The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chinese immigration cartoon

The Bancroft holds several collections relating to the history of the Chinese in California, documenting issues ranging from Chinese labor to Chinese-owned and operated businesses, as well as evidence of hostility towards the Chinese. The following cartoon best illustrates the latter, demonstrating the multiple fronts of racial tension and inequality operating in California around the turn of the 19th century. The author of this cartoon, however, seems to be at least somewhat aware of the irony of the situation, as suggested by the caption. (All quotes and other punctuation are from the cartoon author.)

"Every Dog (No Distinction of Color) Has His Day."

Red Gentleman to Yellow Gentleman, "Pale face 'fraid you crowd him out, as he did me."

From Scrapbooks on Chinese immigration collection, Banc MSS 89/151c Volume 1.

-- D. Miller.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Survey at 6 months: Entering a new "phase"

Phew! We have not had much time for blogging lately, and it's high time to catch up.

The Survey Team has been working diligently all summer to meet a deadline- surveying all of the collections that were formerly located in a section of the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF) before they were moved to the new and improved (and more earthquake-friendly) Bancroft Library building on campus. Finally, we have made our way through the materials that were housed in what was known as Phase 3; now, the process of moving these manuscript collections from Phase 3 to their future home in the "new" building, adjacent to the Doe Annex, has begun. However, this is only one part of the huge move that the entire Bancroft Library and all of its staff are undertaking over the next few months; see the Bancroft Library events page for more information.

So far, in its approximately 6 1/2 months of surveying-- as calculated by resident surveyors, data masters, and number crunchers extraordinaire, Amy and Elia-- the survey team has:

* Completely or partially surveyed almost 11,000 collections, including many single-item collections as well as large, multiple carton collections.

* Surveyed nearly 5,000 linear feet.

* Added nearly 7,000 new collection records to the existing collection management database.

That's cause for a little celebration! (And big thanks to our fearless project leader, Teresa Mora, who surveyed several large collections to help us meet our deadline.) But we are most certainly not finished; after all, the Bancroft has been collecting historic archival materials for over a century. The survey team will henceforth be working on a new "phase" of the project: surveying the bulk of the manuscript collections, which are permanently housed at the NRLF. And just in case that sounds like a piece of cake, that's an estimated footage count of over 45,000 linear feet still to survey! We may anticipate slightly less data entry to do from this point on, but we have much more ground to cover before we can say we are finished. (This archivist, for one, will be sure to fill her travel mug with strong coffee to be ready in the mornings and stock up on mittens for those frigid cold storage temps.)

So, look for a few more forthcoming highlights of the past 6 months' surveying, and keep watching to see what hidden gems we discover over the course of the next two years!

-- D. Miller.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Polygamy in the archives and the news (long)

This past April, while the news was covering a high-profile raid on a fundamentalist Mormon sect in Texas, we happened to be surveying a segment of historical Utah dictations, many from Mormon church members and leaders. Some of these dictations discussed polygamy and/or fundamentalism within that church, which is ideologically separate from the mainstream church.

Since most of the personal narratives were from men, I began to wonder about the women who participated in these practices, especially because of the news stories and recent controversy. At the end of the section of Mormon dictations, I discovered the remarkable papers of Mary Powell.

Writing to UC Berkeley English professor and author George Rippey Stewart in the 1950s, Powell conveys in her emotionally-charged letters a vulnerability rarely seen in donor correspondence. In some of the more touching passages, Powell-- at first showing much trepidation-- can be witnessed slowly warming to the idea of her collection- and therefore her memories- being available to the public at the Bancroft.

Following are some excerpts found among the letters; one letter in particular contains several postscripts, showing the intensity with which Mary Powell needed to share her story. Excepting the author, names have been changed to protect individual privacy.

Mary Bennion Powell, Experiences as a member of a polygamous family in Utah after the Manifesto in 1890 : Murray, Utah, 1952-1963. Collection number P-F 362. (Also available on microfilm.)

