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. 2 | Winter 2018

California Originals

From the State Archivist

Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil

Archivists often think about milestones and events from twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred years ago.  It was thirty years ago when conversations began with "if we were to get a new archives building. . ." At the time, the State Archives was in the old State Printing Plant, located on the same site as the present building. The Archives had moved into the Printing Plant after that operation relocated to a new facility in the 1950s. Built in the 1920s, the State Printing Plant had thick floors that could handle the weight of printing presses, so it could easily handle the weight of paper records, making it seemingly suitable to house the Archives. At the same time, it was unsuitable for archival storage because it did not have environmental systems to ensure that the records were stored at the stable temperature and humidity levels required for the long-term preservation of those records. In addition, access was challenging and there were obstructed views in the Research Room. In 1989, the Legislature authorized the construction of a new Secretary of State/State Archives Complex. Demolition of the old building began in 1992 and construction of the new building was completed in 1995. Yet an archives is more than just a building or a storage facility: archives are portals to the past. These gateways allow us to learn why a piece of legislation was passed, what the reasoning was behind a State Supreme Court decision, and how an agency  regulation was developed. Today, the portal is not only physical, but also virtual through electronic access via our online catalog (Minerva) and our online collections and exhibits. Visit the Archives, physically or virtually! 


California's First Civil Rights Law

Sebastian Nelson, Archivist

In the summer of 1863, thousands of Union soldiers, including some of the nation’s first black regiments, captured Port Hudson, Louisiana. This location was the last Confederate stronghold along the Mississippi River. The victory at Port Hudson effectively cut the Confederacy in two, and the bravery of black Union soldiers was later acknowledged by President Abraham Lincoln, who said “there have been men base enough to propose to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson . . . and thus win the respect of the masters they fought. Should I do so, I should deserve to be damned in time and eternity.” Amongst the many soldiers was a nineteen-year-old white cavalry corporal from New York named Henry Dibble, who was wounded during the battle. For this young man, the war was over. But despite the loss of his leg, Dibble would go on to have a distinguished legal career. In 1897, as a member of the California State Assembly, would write what one legal historian calls “California’s first civil rights law.”

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Dibble’s Assembly Bill 4, became law as Statutes of 1897, Chapter 108. This law established that “whoever shall make any discrimination . . . on account of color or race . . . in respect to the admission of any citizen to, or his treatment in, any inn, restaurant, hotel . . . or other public place . . . shall be liable in damages in an amount not less than fifty dollars.” A resolution endorsing the proposed law was adopted by the State Executive Committee of the Afro-American Leagues of California. Newspaper accounts reveal, however, that the bill was not without its detractors. About six weeks after the bill was introduced, the Los Angeles Herald reported on an exchange between A. S. Longley, a clerk working for the State Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and his barber in Sacramento:

He went in a barber shop on K street this morning to be shaved, and got into a controversy with a barber over a civil rights bill now pending in the legislature . . . the barber did not take kindly to the law, and declared that no law or legislature could make him shave a [expletive] or any other man unless he chose to do so. Longley undertook to combat that proposition and engaged in a lively argument with the barber, who was busy lathering his face. "Well, I will show you," said the barber, "that I am right by putting you out." So he wiped the lather off Longley’s face and fired him out the door. Longley now shaves only with colored barbers, who have no race prejudices against shaving white men.

Bill jacket for Assembly bill no. 4 on yellowed paper, handwritten, an act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights

An examination of the original bill file at the California State Archives reveals how the final language differed from its earlier drafts. Dibble’s original bill proposed that those who discriminate based on race or color “be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined . . . and in default of the payment of such fine shall be imprisoned in the County jail at the rate of Two Dollars per day, until such fine be paid or satisfied.” After several amendments the misdemeanor penalty was dropped. Victims of racial discrimination would only be able to sue offending businesses for monetary damages. In this final form, the bill was passed by large majorities in both the State Assembly (44 to 6) and Senate (23 to 1), and was signed into law by Governor James Budd.

