect with local history resources.

Archives Crawl Passports will be given to guests as they visit the host institutions. The passport provides a map of the event and information about the participating archives and special collection libraries. Event attendees who get their passports stamped at three of the four host sites will be given a set of limited-edition commemorative coasters. The coasters honor the pub crawl theme by featuring reproductions of the city's architectural icons.

The display for the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum will be located at the California State Archives, the Secretary of State's Office, 1020 O Street.

This event is made possible by financial support from Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Hollinger Metal Edge, the Sacramento Public Library, the Sacramento History Foundation, the California State Library Foundation, and the Gordon Goldstein Foundation.

Click here for additional information, including directions, a schedule of events, and parking instructions.

Market Hunting in the San Joaquin Valley

Remember Passenger Pigeons? Probably not. The last one died in 1914, a casualty of mass deforestation and overhunting. An estimated three to five billion lived in North America when Europeans arrived, but their numbers plummeted over the next three centuries. Perpetuation of this once–numerous bird apparently wasn't a matter of high priority.

Duck hunter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, ca. 1905.

Duck hunter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, ca. 1905.

This attitude wasn't unique with Passenger Pigeons. Earlier this week, I came across four small account books in the Museum's collections that suggest similar views toward waterfowl in the San Joaquin Valley during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The author was Edward Alders (1877–1928), a son of Charles Milton Alders, the owner of Central Hotel, in Farmington, California. From an early age, Edward was a market hunter—much of the time in Merced County—shooting geese and ducks for sale in San Francisco. The proceeds eventually helped him purchase land of his own near Farmington.

At the end of one account book, Alders summarized his kills for four seasons at the beginning of the twentieth century. His total for 1901–1902 was 7,728, and for 1902–1903 5,218. The following season, the figure declined to 3,784, only to rise again to 6,627 during the years 1904–1905. Altogether, he claimed 23,367 kills all four seasons.

Alders didn't lack targets. According to his summary, the largest number of ducks he shot with one gun in a single shot during this period was 89, and with two 119. The corresponding numbers for geese were 65 and 90, respectively.

Our knowledge of Alders will always be limited. However, it certainly looks as though he valued personal gain over waterfowl conservation. I can't help wondering whether the possibility of eventual extinction—partly through his actions and those of likeminded hunters—ever entered his mind. But, of course, I'll never know.

Times have obviously changed. So have laws and organizations—like Ducks Unlimited—to prevent the extinction of waterfowl. These four little account books may raise unanswerable questions about their author, but they go far in explaining why those safeguards have come into existence.

Grandma, What’s a Speakeasy? Part 2

More things that grandchildren of docents from the San Joaquin County Historical Museum—and other youngsters—will not recognize or know anything about…

Mrs. Murphy's chowder ("Who put the overalls in…")
Old Mrs. Davis ("Lord bless us and save us and…")

lead soldiers
biting lead soldiers
rubbing mercury from a broken thermometer on your dimes to make them shiny
mercury thermometers

Oh, Mrs. Goldberg!
Speedy Gonzales' accent
"Tonight we have a reee-ly great shooe…"
77 Sunset Strip
Freddy the Freeloader
Art Linkletter
Mr. Green Jeans
Phineas T. Bluster
Dilly Dally
Peanut Gallery
Sid Ceasar

The Bop
The Stomp
The Stroll
"Endless Summer"
Dick Dale
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
walking Hollywood Boulevard after a date
walking on Venice "Muscle" Beach after a date, swinging on the rings
walking ANYwhere after a date
a date

Morse code
a party line on the phone
telegraph key

attractive young female stewardesses in skirts
transistor radios
walking down to the 5 and Dime
Coppertone ad with baby Jodie Foster's partly bare bottom showing
grabbing the brass ring on the merry-go-round
puttin' on the Ritz
tripping the light fantastic
the ant's ankles, bee's knees
playing mumblety peg
the mailman's huge leather pouch

Indian giver
sitting Indian style
I don't know and I don't care; Tonto lost his underwear
Sticks and stones will break my bones…
Put that in your pipe and smoke it
Ay, yer mother wears army boots

Emmett Kelley
Mortimer Snerd and Charlie McCarthy
Zeppo, Chico, and Harpo

Under the Bleachers, by Seymour Butts
Brown Spots on the Wall, by Hu Flung Pu
Yellow Rivers, by I. P. Daily
Fifty Yards to the Outhouse, by Willie Maikit
The Accident, by Betty Won't

starched white shirts from the laundry
putting up storm windows every fall
storm windows
rusty wire mesh screens
Will Wright's
wooden cigar boxes

Uncle Al the Kiddies' Pal
Here come da judge…
Veerrrrry interestink…

an airmail stamp
Little Oscar and the Wienermobile
Georgie Jessel
5 cent candy bars
E ticket
the paperboy
"English" bikes
Ralph and Ed's Raccoon Lodge
Junior Woodchucks
Rusty in Orchestraville
Spike Jones

correct use of "whom," lie/lay, fewer/less
Saying "No thank you," instead of "I'm fine"
Saying "You're welcome," instead of "No problem"
Saying "May I please have a…" instead of "Can I get a…"
respect for one's elders


Russ Livingston is a retired K-8 principal and a docent at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum. Part 1 of "Grandma, What's a Speakeasy?" was posted on March 27, 2013.