April 14th, 1952

Dear Dr. Stewart,
Have you had time to read the material I sent you a month or two ago (a continuation of the material sent previously -- the story of my experience as a member of a polygamous family)?
I have been wondering what you think of what I have written. Would it be asking too great of a favor if I asked you to write me some of your ideas regarding it?
I hope some use can be made of it, sometime in the indefinite future. If history is useful, my story should be. Of course I would not wish the bad things Aunt Joanne and Aunt Linda did made known as acts of theirs. If I did, I would be almost as cruel as they were. But someone might, someday, be able to teach the reading public a very valuable lesson; I can't help hoping for some such eventuality. Do you understand why? You must, since you, too, have the good of society at heart and have told some of your experiences and ideas in an effort to help people to be more kind and just.
May I hear from you as soon as convenient to you?
Mary B. Powell
Murray, Utah

P.S. I would like to add a few items now to what I have already written.
For instance, I remember the pity in my mother's voice, once, as she said, "Poor Aunt Emily. Her husband married two beautiful young Danish girls when she herself was getting old, and all her children had left home. She had to tend the babies of the plural wives, and they used to talk in Danish all day as they worked and laughed together." (Aunt Emily was Grandpa Fellows' oldest sister.)
Father once said, "For forty years Fellows sulked in his tent, so to speak -- wouldn't go to any church meetings. He was angry because of how Apostle Joseph treated his sixteen year old sister Sylvie."
I stopped as I was passing through the diningroom and heard this. It was news to me. Father paused uncertainly, looking at me, but I stayed to hear what might come next. I guess he felt he owed me some explanation. At any rate, he went on, his eyes on my face, "Sylvie was married to Apostle Olen Joseph when he had many other wives. She said that he wouldn't live with any of them after marrying her. He took her with him on all his trips about the State. She was broken-hearted. She said he abused her."
I could stand no more. I walked quickly out of the room without speaking, as I usually did when other such things had been told in my presence. It makes me sick to think about it now. But I won't think of it anymore, since I am telling it to you.
Later I learned that my great aunt Sylvie had divorced her first husband, Apostle Joseph.

P.S. 2-
A few days ago, two schoolteachers from the city came, as is their tri-weekly custom, to buy a supply of fresh eggs from our son Jeremiah. The father of the older one, Miss Thomas, was a member of the Granite Stake High Council of the Mormon Church along with my father. I asked her if her father had been a polygamist. She said no, but one of her grandfathers had been. I asked if she believed in "the principle." She said, "Of course -- it was a revelation." I only smiled, as I feared she (and my husband too) would be annoyed if I pursued the subject further. But, to my surprise, she began to tell me about a funeral she had recently attended of a plural wife who had been a member of the famous (or infamous) Fundamentalists (of Mormon origin). She said it lasted two hours and almost the entire time was used in a defense of polygamy by sympathizers. Her [the deceased woman's] son was the most earnest speaker in the group.
Then she said that another schoolteacher, a friend, had made the statement, "Polygamy killed my mother. She died of a broken heart." This young woman was the daughter of William Scott Sr. of whom I have written before. Her mother was one of his two plural wives -- Anne-- a sister to her husband's first wife.
I add these items because if I don't, they will remain in my memory and may at any time start a chain-reaction that could drag my mind into the quick-sand of the memory of my life in a polygamous family.
May I be free to add others as they come to my attention?

