California Originals | A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State's Office

California Originals | A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State's Office

A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State’s Office
Volume VI, No. 1 | Fall 2017

California Originals

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From the State Archivist

Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil

One of the first reading assignments I had as a graduate student in archives administration was Ernst Posner's Archives in the Ancient World (Harvard University Press, 1972). According to Posner, archives administration began in the ancient Near East where clay tablets were used to document and record events of the times. These clay tablets were stored in special containers and housed in special archival premises, and preserved for future use. The use of these clay tablets as the standard recording medium continued for about 3,000 years. Posner stated that ancient archivists had to first master the art of writing and were often scribes, an important and valuable societal role. Archivist T. R. Schellenberg, author of Modern Archives (University of Chicago Press, 1956), wrote that France, England, and the United States were the most influential in the creation of modern archives administration. He stated that the importance of archives to society is at its most evident when that society breaks down, as it did during the French Revolution.

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After the revolution, the French created the Archives Nationales in 1790 to preserve the records of "New France." The French established the archival concept of respect des fonds (respect for the provenance or creator) and the importance of maintaining the "original order" of the records. In addition, three important accomplishments in the modern archival field began with the Archives Nationales: the establishment of an independent (national) archival administration, the proclamation of the principle of public access to archives, and the recognition of the responsibility of the state to care for and preserve valuable documents of the past. These values, established over 200 years ago, are still evident today. We celebrate October as Archives Month, as a nation and as a state, to bring attention to the work of the archivists, librarians, and manuscript curators who collect and preserve records in many formats for future use. This work occurs in repositories large and small, nationally, regionally, and locally. Although the recording techniques are vastly different from the clay tablets of ancient times, today's archivists and archival institutions continue the work started thousands of years ago: preserving records for future use. I encourage you to join the Sacramento Archives Crawl on Saturday, October 7, to view some of the many preserved historical treasures in our collection.

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October is Archives Month!

Celebrate Archives Month with the California State Archives! Archives Month recognizes archivists and archival repositories while raising public awareness of the value of archival materials. The 2017 California Archives Month theme is "Celebrating California's Counterculture" and the poster features images of some of the transformative events of the 1960s, including war protests, demonstrations, and the "Summer of Love." Visit the California Archives Month webpage to download a copy of the poster, to learn about more Archives Month events, and to see other historical California images.


7th Annual Sacramento Archives Crawl

It Came From the Archives?!

Come explore Archives Month at the Seventh Annual Sacramento Archives Crawl on Saturday, October 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Public tours, exhibits of historical treasures, and free prizes (while supplies last) will be available at the California State Archives, the California State Library, the Center for Sacramento History, and the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. This year's theme is "It Came from the Archives?!" On display at the State Archives will be an assortment of weird and wonderful records, including a trademark for Flying Saucer Gasoline. To learn more, visit the Sacramento Archives Crawl blog.

Records in the Spotlight

Records of the California Un-American Activities Committees (CUAC)

Beth Behnam, Archivist

In response to the worldwide growth of communism and wartime fears of subversive activities at home in the 1940s, the California State Legislature created the California Un-American Activities Committees (CUAC). CUAC focused on routing out alleged Communist activities and sympathies. During the 1950s, CUAC branched out to investigate perceived leftist organizations including labor unions, universities, and civil rights groups. By the late 1960s, CUAC focused on "subversive" activities it found in the San Francisco Bay Area including, but not limited to, reported unfettered sexual activities and prevalent drug use on the campuses of the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University.

Among the CUAC records are the Bay Area Reports, primarily concerned with the peace movement, farm worker agitation, and the Black Panthers, and that repeatedly commented on the pervasive use of marijuana on local college campuses. Concerned that marijuana served as a gateway to the use of the other illicit drugs, predominately LSD, the committee considered drug use itself to represent an act of subversion. The reports note that one outspoken professor stated that UC Berkeley offered a "four-year course in sex, drugs, and treason." Many of these activities were closely associated with the hippie movement. As defined in the report, the term "hippie" derived from the early 20th century slang term "hep," meaning a person who was ultra-modern or sophisticated.

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In addition to the continued investigations of drug use, CUAC's Bay Area reports also include descriptions of subversive activities or actions promoted by individuals or organizations. These activities included promoting the use of drugs through publications that gave instructions on how to roll joints and promoting sexuality through the East Bay Sexual Freedom League as well as an incident at UC Davis where a professor taught in the nude to a fully defrocked class. CUAC also concluded that the "sensitivity training" offered by the Esalen Institute in Big Sure might serve as an "indoctrination center for revolutionary instruction."

CUAC determined that some activities or organizations investigated were not subversive nor did they have Communist leanings, but were just part of the counterculture of the time. For example, the publishers of the Berkeley Barb, identified as part of the "underground press" by CUAC, predicted that the hippie movement would "have a great impact on our society." However, the CUAC reports concluded that, "Insofar as we can see from reading this paper, sometimes luridly obscene, there is no particular ideological trend. It merely hits or misses around the hippie scene, and is by no means Marxist or incendiary. It deals with the decadent, not the revolutionary."

