Wednesday, December 19, 2012

California Wine Association Records, 1894-1936

Lackman & Jacobi business card, circa 1885, California Business Ephemera Collection.

With our vast viticultural districts and varied regional climates, California is known as an exceptional place to grow wine. Lesser known, however, is that the history of the state’s early wine production is largely connected to the history of the California Wine Association (1894-1936). With this in mind, the California Historical Society is pleased to announce that the California Wine Association records have been reprocessed with a finding aid available on the Online Archive of California.

The 1890s were a turning point for viticulture in California. The State’s wine industry was in a seemingly perilous position. California’s 200,000 acres of vineyard were overproductive, the country was in the middle of a depression, and California wines were sold cheaply without much regard to quality. In 1894, in an attempt to secure favorable options from grape growers and winemakers, and to raise prices and stimulate trade, seven leading wine firms joined together to form the California Wine Association. Their action, however, had an unintended consequence: winegrowers formed their own interest groups, which, in turn, led to the wine wars of the 1890s. In order to successfully negotiate grape and wine prices, the two factions came to agree upon standards for terms such as “hill grapes” and “valley grapes,” and stabilized the quality of California wine in the process. The C.W.A. would eventually control over eighty percent of wine manufactured in the State.

The California Wine Association records chronicle this fascinating history. Bound volumes of meeting minutes contain contract negotiations and correspondence between growers and firms, and document internal conflicts within the Association, responses to Prohibition, and, finally, the litigious dissolution of the Association itself.

The new guide to the collection can be found on the Online Archive of California at

Megan Hickey Nespeco 
Library Volunteer

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I See Beauty in this Life Curator's Walkthrough

Thursday, December 13, 2012 (Timed entry, Reservation required)
Walk through our exhibition I See Beauty in this Life: A Photographer looks at 100 years of Rural California with curator Lisa M. Hamilton. She will give you insight into how she chose the historic images for the show from the extensive collections of the California Historical Society and share some of the stories behind her own photographs.
Over the past two years, writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton has been telling the stories of these rural communities in her multimedia work Real Rural. For this exhibition she has delved into the collections of the California Historical Society to connect these present-day stories with the past. Featuring roughly 150 photographs, I See Beauty in This Life is a combination of large-scale color prints by Hamilton and her selections from California Historical Society's vast photography collections—material dating from the 1880s through the mid-twentieth century, much of which has never been exhibited before. Led through CHS's vast collection of historic photographs by the Director of Library & Archives Mary Morganti, Hamilton has selected images that are not predictable views of pastoral windmills or heroic mule teams, but rather images that reflect her own keen interest in revealing the unexpected. Her approach to the Historical Society's collections is different from that of an historian in that her first priority was to choose images that are outstanding for aesthetic reasons. Taken by amateur and mostly unknown photographers, the photographs are remarkable for their beauty and unusual perspective. These press prints, snapshots, and publicity stills are also intimate records of struggle, celebration, community, and the endless work required to wrest a livelihood from the land. Together, they tell a complex—and sometimes humorous—story of the many different individual lives and landscapes comprising the vast mosaic that is the Golden State.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New CHS audio and film recordings digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP)

Thanks to the California Audiovisual Preservation Project and the tireless efforts of Pamela Jean Vadakan, ten additional oral histories and two films have been digitized and are available freely on the Internet Archive:

These recordings include oral history interviews with California labor activists and printers, including Louise Lambert, Elaine Black Yoneda, and Amadeo R. Tommassini. The jewel in the crown, however, may be the beautifully digitized Tanker (pictured above), a 47-minute color film made for Marinship corporation in 1944 and 1945 documenting (and promoting) the Sausalito shipyard’s wartime operations. Tanker includes historic footage of shipyard workers, their newly built community in Marin City, spectacular launchings, shipbuilding processes and technologies, and a visit from Prince Faisal and other Saudi dignitaries.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian