30 June 2010

California Quotes: California in Her Cups

Drunk! aye, drunk with avarice! Behold the picture; California in her cups!
Once long ago sailors thought to hold in their embrace the god Bacchus, whom they carried to sea in the form of a beautiful boy while sleeping; but when the god awoke, he caused vines to twine themselves about the ship, and tigers to appear amongst the branches, while the sailors went mad and drowned themselves. So it was with thousands who came early to California, thinking to ensnare her, and rob her of her treasures, but were themselves taken captive, falling on destruction.

From: The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Vol. XXXV; San Francisco: The History Company, 1888. Page 1.

Historic Video Online-Critical Past

A veritable movie feast for the historically inclined is to be found at CriticalPast.com, an historic film archive.

The site has films from 1890 - 1990, with the heaviest concentration in the 1940's (particularly in regard to WWII).

Some neat films include Coney Island in 1898, William Jennings Bryan in 1910, and a 1929 New Orleans Mardi Gras parade.

Site via MakeUseOf.

29 June 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Necrology


Frank Keller, aged 19, a resident of this city but three months, died this morning at 1386 Tenth street.

Pauline Jurgens, the 4 year old daughter of John Jurgens, died  this morning from the croup. It was only a few days ago, on December 31st, that the sister of this little one died from the same cause.

From: The Oakland Tribune, 11 January 1889, Page 1.

26 June 2010

CA History in the News 20 - 26 June 2010

* A San Diego museum is building a replica of the ship that brought explorer Juan Cabrillo to California in 1542.

* A Washington Post review of a new book on the Hoover Dam. The dam's construction helped fuel massive growth in California cities like Los Angeles.

* A new book has been published on the history of Knott's Berry Farm

* Amador County is celebrating its 156th birthday this year

* A bit on the history of Palm Springs' tram to the mountain.

24 June 2010

California Quotes: Principal Cause of Death in California

The principal cause of death in California is tuberculosis, which caused 15.5 per cent of the total deaths. ...
Next to tuberculosis come diseases of the circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems... The proportions are next highest for diseases of the digestive system (diarrhea and enteritis, etc.), violence other than suicide or public calamity, cancer, Bright's disease, and early infancy.

From: The California State Board of Health Monthly Bulletin, September 1906, p. 32.

23 June 2010

Beware the Squirrel Plague!

As far as I know, Tulare county may be the only place in California worthy enough to have an infectious disease named after it:
[A] case appeared in Los Angeles, which proved the direct communicability of [an] infection from squirrel to man without the intervention of fleas or biting insects. A boy ten years old, living in Los Angeles, found a sick ground squirrel near his home. Being moved with compassion, and thinking he would take it home, nurse it and make a pet of it, he picked it up, but the animal bit him on the finger. On the fourth day after, he was taken very sick with fever, delirium, etc.... it is beyond question that this boy was directly infected from the bite of the squirrel and not from flea bites. ... 
It was then thought by many that squirrel-plague and bubonic plague were one and the same disease. This, however, proved untrue... there [being] a distinct difference between true bubonic plague and squirrel plague, the latter being less violent and the bacillus causing it being different from the true Bacillus pestis...
Finally, in 1911 (see Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1912, page 71), McCoy and Chapin identified the germ of squirrel-plague...described it fully and named it "Bacillus tularense", after the county of Tulare, in California, in which the disease was first observed.

From: The Opthalmic Record, Vol. XXIII, 1914, pp. 489-490.

22 June 2010

Tribune Tuesday Followup: The Freeman Family

I decided to follow up on the family of Magnus Freeman, who was posted about last week. That article discussed how Magnus and his wife had seen three of their four children die in the matter of two weeks from virulent diphtheria.

An article printed in The Oakland Tribune the day before (the 7th of January) had made the initial report about the disaster affecting the family:
Two Deaths From the Same Disease

Mr. Freeman, a resident of 22 Maple street, has lost two children within nine days of diphtheria. The first a 3 year old boy, died on the 27th of December; the other one of 18 month twins, died on the 5th inst. of the same disease.

