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Trial: Presidential Recordings Digital Edition

Until March 31, 2018, the Library has trial access to Presidential Recordings Digital Edition, an online portal for annotated transcripts of telephone conversations of Presidents Johnson, Kennedy, and Nixon. Recordings and transcripts are presented together. The transcripts are searchable and browseable by administration, series, speaker, date, place, and duration.

Please contact me with your feedback on the value of this resource to researchers at UC Berkeley.

Trial: North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories

Until 2/15/2018 the Library has a trial set up for North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories

This text-based collection includes over 100,000 pages of material, including Ellis Island oral histories, scrapbooks, pamphlets, previously unpublished diaries, and more, related to the immigrant experience in America.

In Memory of Ruth Bancroft 9/2/1908 – 11/26/2017

Photo of Ruth Bancroft in The Ruth Bancroft Garden
Ruth Bancroft, photo courtesy of The Ruth Bancroft Garden, photographer unknown

UC Berkeley alumna Ruth Petersson Bancroft, founder of The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and well-known expert in dry gardening, passed away at the age of 109 on Nov. 26. Her oral history, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California: Creation in 1971 and Conservation, conducted in 1991 and 1992, is described by interviewer Suzanne B. Riess as “…the amazing chronicle of the growth of a passionate gardener, from her childhood recollections of spring wildflowers on the hills of an earlier, bucolic Berkeley, to her current triumphs, and the tribulations of stewardship of a garden more or less in the public trust.”

The daughter of first-generation Swedish immigrants, Ruth Petersson was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Berkeley, California when her father landed a professorship at UC Berkeley. Of her childhood, she said, “I spent a lot of time wandering around and also over into Wildcat Canyon, just looking at the wildflowers and I think that’s what started me in the interest of wildflowers…” Although Ruth originally studied architecture as one of the only women in the program at UC Berkeley, the Great Depression hit and so for the sake of job security, she switched her career to education. It was during her time as a teacher of home economics in Merced that she met Philip Bancroft, Jr., the grandson of Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose 60,000-volume book collection began the Bancroft Library. After they married, the couple moved onto the Bancroft Farm in the East Bay. The Bancroft family sold much of their land to the city of Walnut Creek as it expanded over the years. Later, in 1971, Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave the last 3-acre plot of walnut orchards to his wife in order to house her extensive collection of succulents.

Though The Ruth Bancroft Garden now boasts a beautiful display of water-conserving plants, the garden was not without its hardships at the beginning. Just a few months after Bancroft began her garden, a severe freeze in December killed nearly all that she had planted. Still, she persevered. “Well, I started again the next year… I figured it doesn’t happen that often, and you can’t just not replant those same things, because they might have another twenty years before they’d be killed again. So I’m just replanting. Have to start over again.” To this, Riess queried, “You didn’t think in some way you had been given a message?” Bancroft laughed and replied, “No.”

A long-time friend of Bancroft and former manager at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Wayne Roderick said, “I would classify Ruth as a genuine dirt gardener. She’s out there doing things with her bare hands. She would be out in the garden by seven at the latest, and for the first hour she was weeding the path of the little spotted spurge, hand-weeding those paths until her knees would get so sore from the rocks, the gravel. That’s what I mean by a genuine dirt gardener.” In addition to Bancroft’s hands-on style of working, she also kept meticulous records as she created her garden. An invaluable addition to her oral history is the transcription of the entirety of her handwritten notes on the garden’s first year, cataloguing every trial and triumph. Riess urges in her introduction to the oral history, “Any gardener will do well to read that year of Ruth’s journal, to see the value of a journal, as well as the work involved in realizing a dream, and the necessity of being willing to weed!”

Over the years, Bancroft also had many helpers that contributed to the development of her impressive creation, such as Lester Hawkins, who created the original design of the garden, and her husband Philip. Roderick recalls, “Phil Bancroft just adored Ruth, and he wanted her to have anything she wanted. He did everything he could to help her. I don’t think Phil thought about the garden continuing, but he certainly was there to make sure she got what she wanted for the place. He was a farmer-type, but he enjoyed seeing the garden, and he was willing to get in and help.” Later, her garden would inspire fellow gardener Francis Cabot to create the Garden Conservancy, of which the Ruth Bancroft Garden became the first of many private gardens to be preserved for the public.

