Previous Speakers

Listed here are previous Speaker Series events. For upcoming events, visit the Speaker Series page.

A Legacy in Brick & Iron: Sacramento’s Central & Southern Pacific Railroad Shops

Mary A. Helmich discussed her new book, A Legacy in Brick & Iron: Sacramento’s Central & Southern Pacific Railroad Shops, co-authored with Kevin V. Bunker, which describes the history of the Central and Southern Pacific Railroad shops – at one time the largest heavy industrial complex west of the Mississippi River and currently under development as the Railyards – before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Focusing on the complex’s wide variety of industries, innovations, and jobs performed by railroad workers, the book captures the evolution of the city’s industry and the implications of this history beyond the Sacramento region.

About the Speaker

Interpreting and preserving California’s past for present and future generations has been a focus of Mary A. Helmich’s personal and professional life for more than 40 years. While at the California State Archives for ten years and California State Parks for twenty-six, she researched, planned and developed exhibits, authored interpretive plans, histories, reports and web content. She coordinated special activities around the state to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of California’s War with Mexico, the gold discovery at Coloma, Gold Rush, and Statehood (including Capitol Park’s Admission Day festival in 2000). She has served on several non-profit boards, most recently the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, and continues to consult on history-related projects and programs.

Paving the Way: Women's Struggle for Political Equality in California

Steve Swatt and Jeff Raimundo discussed their new book, Paving the Way: Women's Struggle for Political Equality in California, co-authored with Susie Swatt and Rebecca La Vally. The book tells the remarkable stories of dozens of resilient women -- most of them lost to history -- who overcame long odds, discrimination, and stereotypes to help transform the political landscape of California from the Gold Rush to current times. Susie Swatt was originally scheduled to speak along with Steve Swatt, in what would have been the Swatts's second Speakers Series appearance. Previously, they discussed their first book, Game Changers: Twelve Elections that Transformed California, which won several awards, including for the California Historical Society’s book of the year.

About Our Speakers

Steve Swatt, lead author of Paving the Way: Women's Struggle for Political Equality in California (Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2019), spent more than 25 years with United Press International in Los Angeles and KCRA-TV in Sacramento, mostly as a political reporter. After his journalism career, Steve became managing partner of a statewide public affairs firm and taught political communication at Sacramento State University. He was lead author of Game Changers: Twelve Elections that Transformed California (Heyday Books, 2015).

Susie Swatt spent nearly 40 years in the State Legislature, much of it as a chief of staff in both the Assembly and Senate. She also served as a special assistant for the State Fair Political Practices Commission, winning a national ProPublica award for "outstanding investigative work in the public interest." Susie is co-author of Game Changers: Twelve Elections that Transformed California and of Paving the Way: Women's Struggle for Political Equality in California.

Jeff Raimundo spent three decades as a political and public relations consultant based in Sacramento. Previously, he enjoyed a 25-year career as a political and government journalist and editor with the Sacramento Bee and McClatchy Newspapers in both Sacramento and Washington, DC. He is co-author of Game Changers: Twelve Elections that Transformed California.

Bruce A. Marwick presents "Alfred Eichler: The Life of a of an Exceptional Architect and Watercolor Painter" 

Bruce A. Marwick will discuss the work of Alfred Eichler, who was an architect for 38 years in the California State Division of Architecture. Perhaps best known in Sacramento as the designer of the iconic Tower Bridge, Eichler was also an accomplished watercolor painter. The talk will explore the similarities and differences between Eichler's two bodies of work, and what they reveal about his life. It will also examine how Eichler evolved stylistically as an architect, from the Beaux Arts drawings of his youth to the Mid-Century Modern buildings he designed for Capitol Mall in the 1950s.

About the Speaker

Bruce A. Marwick is a Board Member of the Sacramento History Alliance and former Vice President for the Sacramento Art Deco Society. He spent many years as a marketing and graphic design professional in Los Angeles and Sacramento. His interest in Alfred Eichler stems from a presentation he created in 2017 titled, "3 Art Deco Artisans of Sacramento, Taliabue, Polifka & Eichler."

