Department Blog

Special Collections

50 Features of Special Collections: A Rescued Map – California 1852

August 30th, 2016 by Dawn Collings



This colorful map depicts counties in the state of California as of 1852 and is unique in that its path to preservation involved piecing it together from scraps after it fell out of a woman’s handbag.

The California Legislature enhanced the map showing county boundaries, a list of post offices, and postal routes.

One of the most eye-catching impressions of this map is the configuration of county boundaries in 1852. Throughout the history of California, the counties have changed, developed, been renamed, and divided into multiple counties into today’s current configuration.1852 california map


Current California County Boundaries

The story in the lower left corner of the map tells how H. S. Foote rescued this map in 1908 and gave it to the Santa Clara County Free Library for preservation.

Explanatory Paragraph

Explanatory Paragraph

The quotation in the lower margin (which is partially obscured by Foote’s notes) reads, “Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1851 by B.F. Butler in the clerk’s office of the district court of the United States for the northern district of California.”                     Click here to view larger image


You can view this map–and other early California maps–in the Map Collection room on the Lower Level of Shields Library, 1:00-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Map Call Number: MAP G4360 1852 .M2

Post created by Dawn Collings, Kristoffer Landes, and Louis Cashatt.


50 Features of Special Collections: McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers

August 30th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara


As we are in the midst of pear season here in Northern California, it seems apt to highlight the McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers this week. This collection focuses on the life and career of Aloysius John McKinnon, M.D. (1870-1933); the Ruble family of his wife Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble McKinnon (1875-1916); and upon the lives of their children as related to their Rio Vista, California family home and ranch near the Sacramento River.  The Ruble-McKinnon Ranch produced alfalfa, asparagus, potatoes, and other crops but was especially known for its pears.

Aloysius John McKinnon (1870-1933) was born in San Francisco to Daniel A. and Catherine MacDonald McKinnon. Circa 1890, Aloysius joined his family’s well-established San Francisco lumber and shipping business, MacDonald and McKinnon. In 1900, while studying medicine at the University of California, Medical Department in San Francisco, Aloysius married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble (1875-1916). Aloysius received his medical degree in 1903 from the University of California and the following year he and Lizzie relocated to Rio Vista. Dr. McKinnon practiced medicine from his Front Street office and later from an office in his Rio Vista home.

At the time of her marriage Lizzie was the oldest of three surviving heirs to the estate of her twice-widowed father Lewis Cass Ruble (1848-1899). Lewis Cass Ruble’s landholdings became the basis for the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, which was located on the eastern bank of the Sacramento River and across the river from the town of Rio Vista. After Lewis’ death, his son William maintained the ranch, but circa 1905 upon William’s incapacity, Aloysius McKinnon took over management of the ranch for his wife, Lizzie, and her half-sister, Mabel. In addition to practicing medicine and managing the ranch, Aloysius was active in local organizations including being a founder and officer of the Brannan Island Reclamation District board. He held part ownership of a sailing vessel, the schooner Melrose, and in McKinnon family property located in San Francisco.

Aloysius and Lizzie McKinnon had six children: Lewis Ruble (1901-1956), Louise Isabelle (1903-1991), Ralph A. (1906-1913), Malcolm Bernard (1910-1982), Donald Aloysius (1913-1978), and Kenneth Leo (1915-2003). Lewis Ruble McKinnon studied agriculture at the University Farm School (now UC Davis) in the early 1920s.

The McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers (48.9 linear feet) document the life of a physician and rancher in the California Delta region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection contains biographical information, correspondence, legal and financial documents, family member’s class notes and assignments, ephemera and realia, maps, and photographs. Aloysius John McKinnon and his son, Malcolm Bernard, kept detailed accounts of ranch and household expenses. There are also some records of Dr. McKinnon’s medical practice. The bulk of the papers spans the years 1890 to 1984.

Significant local history information is found in the collection including records of the Brannan Island Reclamation District and items related to the history of the University of California, Saint Gertrude’s Academy, and Saint Mary’s College. Subjects of many of the photographs include McKinnon and Ruble family members, Rio Vista, the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, the Sacramento River, and San Francisco. The bulk of the photographs date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so a wide variety of historical photographic processes are represented.

An exhibit on our website provides more information as well as select images from the collection.

 Ruble Orchard lug label, 1915

Ruble Orchard lug label, 1915

50 Features of Special Collections: San Francisco Mime Troupe Records

August 23rd, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara
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Since the San Francisco Mime Troupe will be performing in Davis this Saturday, August 27, we decided that this week’s feature should highlight their organizational records.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is San Francisco’s critically acclaimed and oldest professional political musical theater. It began in 1959 when Ronald G. Davis formed the R.G. Davis Mime Troupe while affiliated with the San Francisco Actor’s Workshop. Initially, the Troupe improvised silent mime performance “events,” but soon added sound, music, and dialogue. In 1962 they began producing free shows in San Francisco parks and moved from mime into other forms of drama: first adaptations of commedia dell’arte, then vaudeville, melodrama, and other American theater. In 1963, they severed connections with the Workshop, and changed the group’s name to the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

In the Sixties, under Davis’s direction, the Troupe affiliated itself with the new counterculture. They published ideas on Guerrilla Theater and Radical Theater and continued to play in theaters, in the parks, and on colleges campuses, appealing particularly to the Left. After some fairly unsettled early years which included revocations of park permits, arrests, and litigation, the San Francisco Mime Troupe was recognized with an Obie Award in 1967 for “unifying theater and revolution and grooving in the parks.”

