Skyler Reidy

Clarence King may not be a household name today, but he was one of the great geologists of nineteenth-century America. He was a rough-and-tumble adventurer and a scientific gentleman, equally comfortable sitting around a Western campfire or swapping bon mots in an Eastern drawing room. I’ve admired Clarence King for years, and so I was delighted to learn that The Huntington holds some of his papers, including personal notebooks from his expeditions. I called them up, hoping I could find something valuable for my dissertation, but ready to be disappointed.


Clarence King.  U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.

My dissertation is focused on the history of religion and secularity in nineteenth-century California, so I wasn’t sure if King’s papers would include anything useful. I study the relationship between science and religion in California, but I didn’t know if King was ever explicit about his spiritual views. His memoir, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, describes his time exploring the Sierras as part of the California Geological Survey. In that book, King rarely mentions religion. However, the final lines of the book suggest that King may have nurtured a deeply spiritual, but profoundly heterodox view of nature.

King closes his memoir by describing the forest slowly covering the scars left by mining, and then says: “While Nature thus gently heals the humble Earth, God, who is also Nature, moulds and changes Man.” This is, to say the least, not a typical nineteenth-century opinion. Firstly, most Americans were Christians, and drew a sharp distinction between creator and creation. King, on the other hand, seems downright pantheistic. Secondly, most Americans believed human nature was fixed and unchanging. King’s cryptic statement here seems to indicate that he was an early adopter of Darwin’s theories, and believed that humanity was evolving into something different. However, the brief statement never develops his ideas. How far did one sentence represent his actual views?

As I began thumbing through the records held at The Huntington, I made a thrilling discovery. Tucked into one of the folders was a notebook, in King’s handwriting, dedicated to spiritual reflections. This is exactly what I need, I thought to myself. However, as I began to pore over the spiritual notebook, my heart sank. The notebook started with a fairly clear discussion of a Bible story, but soon grew disjointed and rambling. Sometimes sentences and bulleted lists trailed off unfinished. At other points King had jotted down questions and left them unanswered. The notebook was intriguing, but it was certainly not a clear explication of his religious views. Even worse, the notebook had no date.


One of King’s notebooks held at The Huntington.

King had a long and varied career. Without a date for the notebook, it would be impossible to relate it to Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada or his time in California. King had lived on and off in California during the 1860s, but in later decades he explored other parts of the West, and settled in New York to lead a double life with a secret African-American wife (a tale well-told by Martha Sandweiss in Passing Strange). Flipping through King’s spiritual notebook, I couldn’t find any dates. I found some strange drawings in the flyleaf, like a globe and some intersecting lines, and tried to imagine a possible connection between the inscrutable doodles and a period of King’s life, but I couldn’t. To make matters worse, King had published Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada in 1875, years after the events it describes, which meant that it was unclear if the surprising pantheism of the closing lines reflected his views at the time of the expedition, or only at the time of the publishing.


Sketch from King’s notebook.  From the collection at The Huntington.

I kept going through the papers. As I was leafing through notebooks from King’s undergraduate years and scientific study prior to California, I found another detailed religious reflection. My eyes lit up. Maybe this was the key that could connect the disjointed spiritual notebook to the conclusion of his memoir. As I read though, I began to feel discouraged. King was expressing boilerplate transcendentalist and liberal Protestant views. He wrote that God was beyond the physical world, but His glory shined through in natural beauty. Nature was just a veil covering God. All this talk of a transcendent deity seemed contrary to the earthy, immanent God described in the memoir. Clearly, King had held these fairly conventional views when he left for California. Perhaps the odd flourishes in the memoir were just curious turns of phrase. However, I kept sifting through the papers, hoping to find something that would show what he was thinking in the mountains. The notebooks from his time in the Sierras were mostly filled with measurements taken from barometers and theodolites, with an occasional sketch of a mountain or list of plant specimens. King had also doodled in the blank spaces of the notebooks, sketching items from camp or imagining new seals for the California Geological Survey. As much as I enjoyed holding the notebooks in my hands and feeling a tangible connection to my favorite nature writer, fuzzy feelings alone can’t get me through a dissertation defense. I needed to find something to make sense of King’s spiritual views.


Religious reflections in one of King’s notebooks.


One of King’s sketches for a new seal for the California Geological Survey.