October 25, 2018 - Michael Troyan presents "Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment"

Michael Troyan's Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment is the first studio-authorized look at the remarkable multinational mass media empire and its century of entertainment (1915-2015) bookended by empire builders William Fox and Rupert Murdoch. Based on complete access to the company's archives and key assistance from others including the California State Archives, the book offers a revealing view of the company's history, including tales of its stars and tours of its historic production and ranch facilities.

About the speaker

Michael Troyan holds a B.A. degree in Media Communications from CSU Sacramento and a Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from CSU San Jose, and has worked in the archives of the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Along with Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, Troyan has authored or co-authored  several other books, including A Rose For Mrs. Miniver; The Life of Greer GarsonMGM; Hollywood's Greatest Backlot; and Disney A to Z. Troyan is currently working with the Fairbanks family to publish a commemorative edition of Douglas Fairbanks: The Fourth Musketeer by Letitia Fairbanks and Ralph Hancock.

May 17, 2018 - Charles Kobayashi and Veronica Lara present "California State Government and Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II"

In 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which allowed for the Secretary of War to create military zones from which certain groups would be excluded. These federal orders lead to the eventual incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent for the duration of World War II. However, exclusionary laws existed in the state of California before that, and more were passed immediately leading up to and during incarceration.

Charles Kobayashi discussed discriminatory legislation passed by the State. Veronica Lara reviewed her findings from the State Archives' Collections on California’s cooperation with the Federal Government to displace all people of Japanese descent.

For more information, visit the online exhibit made possible through the Archives' California Civil Liberties Public Education Program grant project.

About the Speakers

Charles Kobayashi graduated from UC Berkeley Boalt School of Law and opened a private law practice. He served as Deputy Attorney General in California and eventually became Senior Assistant Attorney General in charge of statewide Business and Tax litigation for the state. In 1988, he was appointed as Municipal Court Judge, and was elevated to Superior Court Judge in 1990.

Veronica Lara was the project archivist working on the State Archives CCLPEP grant project. She has been working for the California state archives for the past two years. Veronica received her master’s in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. Project funding provided by the California State Library.

January 18, 2018 - Lynn Downey presents "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.

About the speaker

Lynn Downey is a native California writer, archivist and historian, the fifth generation of her family to live in the beautiful city of Sonoma. After twenty-four years as historian and archivist for Levi Strauss & Co., Lynn is now a historical and archival consultant. She works with museums, businesses and non-profits to create archives, curate exhibits, write books, and plan anniversaries.

May 18, 2017 - Tim Stroshane presents "Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California's Central Valley Project"

Author Tim Stroshane discussed his research into California's convoluted water history. Stroshane's book, Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California's Central Valley Project, is an account of how water rights were designed as a key part of the state's largest public water system, the Central Valley Project. Stroshane tells how drought and legal conflict shaped statewide economic development and how the grand bargain of a San Joaquin River water exchange was struck from this monopoly legacy, setting the stage for future water wars. His analysis will appeal to readers interested in environmental studies and public policy.

About our Speaker

Tim Stroshane received his MA in city planning from the University of California, Berkeley. An independent scholar who has studied the water, economy, and environment of California since 1980, he has worked professionally in environmental consult-ing, for the city of Berkeley in housing economics and policy, and most recently with environmental non-profit organizations focused on California and its Bay-Delta Estuary.

October 20, 2016 - Blaine Lamb presents "Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer: Writing an Extraordinary Life"

As the secession crisis came to a head in the winter of 1861, an obscure military engineer, Charles Pomeroy Stone, emerged as the rallying point for the defense of Washington, D.C. He was protector of the president and right hand man of the army’s commanding general. Nevertheless, just a year later, this same hero sat in prison branded as an incompetent soldier and likely traitor.

Readers of Civil War history know Stone best for his disgrace and imprisonment. His story, however, goes far beyond this unfortunate occurrence – all the way from the Halls of the Montezumas to Gold Rush California, and from the pyramids of Egypt to the Statue of Liberty. In his book, The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone, historian Blaine Lamb weaves a narrative of adventure, exploration, war, and intrigue that involves a cast of characters ranging from the dour William Tecumseh Sherman to the flamboyant Ismail the Magnificent. But piecing together this account was not easy, since the protagonist left no collection of letters, diaries, or reminiscences. In his presentation, Dr. Lamb explores Stone’s “extraordinary life” and the convoluted, and at times frustrating, path he followed in bringing the story to light.

