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.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Redwood Reforestation in Lumber's Halcyon Days

Possibly my favorite part of this job, surveying The Bancroft's myriad manuscript collections, is how one is continually immersed in different people's stories, different realities, and so many of California's many different incarnations. In the late part of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, one important part of California's economy and story was lumber, especially redwood, and many of Bancroft's collections from the period relate directly to the lumber industry, among them, records from some of California's largest lumber companies, including Union Lumber, Pacific Lumber, and the Redwood Manufacturers Company (RMC). While surveying this last collection (BANC MSS C-G 202) I came across a binder of redwood advertising materials from the 1930s that took me right back to lumber's heyday when the industry's biggest problem was probably not being able to cut the trees down fast enough.

The binder was assembled by the California Redwood Association especially for RMC and generally touts the superiority of redwood over all other lumber, using such tag lines as, "California Redwood: The World's most durable Lumber," as can be seen in the image to the left. The text just below the image reads, "Count of annual rings shows down log … to have been exposed to wind and weather, ON THE GROUND SINCE THE YEAR 571 B. C.! Redwood log is still sound and solid."Other images in the binder show redwood shingles taken off of houses in damp coastal cities which despite being between 50 and 75 years old, are still in nearly new condition, while still other images show buildings made of redwood which had survived fire. Over and over, the sales materials tout redwood's durability. Which, of course, is hardly surprising, any industry wants to sell as much of its product as possible. But I was surprised by a piece titled "Supply Reforestation" that started off with the headline, "The Coast Redwood is California's Perpetual Crop ~ and Her Oldest," and concluded with the following optimistic quote:

"With the economical utilization of the timber supply that, growing for centuries, is still sufficient to last for 100 years, and the present reforestation operations, which assure a crop of second growth Redwood within sixty years, there is no chance whatsoever that Redwoods will become extinct as was predicted some years ago [sic]. Consequently, California can look forward to being perpetually in the Redwood lumber business, users of Redwood may count upon a continuous supply of this quality material and at the same time tourists will always have, in addition to parks of virgin trees, great timbered areas in which the grandeur of Nature has been enhanced by the hand of man."

In between, the item details what are most likely some of the lumber industry's earliest reforestation efforts in California and includes several photographs, including the following (enlarge the photographs to read the captions).

Unfortunately for both the lumber industry and perhaps most importantly California's stands of redwoods, consumption did not stay at circa 1930 levels and redwood takes a long, long time, longer than 60 years, to fully mature and begin to replace the forest that has been lost.

--E. Van Lith

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Poetry about a physist - who knew?

While surveying the other day, I came across a ballad someone wrote about the physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence.  Lawrence won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1939 for his cyclotron, a machine which accelerates charged nuclear particles. These quickly moving particles were used to bombard atoms of various elements, disintegrating the atoms and sometimes forming completely new elements. Because of this, his cyclotron was also called the "atom smasher".

Lawrence’s work was very influential, but I was still a little surprised to come across a poem about him in one of his scrapbooks. It is called “The Ballad of the Cyclotron” and was written by Walter Weeks.

"The Ballad of the Cyclotron"
By Walter Weeks

There was a young professor in a college by the bay
Who believed that atoms could be smashed in some ingenious way
If he could make electrons go at twenty miles an hour
He thought there would be volts enough to give him ample power.

And so he took some auto springs and magnetized them well
And then he took some copper screen just why I cannot tell
And then he took a radio and a worn out rubber tire
And he tied them all together with a piece of baling wire.

The electrons came from the radio and started round the track
And every time they came around it kicked them in the back
When at the bung hole they arrived they'd had so many jolts
That their speed was the equivalent of a hundred million volts.

And thus evolved the cyclotron of which you all have heard
And of its wonders in a day I could not tell a third
This statement broad is heard today in every lecture hall
If it can't be done with a cyclotron it shouldn't be done at all.

The Prexy came around to see the gadget put to test
Of course the young professor wished to show it at its best
You may fire the thing when ready, boy, the eager Prexy cried
So Lawrence pushed the switches in and quickly stepped aside.

He aimed it at the window pane and knocked out all the glass
He swung it round the campus and it burnt up all the grass
He fired it at some students and it knocked them off their feet
Then he bombed the campanile and he moved it down the street.

And then he bombed some common lead and turned it into gold
The Prexy jumped around with joy and loudly shouted, hold,
I am convinced the thing is good, no more I'll have to go
To the solons up in Sacrement to beg them for some dough.

A Swedish scientist, Nobel, a man both great and kind
Left some prizes to bestow on any master mind
So forty thousand dollars and a big diploma too
They gave to Ernest Lawrence and with that my friends I'm through.

Here are some images of Lawrence with the cyclotron.

Perhaps poetry is used by physicists more often then you would think. Lawrence and his friend Rowan also wrote an ode to their friend Alfred on his 70th birthday.

