On September 9, 2015, Californians will celebrate the 165th anniversary of statehood. On that same day, the California State Archives will open a new exhibit revealing the fascinating history of the Office of the Secretary of State, created by the 1849 Constitution.
The new exhibit will highlight the responsibilities of the Secretary of State, from the original functions outlined in the Statutes of 1850, Chapter 6 to the duties of the modern era. Some of the early tasks, such as elections monitoring, business filings, and receiving official acts of the Governor and Legislature remain today. During the early decades of statehood, the Secretary of State carried out the duties of the office with a staff of four; today, nearly 500 people handle the multitude of responsibilities assigned to the Secretary of State’s office. From the early foundations to today, the Office of the Secretary of State continues its dedication to making California history and government more transparent and accessible.
The exhibit will display original items highlighting the various divisions of the office, including the Archives, Business Entities, Elections, and Political Reform. In addition, the exhibit will include information about long-serving secretaries who impacted the office in significant ways. Featured items include the 1849 election returns from Sutter's Fort, absentee ballots of Civil War soldiers stationed across the country, the 1933 Marx Brothers articles of incorporation, an 1884 bar of "The King of Soaps" for trademark registration, and an instruction model of an early 1960s automatic voting machine. The blueprint of the first vault built in the capitol basement to secure the state's historic documents, such as the 1849 and 1879 Constitutions, Mexican era land maps, and trademark registrations, will also be on display.
On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act. This law marked the beginning of California’s efforts to conserve and protect natural resources for public enjoyment, as well as similar national efforts. By preserving the state’s diverse natural and cultural resources, California State Parks continues to provide opportunities for health, inspiration, education, and outdoor recreation.
The California State Archives has a new exhibit called “California State Parks: Preserving Our Natural and Cultural Treasures.” The exhibit storyline spans the evolution of state parks in California from the first land grant to today’s 280 state parks, historic sites, and recreation areas. The exhibit covers Yosemite’s history as a state park; efforts of early conservationists; the creation of the state park system; historic preservation projects; the post-war boom and need for more recreational opportunities; and increased efforts to represent California’s diverse heritage, cultures, and natural environments through parks.
The exhibit showcases the Archives’ collections including records, architectural drawings, maps, postcards, and park ranger badges. Highlights include an 1864 proclamation signed by Governor Frederick Low; an 1892 signed letter from the first guardian of Yosemite with a hand-drawn map of the valley; color lithographs; and photographs of parks, historic preservation projects, and Civilian Conservation Corps camps.
"Signs of the Times: California Businesses and Trademark Art," an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of California's Trademark Registration Act (Chapter 129, Statutes of 1863), focuses on late 19th and early 20th century trademarks. It features colorful fruit crate labels, clever cigar box labels, and trademarks depicting California state symbols such as grizzly bears, gold miners, and the Great Seal. Other items on exhibit include examples of court cases which further defined trademark law, patent medicine labels, and trademarks used by famous beverage and sweets companies. California began registering certain container brands in 1861, but trademark registration for all types of products began in 1863 (seven years prior to federal legislation). California was the first state in the Union to allow trademark registration, and today those doing business in California still register their trademarks with the Secretary of State. The State Archives preserves trademarks records (1861-1991) as part of the records of the Secretary of State's office.
Coinciding with Veterans Day and the 25th anniversary of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento's Capitol Park, the California Secretary of State''s Archives Division has mounted a new exhibit of items placed at the memorial. Mementos include uniforms, hats, medals, patches, poems, posters, correspondence, and even a bullet-riddled helicopter blade. Since the memorial’s opening in 1988, visitors have left more than 1,500 items of personal or historical significance at the site. Items left at the site are transferred to the State Archives.
"California Cattle," an exhibit focusing on the parallel development of the Golden State and its cattle industries, showcases cattle-related records from the collections of the State Archives including Spanish and Mexican land grant maps, colorful product trademarks, and state agency photographs. From the original herd brought to California by Spanish explorers to our state's current status as a leading beef and dairy producer, the exhibit touches on topics such as early California ranches, water rights, legislation regulating the dairy and beef industries, efforts to improve livestock health, the State Fair, and the prize-winning herds of state institutions.
This exhibit explores the consequences of California's October 1911 Special Election. At that time, voters approved a set of constitutional amendments that forever altered the political, social, and economic fabric of the Golden State. One hundred years later, Californians are still living with the impact of the changes wrought by this pivotal election.