About our Speaker

A native of San Diego, California, Blaine Lamb obtained his BA and MA degrees in history from the University of San Diego. He then moved to Tempe, Arizona, and entered the doctoral program in history at Arizona State University, receiving his PhD in 1982. Dr. Lamb returned to California and joined staff of the State Railroad Museum as an archivist and later became a senior archivist at the California State Archives. In 2007, he took the position of Chief of the Archaeology, History and Museums Division of California State Parks, where he remained until his retirement in 2012. Since retirement, he completed work on his biography of General Charles Pomeroy Stone, which was published in 2016. In addition to the Stone biography, Dr. Lamb’s publications include articles and reviews in California History, Journal of Arizona History, Western Historical Quarterly, Journal of America’s Military Past, Journal of the West, and Overland Journal.

June 9, 2016 - Mark Brilliant presents "From School Bus to Google Bus"

Dr. Brilliant's presentation explored the "next step" in his research, a continuation of his award-winning book,The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978. Published by Oxford University Press in 2010, the book won the American Society for Legal History's Cromwell Book Prize and received honorable mention from the Organization of American Historians for the Frederick Jackson Turner Award.

About the speaker

Mark Brilliant is an associate professor of history and American studies at UC Berkeley. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his Ph.D. in history from Stanford University. Prior to his hiring at Cal in 2004, Mark spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders and as a lecturer at Yale.

February 18, 2016 - Jennifer Robin Terry presents "No Summer Vacation for the Duration: Working Kids during the Second World War"

Much ado has been made about the patriotic droves of American women who entered the workforce during World War II. Less well known, however, is the fact that millions of children and teenagers also answered the nation’s call to duty. Often recruited right out of their schools, children toiled in industry, agriculture, retail, and service sectors, yet few of those children left direct documentation of their work experiences. Jennifer Robin Terry’s presentation will discuss children’s labor during World War II, challenges associated with finding children in archival records, and her current project on the Victory Farm Volunteers (VFV), a program that recruited urban kid power for farm production labor during the war.

About the speaker

Jennifer Robin Terry is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. A long-time resident of the Sacramento area, Jennifer earned a MA and BA in U.S. History from Sacramento State and taught a number of history courses at American River College and Sacramento State. In 2014, Jennifer’s article, "They ‘used to tear around the campus like savages’: Children’s and Youth’s Activities in the Santo Tomás Internment Camp, 1942-1945" was awarded the Neil Sutherland Prize for the best scholarly article on the history of childhood. The article, drawn from her MA research, detailed the experiences of American and British children who were imprisoned by the Japanese in Manila during World War II.

November 19, 2015 - Steve & Susie Swatt present "Game Changers: Twelve Elections That Transformed California"

Steve and Susie Swatt, co-authors of the recently released book, Game Changers: Twelve Elections That Transformed California, will discuss the challenges of writing a political history that is both informative and anecdotal – readable history that attracts political junkies and casual history buffs alike. Winner of the California Historical Society Book Award, Game Changers offers a treasure trove of little known stories from watershed elections – gleaned from dozens of interviews, 165 years of California newspaper coverage, manuscripts, archival collections, government documents, and rarely read oral histories.

About the speakers

Steve Swatt, lead author of Game Changers, spent 25 years as an award-winning journalist for United Press International in Los Angeles and KCRA-TV in Sacramento as its state capitol correspondent. He also was a partner in a statewide political consulting firm and taught political communication at Sacramento State University.

Susie Swatt spent nearly 40 years as a top legislative staffer and researcher for the Fair Political Practices Commission where her work won a national ProPublica award for investigative reporting.