In his final years, Dibble was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Veterans' Home of California, serving as the chairman of their Law and Salaries Committee. Board President Samuel Backus wrote after Dibble’s death in 1910 that his “advice was sound, his judgement good, and, although at times incapacitated by illness, he was always devoted and active in behalf of the old soldiers. He was beloved by the soldiers of the Civil War whose Comrade he was and by whom he was always honored, not only because he had left a leg on the field of battle, but for his patriotic devotion to the flag.” 

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California Civil Liberties Public Education Program Grant

Veronica Lara, Project Archivist

Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States entry into World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in February 1942. The order created military zones – areas from which all  people of Japanese ancestry, citizen or otherwise, were excluded. By the summer of 1942, more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States, under threat of forcible removal, had left their homes and moved into internment camps.  These so-called “relocation centers” were located throughout the country. In December 1944, the president finally suspended the exclusion order and Japanese Americans returned to their homes.

Although the federal government directed the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans, it coordinated with state government agencies to assist with removal and eventual resettlement following the war. As internees had to abandon most of their property when they left their homes, they needed to repurchase essentially everything upon their return. The State War Services Bureau provided financial aid and services to those needing help during resettlement.

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Black and white photo showing a number of Japanese-Americans standing amidst bundled of belongings, awaiting to be transported to incarceration camps

Among the records of the War Services Bureau are monthly reports which detail aid provided to Japanese Americans and other resident aliens. It lists assistance provided for purchasing tools, furniture, meals, and for housing or medical expenses. The records also contain handbooks detailing how these aid programs should be administered. Photographs document the removal of people from their homes and transporting them to the camps.

The War Services Bureau records also document the efforts of Japanese Americans to prove their loyalty to the United States. A resolution passed by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) describes their continued loyalty to the United States. One JACL chapter urged its members to join the armed forces, to buy war bonds, and to cooperate with the federal government in any way possible.

Through a grant from the California State Library’s California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the California State Archives will shine a light on the War Services Bureau records and records of other state agencies that document the State’s role in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Many of these records are being digitized and will be available online as part of the California Digital Archives in summer 2018.

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Tools of the Trade

The WPA Indexes

Beth Behnam, Archivist

Poster for the Works Project Administration, blue, red, and black on a white background, WPA Work Program

Among the many reference tools frequently used here at the California State Archives are the indexes created in 1938-1939.  Weighing over thirty pounds each, the twenty-four volumes provide not only a snapshot of the Archives’ holdings at that time, but serve as a current reference resource for locating individual records.  Archivists today still find documents regarding the earliest recordings of state history with these ponderous eighty-year-old volumes.

The indexes were created by the Historical Records Survey, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project for women and professionals, and was part of a nationwide effort during the Great Depression to get people back to work. The survey searched out unpublished governmental documents around the country and created indexes "for the purpose of providing useful employment to needy unemployed historians, lawyers, teachers, and research and clerical workers."

Although the Legislature created the State Archives with Statutes of 1850, Chapter 1, it did not appropriate money for a "Keeper" until 1866 (Statutes of 1866, Chapter 281). Yet the Keeper of the Archives did not have any staff until the 1950s. Although Bart Greer, the "Keeper," claimed that prior to the initiation of the WPA project, he was able to find any document in the Archives within a few minutes, detailed location information resided mostly within his brain. The Historical Records Survey team of professionals organized the records and typed out hundreds of index pages. These lists were bound in special order volumes from a publisher located in Syracuse, New York. The volumes cost $90 each – almost $500 a piece in today’s dollars.

A February 6, 1938, Sacramento Union article includes a photo of five "clerks" poring over bundles of documents. One of the workers is shown smoking while looking over historical papers. Given the huge quantity of documents reviewed, it is likely that the this was only a portion of the WPA staff. The flurry of activity in small spaces, however, was not without its drawbacks: one records survey supervisor noted that the high volume of typewriter noise created a "nervous menace."