Still, through all of the international recognition and acclaim she received, Bancroft maintained a simple and genuine love for gardening: “You never know just what’s going to bloom when, during the summer. And a lot of the bloom just lasts a day, or possibly two days. It’s interesting to see what there is, and catch it before it’s gone.” When asked whether she had had a mission for the garden, she replied, “I just started it for the fun of it, and the enjoyment of it. I had no idea that people would be looking at it, no idea at all.“

The Ruth Bancroft Garden will hold a public, all-day celebration of Bancroft’s life on February 17th, 2018.

Maggie Deng
Oral History Center Student Assistant

Announcing the Release of the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project

The world of firefighting is much more than masked people in uniforms running into burning buildings and rescuing scared cats from trees. While the bravery of firefighters can’t be overestimated, they also work in a complex system that requires constant training and education, a cohesive partnership with local government, extensive procedures and protocols, managerial oversight, effective communication within departments and to the public, acute familiarity with the local and regional environment, and a whole lot of administrative work. The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) is a shining example of how people make a civil service operation run and keep people safe. All of these elements, as well as the historic and cultural aspects of the department, are why we chose it as our focus for our California Fire Departments Oral History Project.

The project was originally conceived by Sarah Wheelock, an independent researcher. She wanted to explore several major thematic areas of firefighting in California and she worked with the Oral History Center to do just that. With great sadness we learned that Sarah passed away in 2014 and thus she was unable to see the project through to completion. Taking over the project in 2016, I wanted to honor her original plan and cover the themes that she had outlined. So, I decided to embark on interviews within one department – the SFFD – to document the ways in which they have handled urban fire, climate change, diversity, technological change, and changing demographics.

The SFFD was founded in 1849 and was run by volunteers. It became a paid department, officially integrated into city government, in 1866. The 150th anniversary of the paid department was in 2016, when I was conducting interviews. Given my budget for the project, I was able to interview six people who worked with the SFFD in different capacities. I wanted to include multiple perspectives to understand the organizational, cultural, geographic, economic, and political systems of one of the oldest departments in the country.

The individuals who I interviewed were able to illustrate many of the themes that I wanted to document, and much more. Among the six people I interviewed were Chief Robert Demmons (the first and only African American chief of the SFFD who instrumental in integrating more more women and people of color into the SFFD), Bill Koenig (longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Jim Lee (also a longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Steve Nakajo (member of the SFFD Fire Commission), Lt. Anne Young (one of the first females hired), and Jonathan Baxter (longtime paramedic and current Public Information Officer). 

These interviews work in concert to illustrate day-to-day operations in the stations, administrative duties, how the city of San Francisco and the department work together, the relationship between paramedics and the department, training, equipment, fire science school, the role of unions, the challenges and triumphs of integrating the departments, the public perception of the department, the role of innovation and changing technology, cultural changes in the department, challenges in fire safety particular to the geography of San Francisco, and the hopes for the future of the SFFD.

It is with great excitement that we present the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project. I want to give a special thanks to all of the narrators for sharing their stories with me and helping me to document one of the most historically significant fire departments in our country.

This project is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Wheelock. Her California Firefighter oral histories from the 2000s will be released in early 2018. 

Primary Sources: Life Magazine Archive

Sign reading "entering new deal speed limit 25 miles per hour" As described on its website, Life Magazine Archive “presents an extensive collection of the famed photojournalism magazine, spanning its very first issue in November, 1936 through December, 2000 in a comprehensive cover-to-cover format.

“Published by Time Inc., the magazine has featured story-telling through documentary photographs and informative captions.Each issue visually and powerfully depicted national and international events and topical stories, providing intimate views of real people and their real life situations.

