Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jane Morgan Papers

Hello! My name is Beth Atlas. I was one of the student assistants working on processing the manuscript collections of the Perham Collection of Early Electronics in 2012 under a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. During my time at History San Jose, I processed the Jane Morgan Papers. Jane Morgan was the author of the book Electronics in the West: The First Fifty Years (Palo Alto, CA: National Press Books, 1967), the first comprehensive history of electronics in the western United States. This has been my first internship as a graduate student in Library and Information Science at San Jose State University and also my first experience processing an archival collection.

A sampling of items from the Jane Morgan Papers
during the arrangement process
I definitely had my work cut out for me with Morgan’s papers. One of the concepts of archival processing that was emphasized in my academic coursework was to maintain the “original order” of items, which means keeping items as best as possible in the order in which they are initially found. An early issue that I encountered during my survey of the collection was that the items were not in any apparent order. Many of the papers, news clippings, notes, photographs, pamphlets, and newsletters had been haphazardly put into boxes for storage with little regard for related items. Because of this, the arrangement phase of processing took much longer than expected. Still, taking this much time to organize the Jane Morgan Papers was necessary in order to create a logical arrangement that would facilitate any future research use of the collection. The purpose of archiving is not only to preserve significant items, but also to ensure that those items can later be retrieved by those seeking them.

The disorganized way in which Morgan’s papers were stored for so many years does not reflect the organized and extensive research she performed in the creation of Electronics in the West. Morgan’s book was well researched because she put in so much effort to ensure that the information included was as accurate and complete as possible. The extensive “Reference Files” series reflects this effort,as it is full of research notes, pamphlets, company newsletters, and news clippings related to the topics covered in her book. In addition to the secondary sources she used, Morgan consulted with many of the actual people featured in the book. Through interviews, telephone conversations, and correspondence, she was able to reap valuable historical information directly from the same men who started it all. Although several of the people included in Electronics in the West had passed away by the time Morgan began her research, she sought out their widows, family members, and friends in order to help tell their individual stories.

Marie Mosquini de Forest and Jane Morgan in Palo Alto
(Jane Morgan Papers, History San Jose)
While most of Jane Morgan’s papers are dedicated to reference files and book production materials, there are several items of personal importance to Morgan. Included in this category is Morgan’s correspondence with Marie Mosquini de Forest, the fourth wife and widow of inventor Lee de Forest. The two women began corresponding while Morgan was working on a biographical article about Lee de Forest in the early 1960s. Even after the publication of this article, Morgan maintained her relationship with Marie and the two began a friendship that would last for several decades. Their correspondence reflects the friendly nature of their relationship, as it contains the letters, post cards, handwritten notes, and holiday greeting cards sent by Marie to Morgan, who also saved copies of her return letters.

Jane Morgan (center, in striped dress) at the Electronics Research
Laboratory Historical Landmark Dedication Ceremony, May 1970
(Jane Morgan Papers, History San Jose)
Another set of interesting items found was a group of photographs from the historical landmark dedication ceremony of the Federal Telegraph Electronics Research Laboratory on May 2, 1970. These photographs feature those in attendance at this ceremony, many of whom were involved in the history of electronics in the San Francisco Bay Area. By 1970, many of the original pioneers had passed away, but their widows, colleagues, and friends were still able to honor their contributions to the field of electronics. While the house that was the site of the laboratory is no longer standing, the legacy of the electronics pioneers remains.

This legacy has been perpetuated through the work that I, as well as the other interns, staff, and volunteers have completed over the last year. Our work has also upheld the goal of the Perham Foundation, which was to educate people about the history of electronics and the men who made it possible. Processing the papers of Jane Morgan, a person who also wanted to tell the story of electronics, has allowed me to make a contribution to this effort. I have really enjoyed working on this project and also my time at History San Jose. I hope that future researchers will benefit from the work that I have done to make the Jane Morgan Papers accessible for years to come.

A guide to the Jane Morgan Papers is available through the Online Archive of California; the catalog records I created are searchable through PastPerfect Online.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1924 Olympian Clarida Hunsberger, captured on film by Harold Elliott

Olympic diver Clarida Hunsberger,
photographed in 1924 at Searsville Lake
by Harold F. Elliott
As part of our year-long grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources to catalog five manuscript collections from the Perham Collection of Early Electronics, we've been processing the Harold F. Elliott Papers. Elliott was a 1916 Stanford University engineering graduate who did a significant amount of work with Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto. As it turns out, Elliott was also a talented and accomplished photographer, whose hobby began while a student, culminating with exhibits in his later years. He started a photography processing business, “The Campus Photo Shop,” as a student, and his collection includes over 200 images of Stanford athletics and student life circa 1911-1916.

This photograph of Olympic diver and Stanford student Clarida Hunsberger was taken by Elliott at Searsville Lake in San Mateo County during the 1924 Olympic try-outs. Hunsberger participated in the platform diving event at both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, and was interviewed by the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles in May 1987 as part of their Olympian’s Oral History project. During the interview, Hunsberger recalled her experience at Stanford under coaches Greta and Ernst Brandsten: “Stanford at that time had 500 women and a couple thousand men—that was that era. They had very few women who were interested in diving and, in fact, one of the Brandstens would come out early every morning. I’d go to the women’s swimming pool early in the morning. I can remember walking out on that board with frost on the board; it mattered not what time a year it was or what the weather was. And it didn’t matter to the Brandstens. They were really gung-ho on having a woman who would be a diver. And so then came the day that Ernst Brandsten said to me, ‘You know, today we’re going to take you up to Searsville Lake.’ Now Searsville Lake was about nine miles from the Stanford campus. And up there—the lake was actually a dammed lake—they had platforms built on that dam that the Brandstens were responsible for constructing, because there were quite a few men divers who would work out up there. I didn't have a car to get up there. There were times that I walked to Searsville Lake and walked back.”

Of course, diving platforms in 1924 were not what they are today. The wooden apparatus in the above photograph was also explained by Hunsberger in her interview: “I think that to remind you of the era I should tell you about the platforms. They were constructed of wood and, of course, they’re over this lake, which sometimes was at one height and sometimes was at another height. Then there was no such thing as a stairway going up to those platforms. Now the platforms are 16 and 32 feet, 5 and 10 meters in height. We had to go up a ladder that went straight up. And I’ll never forget that the next rung to the top was missing. (laughter) And if you would do 8 or 10 dives, either from the 16 or 32, or both, and go up that ladder, well, you had quite a workout. And of course you had a nice little swim after you hit the water (laughter), and then to get over to what was supposed to be a ladder to come out of the water. The water would be cold. As I look back on it I wonder why I thought that was a great idea. (laughter) But I guess it was in the blood by then.”

Postcard advertising Harold Elliott's Campus Photo Shop at Stanford University
Hunsberger says she tried out for both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics on the West Coast, continuing on by train to New York for the final qualifiers, eventually placing fourth in the 1924 Olympic high-diving event. She points out, “Photography was in its infancy; nothing like the split-second timing pictures that they would get today. So, with the Olympic Games, there couldn't be the worldwide interest that we have now—not even countrywide. Many people had probably never heard of the Olympic Games, I’m pretty sure. Today most people would know what we were talking about.” With that in mind, this action shot by Harold Elliott is impressive for its time.