So I continued my search and pulled a field notebook from 1864 out of its archival folder. As I held it, something seemed familiar. The size, the binding—it matched the spiritual notebook. I began to smile. Did that mean that the spiritual notebook I had found was also from 1864? Maybe. There’s a decent chance King bought the two matching notebooks at the same time. However, it was possible that King got both notebooks in 1864, but then waited years to start writing in the spiritual notebook. There was one other clue. In his field notes, King had amused himself by experimenting with logos for the California Geological Survey. I immediately pulled out the spiritual notebook. King’s proposed logos from 1864 matched the globe doodled in the spiritual notebook. This was the clue I had been searching for.

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One of King’s matching notebooks.


Another sketch for the seal of the California Geological Survey.

Suddenly the disorganized thinking in the spiritual notebook made sense. Before leaving for California, King had written and thought like a typical New England transcendentalist. In 1875, he had concluded his memoir with a confident, albeit cryptic, embrace of pantheism. Surely something had changed in between. The change came in 1864. The unanswered questions and unfinished lists in the spiritual notebook are the work of a man in the throes of a conversion experience. His work as a geologist and surveyor, and his encounters with the sublime Sierra Nevada, were working a change in his soul. Why did his time in California transform his religious views?

That’s a difficult question, and one that lies at the heart of my dissertation. Men like Clarence King came to California to “tame the wilderness.” As miners, farmers, and surveyors they staked their fortune on an ability to observe and understand an unfamiliar environment. In the process, they came to focus on the physicality of nature and to emphasize reality of visible objects over invisible forces. As these men settled the West, they tried to feel at home—to feel like they belonged in their surroundings. Since they had come to see their surroundings in material terms, they also came to see themselves in material terms, emphasizing the mutable body over the immutable soul. Thus, the process of settling the West effected a turn from the transcendent to the immanent. King’s pantheistic sentiments are an extreme manifestation of this turn. Rather than locating God in the highest heaven, King found God in the rocks and trees of the Sierras. Once he had immersed himself in the mountains of California, and only then, did King come to believe in a “God, who is also nature.”


Skyler Reidy is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Southern California History Department. His dissertation explores the role of secularism and secularity in California history. The dissertation focuses on the long nineteenth century, tracing changing practices of material religion from the Spanish mission system to the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. Reidy argues that Californian efforts to articulate and impose secularity—while always contested and ambivalent—were integral to the construction of a settler colonial society. Reidy attended the College of William & Mary, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History and American Studies in 2011 and a Master’s of Arts in History in 2013. He is a member of the Western History Association and Society for Pentecostal Studies, and has presented his work at numerous conferences, in the United States and abroad.






Will Cowan

“My family came here in 1842 to protect this land, and here we are 176 years later still fighting to protect it!”     –Sharon Trujillo-Kasner, former resident of La Placita and descendant of Lorenzo Trujillo 2018 (used by permission).

The pounding of excavators, dozers, motor graders, and backhoe loaders–Caterpillars they might be but it is the landscape that is undergoing metamorphosis. The rumbling of dump trucks and water tankers kick up a near constant dust storm, a perpetual, artificial Santa Ana wind.  And when those notorious devil winds return, the air churns thick with yellows and browns from the roiling dust. This unnoticed landscape just north of the 60 Freeway on the border between Riverside and San Bernardino Counties is being graded for construction, maybe for warehouses, or parking lots, or those solar arrays that increasingly invade the open-spaces of inland Southern California’s drive-over country. Sure, the land hasn’t been wild for decades, but at least it was once open.

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What remains of Slover Mountain (aka Tahualtapa, aka the Hill of Ravens) from the northwestern corner of the cemetery grounds in Colton, CA. Photo by author.

One of these new schemes is a 16-acre industrial complex, the Center Street Commerce Center Project, a 300,000-square foot tilt-wall Neo-Brutalist distribution facility, complete with parking for at least 600 cars and trailers enclosed by 8-foot concrete walls. These gargantuan industrial parks–one of the great examples of newspeak–checker the landscape like shiny white scabs across inland Southern California, grounds that not long ago were covered with dairies, pastures, citrus and nut groves.  Or, in places, gravely plains, grassy slopes, and vacant lots filled with miniature forests of Sahara mustard or wild oats.

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Jurupa Hills looking west from Agua Mansa Cemetery in Colton CA. Photo by author.

Like the eastern cities of Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New Jersey, warehousification is transforming western cities: Chicago, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth. And in Southern California’s Inland Empire, more “industrial real estate” is emerging than anywhere else in the country–something like twenty million square feet of land a year for several years running. These dry ports enable the entire distribution chain funneling merchandise from Asia through the twin ports at Long Beach and San Pedro, through distribution hubs and into homes and businesses across the country. More distribution centers mean more idling diesel trucks, more traffic, and more fumes, contributing to the some of the worst air pollution on the continent, all for the sake of ever-deepening e-commerce dependence. For some longtime locals, it is just another western land grab. Another slow erasure of place, people, and memory in the long history of speculative development in California.