The article of the 8th reported the last child to be gravely ill. Sadly, on the 9th of January, The Oakland Tribune carried the following item:

The Last of the Family
A sad story is related briefly in the following record at the undertaking establishment of Hamilton & Brown: "Died: Edith Isabel Freeman, aged 1 year, 6 months and 13 days, a native of Oakland; place of death, 22 Myrtle street; time of death January 8th at 11 PM" The record notes the death of the last of the four children of Magnus Freeman, a tailor residing at 22 Myrtle street. All four have died since December 27th, of virulent diphtheria.

According to census records, Magnus and his wife Augusta continued to live in Oakland. The couple had at least two children after the diphtheria devastation of 1889, both of whom lived to maturity. The son, George, and daughter Blanche were both born ca. 1894.

Augusta died 20 March 1929, and had a death notice printed in The Oakland Tribune 21 March 1929. Her 1900 and 1900 census enumerations showed that she had had 7 children, 2 of whom were living.

21 June 2010

CA History In the News 13 - 19 June 2010

* A historic locomotive is back on the tracks in a small town near Modesto.

* A bit of garden history in Monterey, from the SF Chronicle.

* A video on San Diego's Cosmopolitan Hotel was uploaded to YouTube

17 June 2010

California Quotes: A Pair of Musty Blankets

In the cities and towns there was a noticeable absence of homes. Stores, saloons, restaurants, boarding houses, and hotels made a metropolis, and to this day the habits of herding then contracted hang upon the people. In 1849 almost every house and tent, public and private, received lodgers for pay. A regular lodging-house consisted of one room with shelf-like bunks ranged round the sides, each of which held a straw mattress reeking with filth and vermin, and a pair of musty blankets. Cots occupied the centre of the room, and sleeping-places were chalked out on the floor, where, after the beds were filled, others might stretch themselves in their own blankets at a dollar a night. 

From: The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Vol. XXXV; San Francisco: The History Company, 1888. Page 666.

16 June 2010

Sunset Magazine

"Sunset Magazine... is the only magazine that faithfully tells, by pictures and text, of the wonders of California, and of the Nation's western border land. ... If you want to learn of California and the West read SUNSET regularly."

Sunset Magazine, a work of the Southern Pacific Company, began publishing in 1898. Established to add gloss to the rough image of the West--and to add allure to places such as California as travel destinations--the magazine was a blend of travelog, poetry rag, history essay and train travel advert. Google Books currently has volume 1-35 (with a few volumes missing) available in full view.

Much as the magazine does today (overtly, in its motto: "Sunset is the premier resource for achieving the ultimate Western lifestyle"), the historical editions presented to travelers an harmonized, if seemingly achievable, sense of Western ideals. Nature, adventure, technology, ease, and comfort all co-mingle in its pages, in an attempt to sell the West as a set of possibilities as much as a gathering of geographic places.

For researchers, the pages present an interesting perspective on the selling of the West, while providing a treasure trove of travel writing and photography. The advertisements alone are worth perusal, and offer a chance to imagine yourself a passenger westbound on the overland, covetous, perhaps, of the sleek new 1916 Hudson...

or dreaming of a camping trip with the family...

or planning your next train trip...

15 June 2010

Tribune Tuesday: An Afflicted Family

From: The Oakland Tribune, 08 January 1889, p. 1

Three Children Die of Diptheria in Two Weeks

The family of Magnas Freeman, a tailor, residing at 22 Maple street, is greatly afflicted. On the 2?th of last month, as stated in The TRIBUNE last night, one of the children died of virulent diptheria. The three surviving children, infant twins and a daughter aged 5 years contracted the dread disease, and on the 6th inst one of the twins died. Yesterday the eldest daughter, Olga Malvinia, died also, which leaves the grief stricken parents with now only one child remaining--one of the infant twins. This child is down with the disease also and there are very slender hopes of its recovery. Within two weeks these unfortunate people have lost three of their little ones, and the fearful prospect stares them in the face of losing the other one.