Hunsberger’s experiences at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics are recounted in the complete interview, a transcript of which can be accessed at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shirlie Alice Montgomery (1918 – 2012)

Shirlie Montgomery, Rose Garden resident

Earlier this month, our community lost a truly remarkable lady in Shirlie Montgomery who, as a professional photographer, captured in her lens many memorable moments in the Santa Clara Valley as it transformed from an agricultural community to Silicon Valley.

A native and life long resident of San Jose, Shirlie was the grandniece of T. S. Montgomery, an early real estate developer in the local community. She would begin her career at the De Anza Hotel on Santa Clara Street where she was employed to create photographic gifts for hotel guests.

Eleanor Roosevelt at the De Anza Hotel, 1940
 (Shirlie Montgomery Photographs, History San Jose)
Later, she worked for both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. As a newspaper photographer, she became acquainted with many local and national celebrities, some of which would privately hire Shirlie for personal portraits. Additional contacts were made during her freelance time working at Lou’s Village on West San Carlos Street.

In her quest to capture the moment with her 4×5 speed graphic camera, Shirlie was adventurous. In one case, she flew in a private plane to obtain aerial photographs of downtown San Jose in the late 1930’s. An assignment at the Civic Auditorium for a professional wresting match would lead to a multi-year relationship with the sport and its participants. She would tell friends that “I always like the big boys!”

A portion of Shirlie's broad photographic portfolio is held within the History San Jose collection and several of her images have supplemented previous exhibits on differing topics. Friends of this unique spirited individual have created a web blog in her memory.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Twenty Thousand Court Cases, with More Yet to Come

After seven and a half years, with seven different people having worked between four and twenty-five hours each week, archives volunteer Joan Helms recently indexed our 20,000th court case!

Back in April 2005, former archives volunteer Patsy Castro Ludwig urged me to “do something” about the extensive collection of case files from the Santa Clara County Courts that filled some 200 bankers boxes in our Collection Center. When I looked into it, I found that one of my predecessors had actually started a database to index these items, but hadn't gotten very far into the project.

I did a random sampling of these boxes, and quickly learned that:
  • Many of the boxes were overly full 
  • Most of the case files were not separated from one another 
  • There was no apparent organization scheme from one box to the next 
  • There were approximately 25,000 cases, both civil and criminal, beginning in 1850 and running into the early 1940’s, with the bulk of them from 1850 to 1915. 
These files, as they become accessible, are a tremendous resource for historical researchers. While many of the cases involve mundane issues such as unpaid taxes, bankruptcies, or property disputes, others have related to incidents of livestock rustling, burglary, armed robbery, and abuse or abandonment of family members. We have found a lawsuit filed by John Sutter to collect a bad debt. There are a couple of cases involving ranchers attempting to enslave Native Americans. Surprisingly, given the popular stereotype of Victorian society’s rigid attitudes about marriage, more than 10% of the cases relate to divorce proceedings. There were surprisingly few cases relating to excessive drinking, although one case concerns a defendant who “stole hams but was too drunk to remember”.

In addition to Joan Helms and Patsy Ludwig Castro, five other volunteers have contributed to this massive effort: Nadine Nelson, Ed Linggi, Sally Stallard, Michael McCleary, and Gloria Moseley.

The index that we have created allows a researcher to search by plaintiff’s or defendant’s name, the case number or date of the court proceeding, details of the type of crime, and the final judgment of the court (when noted) .

Anyone wishing to make an appointment to research these materials can email

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remembering our Veterans

Charlie Baker
On Wednesday, November 7, a small gathering was held just outside the History Park fence line to unveil San Jose’s contribution the World War II Walls of Honor initiative. Started as a grass roots organization by HSJ affiliate Spirit of ’45, the initiative strives to capture images and stories of World War II veterans across the county. Their goal is to gather materials in preparation for a massive 70th celebration of the end of the war in August 2015. This effort is challenged as an increasing number of remaining veterans are now dying due to age related illnesses.

A long panel of images facing Senter Road was hung on the outer fence near the corner of Phelan Avenue. During Wednesday’s event, one veteran of the Army Air Corp, Charlie Baker, proudly stood next to his image. As more images are received each year, the Spirit of ’45 organization plans to add to this Wall of Honor to be displayed annually in November.

Ronnie Olague, Jr., and Ronnie Olague
Attending this informal event were the son and grandson of Private First Class Esau R. Olague of San Jose. Just 20 years old when he saw action, Esau had left his hometown leaving behind his new 19 year old wife Margaret with their baby boy Ronnie. Soon after her husband had left, Maggie sought war-time employment at a San Francisco ship yard. She was injured severely by a crane accident in February 1944 and died in June. Private Olague was killed in action on July 27, 1944 and is buried in France. As a result, fourteen month old Ronnie was an orphan and would be raised by his grandmother, Mrs. Frank Guerrero of San Jose.

Ronnie continues to live in San Jose. His grandson, Ralph Olague, is a member of the National Guard. Ronnie shared his family’s story with Robert Corpus from the Spirit of ’45. Touched by the story,Robert visited Private Olague’s gravesitein 2007 and returned with a small bottle of dirt from the plot bringing closure to the family.

As we remember our veterans of various conflicts, the stories of their families need to also be honored. For some like the Olague family, the ultimate sacrifice was made both abroad and at home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

History San José Hosts Heritage Holiday Tea & Tour at the Fallon House

San Jose, CA — October 17, 2012

The tradition of History San José’s annual Heritage Holiday Tea and Tour will be held this year in the area of the new San Pedro Square Market at the Victorian-era Fallon House. The lower level, formerly Manny’s Cellar, and will again be transformed into a holiday tea room for the Saturday, December 1 event.

The Heritage Holiday Tea continues the annual tradition of tea and this year includes champagne, tours of the Fallon House, built in 1855. Located just a stroll across the street from San Pedro Square Market, there will be two seatings of tea, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Satori Tea Company will present special blends of tea especially for the Heritage Holiday event: Candy Cane Dream, Marzipan Melody and English Breakfast. The teas will accompany a gourmet catered light luncheon, also by Satori. Guglielmo Wines will provide the champagne served by Shady Shakespeare in the garden, and guests will be greeted by The Lyric Theatre Carollers, who will also provide entertainment.

The $45 ticket price, (HSJ members $40) will include tours of the Fallon House, and validated parking will be provided. Guests will be eligible to win ‘Tea for Two’ at Satori Tea, or four tickets to Brigadoon, presented by Lyric Theatre.

The Fallon House was built in 1855 by one of San José’s earliest mayors. The Victorian mansion showcases 15 fully-furnished rooms typical of the Victorian period. Thomas Fallon was a frontiersman in the John C. Fremont expedition, and Carmel Fallon was the daughter of one of the most prominent Mexican landowners in California. The Fallon House Historic Site is located at 175 West St. John Street in downtown San José.