In 1970 Davis left the company which then reorganized as a worker-managed collective. More awards followed: Obie Awards in 1971 for The Dragon Lady’s Revenge and in 1989 for Seeing Double as well as a Tony Award in 1987 for excellence in regional theater. The Troupe has, for the most part, moved from adaptations to original works written by members of the Troupe and continues to use performances to point out weaknesses in American society.
After more than fifty years of existence the San Francisco Mime Troupe continues to perform in the parks every summer, tour in the fall, and share their message through annual youth theater projects. Their mission continues to be “to create and produce socially relevant theater of the highest professional quality and to perform it before the broadest possible audience.”

The San Francisco Mime Troupe Records consist of unique items relating to the more than fifty year existence of the Troupe. The collection contains original and adapted scripts, financial papers, photographs, audio visual items, promotional material, correspondence, clippings, and office files.

This recent article in the Davis Enterprise provides more information about this year’s show which will be performed in Davis on Saturday, August 27 and in Sacramento on Sunday, August 28.

San Francisco Mime Troupe performs False Promises, 1976.

San Francisco Mime Troupe performs False Promises, 1976.

50 Features of Special Collections: Blackwelder Manufacturing Company Records

August 16th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara


Since we’ve started to see trucks of recently harvested tomatoes on the local highways, we thought that it would be appropriate to feature the Blackwelder Manufacturing Company Records this week.

Blackwelder Manufacturing Co., located in Rio Vista, California, focused on the development of tomato harvesters and other agricultural equipment. In 1949, UC Davis agricultural engineer Coby Lorenzen and UC Davis vegetable crops researcher Jack Hanna developed a harvester and a tomato variety that could withstand the rigors of mechanical picking. During the 1950s, they refined the experimental harvester and in 1959 convinced Blackwelder Manufacturing to commercialize the design. The tomato harvester is said to have saved California’s processed tomato industry in the 1960s.

The collection contains business records, correspondence, photographs, films, patent information, manuals, bills of material, drawings, blueprints, and specifications. As part of the California Audiovisual Preservation Project, we’ve recently digitized a number of films from the collection. You can view the films on the Internet Archive here.

In addition, an oral history interview of Ernest Blackwelder is available here.

Blackwelder tomato harvester, undated.

Blackwelder tomato harvester, undated.

50 Features of Special Collections: Eastman’s Originals Collection

August 9th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara
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In celebration of the centennial of Lassen Volcanic National Park which occurs today, we are featuring our Eastman’s Originals Collection, which holds a number of historic images of the park. The Eastman Originals Collection contains photographs, negatives, and postcards for a wide variety of northern California locations and events, including dam construction, logging, mining, food processing, and community buildings and activities from circa 1890-1960.

Jervie Henry Eastman was born on July 20, 1880 in White Cloud, Michigan and moved with his family to northern California in 1886. In 1921, he moved to Susanville and established Eastman & Company as a commercial photography and post card studio. In 1936, Eastman hired Mirl Simmons, a young photographer from Hillsborough, West Virginia, to help with the postcard photography. Later, Eastman and Simmons became partners and the business expanded to provide photographic supplies to southeastern Oregon and studios in Westwood, Weed, and Susanville.

Eastman, who retired from photography in 1959 and sold his share of the business to Simmons, passed away in Susanville on February 11, 1969. Simmons ran the Eastman Studios until 1980, when he retired and sold the business to John and Shirley Castle. The Eastman’s Originals Collection (the historical postcards and negatives) was sold to Anne Fisher in 1982. She managed the collection until her retirement in 1994, when she donated it to UC Davis.

Special Collections has digitized 13,212 negatives in the collection. Those images can be viewed on Calisphere.

Several 16mm films from the collection have recently been digitized through our participation in the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP). The films, which are of scenes of Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Tehama, and Trinity Counties, can be viewed here.

Cinder Cone and Butte Lake, Calif, 1938.

Cinder Cone and Butte Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Calif.), 1938.

50 Features of Special Collections: Map of Sacramento Valley, 1849

August 4th, 2016 by Dawn Collings


Early maps showing the Sacramento Valley and gold fields include this charming map. The Sacramento Valley from the American River to Butte Creek, 1849. A staff favorite because it shows a route from Sacramento to Benecia which crosses Putah Creek approximately where the City of Davis sits today.

Some landowners and ranchos are named on the map. “Wolfs Kills” (Wolfskill) is located along “Puta Creek” (Putah Creek) near a trail pointing toward “Vaca’s and Berry’s Ranchos” (Vacaville and Berryessa).

Throughout the valley, it notes areas of natural vegetation and lands for farming and ranching with statements such as “Sycamore & Oak,” “Rich Arable Soil,” and “Good Grazing on these Plains.” Elk, antelope, and large herds of wild cattle and horses are noted in the region north of “The Buttes” (now known as the Sutter Buttes near Marysville).

Roads on the map include “Waggon Route to the Yuba Mines” and “Benecia Road impassable during Rainy Season.” Roads headed east from Sacramento into the Sierra Nevada foothills direct you to the gold region near “Colluma” (Coloma, the location of Sutter’s mill), Dry Diggings, “Karnaka Diggings” (Kanaka Diggings), and “Mormon Isla” (Mormon Island–which was a sandbar not an island) along the South Fork of American River.

The map was published as part of U.S. congressional Serial Set vol. 558, S. Ex. Doc. 47-2, 1st Session, 31st Congress.

You can view this map in the Map Collection room on the Lower Level of Shields Library, 1:00-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Map Call Number: MAP G4362.S33 1849 .D3

Sacramento Valley 1849Click here to enlarge.

Post created by Dawn Collings and Kristoffer Landes.