“Articles and cover pages are fully indexed and advertisements are individually identified, ensuring researchers and readers can quickly and accurately locate the information they seek. Life Magazine Archive is valuable to researchers of 20th-Century current events, politics and culture, as well as those interested in the history of business, advertising, and popular culture.”

The covers, articles, and advertisements can all be searched. It is also possible to browse through an issue, once a page of the issue has been retrieved.

Trial: Newspapers and Associated Press collections

cover of magazine ap worldUntil October 20, 2017, the Library has trial access to the following resources:
Associated Press Collections including,
Associated Press: European Bureaus Collection
Associated Press: Middle Eastern Bureaus Collection
Associated Press: News Features & Internal Communications
Associated Press: US City Bureaus Collection
Associated Press: Washington Bureau II Collection
Associated Press: Washington/D.C. Bureau Collection

Daily Mail Historical Archive
International Herald Tribune
The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2000

Your feedback on the usefulness of these is greatly appreciated.

Primary Sources: KKK Newspapers

snippet of article "principles of the Klan are right"KKK Newspapers: Hate in America: The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s is a growing collection of digitized newspapers published by Ku Klux Klan organizations, publishers sympathetic to the KKK, and also some anti-Klan organizations. This resource was developed by Reveal Digital as part of their goal to “document a range of viewpoints that chronicle the historical record of 20th century America.”  Their first project, Independent Voices, provides access to alternative press newpapers, magazines, and journals from the latter half of the 20th century.

Access to the first 18 titles in the collection is available to funding libraries, including the UC Berkeley Library. When the project is complete, it will be available to everyone.

The KKK newspapers project was recently featured in Slate, in a feature titled “Guess Whether These Headlines Came from Breitbart or 1920s KKK Newspapers.”

Trial: Colonial America, with handwritten text recognition

Adam Matthew Digital (AMD) has completed three of five modules of Colonial America, an online resource that will include all 1,450 volumes of the CO 5 series from The National Archives, UK, covering the period 1606 to 1822. The Library currently has trial access to the three modules until October 16, 2017.

It is with the third module of Colonial America that AMD has implemented a technology that allows for full text searching of handwritten documents. The Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) application uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to determine possible combinations of characters in manuscripts.

The default search will search both metadata applied to documents and their text. When results are found in the text, they are displayed as snippets.

example of search results






Clicking on a hit will take you to the page where the word appears.

example of page









This search function is ground-breaking, but not 100% accurate. I’ve searched for words that exist in a document and have retrieved no results. I have also searched for words that were written sloppily or with a long s and have retrieved results.

I am interested in your feedback on both the value of the database and your successes (or failures) with full-text searches. Email me at dorner@berkeley.edu.

(Please note that PDF downloads are not available during the trial.)

COLLECTIONS as CONNECTORS Holdings from Off-Center

by Steven Black, Bancroft Acquisitions

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
–William Butler Yeats, from “The Second Coming”

As they do in a teeming metropolis, connections occur naturally among collections in libraries and other repositories. These linkages may involve ideas and people, whether by description (cataloging and metadata), archival arrangement, researcher access and review, or, in the case of a new exhibit at The Bancroft Library, by time-shifted serendipity.

“The Summer of Love, from the Collections of The Bancroft Library” fortuitously brings together two representative figures who, in 1967, circled each other warily, but never met.

Joan Didion
Joan Didion in Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle, near Oak and Ashbury, 1967, photographed by Ted Streshinsky, BANC PIC 2004.132–NEG, M674-2, frame 9A

Joan Didion’s reportage in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” is highlighted in a timely Bancroft exhibition along with images of the hippie scene in San Francisco taken by photographer Ted Streshinsky.

One thread running through her piece (in a reproduction of her typescript essay as submitted for later book publication) is a search for the Communication Company printer and publisher Chester Anderson.