Watching over this sacrifice zone in Riverside’s Northside, just south of La Loma Hills, stand the last remnants of one of the oldest surviving adobe structures in the state: the Trujillo Adobe (Riverside City Historic Landmark #130, Riverside County Landmark #009, State of California Point of Interest). The heart of the Trujillo Family Homestead has suffered neglect and abuse since Riverside County Parks Department acquired it fifty years ago. All that remains are two deteriorating walls. The shed built around the crumbling dwelling protects the exposed mud bricks from rain and vandals, but it cannot defend those fragile brick walls from the rattling of nearby construction, nor the incessant vibrations of a non-stop parade of trucks if the Center Street Project goes as planned. Also nearby, just north of Columbia Avenue, sit dozens of 19th century houses–long rectangular buildings with low-pitched gabled roofs built of wood, adobe, and fired brick. Some descendants of the original owners still make their homes here.

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Wall of the Trujillo Adobe today.  Photo by the author.

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Antonino Trujillo, grandson of Lorenzo, in front of the Trujillo Adobe, courtesy of San Bernardino County Museum.

It is in the threatened Trujillo Adobe that we can see glimmers of California’s past, present, and future in this overlooked place.

The land where the Trujillo Adobe rests is impossibly ancient, and its rivers are some of its oldest actors. The Santa Ana and its tributaries long carved their routes down the foothills of the cragged San Bernardino and eastern San Gabriel Mountains, once spidering out across the plains, filling ephemeral lagoons and seasonal arroyos, and meandering through coastal wetlands on the way to the Pacific. Cahuilla, Tongva, Serrano, Luiseño and other Indigenous peoples have the longest relationships there, the rivers life sources and places of contact, commerce, and conflict for generations. In a time long ago, the San Bernardino Valley and its ranges and streams were alive with mule deer and grizzlies and steelhead.  The Spanish monarchy and its Franciscans partners saw potential in the lands east of the royal road–pasturage for Mission San Gabriel’s livestock, and fertile grounds for pueblos filled with assimilated California Indians and migrants from New Spain, united as pious servants to church and crown. Bourbon reformists expanded their vision of a commercial cattle empire that survived Mexico’s War for Independence. No longer beholden to the Franciscan plan, the lands would not go to the native neophytes, but were instead subdivided into massive estates–a Mexican cousin to the 1862 Homestead Act–designed to entice settler-colonists to the region. Mexican government officials hoped rapid settlement of Alta California would keep it within the new republic’s sphere and away from encroaching European and U.S. interests and indigenous groups keen on reclaiming their homelands, as the Quchen had at Yuma. So over the first few decades of the nineteenth century, Mexico’s Alta California governors partitioned mission lands into ranch lands and granted and sold them to well-connected men, like Juan Pablo Grijalva, who in 1801 obtained the 60,000 acre Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana along the lower part of the river of the same name. By the 1830s and 1840s a network of powerful families–the Lugos, Yorbas, Picos, Sepulvedas–claimed the bulk of the land, water, and labor in the region surrounding the Trujillo Adobe.

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Cross section of wall, Trujillo Adobe, Riverside, CA. Photo by author.

With the expansion of the rancho economy on the land where the Trujillo Adobe now stands, livestock raiding grew more lucrative. In one infamous 1840 raid, Wakara and Los Chaguanosos pushed down Cajon Pass, captured some 3,000 horses, many belonging to Lugo and his sons–and escaped back to the Great Basin. Five years later, Wakara returned, taking hundreds more. Easy pickings. The rancheros of inland Southern California sought protection. The Lugo sons and Juan Bandini—owners of the San Bernardino and Jurupa ranchos, respectively, began looking to establish buffer settlements along the trails to the north and east. Some, like Miguel Blanco’s outpost at Muscupiabe at the entrance of Cajon Pass and the Mojave Trail near Cable Canyon, were short lived—Blanco maybe lasted nine months—frightened off by persistent attacks. The Trujillos came to Southern California to take his place. Santiago Martinez, Hipolito Espinosa, and Lorenzo Trujillo had been coming to Southern California at least as early as the 1830s, guiding and guarding the great trains of California horses and mules that flowed east to the markets of Santa Fe along networks of native footpaths that came to be known as the Old Spanish Trail and returned to Los Angeles by way of southern Utah, Nevada, and the Mojave Desert with manufactured goods and emigrants. The journey was unforgiving, twelve hundred miles or more across mountains and deserts, with vast swings in temperature and elevation, and almost always vulnerable to attack. They were “New Mexicans” to the Californios, but they were also Indigenous–Genízaros from Abiquiú.