Despite its focus on the racial unrest, street violence, anti-war rallies, and campus protests of the 1960s, CUAC reported little on the 1967 "Summer of Love." The CUAC investigations into un-American activities ended shortly after that, when in 1971 the State Legislature abolished the last of the committees. Eventually, the records were transferred to the State Archives, where they are open and available for research.

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Preservation of Electronic Records

Digital Archives Day is Tuesday, October 10 (1010 anyone?)!

Mike McNeil, Electronic Records Archivist

Electronic records, also referred to as digital resources, have many special issues to consider, issues quite different from traditional paper records. One of the main issues archivists are confronted with is media obsolescence. Technology progresses at such a rapid rate that electronic media storage used just a few years ago can be obsolete today. These rapid changes can create issues when dealing with digital files stored on old media.

A good example of obsolete media (although perhaps not the "rapidly changing" kind) are floppy disks. Introduced in the late 1960s and used predominately through the 1970s and 1980s, floppy disks (in a variety of sizes) began to lose favor as technology developed methods to store more data on smaller and smaller devices. Even so, many files saved to this medium were never migrated, leaving archivists with stacks of deteriorating floppy disks better suited as drink coasters than as a storage medium. Not only has the medium itself nearly disappeared, so too has the hardware needed to access the files. Similarly, the CD and the DVD are facing the same fate as the floppy disk, as fewer desktop PCs have the ability to read CDs or DVDs. Today nearly all laptop computers forgo internal drives because consumers are demanding lighter and thinner machines.

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Another issue with electronic records, especially at the California State Archives, is the time between creation of the record and time of transfer to the Archives. Often times these electronic records are transferred to the Archives on obsolete media, such as the aforementioned floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs. The first step after an electronic records transfer to the Archives is to attempt to extract the data from the antiquated storage media and to determine in what format the records were created. This step is usually performed on a computer, called a "clean machine," that is not connected to the Archive's network to prevent any possible viral contamination. The clean machine is equipped with the necessary drives to read obsolete media. Some media may require special equipment not available at the Archives and may need to be sent to an outside vendor to be read (see image of large optical disk). Once the files have been transferred and verified to be free of any threats, the archivists appraise them to determine if the information is archival and needs to be permanently retained. If the files are retained, they will be indexed, described, and stored on a file server or cloud storage service.

The Archives has the responsibility to ensure that digital files are retrieved from old media in order to provide access to the public in the long term. With such an array of formats, media, software, hardware, and operating systems, there is no "one size fits all" solution for recovering records from past years. The Archives must adapt to the constantly changing landscape of electronic records in order to preserve today's historical records for future researchers. 

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Image of Levi Strauss


Sponsored by Friends of the California Archives

Join us on Thursday, October 19, as Lynn Downey tells the story of Levi Strauss, the man who gave blue jeans to the world.

Blue jeans are globally beloved and quintessentially American. They symbolize everything from the Old West to the hippie counter-culture; everyone from car mechanics to high-fashion models wears jeans. And no name is more associated with blue jeans than Levi Strauss & Co., the creator of this classic American garment.

But despite creating an American icon, Levi Strauss is a mystery. Little is known about the man, and the widely circulated ‘facts’ about his life are steeped in mythology. In this first full-length biography, Lynn Downey sets the record straight about this brilliant businessman. Strauss's life was the classic American success story, filled with lessons about craft and integrity, leadership and innovation.


October is Family History Month!

Celebrate Family History Month with the California State Archives! Special events are planned with the family historian in mind.

Digital Archives Day, October 10

Maintaining Your Personal Digital Archives

Before you accidently lose, through no fault of your own, personal electronic data files learn some of the best practices to ensure the information's long-term preservation.

Aimed particularly at the family historian, this introduction to digital resource management is a basic primer for the preservation of personal data, such as photographs, emails, genealogical information, journals, and so on.

This free, two-hour presentation will focus on simple steps you can take to ensure not only continued access to your digital data, but also the preservation of it for years to come.

For registration information, visit our Digital Archives Day page.

Preserving Your Family Records

The Basics

Nicholas Jackson, Document Preservation Technician

Family records contain irreplaceable information connecting you to your ancestors. Over the years, these records may have been subjected to the threat of damage and deterioration. The loss of this information would be a loss to all the future generations in your family. With proper handling and storage of your family records, you can prolong the life of these important materials and preserve your family's history.

Before you begin working with family records, you should recognize the importance of proper care and handling. Always make sure you have clean hands when handling records. It is necessary to wear either cotton gloves or nitrile gloves when handling photographs in order to avoid marking the surfaces with fingerprints. You should also be sure to keep the records far from food, drinks, and ink pens.