P.S. 3-
And one comes to my attention as I am about to fold these pages and put them in an envelope.
I phoned my cousin Amelia a week or so ago, inquiring if she had a picture of Grandpa Fellows when he was young. (She has since sent me two magazines containing stories and pictures of members of the Fellows family - including one of Grandpa, stern and handsome in an army uniform.) I asked her if her mother had been happy in polygamy. (Her mother was Wynona Fellows Anderson- a plural wife of Pres. Jedediah R. Anderson of the Mormon Church.) She said, "Very happy, always." "Why," I ventured timidly, "do you suppose she was happy, yet my mother suffered so terribly because of polygamy?" Amelia's voice was smooth and unruffled, as I have heard my own when guardedly telling my young children "the facts of life," hoping they wouldn't be too deeply inquisitive.
"My mother was converted to polygamy and your mother must not have been." I couldn't go into an argument over the telephone, on such a taboo subject, so I said something inane and hung up the receiver. But before I did so Amelia added, "My whole idea in writing and publishing the story of mother's life is to show that polygamy needn't have hurt anyone, and wouldn't, if it were lived properly."
When I told this to Mr. Lee Smith, who came and sat by me, on a bus, a few days ago, he fairly snorted with indignation. "That Wynona Anderson! She had everything that money could buy, and a life of ease and entertainment. Besides, she wasn't a 'first' wife." I chuckled with agreement.

-- D. Miller

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From Oakland to Siberia

Over his career with the US Coast Guard, Oakland resident Clement Joseph Todd made seven trips to Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait into Siberia, between 1914 and 1923. The following excerpts and images of Alaskan and Siberian natives and landscapes are selected from a manuscript compiled by his wife from letters Todd wrote her and pictures he took during one of the journeys, entitled The Bear - the mercy ship : excerpts from the letters of Lieutenant Commander Clement Joseph Todd's three trips to Alaska on the Coast Guard Cutter Bear : 1921-1923. (Banc MSS 70/50 p). The letters are frank, evocative and often amusing, and the pictures reflect a rugged and exotic landscape few are able to view firsthand.

June 1, 1921. Unalaska.

One of the ships brought in some bear meat and we had it for dinner. It tasted like an auto tire. The doctor said he hoped the natives would not break the plaster cast he put on. Parhem (sic) suggested that we might make the steward make one out of pie crust which he could not break. Perham thought bear meat pretty good. He thought it had been fattened on Eskimos.

June 22, 1921. Siberia.

We are here for some shipwrecks. We picked up a sorry lot of pirates this morning. They have been wrecked and have been living on walrus meat for a couple of years in Siberia. I think one has scurvy. The men tell us terrible things about the Communists (sic) system there. I think it is a good place to stay away from...

The Bear at Emma Harbor, Siberia.

from letter of July 1, 1921. Emma Harbor, Siberia.

The American Museum of Natural History man landed some of his stuff here today and the Russians raised a terrible fuss and said he could not stop there so we took it aboard again. Then they objected to our magnetic observations and they didn't want an American war-ship in their port without permission of their gov (sic). The Capt. asked who was their gov. (sic) and they said they didn't know. He said if we were at peace we had a right to stay here and if at war we would stay anyway. We will clean our boilers here because we have to. the ice is drifting out of the bay and the water is very smooth. In it are reflected the high mountains, covered with patches of snow and ice.

Lubte Harbor, Siberia. This is a rock on which chunks of seal meat are suspended to be beyond the reach of the numerous dogs.

July 11, 1921. Off East Cape

...Tell the boys I am in the Polar Sea now near where Santa Claus has his toy factory. I shall try to get around and see him soon.

(Below) This man is a Siberian native. Siberians are called Chuchis (sic). They are happy but dirty...

Aren't these dear little faces- Siberian children.

(Part of Todd's journey was in the Bering Strait going between Alaska and Siberia; north of Bering Strait is the Chukchi sea. Some Chukchi, natives of the Arctic and SIberia, are pictured above. For more information on the Chukchi people see

Your poor lonely hubby.

July 21, 1921. St. Michael's.

...Last night the army invited us all to some athletic stunts and Capt. Cochran said we better go to make a representation from the ship so I went. We had a little supper served by one of the officers' wives. What do you think we had? Brownies. I ate so many I was ashamed. Next day, the Captain is having a dinner for the army crowd and I am invited. I stood watch from 5:30 to 12 this morning. I am to blossom out into society tonight.

Aug. 2, 1921. Point Hope, Alaska.