14 June 2010

Oakland Genealogy Update

Just a quick post to note that I have accomplished a number of housekeeping duties on the Oakland Genealogy site.

First and foremost, I finally called it quits on Google's Custom Search. For reasons I can't particularly discern, Google is only partially indexing the OakGen site (let that be a lesson to those dependent upon search!), so I have gone, for now, with a free site search engine. Already, all the pages are indexed and fully-searchable, so users should have a much easier time finding content on the site.

Also, I have finally posted to the Oakland Genealogy Blog. The blog is going to be a catch-all for transcriptions of tidbits of genealogical interest that I run across in my research in the Oakland area; it won't replace Tribune Tuesdays on this blog, or the transcription efforts on the Oakland Genealogy site. Instead, it is meant to provide a home for small items that are hard to categorize on the main site, or other random things that don't fall under the auspices of either project.

12 June 2010

CA History In the News 05 - 12 June 2010

* Almaden Quicksilver Park, from the Morgan Hill Times. The article discusses the area, which is now a park, and the Hidalgo Cemetery.

* A bit about the history of Santa Monica's Palisades Park, from the Los Angeles Times.

* A Peek at SF's Sheriff's Sword from The SF Chronicle. An 1861 commemorative sword visits SF City Hall.

* A Walk through Bankers Hill from The San Diego Union-Tribune

* On Orange County's lima bean industry, from the Dana Point Times. They're what put the Irvine in the area, don't you know.

09 June 2010

Topics in Research-The Great Grasshopper Plague of '74

In 1874, billions of grasshoppers1 descended upon the Plains States, leaving devastation and destitution in their wake. It was the most massive and destructive swarm ever recorded in North America. A passing reference to this infestation in a biography spurs a research adventure into the world of biblical-scale plagues, and yields some interesting, if obscure, implications for those researching families who settled in the Western United States.

The Spur
Erie Alanson May--man of not-so-much mystery--was fond of a good writeup in the mugbooks of his day. One such entry, in the 1905 Historical and Biographical Record... of San Joaquin Valley, makes a passing reference to one of Erie's political experiences:
In 1875, Mr. May was appointed sergeant-at-arms at Yankton, the state capitol [of Dakota Territory] and directly after the close of the legislative session he was selected to return east as a representative of the farmers, to solicit aid for those who had been impoverished by the grasshopper scourge, this terrible pest having destroyed the crops of the country.2 (emphasis added)
An obituary also mentions that Erie was sent to the "Eastern States to solicit aid in providing seed for farm lands ravaged by grasshoppers.3"

It may be easy for the modern mind to dismiss, offhand, the seriousness of a grasshopper plague. But when we consider the reality of the Plains States in the 1870s--relatively recently settled, full of fledgling towns and nascent farms, balanced precariously on the success of their budding agricultural industries--we can start to realize exactly how monumental this event was. Without today's powerful agricultural pesticides (and the planes that deploy most of them), the gamblers eking out a living in the Plains soil found themselves on the end of a losing bet, with no recourse to protect themselves against the insect onslaught.

The Grasshoppers Cometh

The spring and summer of 1874 had been a harsh one for many in the Western States. Floods, drought, a variety of insect invasions, and the economic fallout from the Panic of 1873 had made life difficult enough for those trying to farm the Plains. Luckily, it seemed most would be able to wring out enough from the parched landscape to make it through the 1874-75 winter, and optimism was high that farmers would be able to make the most of the land's potential the following year.

But then word came out in June of 1874 that something strange--maybe even sinister--was going on with grasshoppers in Iowa. A 22 June 1874 New York Times article noted that the "voracious insect has been eating the wheat, oats and corn by wholesale. In some counties, scarcely a field has escaped its ravage.4" By August, the New York Times noted that the insects had swarmed "all over the West, from Illinois to distant Oregon, and from Texas to Dakota.5" The swarm was alarmingly widespread, and was showing no mercy for the landscapes upon which it alighted. When all was said and done, the swarm ranged almost the entirety of the Great Plains, affecting 11 different states and territories:

Image from The Locust Plague in the United States, by CV Riley, 1877. The orange color shows the full extent of infestation. The green area shows where the damage was worst, the pink where damage was less due to lower human habitation.