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Owen C. Coy, Director of the California State Historical Association, remarked about an earlier Historical Records Survey project:

As the work of the project takes more mature shape, it becomes increasing apparent that the cooperation of the Works Progress Administration is making possible results of lasting value to the State and to students of California History . . . Necessary ground work for productive research and promotion along historical lines is being laid. Important work . . . at least seem[s] within reach because of the thorough detailed collations and correlations being carried out now with Federal aid. The State has been unable in the past few years to provide sufficient funds for development of this work . . . While not spectacular in character, the units of the project . . . are of undeniable and permanent value, and when completed and made available will be of definite help to students, teachers and other enthusiasts for local and state history.

The product of the WPA's efforts at the California State Archives can be classified into seven different groups: Spanish Archives, Supreme Court Case Files, Appellate Court Case Files, Attorney General Cases, Applications for Pardon, Prisoner Requisitions and Extraditions, and General Indexes.

The Spanish Archives Index documents transfers of California lands by the Spanish and Mexican governments to their citizens from 1778-1846. The single volume lists the land grants in two alphabetical lists: by the grantee as well as by the name of the Rancho or block of land. Statutes of 1866, Chapter 312, required that certified copies of the original land grant application files, called expedientes, in the keeping of the US Surveyor General be made. Spanish and English translations, along with sketch maps (diseños) describing the property with landmarks, were deposited at the Archives between 1866 and 1871. Archivists use this volume to assist genealogical, land title, and California history researchers.

The Supreme Court Cases Indexes are three volumes arranged alphabetically by plaintiff and three additional volumes arranged by defendant. The WPA team collected all the cases from 1849-1931 from both the San Francisco and the Sacramento Supreme courts and integrated them with a new WPA case number. Los Angeles Supreme Court cases from 1873-1895 were not part of this project, although its cases from 1895-1931 were included. We may posit that these earlier Los Angeles cases had not yet been transferred to the Archives. Archivists use these volumes to assist family historians with information about civil and criminal cases, and legal scholars with precedential pleadings and opinions.

A similar set of six volumes, divided by alphabetical listings of plaintiff and defendant, make up the index to Appellate Court Cases. These indexes include the case files from the First Appellate (San Francisco) and Third Appellate (Sacramento) Courts from 1903-1935. The WPA team again blended the cases from the two districts and assigned new AWPA numbers. No records from the Second (Los Angeles) Court were included in the indexes.

The fourth group of WPA volumes are alphabetical listings of cases in which the Attorney General represented the State of California or submitted an opinion. The index pages alphabetically list the names of plaintiffs and defendants along with the county of residence and the charge. Two volumes of Superior Court Cases appear to be a duplicate copy of the two volumes called Attorney General Transcripts.  The date range is from 1888-1928, however the AGWPA numbers are not in chronological order. Documents from Superior Court cases as well as Appellate and Supreme Court cases could supplement those not found in the upper court indexes.

Inmate applications for pardon files are listed in the Transcripts and Prison Papers Index. This index alphabetically lists inmates from 1850-1932 incarcerated at San Quentin and Folsom state prisons as well as county jails. It includes information on the county in which the crime was committed as well as the crime classification. As most inmate case files during this period were unfortunately destroyed, archivists routinely consult this index to see if we will have additional documents on a researcher’s ancestor or noteworthy criminal. Similarly, the Index to Requisitions and Extraditions (1851-1930) is an alphabetical listing of fugitives to be brought into California or sent to other states for justice.

The final three volumes, General Warehouse Index and General Vault Index, together provide a snapshot of the records of the Archives in 1939. They are alphabetical lists of the type of records, along with the record creator and bin number. As the Archives has moved several times since the indexes were created and documents are now stored in acid free file folders and boxes on metal shelves, the original locations noted are no longer valid. Archivists rarely use these three volumes.

Just as many of the buildings and bridges created by WPA workers during the Great Depression are still used today, most of the carefully created indexes are still frequently consulted for research, the legacy of social science professionals from eighty years ago.