Tea times are at 11 a.m. and at 2 p.m. Ticket price includes tours of the Fallon House and the Peralta Adobe. Make checks payable to History San José and mail to 1650 Senter Road, San Jose, CA 95113 or call Juanita at 408.918.1045 or email her at

The holidays at History Park will continue as usual, and a Children’s Heritage Holidays at History Park will be Saturday, December 8 from noon to 4 p.m. Santa will be on-hand for photo opportunities. Children can ride the trolley with Santa Claus, and operate the hand car. There will be live music and entertainment of the winter season, holiday crafts for kids, and story time with the Snow Queen. History Park partners will host culturally diverse crafts. Admission is $8 per family of up to a total of four, $2 per additional person; HSJ members are free with a membership card.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

History San José Honors Filipino American History Month at History Park with several events

San José, California – September 12, 2012 — The entire month of October celebrates Filipino American History Month (FAHM). This year History San José (HSJ) will hold a series of events with activities for both families as well as adult education.

In partnership with the Filipino American National Historical Society’s (FANHS) Santa Clara Valley Chapter, History Park will host a Filipino American History Day on Saturday, October 13 at History Park, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This family day celebrates the heritage, and features culturally significant music, dancing, performances, Filipino food, and children’s crafts and activities.

Also on this day, the exhibit Through My Father’s Eyes: The Filipino American Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914 – 1976), a photographic experience documenting Filipino American life in San Francisco during the 1940s and 1950s, will be highlighted at the Gallery in the Pacific Hotel at History Park.

Admission is free for History San José members, adults are $8 each, children five and under are free, and seniors and students are $5 with valid identification.

Then on Saturday, October 27, A Photographic Field Trip with Master Photographer John Paulson, will offer an adult educational workshop. A hands-on photographic workshop, attendees will be invited to bring their own camera & tripod. After viewing the Through My Father’s Eyes: The Filipino American Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914 – 1976)exhibit, Paulson will share exposure, lighting, composition ideas, etc. with participants using History Park as a backdrop.

The workshop is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and costs $15 for HSJ members, $25 for non-members, and includes weekend admission to History Park. Reservations are recommended by contacting Barbara Johnston at 408 918-1047.

Later that same day in the Empire Firehouse at History Park, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., isReclaiming Our Stories, Creating New Images. Created by the Alvarado Project, who also curated the exhibit Through My Father’s Eyes, the program will include speakers and discussions of Filipino American culture.

The Program includes the following speakers with time for Q. & A. from the audience:
  • Presentation of Grandmothers and Aunties: two generations of women bridging 3rd generation Filipino American writer/educator, Lisa Suguitan Melnick to her “roots” 
  • Performance of Evangeline (Vangie) Canonizado Buell’s Story, “7 Card Stud & 7 Manangs Wild” 
  • Reading by Oscar Penaranda, Poet Laureate 
Admission is free for History San José members, adults are $8 each, children five and under are free, and seniors and students are $5 with valid identification.

Light refreshments will be provided.

The exhibit will run through January, 2013: Through My Father’s Eyes: The Filipino American Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914 – 1976) is a collection of 50 photographics chosen from more than 3,000 discovered by his daughter, Janet Alvarado after his death. This exhibit offers a rare view into the daily life of the Filipino-American community in the post-World War II era in the Bay Area.

Ricardo Alvarado emigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1928, part of the early 20th-century wave of immigrants known as the ‘Manong Generation,’ meaning ‘older brother’ in the Ilocano language. He served in the Pacific Theater with the U.S. Army’s First Filipino regiment during World War II. When the war ended, Alvarado supported his passion for photography by working as a civilian cook at Letterman Hospital at the Presidio Army base in San Francisco. For more than 20 years following the war, Alvarado documented postwar Filipino American life. His poignant photographs capture every aspect of day-to-day activities, public and private.

Alvarado’s photography was more than a hobby. He photographed weddings, funerals, baptisms, and parties. His ‘view camera,’ a Speed Graphic, documented street scenes, beauty pageants, cock fights, agricultural workers tending crops, and entrepreneurs on the job.

The exhibit is at the Gallery in the Pacific Hotel at History Park in Kelley Park. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Museum Store and O’Brien’s Café are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gallery admission: Tuesday through Friday is free; Saturday and Sunday: Free for HSJ members, Adults $8, Seniors and Students $5, Children under 6 are free.

For more information visit or

Thursday, August 23, 2012

El Camino Real Bell

In 1769, El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway, was a footpath begun by the Franciscans to link the California Missions north from San Diego to Sonoma. Each mission was situated in areas where large Native American populations lived, where the soil was fertile enough to sustain a settlement. As time progressed and more missions were built, the footpath became a roadway wide enough to accommodate horses and wagons. A large portion of the route would eventually be paralleled by state highway 101.

In 1906, an effort was initiated to commemorate El Camino Real with the placement of 85-pound bells along the state highway. These distinctive bells were hung on supports in the form of a shepherd’s crook. By the 1960s, most of the original 450 bells had disappeared due to theft, vandalism or re-routing of the roadways.

Toward the end of the twentieth century, preservation organizations and individuals renewed a state-wide effort of marking El Camino Real with new bells and crook supports. Utilizing an original 1906 bell as a pattern, the newer versions are still being cast by the California Bell Company, headquartered in Saratoga. A video of the company’s casting process may be found here.

Maureen Everett, a San Jose resident, generously donated a crook and bell to History San José. Two enthusiastic volunteers dug the 4 foot hole necessary to support the bell. This week, the pole was cemented, the crook fastened and the bell hung.

The museum’s bell is adjacent to the Trolley Barn and near the Phelan Avenue gate entrance. Utilizing this marker, the El Camino Real story will be integrated into our Historic Transportation Education program, enlightening school aged children about this portion of California’s heritage.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuskegee Airman Samuel L. Washington

Lt. Samuel L. Washington
In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because of societal ignorance and prejudice. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the Black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

“Tuskegee Airmen” refers to all who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experiment,” the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They proved conclusively that African Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for the full integration of the U.S. military.

A native of Cleveland, Samuel L. Washington graduated from the Tuskegee program on June 27, 1944 and was appointed as flight officer. With his fellow classmates, Officer Washington was assigned to the 99th squadron of the 332nd. Based in Italy, flying P-40 and P-51 fighting aircraft, the squadron provided air support for numerous bomber missions over Germany. After retiring from military service, Lieutenant Washington eventually settled in San Jose with his wife Mary. The decorated war veteran died in 1981. Postmortem, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2006.

Some of the items donated by the Washington family
This past week, Mary Parks Washington and her daughter Jan made a remarkable donation of artifacts and documents pertaining to Samuel’s service with the Air Force. Included in this unique donation are his duffel bag, flight jacket, head gear, goggles, enlistment papers, various medals, and dog tag.

To honor the service of Lieutenant Samuel L. Washington and his fellow servicemen, these newly received artifacts will be on display in the lobby of the Pacific Hotel during this Saturday’s August 4th Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive event at History Park.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gold Rush Day on July 15 Launches Family Days Series

San José, CA – June 18, 2012 – Summer is a good time to have an adventure, and History Park will provide the backdrop. Gold Rush Adventure Day will allow families to be a ‘49er for a day — as in the original gold rushers of 1849 — Sunday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be family activities, including panning for gold, cowboy grub (food available for purchase) and good old-fashioned music. Other activities will include the hand car, trolley rides, pony express relay and the Wells Fargo Stage Coach will be available for photo opportunities.