Obliterating the Sun

What it was like to see these millions of grasshoppers arriving in any given place defied belief. Although the Plains area had suffered swarms of the insect in years past, 1874 was breaking all preconceived notions of how huge--and how devestating--the locusts could actually be. Reports variously described the swarms as clouds obliterating the sun or massive snowstorms. Descending upon a field they would strip it bare--destroying crops, gardens, and natural vegetation; they ate crops down to the ground. What crops they didn't eat completely, like wheat, they destroyed by eating only succulent bits, letting the rest rot on the ground. Some settlers reported the grasshoppers eating clothing hung out to dry and wooden handles.6. A New York Times correspondent in Kansas wrote in August of 1874:
Nothing can describe the thorough and utter devastation of this grasshopper plague in Kansas. The insects seem to work together, and swoop down upon a town, beating everything before them. The air is literally alive with them. They beat against the houses, swarm in at the windows, cover the passing trains. They work as if sent to destroy. The plague of locusts in Egypt, as depicted in the Bible is the only account that can graphically describe the grasshopper plague in Kansas. "For they covered the whole face of the earth so that the land was darkened and they did eat every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left, and there remained not any green thing in the trees of the herbs of the field through all the land in Egypt.7
Even the trains--paragons of modernity and the veritable symbol of Man's supremacy over nature--were stalled by the locusts; the sheer number of bugs crushed by the trains made the tracks too slippery to allow necessary traction. Tracks had to be swept clear of the carcasses before the trains could proceed.8

The Response

The most immediate fallout from the grasshopper plague was, of course, the livelihoods of the farmers. In more recently settled areas where farmers had not yet established themselves and were dependent upon a good crop, the main goal was to get out and get back East before winter set in:
Most of [the settlers] had staked everything on this their first crop, and with hardly enough of worldly goods left to stand them until harvest time, they suddenly find their all stripped from them and starvation staring them in the faces. Without waiting to consider, feeling that in this case at least famine is upon them, and they who hesitate are lost, they have hastily packed up their household goods and may be seen here and there moving eastward, miserable, pitiable sights to behold.9
Thus a settlement pattern which had seen migration east to west was, in this case, being reversed, as the onerous weight of economic woes (exacerbated by natural calamity) drove many early settlers back to their places of origin.

In some areas, such as Erie May's Dakota, the original assessments of damage seemed manageable, but the truth soon became evident:
Mistaken courage and pride caused the people and public officers to believe that the damage was not overwhelming, that the settlers could pass through the crisis without great suffering and that cases of special suffering would be relieved by friends and relatives. But when a severe winter came upon them and fuel and food and clothing and comforts of every kind were lacking, and illness began to follow upon exposure and want, the need for help become [sic] manifest.10
Appeals for help from settlers and the governments of the variously affected States led to the passage of two laws by the Congress11. The first, "An Act for Relief of certain settlers on public lands" was passed 28 Dec 1874, and gave settlers the opportunity to leave their lands until July of 1875 without the possibility of losing their property by adverse rights; settlers were therefore able to leave their property through the winter (perhaps even relocating their families) without fear of losing their claim to another settler. The act even included a provision for further extension of leave time should the grasshoppers return in 1875 (which they did, provoking further extensions of the suspension of adverse rights).

According to the "Circular Instructions" of 1876, notations would have been made in tract books regarding any leave taken by settlers under the auspices of the Act. Settlers were also required to provide two witnesses to vouch for crop destruction in order to take advantage of the leave time, and had to provide proof of re-settlement of the property upon their return.12. This latter requirement was intended to protect both the original settler, and any persons who may try to assert title to that same settlement.