The families, including the Trujillos, made a deal with the government that they could have land and build homes if they settled to defend it and the rest of the valley.  They divided the land into individual plots on opposite sides of the river. One half of town—Agua Mansa—rested on the north bank, while on the south bank sat La Placita de los Trujillos, or simply, La Placita. Combined the towns were known as San Salvador, because of the parish church that also united the two communities. The families built houses, gardens, a dancehall, and irrigation ditches for orchards, vineyards, and grain fields fenced in by a lattice of live willows. Their sheep, cattle, and horses ranged along the river bottom for miles in each direction. They held bull and bear fights and horse races, drawing gamblers from all over.  Thousands of dollars were won and lost.  And then lost and won again.

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Hand Drawn map of “Agua Mansa” by Salvador Alvarado, born in La Placita in 1886. Courtesy of the San Bernardino County Museum.

Trujillo and his sons lived up to their end of the bargain—to defend the valley and their homes—many times. Once famously, the Trujillos escorted then Indian agent Benjamin Wilson and roughly 80 men into the high desert in search of a Joaquin, a former San Gabriel neophyte and worker at Rancho Chino. He wore the scars of the missions it was said, a branded lip and one ear missing. Trujillo, two of his sons, and Wilson scouted ahead, and stumbled upon Joaquin and three other men. There was a brief standoff, then gunfire. Joaquin and his companions flew off across the plain before hunkering down and fighting the 80-man force. They wounded several of Wilson’s men and horses before Wilson’s force overwhelmed them. Joaquin laid dying, shot through the chest, cursing in Spanish. Ben Wilson lay there too, a poisoned arrow shaft protruding from his swelling arm and shoulder. Lorenzo, Wilson’s “faithful Comanche,” doctored him and saved his life.

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Another map by Salvador Alvarado showing “La Placita” at the turn of the 20th century. At least two buildings appear to be on the proposed Center Street warehouse site–one of which was the house of Peregrina Trujillo.

The Trujillo family built the adobe now threatened by encroaching warehouses in a period of growth and reconstruction. By 1860, with more than six hundred residents in the twin villages of Agua Mansa and La Placita, the towns represented one of the largest settlements between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, and served as an integral point of arrival and departure for trade caravans connecting the Pacific to the rest of the continent. However, the near mythic winter of 1861-1862 spread destruction and death across the Pacific West. The flooded Santa Ana River devoured both the towns of Agua Mansa and La Placita. Many of the towns’ families stayed and rebuilt. The Trujillos were among them. Adobe was one of the first structures built following that devastating winter. And it became one of the centerpieces of a renewed community. In the 1870s, knowing nothing of the history of San Salvador nor its people, Riverside’s founders began calling it Spanish Town.

Today the county line separating San Bernardino from Riverside cuts alongside the Trujillo Adobe and right through this pivotal and historic multiethnic community. Likely no coincidence. This historic neighborhood has endured war, floods, droughts, successive waves of industries, migrations, and a revisioning of the landscape and its waterways–disasters both sudden and slow. And yet many families and the old adobe home remain.

Warehousification might be the disaster they cannot survive.  The construction of the Center Street Project threatens to surround the adobe with industrial complexes. The Springfield Heritage Alliance has appealed to the City of Riverside to await a complete Environmental Impact Report before they decide to approve the project.

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Olive Trujillo Vlahovich reading to children inside the adobe (Center Street side window), 1985. Courtesy of Spanish Town Heritage Foundation.

Descendants of the families that founded La Placita, San Salvador, Agua Mansa, and Spanish Town have a different vision for the landscape—a museum and cultural center that remembers, honors, and protects the space as historically and culturally valuable, with a restored Trujillo Adobe at its heart. The Center Street Project precludes these dreams. This is the latest round of defending home for those of San Salvador, though this time they stand on guard not against horse thieves, or cattle rustlers, or grizzly bears, or even from biblical floods and droughts, but the conquest of industrial parks and the bulldozing of the past.

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Map of Springbrook Heritage Alliance’s alternative vision for the landscape based on the heritage of the neighborhood.

The appeal hearing is Tuesday, December 11th at 7pm at the Riverside City Council Chambers (10th & Main in Downtown Riverside, CA). For more information of if you want to support the struggle to preserve the Trujillo Adobe, please contact Karen Renfro, co-founder and chair of Springbrook Heritage Alliance or Nancy Melendez, president of Spanish Town Heritage Foundation. Both groups also raise funds through gofundme and the annual Riverside Tamale Festival.

William Cowan studies history at the University of Southern California. His dissertation on the Pacific Slope Superstorms of 1861-62 delves into the lost histories of one of the most devastating environmental catastrophes in the Pacific West’s past. His work blends environmental history, Indigenous studies, and the history of science in the 19th century North American West.  Will’s work wrestles with questions of modernity as invisibility, of memory and history, and of the hauntings of disasters past.  He claims a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of California, Riverside. Will was the 2014-15 John R. Hubbard Fellow, a USC-Dornsife Research Enhancement Fellow, and the 2017-18 Gunther Barth Fellow. His writing has appeared in Environmental History, Past Tense, Zócalo Public Square, and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Ever wonder what lurks on the shelves of The Huntington Library? Or what book librarians first entered into the Library’s famed collection? Our graduate student Dan Wallace went in search of the early books that made their way into the catalogue and their significance in the history of the American West. As part of an ongoing series for the ICW blog, he’ll introduce one of these pieces and dig into that world.

Dan Wallace

While conducting research in The Huntington Library’s online catalog, I had a sudden moment of intellectual inquisitiveness about what books became part of the library’s very early collection. Curious, I searched for call numbers 1-10 to see what rare books were catalogued first. Call numbers go into the hundreds of thousands, so it is uncommon for a researcher to encounter numbers so low, and I was eager to know which books could claim such distinct digits. Of course, these books are much more than an arbitrary call number. They are indeed fantastic pieces of the history of California and the West and they take us to the uncertain, busy, and violent world of the mid-nineteenth century.


A “shelfie” of rare books at The Huntington Library and featured on their Tumblr page.

The very first book entered in the library’s catalogue? “American Nationality” by Thomas Starr King (1863).


The Huntington Library’s copy of “American Nationality” and the first item catalogued in their collection.

Thomas Starr King. Minister, orator, patron saint of California. Supporter of Lincoln, the Union, and the California Volunteer’s murder of Native Americans. Call number one in The Huntington is a copy of King’s “American Nationality,” a speech he delivered in San Francisco on July 4th, 1863. It is said that King’s oratory was influential in keeping California committed to the Union–helping to ward off pro-Confederate groups and an 1861 vote to form an independent Californian republic. Lincoln may have even praised King as the man who “saved California for the Union.” The extent of King’s influence has been debated by historians but consider the context in which this speech was given. As King argued that it was God’s plan for America to fly under one flag, the grounds of Gettysburg smoldered. Though the battle is now described as the turning point of the war, in July of 1863, nothing was preordained.

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Photo of Thomas Starr King, c1860.  Photo archived at California State Library.

This uncertainty was not limited to the battlefield, for while winning the war was no doubt the North’s primary goal, Republicans were also working towards the cause of creating a modern, centralized state. The people, land, and resources of the West (especially California’s) were important to this project. With only 32% of Californians voting for Lincoln in 1860, and Confederate sympathizers clamoring in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, the voices of King and other western Republicans aided in the battle to win hearts and minds for a new vision of the country.

Putting the West in this context forces us to see the Civil War as a national story. For the federal government, defeating the South and conquering the West were dual projects, and even from California King certainly understood this. “Victory for the Government means imperial peace for generations,” he argued, championing “one imperial Republic…wide as the ramparts of the Eastern and Western mountains, continuous as the tide of the Mississippi.” His ultra-patriotic, imperial vision was pro-union, anti-slavery, and very pro-Manifest Destiny. USC/ICW’s Skyler Reidy will tell you, as he did me, that this had devastating effects on Native American populations. King held several fundraisers for the California Volunteers who engaged in some of the most gruesome campaigns against the state’s indigenous people. This violence was not antithetical to King’s beliefs, but a critical part of them. Securing the West for the empire he envisioned meant removing those who stood in the way. And while King would not live to see Reconstruction, his ideas would, as the Civil War turned into the Indian Wars, and expanding the country went hand in hand with reuniting it.


Statue of King at the California State Capitol Museum and Park

Californians sent a statue of King to Statutory Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building where it would sit as one of the state’s notable figures. He was eventually replaced by Ronald Reagan in 2009, but for many decades King sat next to Junípero Serra as the state’s honored persons; one the founder of the Californian Missions, the other an orator who helped save California for the Union. In this light, though the call numbers are arbitrary, there is something seemingly fitting about King’s piece being number one at a library, in California, that prides itself on its collection in the history of California and the West. But perhaps more than that, when King’s piece was collected by the library in 1916, the Library’s boosters and financiers, such as Henry Huntington, had a particular view of this history, one where Anglo domination of the West was very much the story of the West, and one that King would have felt at home in.