To view Spanish Archives Index and the Transcripts and Prison Papers Index, click here. Additional WPA indexes will be available online in 2018. 

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Displaying Your Family Records

Nicholas Jackson, Document Preservation Technician

Placing your family records and photographs on display is a nice way to decorate your home. Displaying these materials, however, might also expose them to hazards that could hasten their deterioration. Records in picture frames are sometimes at a higher risk of fading. Damage and discoloration can occur to records mounted in scrapbooks. Fortunately, there are some helpful techniques and tools that can help you to display your family treasures while also ensuring their longevity for future generations.

Fading can occur in records and photographs as a result of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. The best way to avoid light damage is to create facsimiles of your records. The facsimiles can be placed on display while the originals are stored away safely. If you must display the originals, avoid placing them under direct light. Although your records and photographs may look nice under a spotlight, placing them under indirect light will cause less damage over time. It is also advisable to avoid exposing records to light unnecessarily. Make sure the lights are off and the shades are closed whenever someone is not in the room.

The use of scrapbooks to display records and photographs may also present some challenges for their long-term preservation. Many scrapbook supplies are made with poor quality, highly acidic materials that may cause discoloration in your records. To avoid this damage, purchase acid free or pH neutral scrapbook supplies. If you use any plastic supplies, make sure the materials are made of polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene. Avoid using self-adhesive photo albums. Instead, mount your records and photographs with archival quality mounting corners.

Use well-established and professionally recognized archival products to help you to properly display your materials. With these resources, you can safely display and protect your precious family records.

Image of Levi Strauss

Speaker Series

Sponsored by Friends of the California Archives

Join us on Thursday, January 18, 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.

To register, click here.

California Digital Archives

New! The William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection

Be sure to visit the California Digital Archives to view our newest online collection.

Capturing the rich history of the early twentieth century, the William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection (Identification #96-07-08) highlights well-known landmarks, historic events, and scenic vistas from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, from the Deep South to Canada, and from Mexico to Cuba. Scenes across the Golden State are captured in stunning shots from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite and the Central Coast to Southern California cities. The collection features nearly 3,000 photographs taken by native Californians William M. and Grace McCarthy from approximately 1905 to 1938. The McCarthys traveled extensively during the early years of automobile travel, as newly constructed highways connected people and places throughout the United States and beyond, providing pictorial documentation of a pivotal period in our nation's history.

William M. McCarthy (1876 – 1956) and Grace C. Kane (1878 – 1957) wed in the early 1900s and lived in San Francisco for most of their lives where William was stationed as an armament expert for the U.S. War Department.  The collection features photographs of the McCarthys' travels, as well as the many family members and friends they encountered along the way. Always ready with his camera, William McCarthy also captured remarkable images of significant events, including shots of San Francisco before and after the 1906 earthquake, the fire that destroyed that city's iconic Cliff House in 1907, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and their 1938 journey into Mexico along the newly constructed Pan American Highway.

Staff News

Best wishes to archivist Sydney Bailey on her upcoming retirement! Syd has worked at the California State Archives for more than 20 years, starting as graduate intern in 1995. Syd worked closely with former archivist Dave Snyder, learning the ins and outs of accessioning records transferred to the Archives. She worked closely with former archivist Joe Samora on the review of records retention schedules. As co-lead for the State Records Appraisal Program, Syd was instrumental in getting records retention schedules online via Athena as well and created strong working relations with many state agency records managers. Syd was the administrator for the Western Archives Institute as well as serving on the Reference Desk since her graduate days. Most recently, Syd has been the lead for  the Accessions and Processing programs.

Thank you, Syd, for all you have done!

Upcoming Events

Thursday, January 18 Speaker Series with Lynn Downey Register here!

Thursday, January 25

Thursday, February 22

Thursday, March 29

Behind the Scenes Tour of the California State Archives Register here!

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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