ValleyFirsts! Exhibition Opens

Here's an idea for your next party: Ask guests to name five "firsts" in San Joaquin County. (Prime yourself beforehand by reading the blog entry for July 24, 2013, below.) Afterward, watch local residents beam with pride as they point to milestone after milestone.

John C. Frémont (1852), leader of first American mapping party to California.

John C. Frémont (1852), leader of first American mapping party to California.

But what about guests from out of town? Expand your question to include the entire San Joaquin Valley and you can include them in the fun, thanks to an exhibition that opens at the end of this week.

Starting on Friday, September 13, Fresno State University will host an exhibition that highlights firsts for the entire San Joaquin Valley. The event takes place in the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery, on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library.

The exhibition, titled "ValleyFirsts!" will pull together a number of diverse firsts in the history of the San Joaquin Valley and use them to explore and celebrate the Valley's story.

The firsts will include firsts in the world that took place in the San Joaquin Valley, firsts in the United States and California that occurred in the Valley, firsts in the development of the Valley, firsts that helped shape the Valley, and first places in Valley history.

The exhibition will feature historic artifacts, documents, ephemera, first-hand accounts, and significant videos and images. Many of these items are on loan from other institutions or from private collections. Some will be exhibited for the first time.

The San Joaquin Valley's history will be shown through key Valley persons; significant challenges; the Valley's impact, innovations, and inventions; and the connection between the people of the Valley and the land.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular library hours. It runs through December 15.

The Friends of the Madden Library will hold a grand opening celebration, 6–9 p.m., September 13, in the Ellipse Gallery. The event will feature historians and institutions that have made the exhibition possible. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be available to the attendees.

Additional information about the exhibition can be found at and on YouTube.

Remembering the Lincoln Highway

Last weekend, my wife and I flew to Colorado for a family reunion. The flight—over the Sierra Nevada range, Utah, and the Rocky Mountains—took all of two and one-half hours. We landed in Denver, rested and ready to drive our rental car several additional hours.


Travel hasn't always been this easy. One of the most significant landmarks in the tortured history of transcontinental movement is the Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast road of thirty-four hundred miles that stretched from New York to San Francisco. Financed mainly by local communities, the mostly gravel highway passed through Stockton and about seven hundred other towns and cities in thirteen states.

The Lincoln Highway was the brainchild of Carl Fisher, an American visionary also responsible for creating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for turning the swampland around Miami Beach into one of the nation's best-known beach resorts. The name "Lincoln Highway" came from Henry Joy, the president of Packard Motor Company and a spokesman for the project, who suggested it because of its patriotic appeal.

The Lincoln Highway predated the better-known Route 66 by more than a decade. Traveling at the rate of twenty to thirty miles per hour, the typical speed of a Model T, a driver could span the Continent in twenty to thirty days. Two of the Highway's best-known travelers were Beat Generation poet and novelist Jack Kerouac and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who traced its course as part of an army convoy in 1919.

Two thousand thirteen marks the one hundredth birthday of the Lincoln Highway. Many communities in and around San Joaquin County—among them, Lathrop, Tracy, Mountain House, and French Camp—have recently installed commemorative signs along the route.

Will Stockton follow their lead? Kevin Shawver, a resident of Stockton and Lincoln Highway enthusiast, hopes it will. Shawver is spearheading a campaign to mark the road within the city with signs, and the San Joaquin County Historical Society Board of Trustees has voted its support.

"Not only does the historic route deserve recognition," reads a statement from the Society, "but we feel marking it will have positive economic impacts for businesses along the route and for Stockton as a whole."

Stockton's Historical Lincoln Highway Signage Project can be visited on Facebook. For additional information about the road, see the Lincoln Highway Association's Web site. Stockton Record columnist Michael Fitzgerald has written about the project in "The Driving Force Behind Historic Highway Effort."

The Civil War Comes to San Joaquin County

Close your eyes for a moment and think "Civil War." What do you see? A bearded men in a stovepipe hat? Fuzzy black-and-white daguerreotypes? Corpses on a battlefield? For many of us, the Civil War is only a vague and distant thought. For others, however, the people, issues, and conflicts are still very much alive. How we view the past often depends on how we learn about it.

Black Civil War soldiers defend Washington, D.C. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Black Civil War soldiers defend Washington, D.C. Courtesy Library of Congress.

This Saturday, the Civil War comes to San Joaquin County, offering residents vivid glimpses into those troubled times. Starting at 9 a.m., the Lockeford Historical Society and the Second South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, a military unit comprised of former slaves organized to fight for the Union, will host a Civil War encampment that will feature historical reenactors clothed in period uniforms. The soldiers will march, drill, fire muskets, and answer questions from visitors.

Admission to the event is free. It takes place at the Historic Lockeford Schoolhouse, 19456 Jack Tone Road, in Lockeford, California, and will remain open to visitors until 4 p.m. Historical reenactors from the period of the Indian Wars and the era of the Mountain Men will also be present.

This is Lockeford's Third Annual Living History and Civil War Enactment. It will occur with the cooperation of the American Civil War Association (ACWA) of Northern and Central California.

"With the uniforms, clothing, and equipment of the period," reads ACWA's Web site, "one can get some small sense of how the men, women, and children lived through the hardship that was the Civil War and also enjoy the very unique camaraderie and friendships that the hobby of reenacting offers."

Additional information about the Association and this event can be found at the ACWA Web site: