Special Collections

Posts by Sara Gunasekara

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
50 for our 50th icon


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: Sanfield Papers and Hunold Collection

July 22nd, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara


As the 31st Sierra Storytelling Festival takes place in Nevada City, California this weekend, we decided to feature two of our collections that are related to the annual event.

An author and phenomenal storyteller,  Steve Sanfield founded the Sierra Storytelling Festival in 1985 and served as its director until his retirement in 2002. He was also the author of more than thirty books, including The Adventures of High John the Conqueror, Bit by Bit, The Great Turtle Drive, and A Natural Man: The True Story of John Henry, among others.

The Steve Sanfield Papers contains files related to the Sierra Storytelling Festival, as well as personal journals, manuscripts, correspondence, publications, audio tapes, and ephemera relating to his life and career.

In 1988, photographer Ray Hunold accompanied his wife, Bernice, to the Sierra Storytelling Festival where they met Sanfield. When a hired photographer did not show up, Ray Hunold was asked to step in and shoot photographs for the Festival’s files. He then became the official photographer for the Sierra Storytelling Festival from 1988 through 2002. He also served as the photographer for the National Festival of Storytelling in Jonesboro, Tennessee.

The Raymond Hunold Photograph Collection contains over 70,000 images documenting the resurgence of storytelling in the United States as an art form.  Another aspect of the collection is his work as a nature and travel photographer which includes subjects such as San Francisco city scenes, western flora and fauna, Native American sites, and national parks and monuments.

You can find out more about the Hunold Collection via the web exhibit here.


Steve Sanfield, director, surrounded by his storytellers, by Ray Hunold.

Steve Sanfield, director, surrounded by his storytellers, by Ray Hunold.

Entrance to the outdoor stage, Sierra Storytelling Festival, 1989. Photograph by Ray Hunold.

Entrance to the outdoor stage, Sierra Storytelling Festival, 1989. Photograph by Ray Hunold.


50 Features of Special Collections: Colby E. “Babe” Slater Collection

July 15th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara



Since this is our 50th golden anniversary, it is only fitting that our next feature is the collection of UC Davis’ first Olympic gold medalist, Colby E. “Babe” Slater.


Colby E. “Babe” Slater (1896-1965) graduated from the University Farm School (now UC Davis) in 1917. An outstanding athlete, Slater played on the U.S. Olympic rugby team and won gold medals for rugby in 1920 and 1924, when he served as captain of the team. The 1924 Olympic Games were the last to feature rugby – until now. Rugby returns to the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro.


In celebration of rugby’s return to the Olympic Games after a 92 year hiatus, we’ve created an exhibit and a website highlighting the Slater Collection, which includes correspondence, publications, ephemera, and photographs from his participation in the Olympics Games. You can view the exhibit on display in Shields Library and the website at slater.lib.ucdavis.edu


Additionally, the Library will host a special celebration of the legacy of Babe Slater on July 30. Event and rsvp details are available here.


Colby E. “Babe” Slater, third from left, plays in the gold medal rugby match at the 1924 Olympics.

Colby E. “Babe” Slater, third from left, plays in the gold medal rugby match at the 1924 Olympics.

Event announcement: Doing Ethnic Studies Research with Special Collections

May 11th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara

Please join us for this program:

Professor Richard Kim from the UC Davis Asian American Studies Department will be speaking on his forthcoming book, Freedom without Justice, which draws on the papers of the influential investigative reporter Kyung Won Lee. The Kyung Won Lee Papers are in Special Collections and also online through the Online Archive of California.

Daryl Morrison, Head of Special Collections will introduce Professor Kim’s presentation, which underscores the importance of Special Collections and the work it does in facilitating contemporary research.

Event details:

Professor Richard Kim

Thursday May 19, 2016

3:00-4:30 PM

Library Instruction Room, Room 205

Peter J. Shields Library

UC Davis

This event, organized by LAUC-D, is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Congratulations to Professor Dolan

May 11th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara

Congratulations to UC Davis English Professor Frances Dolan on receiving the 2016 Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement! Special Collection was pleased to support the research and instruction needs of Professor Dolan. We were also gratified to highlight 17-19th century books from Special Collections at the Teaching Award gala dinner and be featured in the video about her activities.

Here are examples of the books she has used in Special Collections:

Blith, Walter,active 1649.:  The English improver improved;or, The svrvey of hvsbandry svrveyed, discovering the improueableness of all lands .All clearly demonstrated from principles of reason, ingenuity, and late, but most real experiences; and held forth … under six peeces of improvement (London, Printed for J. Wright, 1652).  S509 .B6 1652.