Chester Anderson
Photo of Chester Anderson from the back cover of The Butterfly Kid. New York : Pyramid Books, 1967., p PS3551.N358 B8 1967

Funded by proceeds from his cult-hit novel The Butterfly Kid (1967), Anderson arrived in the Haight district of San Francisco just as the seeds for the coming “Summer of Love” were sown.  In January 1967 he purchased a state-of-the-art mimeograph machine from Gestetner “to provide quick & inexpensive printing service for the hip community.”

Among the works issued by this newest member of the Underground Press Syndicate were innumerable Diggers flyers and handbills, a chapbook by Richard Brautigan (All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace), revolutionary manifestos, notices for performances, the Invisible Circus, other happenings, and street level public service announcements.

Gentleness: a play in infinite acts ., 1967, The Communication Company, publisher Chester Anderson papers, BANC MSS 92/839 c, box 1, folder 3

In her quest, Didion describes meeting Com/Co’s co-founder, who (she writes) “says his name is Claude Hayward, but never mind that because I think of him just as The Connection.”

As she is on assignment for a mainstream publication, Didion is considered (in a Diggers phrase-du-jour) to be “a media poisoner.” The Connection urges her to dump the photographer she is with “and get out on the Street” leaving her cash (“You won’t need money”) behind.

Responding to her request to speak directly with Chester Anderson, The Connection says:  “If we decide to get in touch with you at all, we’ll get in touch with you real quick.” Although she crosses paths with The Connection again that spring in the Panhandle during an agitprop intervention by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, his passive refusal to hook her up rebuts his street-inflected nickname.

Joan Didion was unable to find the oracular man who could ostensibly help her understand “the scene,” or genius loci. Despite this missed connection with Chester Anderson, by detailing her forays into the Haight-Ashbury and other hippie enclaves around San Francisco, Didion captured in prose a time in violent flux. “Slouching” became the title essay of her celebrated first book of non-fiction, securing her reputation as a caustic and insightful social seismograph.

janis didion excerpt
Joan Didion papers, BANC MSS 81/140 c, carton 1

Today their works are co-located in Bancroft’s Summer of Love retrospective: two radically different writers can be seen in a long-delayed meeting that eluded them in real life.

*                          *                          *

Provenance notes:

Joan Didion (1934-) Joan Didion’s manuscript (BANC MSS 81/140 c carton 1) came to The Bancroft Library as a gift of the author.

Chester Valentine John Anderson (1932-1991) Chester Anderson’s papers (BANC MSS 92/839 c) came to The Bancroft Library via friend and fellow underground journalist Paul Williams.

Paul Williams (1948-2013) founded Crawdaddy, the first zine of rock and roll journalism (predating Rolling Stone), authored many works of hippie (Apple Bay: or, Life on the planet) and new age journalism (Das Energi), books on Bob Dylan and Philip K. Dick (whose literary executor he was, for close to 20 years). Through his imprint Entwhistle Books, he published two books by Chester Anderson:  Fox & hare : the story of a Friday night (f PS3551.N358 F6 1980 Bancroft) and Puppies (p PS3572.A395 P9 1979 Bancroft) under Anderson’s pseudonym John Valentine.

Ted Streshinsky (1923–2003) Ted Streshinsky’s photo archive (BANC PIC 2004.132) was a gift of his wife Shirley.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? The Value in Collecting Social Movement Ephemera

While surveying the Mark Evanoff papers recently during archival processing, it soon became clear that this collection includes a particularly rich array of social movement cultural ephemera about the regional and global environmental impact of the nuclear industry in CaliforniaSocial movement ephemera is produced in a variety of formats to engage, transform and promote direct action toward a dynamic social cause. The content provides a unique glimpse into a time and place in the life of a socio-political movement and so can be of particular historical importance and value in research and instruction when available.

Pamphlets and programs by the Abalone Alliance and SoNoMore Atomics, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 5, folder 47

As objects of a temporary nature, ephemera is always at risk of disappearing once its initial purpose has been served. Accordingly, it usually must be saved by a participant or observer around the time of its creation. This is the case with the Mark Evanoff papers. Evanoff worked primarily with the Abalone Alliance and Friends of the Earth during the 1970s and 1980s to oppose the development and operation of nuclear power plants in Diablo Canyon and Humboldt Bay. He wrote articles for Friends of the Earth’s “Not Man Apart” publication, planned and participated in protest actions (and was arrested twice in the Diablo Canyon blockades), mobilized activists and prepared groups for non-violent civil disobedience training and legal defense.