The second of the series of Family Days will be on Sunday, August 12, Happy Birthday Car 124!, a celebration of Trolley #124’s 100th birthday party. This signature red trolley will be running on its track, there will be a horse car, and hand-car rides will be available. The newly-acquired caboose will also be featured. Vintage vehicles on display will include fire engines, an electric car, and Model T’s.

There will be choo-choo crafts for the kids, live music featuring the Peninsula Banjo Band. And what a birthday party! Even the San Jose Giants will celebrate. Party-goers can stay, picnic and watch the fireworks after the baseball game. Food typical of the Gay Nineties will be available for purchase.

The following week, Sunday, August 19, is the annual Fandango at Peralta Adobe, in the heart of the new San Pedro Square Market.

This date is significant in that it commemorates the death 161 years ago of Maria Luis Peralta. He was the Californio who lived in the Peralta Adobe with his family, and was one of the first Accolades (mayor) of Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe.

Typical of that era, there will be music and dancing, as well as a descendant of the original horses that were brought by the Spanish explorers.

Saturday, October 13, the last in the series of Family Days, is Filipino-American Heritage Day, celebrating Filipino American Month and honoring the current exhibit, Through My Father’s Eyes. That celebration will include Filipino food, dancing and music, and other activities.

The series of Family Days at History Park is supported, in part, by a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San José.

General admission is $8 per adult, $5 for seniors and students with a valid ID and children under five are free. Admission is free to members of History San Jose.

Join Online

Upcoming events include:
  • Haunt History Park, safe trick-or-treating, on October 28;
  • Happy Birthday San Jose! At the Peralta Adobe and Fallon House at the San Pedro Square Market on Sunday, November 18;
  • Children’s Holiday Festival with Santa Claus at History Park on Saturday, December 8;
  • The Heritage Holiday Tea is on December 1 at the Fallon House.
For more information call 408 918-1047 or visit

Friday, June 15, 2012

Electrolysis, electric cars and electrons, oh my: the Perham History Files

Submitted by Catherine Mills, Project Archivist, History San Jose

“Live Wire” San Francisco Electrical
Development League Invitation, January 1921
The Perham History Files are one of the five manuscript collections in the Perham Collection of Early Electronics that History San Jose promised to catalog and make available for researchers as part of our year-long Council of Library and Information Resources grant. The Perham History Files were first created by Douglas M. Perham and continued by the Perham Foundation and Foothills Electronics Museum. The collection served as a quick reference file regarding people, companies, apparatus, and events relating to the history of early radio and electronics.

All fifteen feet of this mixture of ephemera and original documentation have now been cataloged, with the majority of records and accompanying images available for searching through PastPerfect Online.

The collection covers not only early wireless communication and electronics, but also the history of electrical apparatus, electric lighting, and electric power. A large portion of the series is comprised of trade catalogs dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s for radios, radio components (batteries, vacuum tubes, headsets), electric apparatus (motors, generators, testing equipment), automatic telephones and intercommunication systems, motion picture lamps, arc lighting, electric equipment for medical purposes such as electrolysis, and sound reproduction and surveillance equipment. In addition, catalogs and magazines directed at the amateur radio operator, as well as radio broadcasting schedules, are included.

Federal Telegraph Company, Palo Alto, ca 1921
Bay Area companies represented in the History Files through ephemera or corporate publications are Dalmo-Victor Manufacturers, Heintz and Kaufman, Federal Telegraph Company, American Radio Stores, Atlas Wireless Telephone & Telegraph Co., Dwyer Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company, Coney & Kuchel Electric Works, The McCarty Wireless Telephone, Union Iron Works, Ampex, Lenkurt Electric Co., Inc., and Kaar Engineering Co.

In addition, there is a small amount of Lee de Forest material, including news clippings, correspondence with Douglas Perham and Marie Stewart, Radio News articles, and De Forest Radio catalogs and manuals (1914-1920), including the De Forest Radio Receiving Apparatus Catalog “D” (1920) and the Deforest Wireless Telegraphy brochure (circa 1904).

Listed below are only a few of the items in this collection that I’ve found interesting, with links to the PastPerfect Online records and images. There are many, many more!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Captain Briggs

On guard at the Pasetta House in History Park
While closing the Pasetta House, my coworker looked at a small wooden statue and commented, “Goodnight Captain.” At the time, I did not think anything remarkable about the small-gnome like figure. This week, I discovered a folder entitled “Cap’t Briggs” with various notes about the statue from its previous owner, Leonard McKay. A transcription of a radio interview by Leonard in September 1995 best tells the story:

One of the most interesting characters to adorn the streets of San Jose was Captain Briggs who led three lives, first appearing on the street as ‘The Jolly Tar,’ a three foot tall British Seaman. Today, he would be known as a Cigar Store Indian, but while he adorned the front of many cigar stores, he certainly wasn't an Indian. Unique and rotund, he was carved out of redwood and first appeared in front of the Pioneer Cigar Store in 1872. Cigars were big business at the time and at the turn of the century, fourteen cigar manufacturers were listed in Santa Clara County and tobacco was grown in the south valley Gilroy area.

Dick Meade, new owner of Captain Briggs, and Julius Krieg,
a former city councilman, who helped carve the status with his
father in 1872 (Mercury Herald, 24 August 1936)
His name was changed to Captain Briggs when Charley Williams, publisher of the San Jose News, decided to have some fun, and announced in the paper that “the eminent merchant shipper and prominent in New York Financial Circles is paying San Jose a visit, and is interested in purchasing some good prune property.” The local real estate brokers lined up to greet Briggs and were surprised and chagrined to find him a wooden sculpture. Later issues of the News quoted him as an authority on sports and many other fields.

He was moved from one cigar store to another and in 1936 he was finally retired when purchased by Dick Meade. He completely disappeared and it has been rumored that he is now in an East Coast Museum.

He was recently re-carved by Cliff Short. The original Briggs greeted Rutherford B. Hayes and General Sherman when they spoke in this city, he saw the first automobile arrive, the erection and fall of the famed Electric Tower, the first paving of downtown streets, and Victory Parades of the Spanish American War and World War 1.

We wonder what our revived Captain Briggs will see?

After the September 1995 radio interview, the re-carved Captain stood guard outside Leonard McKay’s store at 250 West St. John Street. Today the good Captain watches over the Leonard and David McKay Gallery in the Pasetta House at History Park.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arrival of Wells Fargo Stagecoach to History Park

With the sound of hooves reverberating off the store fronts and a cloud of dust rising from the street, a cry of “The stage is here! The stage is here!” could be heard from the onlookers as the daily stagecoach arrived into town.

A Wells Fargo stagecoach did arrive today into History Park; unfortunately not in the melodramatic fashion described above.

On temporary loan from the Children’s Discovery Museum, the stagecoach was unloaded from a flat bed truck and placed inside the trolley barn. Over the next couple of months, CDM needs exhibit space and needed to temporarily store their Wells Fargo Stagecoach offsite. After inspections by both CDM and Wells Fargo, arrangements were made to relocate the object to History Park.

In 1857, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company was awarded a U.S. Mail contract between St. Louis and San Francisco, by way of San Jose. Though 600 miles longer than a more northern path, this route was selected because it was snow free for most of the year. Due to owed debts, the company became part of Well Fargo in 1860. By 1870, overland stage coach operations lost their importance with the opening of the transcontinental railroad.