More biographical information about Lawrence:
Ernest Orlando Lawrence was born in 1901 in Canton, South Dakota. He received his B.A. in Chemistry from the University of South Dakota (1922), his M.A. from the University of Minnesota (1923) and his Ph.D. from Yale (1925). Lawrence came to UC Berkeley in 1928 as Associate professor of Physics and became a full professor at age 30 – at that time the youngest professor at the University. Lawrence founded the Radiation Laboratory at UC Berkeley in 1936 and was its director until his death in 1958.

John Hundale Lawrence (6 months) and Ernest Orlando Lawrence (3 years) in 1904

If you are interested in other Nobel prize winners from UC Berkeley be sure to stop by and see “California Gold: The Nobel Tradition at UC Berkeley” in the exhibit case in the reading room!

-A. Croft

BANC MSS 2005/200 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Papers
All photos and the “Ballad of the Cyclotron” are in oversize box 3; “Ode to Alfred” is in carton 1.

Labels We Have Loved (and Feared)

Fisher-Merriam Family papers (BANC MSS 2004/112)

Friends of the Earth records (BANC MSS 82/98)

---M. Bryer

"Thank God For California"

Joan Didion graduated from UC Berkeley in 1956 with a degree in English. Between 1955-1960, she wrote a number of letters to her friend Peggy La Violette detailing her cross-country train travels, life at home in Sacramento and as a senior at UC Berkeley, and her work at Vogue in New York. Her letters were great fun to read and I think fans of her writing will find her salutations particularly charming.

Written on a Thursday from her home in Sacramento

Written on a Wednesday evening from the La Salle Hotel in Chicago

--- M. Bryer

F*** U

Ed Sanders, editor of Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts sent this letter to the Acquisitions Department of the Main Library at UC Berkeley on February 21, 1965 (BANC MSS 92/788)

Sanders, a Beat poet, member of the band The Fugs and owner of Peace Eye Bookshop, founded Fuck You and published 13 issues between 1962-1965. According to the Verdant Press website, the magazine "was considered one of the most influential underground magazines of the early Sixties." The mimeographed journal featured poetry and included a veritable who's who of 1960s poets, artists and writers, including Andy Warhol, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsburg, Philip Whalen, Ted Berrigan, Frank O'Hara, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, Diane DiPrima and Leroi Jones.

(See for more information)

--- M. Bryer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Berkeley in the Seventies

The Sexual Freedom League (SFL) was founded in New York City in 1963 in order to promote the political ideals of sexual freedom. It became associated with the Bay Area when Jefferson Poland, one of its founders, moved here and concentrated his organizing efforts at the University of California, Berkeley. Poland founded the Psychedelic Venus Church, an offshoot of the League, circa 1970. As a catalog entry from the Sexual Freedom League Collection at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University points out, these records are of interest to scholars researching sexual attitudes (and sexual politics) in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.

These flyers from the Psychedelic Venus Church are invitations to events the group held in Berkeley. (Sexual Freedom League Records, BANC MSS 83/181)
--- M. Bryer

Miss Rural Electrification

Jan Brown, a student at Angelo State College in Texas, was named "Miss Rural Electrification of 1966" at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA) annual meeting in Las Vegas. Brown represented the Central Texas Electrical Co-Op at Fredericksburg. The cover story noted that she "proved that beauty and brains go admirably together." If we view pageants not merely as trivial or exploitative, but as civic rituals that produce political subjects, then we can see Brown as the feminine embodiment of the values of the co-op she represented.

According to its website, NRECA was organized in 1942 to overcome shortages of electric construction materials during WWII, get insurance for newly constructed rural electrical cooperatives and "mitigate wholesale power problems." "Rural Electrification: Non-Partisan, Non-Profit, One-Cent Electricity for Rural America," was the Association's monthly publication. Today, NRECA represents "the national interests of cooperative electric utilities and the consumers they serve." They still publish "Rural Electric Magazine" on a monthly basis.

We found this issue in the Grace McDonald papers (BANC MSS 85/139). McDonald, a consumer advocate, helped form the California Farm Research and Legislative Committee and was Executive Secretary of the California Farmer Consumer Information Committee. In addition to lobbying on behalf of farm laborers, McDonald also worked on occupational health and safety issues. Her 1951 novel, "Swing Shift," written under the pseudonym Margaret Graham, told the story of organized and unorganized railroad men, miners and tobacco workers.

--- M. Bryer

Monday, January 4, 2010

African American Ephemera

James de Tarr Abajian (1914-1986) was librarian of the California Historical Society from 1950-1968. He also served as curator of the Kemble Collections on Western Printing (until 1977) and as archivist for the San Francisco Archdiocese of the Catholic Church (until he retired in 1983). Abajian compiled many significant bibliographic resources on African Americans in the United States. These included Blacks in Selected Newspapers, Censuses and Other Sources: An Index to Names and Subjects and Blacks and Their Contributions to the American West.

Abajian also collected ephemera that documented the lives of African Americans. The following images were culled from his collection of Black ephemera (BANC MSS 82/77). These flyers and pamphlets offer a window into a wide variety of social, political, economic and religous activities in African American communities throughout California, circa 1968-1969.

--- M. Bryer