Garrick, David,1717-1779.: Catherine and Petruchio :a comedy /altered from Shakespeare by David Garrick ….( London : Printed by R. Butters …, [ca. 1785]). PR2832.A2 G37 1800

Livingston  (Mrs.):    Love each other, or, Strive to be good :stories designed to advance the young in virtue and morality /by Mrs. Livingston.. (Lowell : S. Wilkins, 1854). PS3523.I96 L68 1854

Plat, Hugh,1552-1608.: The jewel house of art and nature: containing divers rare and profitable inventions, together with sundry new experiments in the art of husbandry. With divers chimical conclusions concerning the art of distillation, and the rare practises and uses thereof. By D.B. Gent. (London:  Printed by Bernard Alsop …, 1653). T44 .P7 1653

Shakespeare, William,1564-1616.: Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.Published according to the true Originall copies..The Second Impression. (London, Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at the signe of the Blacke Beare in Pauls Church-yard. 1632). Oversize PR2751 .A2

Topsell, Edward,1572-1625?: The history of four-footed beasts and serpents…Collected out of the writings of Conradus Gesner and other authors, by Edward Topsel. by T. Muffet…. (London, Printed by E. Cotes, for G. Sawbridge [etc.] 1658) Oversize QL41 .T68

Woolley, Hannah, active 1670.: The queen-like closet, or, Rich cabinet :stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery : very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex /by Hannah Wolley. (London : Printed for R. Lowndes …, 1670). Noling TX705 .W6 1670

Worlidge, John, active 1669-1698.: Systema agriculturæ :the mystery of husbandry discovered : treating of the several new and most advantagious ways of tilling, planting, sowing … all sorts of gardens, orchards, meadows … & coppices : as also of fruits, corn, grain … cattle, fowl, beasts, bees, silk-worms, &c. : with an account of the several instruments and engines used in this profession : to which is added Kalendarum rusticum, or, The husbandmans monthly directions : also … Dictionarium rusticum, or, The interpretation of rustick terms … /published for the common good by J. W. gent..  (London : Printed by J. C. for Thomas Dring, 1675) S509 .W92 1675

Worlidge, John, active 1669-1698.: Vinetum britannicum, or, A treatise of cider, and other wines and drinks extracted from fruits growing in the kingdom :to which is added, a discourse teaching the best way of improving bees.. (London : T. Dring, 1691).  SF525 .W8


Happy 100th Birthday, Yolo Causeway!

May 11th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara

One hundred years ago this week, the Yolo Causeway was dedicated in a four day celebration which lasted from May 11-14, 1916.

When it was completed in 1916, the Yolo Causeway became a vital link in the California state highway system because it was the first all year, all weather automobile bridge across the Yolo Basin between Sacramento and Davis. At 3.1 miles long, 20 feet high and 21 feet wide, it was said to be the longest concrete highway in the world at that time.

Prior to completion of the Yolo Causeway, travel between Davis and Sacramento took place on the “Tule Jake Road.” Travel on the “Tule Jake Road,” which replaced the earlier Yolo Plankroad Turnpike, usually only occurred after the rainy season had finished.

On July 21, 1914 the contract for the causeway was awarded to Graft Construction Company of Seattle, Washington and work began on September 11, 1914. 13,851 concrete piles, measuring fourteen inches square, thirty five feet long, and reinforced with steel, were used in the causeway construction which cost $396,000.

The official May 1916 dedication was preceded by semi-official events on March 18-19, 1916. Sacramento had planned to open the causeway with a parade of cars on Sunday, May 19. However, Yolo County Supervisor W.O. Russell wanted Yolo County to claim that honor. According to the Weekly Agricola newspaper:

“By a two hour campaign of telephoning Saturday afternoon permission was secured to open this unit of the State highway that night. The opportunity was too great to be neglected. By seven o’clock every automobile in town and at the Farm [University Farm, now UC Davis] was filled with people and waiting at the corner of First and Olive for the impromptu parade to start. Then started a long procession of over thirty machines over this wonderful causeway road. Official permits opened all gates. Sacramento was soon reached and the parade wound its way through the business section with the band at its head, playing form a large truck, and accompanied by the deafening noises from bells, horns and lusty throats.”