During its summer stay, the stagecoach will be on display in the trolley barn. On selected event days such as Gold Rush Adventure day, July 15, the coach will be rolled outside.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Asian American Heritage Month at History Park

San José, CA – May 16, 2012 

May is Asian American Heritage Month and History San José will host a spectrum of activities at History Park on Sunday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

1:30 PM – Lotus Preschoolers, from San Jose’s Japan Town, will perform Japanese singing

2 PM – San Jose Taiko’s youth program, the Junior Taiko Performing Ensemble 

Stanford Archaeology Center students will assist visitors by conducting a mock excavation, screening, artifact identification and artifact reconstruction. This family educational program will allow individuals to collect stickers for each activity to place in Archaeology Passports and become ‘certified’ as a Junior Archaeologist. 

The trolley will be available, as well as handcar rides. 

The book Chinatown, San Jose, USA by Connie Young Yu, is available in the Museum Gift Shop. 

Other activities will include visits to the Print Shop. 

Making fish kites will help celebrate Japanese Children’s Day. 

There also will be Samarai hat-making, Vietnamese lanterns, Chinese drums and more. 

The Ng Shing Gung of the Chinese Heritage Cultural Project (CHCP), located inside History Park, will be open.

For more information call 408.918.1047 or visit

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Miss Mexico, Gabriela Palacio, Visits Silicon Valley to Engage in Humanitarian Projects

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – April 26, 2012 – Gabriela Palacio, Executive Director of Nuestra Belleza Aguascalientes and Miss Mexico 2010 for the Miss World and Miss International Beauty Pageants, will visit the San Francisco Bay Area from May 2-5, 2012.

In close cooperation with the Consulate General of Mexico in San Jose, Miss Gabriela Palacio will visit Stanford University, the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, and the History San José Collection Center to engage in different humanitarian projects.

During her visit to the History San José Collection Center, Alida Bray, President & CEO, will showcase the Pueblo Papers, more than 6,000 original manuscripts dating from 1781-1850 and will convey to the general public, along with Miss Mexico, the ongoing efforts to decipher such documents, which are milestones to the history of Silicon Valley.

Inspired by the movie “A Better Life,” featuring Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir, Miss Palacio will visit the Day Worker Center of Mountain View. In an effort to raise awareness about the challenges and difficult conditions for Mexicans abroad and the historical significance of Mexican identity and ancestry, Miss Palacio, the Consulate of Mexico in San Jose, and the Day Worker Center of Mountain View have the honor to invite all members of the press to the following events:

Events (Exclusively for members of the press)

May 4, 2012 | 11am-1pm

Engaging the Mexican and Hispanic community at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View Executive Director Maria Marroquin, Miss Mexico Gabriela Palacio, and Mexican Consul for Political Affairs Jorge Agraz.

May 4, 2012 | 2pm-3pm

Presenting the Pueblo Papers at the History San José Collection Center by President & CEO Alida Bray, Miss Mexico Gabriela Palacio, and Mexican Consul for Political Affairs Jorge Agraz.


The Collection Center of History San José is located at 1621 Senter Road, at Phelan Avenue, just across the street from History Park in Kelley Park in San Jose.

Background information

About History San José:

History San José is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the continuing history of the Santa Clara Valley. HSJ manages one of the largest and most comprehensive regional history collections in the State of California, from 1784 Spanish governmental records to twenty-first century Silicon Valley technology. History San José aspires to provide innovative national leadership in preserving and sharing regional history by engaging diverse audiences in exploring the varieties of human experience that contributes to the continuing history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley.

History San José 1650 Senter Road San José, CA 95112 408.287.2290

About the Consulate of Mexico:

The Consulate General of Mexico in San Jose is a diplomatic mission representing the Government of Mexico in the Santa Clara County, the Salinas Valley, the Monterey County and the adjacent counties of San Benito and Santa Cruz. It is one of ten diplomatic missions in the State of California which provide consular services to Mexican citizens and visa services to foreign nationals. Its mission is to carry out Mexico’s foreign policy, handling Mexico’s bilateral relationship with the Silicon Valley especially in the political, economic, and cultural fields. The Consulate also works to strengthen the expression of Mexico’s cultural identity, safeguard and guarantee its national interests and security based on the Constitutional principles of foreign policy.

Consulate General of Mexico, 2125 Zanker Road, San José, CA 95131 408.482.4154

Media Contacts:

Jorge A. Agraz
Consul for Political and Economic Affairs
Consulate General of Mexico in San José
2125 Zanker Road, San José CA 95131
Tel (408) 294 3414 Ext. 125
Cel. (408) 482 4154
Fax (408) 855 6787

Jill Arnone
The Arnone Group
408 315 5121
Office of Political Affairs, Consulate General of Mexico
2125 Zanker Road, San Jose, CA 95131
Tel. 408.294.3414 ext. 125

Monday, April 9, 2012

Almaden Air Force Station: A Serendipitous End to a Five-Year Journey

Aerial of Almaden AFS
After a short lifespan of 23 years, changes in the political and technological landscapes led to the station’s closure on March 29, 1980. Within a few years, the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District acquired the property with plans of restoring the site to its natural habitat and allowing public access to the breathtaking vistas from the 3,486 foot peak. Funding delays have slowed that process. Atop Mount Umunhum, southwest of San Jose, resides a concrete box — the most recognizable remnant of the historic Almaden Air Force Station — the five-story base for the station’s large radar antenna.

Headquarters of the 682nd Aircraft Control and Warning squadron during the Cold War, the station was tasked 24 hours a day with protecting Central California from a Soviet threat that never arrived. Due to its relative remoteness, the facility served as a small community, encompassing 86 structures and nearly all activities, such as homes, stores and a bowling alley.

Squadron patch
One of these community presentations has been scheduled for June 3rd at History San Jose. Barbara Johnston, HSJ’s education director, requested that we search our collection for Almaden Air Force Station artifacts to accompany the presentation. What turned up in the search was a radar-shaped front entrance sign to the base, a photo of which I forwarded to Barbara and Basim. Over the past several years, San Jose resident Basim Jaber has taken an interest in preserving the history of the station, creating a website for former 682nd Radar Squadron members and families to share their stories. Over the course of these correspondences, Basim has acquired images and small artifacts of the station. Now acting as the squadron’s historian, he has made over a dozen community presentations about the station and also facilitated a reunion for the group.

On Wednesday April 4, Basim arrived at the HSJ Collections Center eager to see the sign. While walking him through our storage area, I shared some of the highlights of our collections, including the Perham Collection of Early Electronics. Basim remarked that certain station artifacts had been given to a Constance Perham for display at the New Almaden Museum, the initial display location of the Perham Collection. Realizing that HSJ might have more Almaden base artifacts in its collections, Basim immediately produced a typed manifest of donated items, including the sign.
Basim Jaber with welcome sign 

“Wow. And Wow,” was Basim’s initial response, followed immediately with a request to see the sign, a popular photo location for servicemen and station residents. Apparently, Basim had spent the last five years searching for particular objects, including the sign, given away after the station’s closing ceremonies.