August 20, 2015 - Todd Holmes presents "The Fruits of Fracture: The Corporate West, the United Farm Workers’ Movement, and the Rise of Reaganism in American Politics"

Historian Todd Holmes examines the consequential shifts in business and party politics during the governorship of Ronald Reagan, and the overlooked role the boycott campaigns of César Chávez and the UFW played in this transformation of political economy. Holmes traces how the vibrant consumer politics employed by the UFW against the Corporate West -- especially its economic hub, California agribusiness -- fractured the political center and profoundly altered the relationship between the western business community and both political parties. Democrats turned against business in favor of a new coalition largely based on that of the UFW. Republicans, on the other hand, moved away from moderate positions to embody the conservative and more business-friendly posture of the Reagan Administration. This realignment set the stage for the policy debates that would erupt in California and the nation during the following decades. It also proved to be the defining factor in the political and economic phenomenon that became known as Reaganism.

About the speaker

Todd Holmes is a postdoctoral scholar with the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. A native of Sacramento, Todd earned a BA and MA in History at California State University, Sacramento, and a PhD in History at Yale University. At Yale, he served four years as the Program Coordinator for James C. Scott’s Agrarian Studies Program and is currently the principal researcher of the California Coastal Commission Project at Stanford University. He is the author of numerous articles on California politics, western agribusiness, and environmental policy.

May 21, 2015 - Monica Lundy presents "Stories Untold: Finding Artistic Inspiration Through Historical Research"

Guided by an interest in deepening her understanding of place, Monica Lundy incorporates historical research into her studio practice. Her curiosity about lesser-known histories is paired with her curiosity about unconventional painting practices. Lundy’s mixed-media paintings traverse painting and installation, abstraction and figuration. The work ruminates on the dispossessed, collective memory, and the corrosive nature of time.

About the speaker

Monica Lundy holds a MFA from Mills College in painting and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in sculpture. She has been awarded the Jay DeFeo Prize, San Francisco Arts Commission Grant and Montalvo Art Center’s Irvine Fellowship. She has done site specific work on Alcatraz Island, Fort Point, and other locations around the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been featured in ARTNews, the Huffington Post, Visual Art Source, and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as other publications. Lundy is represented by Toomey Tourell Fine Art in San Francisco. She currently lives and works in Oakland.

March 19, 2015 - Sarah Seekatz presents "Arabian Dreams in the American Desert: The Cultivation of Middle Eastern Fantasies in California's Coachella Valley"

Just east of Palm Springs, in the deserts of the Coachella Valley, stately date palms sway. Linking their warm climate, desert landscape, and burgeoning date production to the romance of Arabia, local boosters harnessed a national love affair with the “Orient.” Sarah explains the history of the agricultural date industry and takes us on a date tasting adventure!

About the speaker

A native of Southern California’s Coachella Valley, Sarah Seekatz holds a PhD in Public and California History from the University of California, Riverside. Sarah’s work explores the date industry of the Coachella Valley and the “Arabian” fantasies developed in the region, based on the crop’s Middle Eastern origins and the desert setting.

November 20, 2014 - Michael Wurtz presents "John Muir and the Big Trees"

John Muir visited California’s giant sequoias several times. At first, Muir reveled among the trees; then, he studied them scientifically; and finally, he fought to preserve what he called “the noblest of the noble race.” Muir used those visits to promote his idea of creating a state park to preserve these ancient treasures. Hear Muir’s story from the perspective of the giant sequoia of the Sierra.

About the speaker

Michael Wurtz is head of Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library, and curator of the John Muir Papers. For more information on the John Muir Papers visit Holt-Atherton Special Collections.

August 21, 2014 - Paul Duguid presents "An Anniversary to Mark: The Who, What, When, and Why of California's Path-breaking Trademark Registration Law of 1863" 

California introduced the modern trademark law to the United States, as well as “common law” jurisdictions that included the United Kingdom and most of the countries of its former empire. Yet the state’s contribution is rarely acknowledged. Drawing on the historic collection of California’s marks in the State Archives, Duguid will look at how the state led the way and what the early trademark registrations can tell us about the state’s developing economy.

About the speaker

Paul Duguid is an adjunct full professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley; a visiting fellow in business history in the School of Management at York University in the United Kingdom; and an honorary fellow of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development at Lancaster University School of Management. As an “information scientist,” Professor Duguid has long been interested in the informative role that trademarks play in the modern economy. For the past 10 years he has been studying the early trademark practices of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Portugal in collaboration with international scholars.