The other act possibly reflects the work Erie May put in during his visit to "the Eastern States": on 25 January 1875 Congress passed the "Act to enable the Commissioner of Agriculture to make a special distribution of seeds". This Act was particularly important, as one of the legacies of the grasshopper hordes was that they had devoured crops to the extent that farmers did not have seed to plant the next year's crop. The seed was duly sent, and, from all accounts, 1875 proved a remarkably successful year considering the lingering hardships suffered.

No source has yet mentioned Erie May by name as an agent of supplication in the matter of the Grasshopper Plague of 1874, but the research into the matter shows why he would well have been proud of his work, and why the event itself was probably a memorable one for him for the rest of his life.

1. The insects were later identified as the Rocky Mountain Locust. Locusts are a subset of grasshoppers that exhibit swarming behavior when their population density hits certain critical levels. See articles here or here. As noted below, the hot and dry drought conditions of the spring and summer of 1874 which had already crippled agricultural production also proved ideal breeding conditions for the grasshoppers.

2. Guinn, JM. Historical and Biographical Record... of San Joaquin Valley, California. The Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago; 1905. Page 1221.

3. The Oakland Tribune, 08 September 1942, "G. A. R. Post Becomes History As Last Member Passes Away", page C17, column 4.

4. The New York Times, 22 June 1874, "A Plague of Grasshoppers". As retrieved from The New York Times Archive.

5. The New York Times, 03 August 1874, "The Insect Plague". As retrieved from The New York Times Archive.

6. Harvest of Grief, p. 17.

7. The New York Times, 17 August 1874, "The Locusts of the West". As retrieved from The New York Times Archive.

8. "The Insect Plague". (See note 5.)

9. "The Locusts of the West". (See note 6.)

10. From South Dakota Historical Collections, Volume III, 1906, p. 143.

11. Constitution.org has PDFs of the US Statutes, 1789-1875, which are also available at American Memory from the LOC.

12. Public Land Laws...1875...to 1882.

Google's Caffeine

Google announced the release of its new indexing system Caffeine yesterday, and you may be wondering what, if anything, this may mean to you. The short of the answer is: not much.

As a searcher, Caffeine will supposedly work behind the scenes to bring you faster and more relevant results, in a more comprehensive way. Google visualizes it thusly:

Which essentially means that when you go to Home Depot to look at paint cards, you will be, instead, minisculized to the size of an atom and sucked into a vortex full of home electronics and user manuals.

In seriousness, though, the illustration is meant to suggest that the new indexing system is a much more dynamic and holistic approach to web indexing than their former, more hierarchical one. It should provide faster listing of new pages in the index, and changes to existing pages should show up faster as well.

Web content owners don't have to worry about making any changes to pages they have created, and searchers don't need to modify their search approaches. It does mean that pages in the Google Cache will see more frequent turnover, as blog resourceshelf points out, so searchers who would like to archive a current version of a page should begin to consider alternative ways to take "snapshots" of a page, since the more frequent updating will mean that Google Cache is no longer a viable option, as the index will most likely always be reflecting the current state of the page.

Home Movies [Resource Shelf]

I remember, from my earliest days, the shelf in the closet in our television room and the box of home movies that resided there. Along with the (even then) charmingly antiquated 8mm camera were reels and reels of movies that I had never seen. When my mom sold the house I grew up in, that box, along with all of its contents, was put into the trash, and those movies--documentaries of my family and probably a number of my relatives that passed away--are now gone forever. What I wouldn't give now to have copies of those films!

What have you done with your home movies? 

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you could upload them to the internet to let the masses appreciate Dad's handy filming technique and Mom's stylish hairdos. Archive.org's Home movie category includes some real gems for researchers, like a 10-minute movie of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, and a charming day-in-the-life movie of a Kentucky family.You can browse the whole Home Movie collection by keyword here.