As our walk continued, we inspected miscellaneous Perham Collection items. Sitting on the shelf were the exact items Basim had been seeking, including the last flag flown over the station, banners, and four brass memorial markers. Although he kept his emotions intact, Basim was obviously moved by this sudden closure to his multi-year quest.

Major Robert L. Robinson, Jr.
With the future demolition of the remaining station structures, History San Jose retains the largest collection of identifiable objects from this Cold War relic. Re-located several times before finding a permanent home at our Collections Center, these items await an opportunity for their stories to be re-told. Basim shared these objects’ stories as we positioned them for photography. For each of the four markers, he talked about the individual men who had lost their lives during their active service at the base. One in particular, Station Commander Major Robert L. Robinson, Jr., perished during a transport trip out of Hamilton Air Force Base and was the subject of a recent Scott Herhold Mercury News column.

We look forward to working with Basim to display these items at his History Park presentation on Sunday, June 3.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dig into San José’s Past – Archaeology Days at History Park

San José, CA – April 4, 2012 – Dig Into San José’s Past with Stanford Archaeology Center students at History Park. The students will assist visitors by conducting a mock excavation, screening, artifact identification and artifact reconstruction on Sunday, April 29 and Sunday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Sunday, April 29 at History Park, this family educational program will allow individuals to collect stickers for each activity to place in Archaeology Passports and become ‘certified’ as a Junior Archaeologist. The trolley will be available for a ride around the park, as well as handcar rides. Other activities will include visits to the Print Shop and live music by Fiddle Road throughout the afternoon.

Making fish kites will help celebrate Japanese Children’s Day, and Chinese dragon hats will coincide with the reading of Chinese folk tales, such as Tales of a Chinese Grandmother.

Rae Chang and Adam Tow will be available to present their movie documentary on China’s first feminist, Autumn Gem, which will screened at 2 PM in the first floor conference room inside the Pacific Hotel. Autumn Gem is a film about Qui Jim (1875-1907), a radical women’s rights activist who defied tradition to become the leader of a revolutionary army. She attempted an armed uprising against the Quing Dynasty and became the first female martyr for China’s 1911 Revolution.

Then on Sunday, May 4, History San Jose and Happy Hollow Park and Zoo will celebrate with Kelley Park neighbor, the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Coincidentally, this year on May 4th marks the 125th anniversary of the fire that destroyed downtown San José’s Chinatown, where today’s Fairmont Hotel stands on Market Street. John Heinlen, a local businessman, braved death threats to lease property to the displaced Chinese people at Taylor and Sixth Streets. It then became known as Heinlenville, in what is today’s Japantown in San Jose.

Besides ‘Digging Up San José’s Past’ at the Sunday, May 20th Archaeology Day, History San José will recognize the month of May as Asian American Heritage Month.

To celebrate Asian American Heritage, there also will be Samarai hat-making, Vietnamese lanterns, Chinese drums and more.

As affiliates of History San José, the Ng Ching Gung of the Chinese Heritage Cultural Project (CHCP) and the Immigrant Resettlement & Cultural Center (IRCC), the Museum of the Boat People & Republic of Vietnam, located inside History Park, will be open.

For more information call 408 918-1047 or visit

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eighth Annual ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’ by History San José Honors Pioneer Agricultural Families

San José, California – March 19, 2012 — History San José’s (HSJ) eighth annual ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’ event will honor pioneer families who truly contributed to the thriving agricultural roots of the Santa Clara Valley. Long-time community leaders, the Lester families and the Cilker families, will be honored on Saturday, June 30, at an evening event at History Park from 5 to 9 PM.

The families of Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester will receive recognition on behalf of the generations of their families who have been, and continue to be, dedicated to the well-being and vitality of the Valley.

“The dinner under the light tower fundraising event has become a History San José signature event,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO, HSJ. “The Cilker and Lester families forged the path of pioneer families who founded this valley on hard work and innovation, and are inspirational and encourage our community to thrive.”

In keeping with the Valley of Hearts Delight theme of abundant harvests, guests will enjoy a move-able feast, visiting food stations filled with sweet and savory creations expertly prepared by Parsley, Sage Rosemary & Thyme. Guests will also enjoy special tastings and demonstrations of locally-produced wine, beer and food products.

Live musical performances, including Fiddle Road and the Dewayne Oakley Blues Ensemble, will entertain the party throughout the night with music under the stars.

History Park will be bustling with activity during the event—attendees may hop on a wagon drawn by Clydesdales, or choose to ride on a historic trolley; design a fruit crate label and visit the fruit barn. Auction items will be offered exclusively in a silent format at a special “Farmers Market” with gift packages for all tastes.

This “open-one-night-only” event has become a tradition. Previous dinners have been held at the now-closed Manny’s Cellar, and the former Mirassou Winery. Previous honorees of the Valley of Heart’s Delight are Pat Loomis, former Mercury News writer, historian Jack Douglas and pioneer Jerry Rosenthal, Helen and Bill DelBiaggio, Jim Salata, Susan and Phil Hammer, and last year Sharron and Carl Cookson.

Tickets to Valley of Heart’s Delight event are $125 each, or blocks of ten at $1,250.

For more information about History San José’s Valley of Heart’s Delight event, call the event line at 408-918-1046 or visit

For information on sponsorship, please contact Linda Spencer at 408-521-5019 or

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

History Park is Composting

History Park's new composting bin
Composting: the natural process in which organic materials are broken down into a rich, fertile soil known as compost

Vermicomposting: the process of composting food scraps and garden waste with Red Worms

Why did Kelly choose composting and History San Jose? In her own words: Kelly Rafey, senior at Notre Dame High School, has completed her Senior Service Learning Project with History San Jose as her community partner. Her mission was to promote sustainability and spread awareness of the benefits of composting. The result? A new composting initiative at History Park and some fat, healthy worms ready for your food scraps. The new vermicomposting bin is located next to Umbarger House with instructions on what can and cannot be composted.

“Roughly one quarter of the waste dumped in American landfills is compostable food waste. If those food scraps were composted, then not only would these landfills be dramatically reduced in size and environmental repercussions, but it would enhance our progress towards sustainability. As the location of eight different field trips and as many as 72 elementary school students a day, San Jose History Park is perfectly suited to its new composting program.”

Kelly constructed the wooden composting bin that is now located in front of the Umbarger House at History Park. The worms have been growing and multiplying in this bin since early November of 2011, and last month the compost bin was opened to the public, available for anyone to dispose of food scraps (fruits and vegetables) or carbon waste (paper and garden scraps).

Everyone is welcome to participate in this project of sustainability, which will over time grow to decompose more food scraps and produce more compost for the gardens of History Park. This project is a first step in reducing the amount of waste thrown away at History Park, and will hopefully only become more and more sustainable in the months and years to come.

For more information about Kelly Rafey’s composting project, as well as information on composting itself, see

Be sure to take advantage of Kelly’s hard work and dedication by composting and reducing waste at History Park.

2012 Honorees Luncheon

Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester
Submitted by Linda Spencer

Following annual tradition, History San José kicked off the celebration of the upcoming Valley of Heart’s Delight event at a lunch gathering of past honorees to meet this year’s honorees.

Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester were introduced as the 2012 Valley of Heart’s Delight honorees, representing their families’ historic agricultural roots (no pun intended, really!) in the Valley.

Past year’s honorees Sharron and Carl Cookson, Bill Del Biaggio, Jerry Rosenthal joined Linda Lester, HSJ Board Chair Tom Scott, President Alida Bray and other HSJ staff for lunch catered by Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Past honorees unable to attend include Jim Salata, Susan and Phil Hammer, and Jack Douglas as well as Helen Del Biaggio.

PSRT will cater the eighth annual event on June 30 at History Park, featuring food stations, along with wine, beer, tastings, demonstrations and activities around the plaza.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Welcome Key to San Jose

Submitted by Ken Middlebrook, Collections Manager at History San Jose

Key to San Jose presentation, 1943 (History San Jose)
As curator of History San José’s exhibit at Diridon Station, The Way to San Jose: Rotary Celebrates 100 Years of Transportation, I was challenged with how to present the breadth of material in the available space. We decided to have each individual display case cover a single theme such as water or air transport, trolleys, and land. Subsequently, a large image was selected for each case that would draw attention from passersby.

For the railroad case, I selected an image entitled “Key to San Jose Presentation,” taken at the Southern Pacific Railroad depot. This was a Chamber of Commerce ritual for recognizing newcomers or visiting dignitaries. On August 22, 1943, the Chamber welcomed employees and family members of an established New York firm that was opening their first West Coast manufacturing facility. Due to wartime labor shortages and wage competition from local agri-businesses, it was beneficial for the firm to transfer employees from across the country to start their punched card facility at 16th and St. John Streets. The firm was IBM.

It is doubtful that the pictured individuals could foresee the changes that would occur over next three decades after the war: local companies would expand exponentially; the population would double over each decade; and the bountiful farmland would give way to housing and new industrial parks, In this short time span, the Valley of the Heart’s Delight would be transformed into Silicon Valley.

As Collections Manager, I often peek into containers, much like a child during the holiday season expecting a new treasure. While walking through one of our warehouses this week, I opened a drawer to unexpectedly find…the ceremonial key pictured in the 1943 photo. Before being retired in 1967, the key was likely used in additional ceremonies. Some doubtlessly involved corporations such as IBM that were attracted by the economic benefits offered in San Jose.

At first glance, the key is simply paint on plywood; however just as with other items in our collection, it represents a story waiting to be retold.

History San Jose Collection

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dress Forms on Display at SFO

Quarter size dress forms, ca. 1955, History San Jose

These quarter-size dress forms were used by San Jose State students in the Home Economics Department, and are part of a new exhibit just opened at San Francisco International Airport, “Threading the Needle: Sewing in the Machine Age.” Donated with a collection of textile and fashion samples, these were originally part of the Estate of Barbara Gae Christensen Coffee, a professor at San Jose State University.

As the SFO’s exhibit display tells it, “Domestic science or domestic arts, later referred to as home economics, has its roots in eighteenth-century needlework and sewing classes. When families could afford it, they sent their daughters to young ladies’ academies, where needlework was an important part of the curriculum in the United States. Domestic science or arts courses were first introduced in public schools around the country in the 1880s and 1890s. Specialized schools in sewing were also established at this time. By the late 1930s, nearly 90 percent of schools in cities and towns with substantial populations offered home economics programs in schools at the junior high and high school levels. Teachers of home economics traditionally made home sewing a critical part of the curriculum, emphasizing self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. Junior high students typically became familiar with the sewing machine and simple hand stitching and mending, while more advanced garment construction was taught at the high school and college levels. Quarter-size dress forms allowed students to create miniature versions of their designs, before crafting the full-size versions.”

The Home Economics Department at SJSU has a long history, beginning with Maude Murchie in 1911 and a course on Dietetics. Helen Mignon was named Department Chair in 1925, and her collection of San Jose State College Homemaking Department programs and teaching materials (1917-1935) were donated to History San Jose in 1979. Home Economics is now the Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging Department at SJSU, but the San Jose State Textile Program was once under the Home Economics umbrella, instructing students in clothing and fabric design. This department dissolved in 1987, but instruction in weaving and textile arts can still be found on campus through the School of Art & Design.

The dress forms above were previously displayed at History San Jose in 2008, part of the “She Made It” exhibition of over 35 handmade items, some from SJSU, that explored the transition of women’s craft making from that of utilitarian production or social development tool to a form of art and individual expression.

A Guide to the Helen Mignon Collection is available at the Online Archive of California.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's March 14, pi day...what's the story behind this "pie?"

Imitation cherry pie used in the
"Speed City" exhibit (History San Jose)
In late 2006, History San Jose organized the exhibit "Speed City : From Civil Rights to Black Power," an in-depth examination of American sport in an era that spanned the aftermath of World War II through America’s tumultuous involvement in Vietnam. The exhibition focused on San Jose State College’s athletic program, from which many coaches and student athletes became globally recognized figures as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements reshaped American society. San Jose State College – now known as San Jose State University – was selected as the focus of the exhibit as several Spartans became principal figures during this period of dramatic social transformation. This imitation cherry pie, part of the exhibit, represented the pies baked by the wives of Coach Bud Winter and his assistant Bert Bonanno.

Lloyd "Bud" Winter arrived in San Jose to coach track and field in 1940, but left to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon his return after the war, he resumed his coaching position with assistant Bert Bonanno. Though Winter had coached some fairly successful teams through the 1940s and early 1950s, it was not until the mid ’50s that a young Black sprinter would bring Winter’s genius to the forefront.

Ray Norton, then a high school senior, tells the story of Winter watching him run on the track along with a couple of friends days before the national outdoor track and field championships at the University of California. Winter questioned the young sprinter, and told him that if he were to come to San Jose State, he would make him "the World’s Fastest Human."

Within two years of his arrival in San Jose, Norton, who competed in the 1956 Olympic trials as an Oakland City College freshman, literally became the World’s No. 1-ranked sprinter. Teaching the same relaxation methods he had taught fighter pilots during the Second World War, Winter trained Norton to relax while sprinting. Norton later would set or break world records in the 100 and 200 meters, and the 100 and 220 yards six times during the 1958, '59 and '60 outdoor seasons.

With the coming of Norton and California State Junior College champion sprinter Robert Poynter in 1956 and '58, respectively, San Jose would become somewhat of a magnet for athletes from as far afield as Brazil (Jose Azevado), Jamaica (Dennis Johnson), Nigeria (Jimmy Ogmabemi), and Venezuela (Lloyd Murad), earning the nickname "Speed City."

But not all was as glorious in San Jose as songstress Dionne Warwick sang in her hit "Do you know the way to San Jose? ("There'll be a place where I can stay . . .")

Although these world-class athletes were "on scholarship," they sometimes went hungry. "On weekends when we didn’t have anything to eat, we would just stay in the house," said Poynter, who notes how Coach Winter would divide six scholarships amongst forty athletes. "Sometimes we would eat walnuts off the tree in the backyard and drink sugar water, or if Chuck Alexander would hash (wait tables) at a fraternity or sorority house, he would bring home chicken for us."

