Stockton’s Industrial Foundations

Have you ever wondered why history has taken the course it has? Those of us who work at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum sometimes do. One of the questions that arises at times is why Stockton developed a manufacturing base in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Wagon factory (lower right) in early Stockton.

The . . . → Read More: Stockton’s Industrial Foundations

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.

This . . . → Read More: A New Windmill for the Museum

Robert G. LeTourneau: Dean of Earthmoving

In an earlier posting (Feb. 8, 2012), I addressed the importance of Benjamin Holt in the history of earthmoving equipment. Another giant of the industry, Robert G. LeTourneau, also had roots in San Joaquin County. He doesn't have a prominent street in Stockton named for him and he is lesser-known. But he was no less important.

. . . → Read More: Robert G. LeTourneau: Dean of Earthmoving

Zerk Fittings and Grease Cups

What would we do without zerk fittings?

The zerk fitting is not exactly a household item. In fact, I'm willing to wager that most people don't know anything about it. When I first mentioned it to my wife, she shot me her "you've-got-to-be-kidding" look. As near as I can tell, she thought of it as an imaginary . . . → Read More: Zerk Fittings and Grease Cups

The Agricultural Hall of Fame

What do the following five people have in common? Charlotte Wheeler Clowes, John Kroyer, William G. Micke, George Shima, and Tillie Lewis. You get twenty-five points if you answered, "They all lived in San Joaquin County." Fifty if you know that they were somehow involved with agriculture. A perfect score of one hundred goes to readers . . . → Read More: The Agricultural Hall of Fame

A Tractor for Kids

Most children I know are fascinated with heavy machinery. I think they imagine the machines giving them vast amounts of power far beyond the ability of their tiny bodies. Even my daughter, who was a stuffed-animals kind of kid, had a special toy truck of her own. I can still hear her humming to herself as . . . → Read More: A Tractor for Kids

Henry Ford and Benjamin Holt

Henry Ford (1863–1947) is not one of my heroes. However, I do admire the innovations he brought to the assembly line. By the beginning of the twentieth century, many manufacturers already understood the value of interchangeable parts. But Ford was the first to apply this insight to the automotive industry. Using identical parts enabled him to . . . → Read More: Henry Ford and Benjamin Holt

San Joaquin County’s “Italian Windmills”

Museums are like icebergs—only a small portion of most museums' collections are visible to the public. The bulk remains "underwater," stored for future exhibits and preserved for the benefit of future generations. And sometimes fascinating artifacts are visible, but under-appreciated.

Davis-type windmill adapted for domestic use, D. M. Drais farm, Farmington, Calif.

Such is the case with . . . → Read More: San Joaquin County’s “Italian Windmills”

Benjamin Holt and the Caterpillar Tractor

I find it amazing that San Joaquin County was for fifty years or so the capital of earthmoving equipment. The County‚Äôs industrial, transportation, and financial infrastructures came into existence shortly after the Gold Rush, during the dry-farmed grain era. But it was the reclamation of rich peat soils of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the switch . . . → Read More: Benjamin Holt and the Caterpillar Tractor

Taking Care of Old Tractors

Have you ever wanted to drive a big old tractor, the kind that shakes windows, blasts eardrums, and gives off enough pollution to destroy the ozone? I'll confess that I have. How about something really old, like a 1920 Holt 75? Now, pretend you've found one. How do you start and drive it, let alone repair . . . → Read More: Taking Care of Old Tractors