Dan earned both his BA and MA in history from his hometown school, the University at Buffalo. He became interested in the American West after his grandfather told him about an uncle who went west and was never heard from again, and after finishing his MA in 2016 he headed to California to begin a PhD in history at USC. Dan’s work focuses on the fantasies and realties of the West as a site of sectional reunion after the Civil War. 

Jillaine Cook

“I, Joseph Berger hereby register as an alien enemy at Police District No. 9, San Francisco California and make the following statements and answers under oath.” Thus begins the detailed four-page affidavit containing Berger’s immigration status, employment history, family, background, photograph, and fingerprints that he submitted to the neutrality squad of the San Francisco Police on February 4, 1918. For nearly two weeks that February, police departments across the nation were inundated with German nationals who, like Berger, had done nothing to bring suspicion upon themselves other than failing to secure citizenship in their new home. When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the German-American community came under instant suspicion, and in November, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation requiring all male German nationals residing in the United States to formalize the government’s suspicions by registering. Although initially exempt, their wives and daughters would be forced to register in June 1918. Presumed disloyal and potentially dangerous simply by virtue of their citizenship, these men and women were forced to swear under oath that they were “alien enemies” and provide detailed information to facilitate surveillance of their activities.

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Finger prints from Joseph Berger’s file, 1918, San Francisco Public Library, History and Archives

Housed in libraries, community archives, and genealogy websites these forms have been largely untapped in the historiography of the German-American experience during the First World War, which focuses primarily on outbreaks of mass-hysteria or the increase of vigilante surveillance practiced by groups like the American Protective League. It can be challenging to read meaning into forms that required primarily factual answers and left little room for protest, but these registration affidavits are valuable sources. Documenting an encounter between Germans living in the United States and the federal government, the forms are both a record of the government’s attempt to formalize presumed disloyalty and snapshots of a traumatic experience that reveal the slippage between the government’s assumptions and the way these people regarded themselves. Though a century has passed, the struggles over definitions of loyalty and belonging inscribed in their old-fashioned cursive evoke current headlines, powerfully reminding us of the enduring presence of these debates. Several examples drawn from my work on the registration affidavits submitted by San Francisco’s German-American community suggest the ways in which these forms and accompanying police correspondence can provide insights into this encounter between bureaucratic power and individuals.

In August 1918, Leonhard Bauer was accosted and arrested for failing to register. The documentation of his arrest and the affidavit he was forced to submit highlight the absurdity of trying to pinpoint loyalty and identity based on citizenship and the stakes involved for those who registered. Leonhard and his brother George did not register in February because they had been born in England where they lived until 1913 when their family immigrated to the United States. According to a police report, Leonhard argued that “he had never at any time resided in Germany, and considered himself an English subject.” Aside from the question of loyalty and national identity that made registering anathema for Leonhard and George, there were practical reasons motivating their avoidance as well. Although it was possible to apply for a permit to enter forbidden areas, many alien enemies lost their jobs because, as the San Francisco Chronicle explained on February 10, 1918, “under no circumstances are enemy aliens to be permitted near warehouses and docks.” Leonhard, who was employed at the Crowley Steam Launch Company on the waterfront, discovered this for himself when a Coast Guard officer grew suspicious and arrested him for failing to register and being found within a protected area. He avoided internment, but the U.S. Marshal registered him and forbade him from returning to his job. George avoided arrest by voluntarily going to the Department of Justice office in San Francisco to inquire whether it would be necessary for him to register. As the policy stated that children of German immigrants were to be considered German aliens regardless of the location of their birth unless their parents had naturalized in the United States, the U.S. Marshal registered George as well. George worked at the Globe Grain and Milling Company, which was near the waterfront as well, and it is likely that he and Leonhard had avoided registration deliberately rather than out of ignorance. Their sister, Eva, who had also been born in England and lived with them and their parents had registered in June during the prescribed registration period.

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Leonhard Bauer’s affidavit, 1918, San Francisco Public Library, History and Archives

Like the Bauer brothers, women like Neida Huling Adler balked at the assumption that their citizenship reflected their loyalty or national identity. Under the 1907 Expatriation Act, women who married foreign nationals lost their American citizenship. American-born women affected by this law vehemently protested their registration and used the forms to make statements about their identity. Born in Virginia City, Nevada, Neida Adler wrote “Born U.S.” in large letters where information about immigration dates was requested. Under the question about which languages she spoke, she simply wrote “American.” Subtle statements of identification as an American like these show up repeatedly on American-born women’s forms, along with emphasis on their parents’ citizenship or on relatives who were fighting for the United States.

