Friends of The Bancroft Library and Wells Fargo: History of Early California Audiotapes

The Friends of The Bancroft Library in partnership with the Wells Fargo Foundation are pleased to offer this series of three audiotapes highlighting particular strengths of The Bancroft Library. The set of three audiotapes is available for purchase at The Bancroft Store.

View of San Diego Mission by Henry Chapman Ford

Tape 1: THE HISPANICIZATION OF CALIFORNIA, 1769-1846, James J. Rawls

The Hispanicization of California was one of the last acts in imperial Spain's appropriation of the resources of the Americas - the most important resource being the native Americans themselves. The central instrument of Hispanicization was the mission, an institution designed to transform native Americans into useful members of the Spanish empire. From the Spanish point of view the missions were a limited success; for native Americans they were catastrophic.

Mexican independence in 1821 brought to California a new political status. Under Mexican rule an abiding issue was the secularization of the missions and the redistribution of their resources into private hands until they were finally suppressed in 1834. By that time California had become unmistakably Hispanic.

The California Mission as Symbol and Myth
The accounts of the missions by French, English, and Russian visitors often criticized them on both humanitarian and self-interested grounds. Early Anglo-American narratives generally did the same, partially in order to justify American expansion.

Following the U.S. conquest in 1846, the missions entered a period of decay, and American settlers viewed the missions with contempt and disinterest. Then, in the 1800s, a wholly positive "mission myth" emerged. Invested with an aura of romance, the crumbling missions became the center of a restoration campaign. This revival was based partly on profit and partly on a deeply felt need among a new generation of Californians for antiquity and stability.

The historic missions of California are locked in time and space, but their image continues to roam freely through the imagination of modern Californians.

James J. Rawls received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Among his many publications are Indians of California (1984) and California: An Interpretive History (1998).

California gold diggers, a scene from actual life at the mines by John Andrew


In his two talks, J. S. Holliday vividly recounts the story of the world's first gold rush, from 1849 through the free-for-all decades of the 1860s and '70s, on to the climatic year 1884. He describes California's transformation from the quietude of a Mexican hinterland to the forefront of entrepreneurial capitalism. Early California was a robust masculine world of mining camps and instant cities where both business and pleasure prospered, far from hometown eyes and conventional inhibitions. His narration explains gold mining's swift evolution from treasure hunt to vast industry, traces the prodigal plunder of California's virgin rivers and abundant forests and identifies with the risk-takers - sheltered by California's freedom of autonomy - who sought profits by opening gambling dens, boarding houses, and bordellos. Most important to the state's future, miners-turned-farmers prospered by feeding the rapidly growing population. This wildly laissez-faire economy created California's image as a risk-taking society, unconstrained by fear of failure, always encouraged by some new invention, some new enterprise that proved wonderfully profitable. "America, only more so."

The central theme of these lectures focuses on how, after decades of careless freedom, the miners were finally confronted by the farmers, and how their once mutually dependent relationship soured into hostility. This potential violence led to a dramatic courtroom decision in 1884 that shut down the mighty hydraulic mining operations, marking the end of California's free-for-all youthful exuberance.

J. S. Holliday, author of Rush For Riches, Gold Fever and the Making of California (University of California Press) is the Director Emeritus of the California Historical Society and former Director of the Oakland Museum of California; and Assistant Director of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Samuel L. Clemens

Tape 3: MARK TWAIN IN THE WEST, Robert H. Hirst

In 1861, Sam Clemens traveled by stagecoach from his home state of Missouri to the deserts of Nevada. At the time he was a licensed Mississippi pilot, temporarily out of work because of the Civil War. He surely did not think of himself as a writer, much less a humorist. Those professions simply could not compare, in his mind, with the rank and dignity of piloting. But it was to be in Nevada and later in California that he was transformed into a writer, reluctantly embracing his own extraordinary talent, what he referred to at the time as his "call to literature, of a low order - i.e. humorous."

In two lectures, "Those Were the Days!" and "Heaven on the Half-Shell," Robert Hirst tells the story of how Clemens came to the West, what he did there, and why he stayed longer than he planned, eventually adopting the name "Mark Twain" to sign his letters to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise.

The files of that newspaper are largely lost, but Hirst reads from dozens of little known text survivors, including "Petrified Man," which have been recovered from scrapbooks and other sources by the editors of the Mark Twain Project.

When Mark Twain moved to San Francisco in 1864 he wrote for several journals, but again most of what he wrote has been lost, despite the brilliance of what survives. From these survivors Hirst reads "Ministerial Change" and "Explanation of a Mysterious Sentence," among others. And he concludes with one of Mark Twain's minor masterpieces, "Baker's Blue Jay Yarn," which illustrates the long-lasting effect of the West on Mark Twain's best work.

Robert H. Hirst has been curator of the Mark Twain Papers and general editor of the Mark Twain Project in The Bancroft Library since 1980. He has worked on the Papers since he was a graduate student at Berkeley in 1967.

About the Sponsors:

Wells Fargo has a long and proud history in California. From its earliest days, it has been a place where community involvement mattered, and where employees gave generously. Today, these cherished traditions remain important to us.

Through the Wells Fargo Foundation, our contributions to California's diverse communities take many forms. We believe the best way to lend support is by directing gifts to non-profit organizations that address and support community needs.

In 2000, a grant was made to The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, to support and distribute recordings from The Bancroft Library's collection. These programs reflect the depth of The Bancroft Library's resources regarding California's history.

Wells Fargo is pleased to join The Bancroft Library in telling these new stories to you.

The Friends of The Bancroft Library are proud to work in partnership with the Wells Fargo Foundation to offer this series of audiotape recordings that highlight three particular strengths of The Bancroft Library, the history of Hispanic California, the California Gold Rush and its aftermath, and the literary works of Mark Twain.

We invite you to join the Friends of The Bancroft Library. The Friends champion the physical and intellectual growth of The Bancroft Library, one of the world's greatest historical research libraries, located on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Membership in the Friends is open to everyone. We welcome all individuals who share a fascination with the historical, literary, and cultural materials found in The Bancroft Library.

Please join the Friends and participate in one of our many important projects. For additional information on the Friends of The Bancroft Library, please telephone (510) 642-3782, visit the Friends' homepage, located at: or write to:

Friends of the Bancroft Library
P.O. Box 12599
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94712-9905

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