Coming of Age: California First Days
Exhibit Items

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Paths to Empire | The Way California Could Be | Hard Times, High Visions | Coming of Age

During the later months of 1962, California would pass New York at the most populous state in the Union. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, recently re-elected Governor of California, would propose a celebration of this fact. California First Days, to be celebrated the last day of December 1962 and the first three days of January 1963, would be a time for statewide celebration -- what Pat Brown called the "Biggest party the state has ever seen."

The attractiveness of California as a place to be was indicated by the fact that approximately two thirds of California's population growth during the early sixties could be counted in the arrival of newcomers. The boosterism related to the population celebration reflected what Californians saw as their special situation -- the climate, natural beauty, rich resources, and technological know-how to manipulate nature's bounty. All this allowed for innovative, modern approaches to the world. From the point of view of those promoting the state, it made clear sense why so many folks wanted to share and be part of this cornucopia. California was cheered locally and nationally as the model for the rest of the United States.

Some, however, viewed this growth in the state with caution if not outright dismay. U.S. Chief Justice, Earl Warren stated, "I would not celebrate with fireworks or dancing in the streets. Mere numbers do not mean happiness." Particularly bothered by this paradigm of growth were environmentalist and other folks concerned with preserving the special attributes of California as a place. But California would certainly serve as a barometer -- where it would go, so would follow the rest of the country.

[Portrait of Edmund G. Brown, Governor of California], ca. 1962
Silver gelatin photograph
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

Pat Brown won re-election as Governor of California in the fall of 1962 after a tough and heated campaign against Richard M. Nixon, defeating him by nearly 300,000 votes. Life Magazine, October 19, 1962 describes the contest, "Both assault California as if it were the nation, and the White House their goal, not the quaint governor's mansion in Sacramento." Much of what Brown championed in his bid for re-election -- the vigorous growth of the state, not only in terms of population, but also in terms of economics, industry, agriculture and other areas -- would be recast for the California First Days Celebration.

Press Releases #834 and #842
December 1962
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

Governor Brown was aware of the potential controversy related to celebrating California as the most populous state in the nation. While on December 4, 1962 Governor Brown issued a proclamation declaring December 31, 1962 a holiday as part of the California First Day Celebration, less than two weeks later he announced the need to come together to deal with the population explosion in the state.

[Statue of Liberty superimposed over a Coney Island Beach scene], n.d.
Silver gelatin photograph
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

This image, found among the Governor's papers from 1962 could easily be the Statue of Liberty superimposed over a California beach. The idea of California usurping New York as the most important state in the Union was a key point of the California First Days celebration.

"Inaugural Message"
January 7, 1963
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

Much of the language in this inaugural speech brings our exhibition full circle. Governor Brown states, "The western rim of the continent, which a century ago was little more than a legend to handful of pioneers, now assumes the role of leader on that continent." It expresses the optimism of the Governor and his dedication to California's growth and prominence in the world. Many of the challenges and changes he proposes echo the sentiments found in Edward Bellamy's novel, Looking Backward, including the hope for a utopian society, or at least a "good society."

Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles International Airport
The Call of California: Its Splendor, Its Excitement, Why People Go, Go and Go There
"The October 19, 1962 special issue of Life"
Chicago: Life, 1962

In the fall of 1962, in anticipation of California becoming the most populous state in the nation, both Life and Look magazines dedicated single issues to studying the phenomenon that was "California." Life chose to profile the Brown/Nixon rivalry and to examine California's advantages over the state of New York -- a complex mix of abundant natural resources and manmade exploitation and transformation. "It is time to wish California Godspeed and to note that its only limitations rest within the power contained in the burning sun, the moisture untapped in the 1,200-mile salt-water shore, the brain power of its mass-educated millions and the spirit of its ever-blooming harvest of modern pioneers."

Press Release
December 20, 1962
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

In this five-page memo Governor Brown details the issues and responsibilities related to California's rise as the most populous state. Concerns about over-population, continued agricultural and industrial production, education, the shift from a rural to urban economy, the diversity of and disparity between the population, employment, and conservation of natural resources are all discussed. The memo concludes by offering two paths that the state might take, one with a positive outcome, the other quite bleak.

Governor Edmund G. Brown with Miss Santa Monica Freeway, 1962

Governor Edmund G. Brown with Miss Santa Monica Freeway, 1962
[Miscellaneous unidentified images]
Silver gelatin photographs
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

In its march towards the future, California has been a leader and developer in the area of agriculture, transportation, engineering, technology, architecture, and the sciences. These images, located within Pat Brown's campaign papers for the 1962 election against Richard Nixon, illustrate the scope of California's resources and the broad interests of Brown's probable constituency.

[Miscellaneous Compilation of "First" -- memoranda to Governor Brown]
September 24, 1962
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

The goals of the California First commemoration went beyond simply a celebration of "bigness." One of the key promotional tactics was to stress the achievements, both natural and manmade, in which California ranked first. In gearing up for the end of the year celebration, Governor Brown asked state agencies and departments to submit lists that demonstrated California's newfound prominence. The five lists featured here illustrate California's outstanding growth and development.

[Miscellaneous letters to Governor Brown]
various dates
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

This wonderful assortment of responses to the concept of California First Days, includes samples of those willing to jump on Brown's bandwagon and those with serious reservations about the implications of becoming the most populous state in the nation.