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Neida Huling Nickersen Adler’s affidavit, 1918; San Francisco Public Library, History and Archives

Registration could have economic consequences for those employed in protected areas and it frequently contradicted the identity of the registrants. Beyond the ideological issue of loyalty and national identity, it also carried strong connotations of criminality and subjected the registrants to police surveillance of their every move. The sense that they were being booked as criminals came most forcefully through the photographs and fingerprints submitted on the final pages of the affidavit. Most registrants were able to provide their own photographs, controlling the image they presented as they thronged the photography studios of San Francisco. The photographs taken by the police of German residents at the city’s Relief Home for Aged and Infirm, like John Jonkosky, stand out from the rest. In these photographs, the subjects often look dejected or angry. Most significantly, the police placed numbered placards on each person’s chest, probably to assist in matching photographs with the correct paperwork. While most of the photographs in the registration files look like portraits, these images are a stark reminder that in effect they were really mug shots, documenting suspects and preserving their image in case of future investigations.

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John Jonkosky’s affidavit and photo, San Francisco Public Library

Unlike their photographs, over which most registrants had a degree of control, no one could avoid the indignity of being fingerprinted, and the association of fingerprinting with criminal procedures was clear. Newspapers published articles about the new techniques of fingerprinting and its use in identifying German alien enemies. For the registrants, the full page of fingerprints they had to provide was surely tangible confirmation that they were suspects and registration was not a mere formality. Taking finger prints made such an impression during the first round of registration in February that the expanded instructions on the top of the forms used to register “alien females” in June included a caveat explaining that “The finger printing is a method of identification and the taking of the finger prints is not to be deemed an imputation that the registrant is not a law-abiding person.”

One hundred years later, the snippets of thousands of lives dutifully inscribed on alien enemy registration affidavits in police stations across the nation continue to speak eloquently. Collectively, these forms offer demographic information about entire communities of German immigrants, offering insight into immigration, occupation, housing, and family trends. As the examples presented here suggest, they also offer insights into the way individuals push back against the rigid boundaries of bureaucratic formalities and address questions of identity and power that remain all too relevant in today’s America.

Jillaine Cook received her bachelor’s degree in History from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. She joined the History PhD program at USC in 2016. Her interests include questions of immigration, citizenship, and empire in late 19th-early 20th century America and the Pacific.


Tin Cup Creek, Caribou County, Idaho

By William Deverell

Back on the road, July 21, 2018.  We left Jackson this morning around nine.  As we drove alongside the mighty Snake River, we saw a bald eagle splash down into the river from about forty of fifty feet above, probably doing a lot better at fishing than we have.  We made our traditional and always-fun stop at Tin Cup Creek just over the Wyoming line into Caribou County, Idaho.  It’s a small stream of about ten miles’ length, beautiful and cold.  Each year, I love this part of the drive the most.  Not much looks to have changed – a big ranch or two notwithstanding – in a long, long stretch of years.


Tin Cup Creek, Carbou County, Idaho

I pulled over at this interesting historical marker in Wayan, ID (population just over 200, with a surprisingly young median age of less than thirty).  John Grey, who may have been mixed race Iroquois and Scottish (with perhaps Cree lineage as well) was a long ways from home when he wandered into the Wayan Valley looking for beaver in 1819 or 1820 for the North West Company out of Montreal (which would soon thereafter merge with the Hudson’s Bay Company).  Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their daughter for this famed fur-trading operation.  No, they didn’t.

Grey’s other name – Ignace Hatchiorauguasha – signaled his Catholic loyalty to St. Ignatius.  Aside from famed grizzly-fighting abilities, Grey seems to have been a gifted intermediary between whites and Indians in this most rugged terrain of the early 19th century mountain West.


John Grey and the Wayan Valley

Not long after, we encountered this dust devil about a quarter mile in front of us.  I thought at first it was a fire, then a smudge on my windshield.   But, no, it was some wild atmospheric something-or-other, and it was amazing.


Idaho Dust Devil

In Salt Lake for the night.   We’ll hit the fabulous climbing gym, The Front, in the morning (or one of us will).  St. George tomorrow evening, then back home in Pasadena around lunchtime on Monday.  We have had a stellar trip, but we miss our loved ones (human and canine).

