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20 September 2018

CGS Library Collections: California, Part 1

First in a 3-part series about the library's California Collection. For a fuller listing of our books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog. Our catalog is also listed in WorldCat.


As you might expect, our collection of California books is our largest, totaling 2,054 print books. This post will introduce a small portion of our California collection. Subsequent posts will cover California County books and compilations.
A small portion of the California Historical Society collection
Our California books are found in . . . the California Room! It's located in the back corner of the library. There are also a few oversize books in the main library along the back wall, plus our collection of California maps in the map drawer.

California 350 Years Ago - Manuelo's Narrative 
The California Room was previously known as the Dorman Room, in honor of George R. Dorman, who made a large gift of books to CGS in 1984. A blog post written by Kathryn Doyle in March 2008 noted that it was “the largest single gift to the library.” The first book (call number 855.1 G869) is California Three Hundred and Fifty Years Ago – Manuelo’s Narrative, published in 1888. Although it purports to be "Translated from the Portuguese" by "A Pioneer," the book is actually a novel written by former U.S. Senator Cornelius Cole. It imagines the adventures of a Portuguese sailor cast ashore in San Francisco Bay in the 16th century.

Instead of an index, a table of contents is found at the back of the book. An In Lieu of Preface appears up front. It reads, “The preface to a book is usually nothing more nor less than an apology for its production, and is intended in some way to disarm criticism; an end, however, seldom attained, since the critics, as a rule, read no further than the preface, taking it for granted that a work which needs an apology is not worth the perusal. If no preface is furnished, then these censors will have no alternative but to read the book through before pronouncing judgment upon it.”  This looks like a book worth reading and includes some beautiful etchings.

Etching from Manuelo's Narrative
Next are bound collections of material written by our society members, ranging from the very first California Register, published in April 1900, to the most recent edition of the Nugget. Anyone interested in more detail about the history of CGS will find it in these volumes. The original set of bylaws was published in the April 1900 Register on pages nineteen and twenty. At the time, membership in CGS required an admission fee and annual dues – each fifty cents. Listed are the original officers elected in 1898, including Dr. Edward Stephens Clark, President; Col. Adolphus Skinner Hubbard, first vice-president; Edgar Hobart, second vice-president; Theodore Worthington Hubbard, Treasurer; Margaret Perkins Deering, Librarian; Thomas Allen Perkins, Recording Secretary; and Sarah Louise Kimball, Corresponding Secretary.
Dr. Edward Stephens Clark, first president of CGS

We have materials from many state historical and genealogical groups. Newsletters of the California Historical Society fill three and a half shelves, and there are three shelves of Southern California Genealogical Society newsletters, up to 1965. I found one book plus two boxes of newsletters from the Society of California Pioneers. The book was published in December 1915 and lists all of the names of the members since the group's founding in 1850.

We also have a copy of The California Register, Social Blue Book of California, published in 1966. It lists the names of prominent citizens with their “social, cultural and philanthropic affiliations.”

Photo of a giant felled Sequoia, from the WPA's California
The last book I examined is simply titled CaliforniaA Guide to The Golden State, compiled and written by the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration in 1939. In the preface, it tells us “the editors have tried to make this book a true mirror of the state and its people.” Chapters include profiles of fourteen cities, including Oakland. There are also chapters on Death Valley National Monument, Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, Yosemite and the Golden Gate International Exposition. The bulk of the book describes tours of each part of the state – 25 in all. It would be fun to use this tour book now – nearly 80 years later - to see how the state has changed. Using this as a template, one could write a new guide describing the transformation of our state.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

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