Local resident and Chairman of the Yolo Causeway Committee, George W. Pierce, described the March 18 events in his diary:

“Sue phoned that Davis was going to send a large auto delegation across the new Yolo-Basin causeway, the first to make the trip – took the boys, Gardner and Herbert, Miss Peters, cook, Sue, Mrs Fizzell, Senior and Junior.  Two Farm boys rode on running board –  It rained hard, beginning before we left Davis.  Breuner met us with truck for our band. We were entertained at Hotel Sacramento.  W. O Russell and myself spoke from balcony.”

Pierce’s diary also contains entries related to his planning efforts for the May celebration.

The program for the four day celebration began on Thursday, May 11 with concerts and athletic programs in Sacramento. It concluded at 10pm with a stunt by Frank Steinbacher, known as “The Human Fly,” who made a daredevil slide on a cable stretched between the dome of the California Capitol and the top of the Pacific Gas and Electric Building.

Children’s Day activities on Friday included a parade of 12,000 schoolchildren, a concert by 2500 school children, folk dances, Shakespearian scenes, and fireworks.

Saturday’s events started at 9am when the Yolo County part of the parade formed at the University Farm and crossed the causeway, led by Governor Johnson and state highway commissioners and engineers. The parade traveled through Sacramento to the Capitol where an “allegorical wedding” of the East and West sides of the Sacramento Valley was held. Miss West Side (Bernice Worley of Yolo County) was “married” to Mr. East Side (John Murray of Sacramento County) by Associate Justice E.C. Hart. Other day’s events included boxing at the Riverside baths and an aquatic program that featured a motorboat competition on the Sacramento River

The festivities ended on Sunday with athletic programs and bicycle races at the State Fairgrounds.

At the conclusion of the celebration, a Sacramento Union headline proclaimed, “100,000 Enchanted by Causeway Pageant.”

The image below, a postcard of the Yolo Causeway, is from circa 1920. Historic images of the Yolo Causeway from the collections of the California State Library and the Center for Sacramento History are available on the Sacramento History Online website.

Happy 100th Birthday, Yolo Causeway!

The Great Yolo Basin Trestle, bridges three miles of marsh lands and unites the east and west sides of Sacramento Valley. The Yolo Basin, a vast marshy district extends from a point 15 miles north of Marysville, south for a distance of over 120 miles. The basin is flooded annually for a period of from six to eight months, and prior to the construction of the Trestle in 1916, the Capitol City was practically isolated from the market center of California by vehicle, as only during the summer months were the lands dried out sufficiently to permit travel, by what was known as the "Tule Jake" road. Sacramento, Calif. : Frank McCougal, [ca. 1920]

Postcard caption:

The Great Yolo Basin Trestle, bridges three miles of marsh lands and unites the east and west sides of Sacramento Valley. The Yolo Basin, a vast marshy district extends from a point 15 miles north of Marysville, south for a distance of over 120 miles. The basin is flooded annually for a period of from six to eight months, and prior to the construction of the Trestle in 1916, the Capitol City was practically isolated from the market center of California by vehicle, as only during the summer months were the lands dried out sufficiently to permit travel, by what was known as the “Tule Jake” road.

Postcard published by Frank McCougal, Sacramento, Calif., circa 1920.

Pass It On: Preservation Week, April 24-30, 2016

April 25th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara

Preservation Week, a presentation of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), is a national campaign to help raise awareness about collecting and preservation, to connect the general public to preservation information and expertise, and to emphasize the close relationships among personal, family, community, and public collections and their preservation.

Events during the week include two free webinars. The webinars, which require registration, will each begin at 11 a.m. PDT and will last about one hour. To register and learn more go to ALCTS events.

The webinars are:.

From Cassette to Cloud: Reformatting Audiotape, Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Description:  Oral histories can provide a wealth of information about individual and community life. This webinar explores ways these recordings can be digitized, and the challenges in doing so.

For additional information and access to the free registration links, please go to the following website: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/042616


Preserving Your Digital Life, Thursday, April 28, 2016

Description: Many of us record and keep personal and family stories in digital formats. This webinar explores steps to take now to for preserving these narratives for future generations. means considering how we create the files and how we store them. What steps can we take now to make the ensure the best possibility of retaining these important files into the future?


For additional information and access to free registration links, please go to the following website: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/042816

These webinars are primarily intended for individuals, but will also be of interest to local historical societies and other cultural heritage groups.


Visit Special Collections during Picnic Day Open House

April 13th, 2016 by Sara Gunasekara

Special Collections will be participating in Picnic Day as part of the Library’s Open House which is Saturday April 16, 2016 from 10am-2pm. We’ll be featuring several of our exhibits including:

Come visit us on Picnic Day so that you can see how the past and present collide!