9781626400535_grandeWhat questions are you considering thanks to your summer reading list? In After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame (Angel City Press, 2018), Lynell George asks the big questions, “How do you want to contribute to the story of the city? How do [you] want to influence and shape history?” Her vibrant and personal work walks through the L.A.(s) of her life and memories – from the scents of the city in 1971 through today’s interplay of language, gentrification, and displacement (and the intertwined realities of ethnicity, race, and class). Her “cul-de-sacs of fading memory” invite one to consider how place is both location and time and how Angelenos are a living museum of the city. Change is reality. Yet for those feeling lost or a sense of dislocation, how might we collectively work to “launch” the L.A. of the future that delivers promises of respect, of context, and of a sense of belonging? Which historical realities must be investigated to generate positive change for L.A.’s next episode?

Replica Fur Trapper Shelter

Replica Fur Trapper Shelter by William Deverell

By William Deverell

July 14, 2018.  Daniel, Wyoming.   John and I went in to Pinedale today for the annual festivities wrapped around the famed Rocky Mountain Rendezvous.  These were held all over the Rocky Mountain West from the mid-1820s to the 1840s, though the most of them were put on right here at Daniel, on the banks of the Green River.  We pass the commemorative sign each day we leave the ranch for the drive into Pinedale.  Trappers, traders, Indians, and (once the word got out) even tourists mingled for weeks on end, and the gatherings became famous for their merriment and the various contests put on between the trappers.  The mixed-race trapper James Beckwourth, born a slave in Virginia (and later freed by his master/father), said this of the rendezvous: “Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.”

I have a few doubts about just how innocently joyful these were, but I easily admit I would love to see one.  I can’t imagine, in the days before the Gold Rush, any gathering in the far West that would feature more human diversity than one of these.  Anyone wanting to know more should consult Anne Hyde’s splendid book, Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West. 

We had fun at the rendezvous commemoration.  Just above town, the excellent Museum of the Mountain Man (where, a year ago, John and I discovered the late 1850s photographs of Oregon Trail migrants made by none other than Albert Bierstadt) had put up a fur trapper encampment with re-enactors showing off their gear, clothing, and handicrafts.  I think I have a pretty good radar about re-enactors and re-enactments, and I generally shy away from them.  These participants, men and women alike, were tremendous.  I think some of them, even in the 21st century, may actually try to live the life, or at least do so in stretches of time and place.  The equipment looked right, the clothing looked right (if too clean), the guns and knives looked lethal and utilitarian.  One of the trappers scoffed at what was going on “in town” (literally a few hundred yards away); that was tourist stuff, he intimated.  Up on the hill, in the encampment, they took this all very seriously.  He had a point.

We did go down the hill.  A parade was heating up, and John and I watched the whole thing.  It was classic small-town Rocky Mountain fare, and fun for it.  Horses, buckboards, politicians and wanna-be politicians.  One sitting U.S. Senator, John Barrasso, who is one of the only 21 Senators from this relatively new state (all white men).  Fire trucks, classic cars, people trying with less success than those on the hill to look, act, walk, and ride like fur trappers.  One man at the parade, a very warm and friendly guy about my age, said that he had seen us the other day at the “Burger Barn.”  “You two have such a great relationship,” he said, “it was fun to watch you together.”  I thanked him, and I introduced him to John.  “Is he your grandson?” he asked.  Once again, life in the mountain West, and I took no offense whatsoever.


Trout on the Roof, Pinedale by William Deverell

At one point, a parade vehicle came by with veterans aboard.  An announcer, who had trouble speaking through tears, asked us all to stand and sing happy birthday to a 94 year-old World War II veteran.  We did.  I hesitated, I admit.  It’s not exactly my thing, though I recognize the man’s duty and sacrifice.  Only a few minutes later, as I had a quiet conversation with myself about this, a younger man walked by us with a T-shirt on that depicted an automatic weapon and the words “But first, coffee.”  There it is, I thought: that slippery seam between … between what? Patriotism and mere fascination with violence?  Between knee-jerk exuberance about mayhem and something more complex?  Between honoring an elderly man’s service in the so-called “good war” (I hate that designation) and back-slapping, winking brotherhood about masculinity, violence, guns, and coffee?

I am not going to figure it out.  Suffice to say that the festivities were fun for the both of us.  But the history wrapped around all of it – the fur trade, the western exploration, the genocidal assault on indigenous peoples, and everything that’s come since (including another T-shirt, new to me, that said, simply “Trumplican”) go together in some complex alchemy that will stick with me awhile.

A T-shirt ethnography of mountain West just might tell us something.

Tomorrow: Jackson: another town, maybe another Wyoming, maybe another planet.