At one point, Norton, whom other athletes teased about being "Bud’s favorite," approached Winter to discuss his famished teammates. Soon, Winter had set up a "reward system" in which everyone, from Norton, the World’s Fastest Human, to the slowest person on the team would be fed. "It was interesting because he knew the athletes who were hungry," Norton said. "But Bud would do it so that he wouldn't embarrass anyone."

Winter's wife, Helen Winter, and his assistant's wife, Betty Bonanno, began to bake cakes and pies for the athletes. Winter also was able to get restaurants including Original Joe's – still located at 301 South First Street in downtown San Jose – to feed the athletes in the afternoon or in the evening. "If you did well in practice and Bud liked it," Norton said, "Bud would give you a little chip and you could go over there and get a milkshake and a hamburger."

Despite the fact that Norton and Poynter, amongst others, brought worldwide recognition to the City of San Jose, they still were forced to live in segregated housing along with a dozen or so other Black males who attended SJSC, and called themselves the Good Brothers. "We had to help each other in order to survive, so that's what we did,' Poynter said. "All of us were determined to succeed because we knew we couldn't just go back home."

(Excerpted from "Speed City: From Civil Rights to Black Power" by Urla Hill, 2005)

Monday, March 12, 2012

History San José Announces New Board Member and Chairperson

March 12, 2012 – San José, CA

The Board of Directors of History San José (HSJ) appointed one new board member and voted on its new executive committee at its recent board meeting.

Outgoing Chairperson David Satterfield handed the gavel to incoming Chair Tom Scott, and new boardmember Corky Silva was appointed to the Board of Directors.

Corky Silva is a Project Manager with Barry Swenson Builder and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from San José State University. Recently he has completed the renovation of the Peralta Adobe Site, the construction of the San Pedro Square Market, and is involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers, the SJSU Civil Engineering Department Student Chapter, SJSU Civil and Environmental Department Advisory Council, and History San José. Silva lives with his wife and three children in the Hyde Park Neighborhood of San José.

“Corky has a passion for history that was apparent when we collaborated on the Peralta Adobe/San Pedro Square Market project,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO of HSJ. “His expertise will be an excellent asset to the Board.”

Tom Scott, also a graduate from San José State University with a B.S. in Business Administration, is the incoming Chair of the Board. Scott is president of Cambridge Management Company, a company he co-founded in 1985. Scott earned a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) in recognition of his expertise in property management. Tom was the 1989 President of the Local Chapter of IREM, is a past president of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce, and is also a board member and past president of the Tri-County Apartment Association. He is past president and current board member of the California Apartment Association.

David Satterfield, former Managing Editor of the San Jose Mercury News, is a founding principal of GFBunting, a strategic communications firm.

“David Satterfield’s leadership has been significant to the success and growth of History San José and his contribution has been invaluable,” said Bray. “We will appreciate his continued support and counsel.”

3D scanning begins at History Park

Ken Hanna and Brian Miller from NVentum
HSJ has developed a collaborative partnership with NVentum LLC to scan objects within our collection. NVentum is using state-of-the-art scanning equipment to create 3D computer imaging. With an overlay of standard images, the end product will enable users to go on a virtual tour, providing both zooming in/out and rotational capability.

This morning, Ken Hanna and Brian Miller of NVentum arrived at History Park to begin the process within the Pasetta House. Using a tripod, the scanning equipment rotated 360 degrees to capture the entire area. Surveyor targets are used to assist in collating different set-up locations. After the high resolution scanning is completed, the digital camera repeats the 360 degree capturing. A similar process was done two weeks ago in the Collection Center, where NVentum spent several hours working with our 1842 bicycle and selected items from The Perham Collection.

Both NVentum and HSJ are excited about the resulting possibilities and look forward to sharing this new technology when it's available. For more information, please visit NVentum’s blog about this collaborative project.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why do collections need a manager?

Submitted by Ken Middlebrook, Collections Manager at History San Jose

Although I have been part of the HSJ staff for only a few months, I have been part of the HSJ family for nearly two decades. I often receive puzzled looks when I mention my new position as HSJ’s Collections Manager. The initial responses are "How can one be a manager with no direct reports?" or "Do you repossess cars?" or perhaps, “Do you call people at dinner time about overdue debts?"  Although at one time I was a bar bouncer and played the tough guy role, a museum collections manager is entirely different.

Then, what is a museum collections manager?

As a visitor to our website, you may already know, or not, that the HSJ collection comprises over 500,000 items spread between paper items to entire historic structures. Jim Reed, our Curator of Library and Archives, is responsible for our research library and archival materials, including our extensive collection of photographs; whereas my responsibility covers museum objects: the pet rock: the 1842 bicycle; the Andrew Hill paintings; the buildings, the vehicles; the branding irons, the canning equipment, the salt and pepper shakers, the clothing, etc etc. What is on public view within both the history park and Peralta/Fallon sites is but a fraction of our overall collections portfolio.

HSJ is a custodian acting in the public trust; as a result, my primary task as collections manager is to provide oversight over our 3D items ensuring that they will be available for future generations. While it would be simple to just close the closet door to meet this primary objective, there also has to be a balance toward sharing the collection with our current generation.

Several weeks ago, I was alone working in one of our historic homes in the park. A group of visitors came and asked about the structure. I retold the history of the building and explained the work I was undertaking toward preparation of a new display. As the group left, one woman remarked, "Thank you for preserving OUR history."

While my role as collections manager at a museum may seem initially overwhelming, it is tremendously rewarding. These experiences will be shared in future entries.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

California Art Education Association Offers Bay Area Youth Art Month Exhibition Hosted by History San José

San José, California – February 15, 2012

History San José will host a Bay Area Youth Art Month Exhibition in conjunction with the California Art Education Association, opening in the Gallery at the Pacific Hotel at History Park in March and running through mid-May.

"This valuable collection of art by the best of Bay Area Youth artists fulfills the mission of History San José's education programming," said Alida Bray, President and CEO of History San José (HSJ), "and encourages creativity by the artists of tomorrow."

Youth Art Month is a nationally recognized observance each March to emphasize the value of art education for all children, and to encourage support for quality school art programs. Supported by the National Art Education Association and in California by the California Art Education Association, the Northern Area chapter will host the exhibition featuring some of the best art by Bay Area students, Kindergarten through Grade 12.

"The Northern Area of California Art Education Association is pleased to bring to the South Bay some fabulous two-dimensional and three-dimensional art for exhibition," said Barbara Purdy, Art Department Head at Presentation High School, and chapter event organizer.

The curated youth art show will include awards for art in four grade-level categories: Kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grades, sixth through eighth grades and and high school grades nine through twelve. Awards will be given in each category at a Sunday, March 18 afternoon reception from 1 PM to 3 PM at the Gallery at the Pacific Hotel in History Park.

Sargent Art will award prizes to teachers of the first place winners in each category. The student winner from each Area exhibition advances to the state level and one of these students, along with a parent and their teacher, will be awarded a trip to New York through the support of Sargent Art.

The exhibition will open at the Gallery at the Pacific Hotel in History Park in Kelley Park, located at 1620 Senter Road, between Phelan and Keyes Avenues. The Galleries at History Park are open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 AM to 5 PM, and the Museum Shop and O'Brien's Ice Cream Parlor are open 11 AM to 4 PM.