California: Tomorrow's Hopes and Tomorrow's Headaches are Here Today in Our Soon-to-be Largest State
The September 25, 1962 issue of Look
New York: Look, 1962

Suburban living certainly became a reality in the latter part of the 20th century. With a tone of irony and lament Joseph Roddy in "The Tract Way of Life" gives voice to cautionary observers of progress. The bulldozed orange grove depicted to the left suggests the need to balance our desire for convenience and comfort with other demands such as maintenance of agriculture and conservation of natural resources.

[Miscellaneous images related to car industry and freeways]
Silver gelatin photographs
From the Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Papers

Los Angeles with a population of 6,036,771 in the 1960 census, created a north to south demographic shift, and this southern metropolis became the key industrial center in the state. Los Angeles and its development would become emblematic of the late 20 th century American city -- ever-growing suburban communities dependent upon the commerce and industry of a large urban center. To deal with this urban geography, Los Angeles developed a dizzying network of freeways, wholeheartedly adopted the culture of the car, and acquired high expectations for the good life.

Some Los Angeles Apartments
Los Angeles: Anderson, Ritchie, and Simon, 1965 [1970 printing]

Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles
[s.l.: s.n.], 1967 [1974 printing]

Conceptual artist Ed Ruscha documented a number of nondescript, everyday places in Los Angeles during the 1960s. His multiple photographs of what might be perceived as banal subjects serve to reinforce visually the spaces that are overwhelmingly a part of our daily landscape. The images serve as striking documentation of L.A.'s sprawling metropolitan growth.

Twenty-three Days After Keel Laying, Richmond Shipyard Number Two, August 27, 1942
Silver gelatin photograph

Henry J. Kaiser, Sr., Vice President Henry A. Wallace, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, January 29, 1945
Silver gelatin photograph

Kaiser Dishwashers on display at the Aaron DeRoy Motor Car Company Show, Detroit, August 6, 1946

Kaiser Dishwashers on display at the Aaron DeRoy Motor Car Company Show, Detroit, August 6, 1946
Silver gelatin photograph

Exchanges of appreciation: Telegram from Jack L. Ashby "in behalf of the 4,000 loyal Kaiser Steel workers ..." to Mrs. Henry J. Kaiser
undated; ca. 1942

Letter from Henry Kaiser to the Men and Women of Yard Three
June 15, 1944

Homes for Low Income Workers ... A Solution to an Industrial Relations Problem
undated; ca. 1945

All items above from the Henry J. Kaiser Papers and the Edgar F. Kaiser Papers

Builders and Pioneers of the Dream
From Life "Special Issue: The Call of California," October 19, 1962

In a special edition on California in 1962, the Editors of Life Magazine identified Edgar F. Kaiser (1908-1981) as one of the "Builders and Pioneers of the Dream." And he was, having risen to the top of Kaiser Industries, an international conglomerate responsible for building and producing such basic elements of the dream as dams, ships, houses, hospitals, automobiles, even dishwashers. But, Edgar's father Henry J., Sr. (1882-1967), provided the foundation for many of California's greatest achievements in this pivotal era of growth. In the 1930's, Henry J. Kaiser chaired the Executive Committee of Six Companies, Inc., builders of Boulder Dam, and his construction and concrete companies afterwards collaborated on the Grand Coulee and Shasta Dams and the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. He established shipbuilding (1940) and steelmaking (1942) companies at Richmond and Fontana, which contributed significantly to the Allied victory in World War II and the subsequent development of the state.

It is impossible to imagine the development of California's industry, agriculture, and population without the Kaisers' massive building-blocks. And the Kaisers transformed industry itself by providing innovative health, daycare, housing, and other basic services to their workers . Many would consider Kaiser Permanente, the world's first prepaid health maintenance organization and now a universal healthcare provider (established by Edgar Kaiser for employees engaged in the construction of Grand Coulee Dam) as their greatest legacy.

California: A New Game with New Rules
The June 28, 1966 issue of Look
New York: Look, 1966

Four years later, Look once again profiled California, with writers and photographers travelling "up and down the No. 1 state, looking for the future that is already here. California is the place to watch. It is the national laboratory of social change, good and bad." By the mid-sixties, the times had changed, and a new group of issues were at the forefront . California would be the first to deal with social discontent reflected in the 1964 student movement in Berkeley, the Watts riot in 1965, and the organization of the Black Panthers in Oakland. Concerns over the war in Vietnam and social issues related to gender, race, and ethnicity also surfaced during these tumultuous times.

Why Care About Labor?
[s.l., s.n., ca. 1960]

La Unión y La Huelga
[s.l., s.n., ca. 1960]

"Right to Work" Laws -- A Trap for America's Minorities: "El Derecho a trabajar" -- Una Trampa para los Minorias EE.EE
[s.l., s.n., s.a.]

Miscellaneous Ephemera from the Social Protest Collection

All items are from the Social Protest Collection

This grouping focuses on one example of the organization of minorities to achieve civil and workers' rights during the 1960s, profiling César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers. In 1965 Chávez led the strike by the National Farm Workers Association against the grape growers centered in Delano (Kern County). Success came almost a year later as workers won concessions from the growers in the area. Other victories followed. The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee run by Larry Itliong (with members consisting mainly of Filipino Americans) joined the National Farm Workers Association to form the United Farm Workers (UFW). Chávez and the Union continued their struggles and in the 1970s attention turned to the lettuce growers and efforts to gain rights and wages for those agricultural workers. Dolores Huerta served a key role in the organization of farm workers, as cofounder and as vice president of the United Farm Workers. Huerta also became an advocate for farm laborers, and for poor women who worked in the fields. Women often held the most menial of jobs and received the lowest wages.

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