Feeling a little less like Cannes-abilizing your films? Maybe just transfer reel formats to digital,  for the sake of easier viewing

08 June 2010

Tribune Tuesday: His Heart is Healed

From: The Oakland Tribune, 04 January 1889, p. 1

His Heart is Healed

Captain H. G. Williams has taken out a license to marry Marian Choyaski, a San Francisco lady, aged 23 years. The captain, whose age is 52 years and upward, was engaged to a young lady of Southern california, and fitted up elegantly a house for her. On the day that he was to leave to bring his bride hither, he received a letter announcing the close of the engagement.

03 June 2010

California Quotes: Flush in San Francisco

Everybody that worked had plenty of money. Some men would start back to their homes, getting as far as San Francisco with as much as $30,000. Reaching San Francisco,in having a good time, would spend all their money, get broke, and return to the mountains and work in the same old place. I have seen them return and it amused me to hear them tell how they spent their money.

From: Recollections of a '49er, by EW McIlhany. 1908, Kansas City: Hailman Printing Company. Page 71.

02 June 2010

Topics in Research-Was Iva May Insane? Part One.

What assumptions can we or do we make when we find research subjects enumerated in any of the euphemistically-named insane asylums of their day? Are such facilities and the privacy issues surrounding the records they generated guaranteed dead-ends? Or can we piece together details of their lives through careful and thorough research? In this post I lay out a current research dilemma--and brainstorm on the strategy most likely to yield answers to questions about this individual and her life.

The Problem
Iva May, daughter of Erie Alanson May and Martha C. Jones was born in California about 1885. At the time of the 1900 census1, fifteen-year-old Iva resided at home with her parents. Her father, an active and involved member of his farming community, had two biographies written up in mugbooks in 1892 and 19052, both of which mention Iva as being "at home" with no further illumination.

By 1910, however, Iva is found in the Sonoma State Home (pictured above), where she is still residing in 19203. Assuming the biography published in 1905 was honest and correct in stating Iva still lived with her parents, we can posit that Iva entered the facility in Sonoma sometime between 1905 and 1910, or between the ages of 20 and 25. Which leaves us wondering... what were the circumstances of her admission, and what was the nature of the illness or condition that necessitated her incarceration there in the first place?

Searching for an Illness
The California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded (as the facility was called until a name-change in 1909 to "Sonoma State Home") opened its doors in Sonoma County in November of 1891, with a mission to serve the needs of the developmentally disabled4.  The name can be misleading to modern researchers, however, as "mental illness" as a term has changed drastically since the opening of the facility to our present day. By the early 20th Century, the Sonoma State Home was caring for epileptics, autistics, and those with palsies. Anecdotally, the facility was also serving individuals diagnosed with social "behavioral issues" such as women deemed "oversexed", homosexuals, and juvenile delinquents5

In the 1892 mugbook biography of her father, Iva is mentioned as "at home and in pursuit of [her] education", raising interesting questions as to the state of her mental capacities. Was Iva born with any sort of developmental disability? If so, was sort of school was she attending? Was the assertion of her school attendance a glazing over of the truth of her condition? Or did her condition advance organically or come on with some sort of accident or trauma?

Census information is conflicting on this point. In 1900--when still in residence with her parents in Tulare County--in answer to the questions of whether she could read, write and speak English, the words "No" were originally written, then crossed out and the word "Yes" inserted above--in what seems to be a different hand. In 1910, her census entry notes "no speech" in regard to the ability to speak English. Her 1920 census information says she can neither read nor write.

As her father was an educated man--he worked in government in the Dakota Territory and published a newspaper in Tulare County, California--it can be assumed that his children would be educated to the best of their ability, suggesting that Iva's lack of literacy was not the result of family culture but of her own limitations. If Iva could, indeed, read and write in 1900, but by 1910 was seemingly mute, then trauma or a sudden onset of illness could be presumed. If not, the 1892 biography is now suspect, and we can suppose that Iva was born with developmental difficulties and was moved to a facility perhaps as her age (and the age of her parents) increased.