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Archival storage comes in many forms, including a variety of folders, sleeves, and boxes. The archival materials should be labeled as "acid-free" by suppliers and should have a pH of 7.0 or slightly greater. Using the appropriate supplies will help suppress the effects of acid residues, which cause paper to become discolored and brittle over time, and using a reputable supplier of archival materials will insure that the items meet archival preservation standards. It is important to select storage containers that are large enough to house the records without bending or folding them. Paper records should be stored in file folders and then placed in document boxes. Highly acidic papers, such as newspapers and news clippings, should be photocopied or stored separately to avoid the migration of acids onto neighboring materials. Make sure the boxes are not overstuffed so the materials can be pulled and replaced without causing damage. Box spacers are available to take up excess room in boxes and to ensure that the contents do not shift or sag. Brittle or fragile documents can be stored in flat boxes and in sleeves made of polyester film, polyethylene, or polypropylene. These sleeves are also a practical way to store photographs.

Choose a storage location in your home that will avoid the dangers posed by mold and pests. Never store your records in damp basements, garages, or attics. It is also important to avoid storing records in close proximity to food sources, leaky pipes, or exterior walls. A central closet with a stable temperature and relative humidity is an appropriate location for storing records. Try to keep the temperature below 72° Fahrenheit and the relative humidity between 30% and 50%. If you encounter a mold outbreak, isolate the effected items and consult a professional conservator.

It is also a good idea to contact a conservator for more in-depth consultations regarding the storage and treatment of damaged family records. A directory of conservators is available on the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) website. The AIC has vetted the listed individuals to ensure that they are qualified to help you preserve your family records for future generations.

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portion of the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road Map

Special Speaker Event

Join us on Thursday, October 26th, as Bill Cole presents "Bullion Bend: Confederate Stagecoach Robbers, Murder Trials, & the California Supreme Court -- Oh, My!"

This amazing Wild West caper occurred during the final years of the Civil War, in our backyard! A relative of one of the perpetrators, Bill dug deep into the Archives to uncover the full story. The treasure trove of information he found tells an amazing story, where fact is truly stranger than fiction.


Click here to register!

Root Cellar Library

Sacramento Genealogical Society

Mike Dickey, Publicity Chair

Located within the California State Archives Research Room, the genealogy library of Root Cellar - Sacramento Genealogical Society contains over 6,000 books and periodicals and is open to the public during the Archives' reference hours of 9:30 to 4:00, Monday-Friday (excluding holidays). The library includes not only extensive national and international genealogical resources but also materials of general and regional historical interest. Established in 1978 as a non-profit organization, Root Cellar's mission has been to arouse public interest in family history and genealogy and to "encourage the preservation of and free access to vital, public, and all genealogically-related records."

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An online searchable catalog of the library's contents is available from Root Cellar's web site. A complimentary computer is available in the library or patrons can access the catalog from their mobile devices. A copier is also available and will soon be replaced by a full-function scanner/copier for the convenience of library patrons. In addition to genealogical resources, some of the publications available in Root Cellar's library (and through its web site) include indices of historical records pertaining to homesteads, births, marriages, divorces, prison inmates, cemeteries, coroners' files, and civil court proceedings for Sacramento and surrounding communities. These publications, created through the efforts of Root Cellar's members, are provided for public use and are available for purchase. The Root Cellar holds offsite workshops and classroom instruction on topics such as techniques for research, collection of evidence, proof and documentation, the need for accuracy, and ethics. Root Cellar's mission includes promoting the collection and preservation of genealogical and related materials, as well as the authorship of original genealogical articles.

During the Sacramento Archives Crawl on October 7, the Root Cellar will be hosting a booth in the Research Room. Attendees can meet Root Cellar volunteers to learn more about the Library's resources and the Root Cellar's outreach programs.

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Sacramento German Genealogical Society

The Sacramento German Genealogical Society (SGGS) will be meeting at the California State Archives on Saturday, October 21.

The program will be "Witches, Horse Thieves, Soldiers, and Regicides: Who Were YOUR Ancestors?", presented by Dr. Fritz Juengling.

This is a free event and open to the public. For more information, visit the Society's webpage.

New Feature!

Mystery Image

The California State Archives has thousands of photographs. Some of these images are well labeled and clearly identified . . . others, not so much! So, we are asking for your assistance to identify our mystery images.

This first image comes from the William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, ID 96-07-08. It is photo number 88, from album number 4. There is no caption and nothing is written on the back. It is bracketed by photographs labeled "On the Tunnel Road to Oakland" and "Grand Canyon - Arizona." The photographs in this album generally date from 1906 to 1935. Click on the image to see more detail.

If you can help us out, please email the Outreach coordinator. And, thank you!

California State Archives
1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA 95814


For general assistance,
call (916) 653-7715

For reference assistance,
call (916) 653-2246 or email

For event information,
call (916) 653-7715 or email

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