... I have been chatting with one of the natives. Somebody gave him a quarter and he told me that man "was his very good friend." So I said I was his very good friend too and to demonstrate it I gave him a cup of coffee and some trinkets. He said his name was Killbear. We had quite a talk. ... He said he had to work very hard hunting to feed his children. I said I had to work very hard to feed mine too, but he seemed to think that a joke.

Aug. 15, 1921. Demarkation Point, Alaska.

... It is a beautiful night. We are anchored in open water about a mile from the beach right on the boundary. Between us and the shore is a lot of heavy barrier ice grounded. When the boat goes ashore someone has to go aloft on the ship and pilot the boat by signal through the ice... Tonight the ship is pitching gently in a little swell which jolts the masses of ice together and there is a tremendous crunching and grinding roar along the ice. A very full red moon is just over the mountains to the southward.

(Left) Here I am steering the boat through the ice at Demarkation Point.

August 18, 1921. Point Barrows, Alaska.

(Right) These are some aged Eskimos at Point Barrows. The woman is said to be over 100 years old.

August 1921, Alaska (possibly point Barrows).

Beautiful parka made and worn by an eskimo woman.

In the Arctic, Alaska.

To-Look cleaning polar bean skin in her hut.

The last letter in this series is from August 30, 1921. An entry from the manuscript's compiler and later wife of Capt. Clement Todd, Bernice Jameson Todd, indicates that "the ship after finishing at Unalaska sailed for Seattle and later to Oakland (in October) ... Clement and I met in Berkeley where we spent the winter together." Clement J. Todd made his next voyage to Alaska on the Coast Guard Cutter Bear in May 1922, where the letters continue.

-- D. Miller.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton

Frank Boardman "Pistol Pete" Eaton (1860-1958) was a cowboy, scout, author, Indian fighter and Deputy U.S. Marshall for Judge Isaac C. Parker (better known by his moniker, the "hanging judge"). When Eaton was a boy in Kansas, his father was gunned down by six former Confederate soldiers. A friend of his father's told him, "My boy, may an old man's curse rest upon you, if you do not try to avenge your father." It took nearly 20 years, but Eaton eventually tracked down and killed five of his father's murderers (the sixth was shot by someone else in a dispute over a card game).
Before embarking on his mission to avenge his father's death, Eaton sought training at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. The 15-year-old repeatedly competed with -- and beat -- the cavalry's best marksmen in shooting matches. In recognition of his prowess, Colonel Copinger, the fort's commanding officer gave Eaton the nickname that would stick with him throughout his life, "Pistol Pete." Allegedly, during his teen years, Eaton could outdraw Buffalo Bill Cody, and he was reputed to be a quick draw into his nineties.
Eaton began serving as a deputy U.S. Marshal in Indian Territory when he was just 17; his territory extended from Southern Kansas to Northern Texas. Eaton settled near Perkins, Oklahoma when he was 29, served as sheriff and later worked as a blacksmith. He wrote two books about his life in the Old West and spun yarns for the visitors that sat for a spell on his front porch. He was eminently quotable. After a girlfriend gave him a steel crucifix that reputedly deflected a bullet during a gunfight, saving his life. Eaton said, "I’d rather have the prayers of a good woman in a fight than half a dozen hot guns: she’s talking to Headquarters." Eaton usually carried a loaded Colt .45 and often claimed, "I'd rather have a pocket full of rocks than an empty gun."
The photos below come from BANC MSS 71/5, Frank Eaton autobiography and related material. They suggest Eaton was on friendly terms with at least some of his Indian neighbors, but further research is necessary before any such speculation can be confirmed.

The Bancroft's holdings also include copies of Eaton's autobiography, Pistol Pete: Veteran of the Old West as well as materials used to write it. See the Bancroft catalog for more information.

-- M. Bryer
These photographs feature Eaton, his biographer, Eva Gillhouse, Rolla Goodnight, and a 104-year-old Indian chief and his family. The snapshots were taken at the Chief's home in Oklahoma in May 1952.