As to the fate of Iva after 1920, not much is currently known. Iva has not yet been located under her maiden name in the 1930 census. No other information found on her father, Erie May, mentions Iva (including his 1942 obituary6, which only mentions his son and second wife as survivors); an obituary for her mother who passed away about 1926 has not yet been found. A 1973 death notice for her brother Erie Howard May makes no mention of his sister.

Strategizing the Research

All of this leaves us with a number of questions: From what illness-or what kind of trauma-did Iva May suffer?
At what age did Iva May enter the Sonoma State Home? Did Iva ever leave the home? Or did she die there? If the latter, when did she die, and is she buried on the grounds? Most importantly, what records can be consulted to answer these questions?

Hospital Records
Records for patients (inmates) of the Sonoma State Hospital survive in the inventory of the Department of Mental Hygiene, and reside in the California State Archives, Inventory F36077, but are restricted. As per an e-mail exchange with an archivist, "Records held at the California State Archives that are exempt from the disclosure under any California Law are completely open 75 years after the last date on the record.  Patient information falls under this 75 year rule." Under this rule, most of the applicable records of inmates discharged or deceased (which run through 1949) will not be available until somewhere around 2025. Some admission record books and application lists should now be available for research, and will have to be consulted on a trip to the Archives in Sacramento. 

Superior Court Records
According to a 1914 publication8, California law stipulated that parents or guardians interested in admitting a charge into a facility for the feeble-minded had to petition the Superior Court in their county of residence. If approved, the Judge would refer the charge for admission. Tulare County Superior Court will have to be contacted in regard to availability (if any) of applicable records.

Newspapers in the time period may have addressed Iva's move to the Sonoma State facility. This would particularly be true if her incarceration was the result of an accident or sudden onset of a malady. A review of local papers in the estimate time period of 1905-1910 (ideally the Daily Tulare Register8) should be undertaken.

In Part Two of this post, I hope to shed some light on the mystery of Iva May, and share with you the results of the research strategy outlined above. It is possible that until the full release of inmate records from the State Home this matter cannot be fully resolved, but alternative sources must be consulted in the meantime!


1. See 1900 US Federal Census, ED 63, Sheet 2A, Poplar, Tulare, California, Dwelling no. 24, Family No. 26, Household of Erie A. May (lines 5-8). According to this census, Iva was born April 1885.

2. See Guinn, JM, Historical and Biographical Record... of the San Joaquin Valley, California, 1905, page 1218. See also, Lewis Publishing Company, A Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern, California, 1892, page 522.

3. See 1910 United States Federal Census, ED 168, Glen Ellen, Sonoma, California, Sheet 12B, Sonoma State Home, line 60. See also 1920 United States Federal Census, ED 135, Sheet 7A, Sonoma State Home, line 49.

4. History of Sonoma Developmental Center. As accessed 21 May 2010.

5. See Black, Edwin; Eugenics and the Nazis -- the California connection, from The San Francisco Chronicle, 09 Nov 2003. Black's article delves into the darkest aspects of the California Mental Hygiene Department's history, particularly that of enforced sterilization projects and the specter of eugenics. The Sonoma State Home (and its director, Fred O. Butler) were notorious (if legal) offenders. For a great post on this issue and the Sonoma State Home, see Comstock House History's post here.

6. See The Oakland Tribune, "G. A. R. Post Becomes History as Last Member Passes Away", 08 September 1942, Page C17.

7. See Online Archive of California.

7. NY State Report on Provision for the Mentally Deficient, available at Google Books here.

8. Applicable holdings at the Tulare Public Library, Tulare, CA

01 June 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Too Young to Swim

From: The Oakland Tribune, 07 January 1889, Page 1, Column 5

Too Young To Swim

Louis Fraites, a six year old boy residing with his grandfather, Frank Silviera, who keeps a saloon at the foot of Franklin street, accidentally fell into the water from the city wharf yesterday, and would have been drowned had not a seaman from the ship Perry come to his assistance in a boat. The young man had a narrow escape, and severa [sic] who saw the accident were visibly affected by the scene. The boy's parents are in Petaluma.