“Diablo Alert!” flier by People Against Nuclear Power, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 5, folder 40

Evanoff also collected and disseminated educational resources about nuclear power and disarmament produced by local and global pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear groups. The Evanoff papers provide substantial evidence of the anti-nuclear movement, community organizing, direct action and social movement participation at a grassroots level during this period through the correspondence, organizing notes, meeting minutes, legal testimony, public policy clippings, and ephemera contained within the collection.

“On the Move at Diablo” pamphlet by the Abalone Alliance and People’s Emergency Response Plan, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 5, folder 48

Since adapting to communication trends is crucial in the progress of social movements, the choices made regarding the information, language, graphic design, artwork, printing and distribution of ephemera produced by these groups can profoundly affect the message. With just a few images and well positioned text, effective social movement ephemera opens minds, pulls at the heart-strings, and/or gets the viewer’s blood boiling and ready for action. It acts as a useful educational and marketing outreach tool to share information, promote ideas, publicize an agenda and provide talking points about a cause. Activist ephemera also usually presents logistical details as to the who, what, when, why, where and how of community organizing, grassroots public policy lobbying, protest marches, fund raising concerts and other actions.

“Yes to Life – No to Diablo!” poster by the Abalone Alliance and People’s Emergency Response Plan, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 5, folder 43

Ephemera is most powerful when designed with eye catching, bold, trending or symbolic imagery, visual cues and creative use of text, colors and fonts. Many flier, poster and zine designs have a cut and paste, DIY (Do-It-Yourself) quality: utilizing photographs overlaid with other compelling graphics and text, including well-known historical quotes or humorous catchphrases, and self-published at home or printed at copy stores. While some other ephemera is professionally graphic-designed and printed on finer quality papers.

“Go East! To Change the World!” poster likely by the Clamshell Alliance, includes lyrics to a well-known Woody Guthrie folk song, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 13, folder 25

Although some materials are undated and may contain questionably reliable content, requiring additional sleuthing to fact check information and find accurate dates, much cultural ephemera can provide valuable incite to researchers long after the date of creation. Social movement ephemera may also act as a jumping off point for scholarly research when used in exhibitions, publications and instruction. The visual aspects and originality of content of this sort of cultural ephemera has the ability to draw a viewer in to study a topic they otherwise may not have known or thought much about previously.

“Stop Nuclear Power at Shoreham” flier by Stop Shoreham Campaign, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 13, folder 26

Some of the qualities that make activist ephemera unique can also become challenges when preserving a collection of archival materials. Certain items may be difficult to stabilize and store long-term in their entirety when produced on acidic paper, fabric, metal, plastic or wood; or when they are found adhered to the pages of scrapbooks or attached to handles. There may also be questions as to how best to organize and catalog ephemera materials within a large collection, so that a potential researcher will be able to readily find relevant items. To highlight the research value of the ephemera in the Evanoff papers, it has been arranged so that anti-nuclear materials are separated for the most part from power plant information and nuclear power subject and technical files, and it has been described within the finding aid in a bit more detail than usual.

“Radioactive Times: Stop Diablo Canyon” blockade newsletter by the Abalone Alliance, BANC MSS 99/295, carton 5, folder 48

After nearly 60 years of controversy since construction began on the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, PG&E announced plans for its closure in 2025. While it’s impossible to measure the effect that the activist ephemera produced by the Abalone Alliance and other anti-nuclear groups had on this result, it is easy to see the informational, evidential and aesthetic value in keeping these social movement materials for future researchers. What is important to the historians of tomorrow must be collected and saved today.

The Mark Evanoff papers are now processed and open to researchers at The Bancroft Library.


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