The Youngest Pioneers

For many children who accompanied their parents west across the continent in the 1840s and '50s, the journey was a supreme adventure

The historian Francis Parkman, strolling around Independence, Missouri, in 1846, remarked upon the “multitude of healthy children’s faces … peeping out from under the covers of the wagons.” Two decades later a traveler there wrote of husbands packing up “sunburned women and wild-looking children” along with shovels and flour barrels in preparation for the long journey west. In the goldfields of California in the 1850s, a chronicler met four sisters and sisters-in-law who had just crossed the Plains with thirty-six of their children.Read more »

California: The Art Of The State

California has always been as much a state of mind as a geographical entity. For the better part of two centuries, artists have been defining its splendid promise.

BEFORE THE DISCOVERY of gold at Sutler’s mill in 1848, the population of California was too small and too scattered to produce much painting. In modern times the history of art has paralleled the rise of cities and new wealth, and it was gold that made San Francisco large enough and rich enough to support California’s first art community. Read more »

Bernard Maybeck

This puckish, nearly forgotten California architect built his own distinctive style on the simple principle that beauty alone endures

In the winter of 1953, a few days after his ninety-first birthday, Bernard Ralph Maybeck granted a lengthy interview to a public service radio station in Berkeley, California, the city in which he had lived and worked for six decades. In some respects the interview evidenced little more than the casual curiosity that people feel about someone who has been around for a long, long time.Read more »

A Heritage Preserved


The past has a way of catching up to us in odd and unexpected ways. A friend of mine was once walking the streets of Venice and encountered the smell of sausages cooking somewhere. The aroma immediately aroused in her rich Venetian memories—not of Venice, Italy, but of Venice, California, the seaside resort where she had spent many childhood summers half a century before, basking in the sun and eating hot sausages bought from street vendors. Read more »

A Shooting And A Wedding.

An Unfortunate Affair at Fullerton Which at the End is Amicably Adjusted.

Joe Lyons, the nineteen-year-old son of Isaac Lyons of Orangethorpe, shot and seriously wounded Morris Smith, son of W. J. Smith of the same place, at Fullerton at about half-past 9 o’clock on last Thursday morning. Lyons had driven in from his father’s ranch in a cart and awaited the coming of Smith on the sidewalk on Commonwealth avenue near Smith’s butcher shop. The latter shortly after arrived, coming up on horseback through the alley leading out on to Commonwealth avenue in rear of Stern and Goodman’s store.Read more »

Pop Laval

Between his arrival in Fresno in 1911 and his death there fifty-five years later, Claude “Pop” Laval devoted all his energy, every day, to photographing the people, places, events, industries, and farms of Fresno and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley. The result was a remarkable pictorial record, one of the most extensive ever produced by a single man—approximately one hundred thousand negatives and more than one hundred and twenty thousand prints. What is even more remarkable is the fact that most of them have survived. Read more »

“turn Back The Universe And Give Me Yesterday”

Memories of Fresno

If it is true that any man’s past cannot be restored—“Turn back the universe and give me yesterday,” Ernest R. Ball sang at the turn of the century— it is even more true that nobody’s past can be obliterated, effaced, or wiped out, short of the grave. Read more »

“To A Distant And Perilous Service”

Westward with the course of empire Colonel Jonathan Drake Stevenson took his way in 1846. With him went the denizens of New York’s Tammany wards, oyster cellars, and gin mills—the future leaders of California.

The lumpy peninsula now called San Francisco was humanized at some unrecorded moment of prehistory by brown-skinned Californians of the Costanoan strain.Read more »

Close Encounters Of The Earliest Kind

During November of 1896 the United States experienced its first publicized UFO flap, and it is perhaps not surprising that it should have occurred in California. After all, Erich von Däniken would have us believe that the prehistoric petroglyphs in Inyo County represent interplanetary flight; Fray Geronimo Boscana, the missionary at San Juan Capistrano, described a “two-tailed comet” overhead in 1823; and in 1883 the scientist John J.Read more »

Astley David Montague Cooper And The Matter Of Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels

When she looked back on the dark episode later, Mrs. Leland Stanford, of the California railroad empire Stanfords, San Francisco and Palo Alto, must have regretted many times the day she let That Man into her house. Read more »