For more on Eaton's life, see, "Frank 'Pistol Pete' Eaton," Vertical File Biographies, Kansas State Historical Society, and "Frank Eaton," Wikipedia,

Illustrated Playing Cards

The Jeffrey Schweitzer papers contain the mementos he collected from a number of international fairs. These include a nifty deck of illustrated playing cards from the San Francisco Mid-Winter Exposition, 1884. This particular deck of "Midwinter Fair and Pacific Coast Playing Cards" was manufactured by The Winters Art Litho Co., San Francisco/Chicago in 1891; they have an enamel finish. In addition to illustrations of the Mid-Winter Expo, the cards depict scenes from the Pacific Coast, from Washington State to Los Angeles. Bay Area scenes include San Francisco's Chinatown, Golden Gate Park and Alcatraz. The deck includes a card of the University of California or, as the card reads: California State University Berkeley. By the time Schweitzer graduated from the University of California in 1907, the campus he walked would have looked significantly different than the one depicted here as the 10 of clubs.

The Bancroft has a number of related collections. For instance, other images from the fair can be found on the OAC, in the Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection and the Jesse Brown Cook Scrapbooks documenting San Francisco History and Law Enforcement.
-- M. Bryer

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Map of the 1893 Columbian Exposition Chicago World's Fair

Early in the survey we found a collection of scrapbooks that highlighted some of the world's fairs from the turn of the nineteenth century, primarily from an agricultural perspective. Charles Turrill, the scrapbook compiler and manager of the California exhibit at this fair, widened his collecting interests notably, however, when it came to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and Columbian Exposition, from which he collected a variety of documents and souvenirs. And how could he resist? From the debut of the Ferris Wheel and the birth of the carnival midway, to new innovations in electricity, early moving pictures, and other emergent technologies, this world's fair overflowed with captivating and awe-inspiring ideas. More than 27 million visitors came from across the United States and around the world from May through October 1893, and many of the wonders and spectacles beheld there in Chicago would come to have a profound impact on American culture.

The map below shows the physical vastness of the fair, over 600 acres of landscaped grounds, waterways, and several buildings. Due to its large size the map is best viewed in person.

From C-B 545, The "Charles B. Turrill papers as manager,
Preliminary World's Fair Exhibit of California, 1892".

Additional world's fair materials housed at the Bancroft include San Francisco at the World's Fair, Chicago, 1893. (1986; microfilm), 1939 World's Fair facts : Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay (1939), and Hubert Howe Bancroft's 1895 Book of the fair; an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893... and the Records of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco (BANC MSS C-A 190)

-- D. Miller.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Baby tooth from the Donner Party

From the Charles Fayette McGlashan papers, 1878-1946, BANC MSS C-B 570.

This was definitely an odd find. McGlashan wrote a history of the Donner Party in 1902 and among several collections bearing his name we found these artifacts. Not only did these exquisitely packed little boxes contain a dozen or so tiny vials of earth and an odd tool or coin from the site of the Donner Party...

There was also a tiny vial of what looked like pink crystals cushioning, according to the label, a baby tooth found lodged in a log cabin at the site! Here it is in its box next to a silver dollar coin. It is very difficult to make out the tooth here, but it is visible up close.

Talk about scandalous finds! The tags tied to the items indicate that someone was selling the vials as souvenirs, and promised to later use the proceeds to build a Donner Party memorial. Whether the souvenir seller was responsible or not, today Donner Memorial State Park boasts a Pioneer Monument. The Donner Party's Murphy family cabin site, from which the tooth came, is also available to visitors. Although a human baby tooth is a rare find indeed in the manuscript archives, the housing of these items was truly beautiful to behold.

Some Donner Party collections that can be viewed at the Bancroft Library include the Patrick Breen Diary, BANC MSS C-E 65:15 (also viewable online through the library catalog) and Material relating to the Greenwood family, [ca. 1888-1967], BANC MSS C-B 966.

-- D. Miller, original posting date May 23, 2008.