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.