California Flood Mazurka Sheet Music

Sheet music that shows effects of 1861-1862 flood courtesy of the Bancroft Library.

Congratulations to William J. Cowan who just received the USC Russell Endowed Fellowship and the USC Graduate School Summer Research Grant. Cowan is working on his Ph.D. in the USC History department and we asked him to share a few words about his research and this honor:

These funds will be used to continue my dissertation research about the Pacific Slope Superstorms’ of 1861-62. I will be exploring several archives in Oregon, notably the Special Collections in Eugene and the holdings of the the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. During that trip I will also be visiting several historic sites, including the “lost” towns of Canemah and Champoeg–both of which were destroyed in the Pacific Slope superstorms of 1861-62. I will also use this opportunity to venture to the Bay Area to visit the California Historical Society’s archival collections and to pay a return visit to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. These collections include key eye-witness accounts of the devastating winter of 62 and its aftermath.

I am humbled and grateful to be a recipient of the 2018-19 USC Russell Endowed Fellowship and the USC Graduate School Summer Research Grant. It’s an honor to represent the Department of History and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. I applaud this year’s nominees and congratulate my fellow Graduate School awardees. Many thanks to our department’s Directors of Graduate Studies, Steve Ross and Richard Fox for supporting my nomination, our Academic Advisor Melissa Borek Calderon for directing the submission process, and to Bill Deverell and Peter Mancall for their continued counsel and their confidence in me and my work.

You can follow Will Cowan’s research on Twitter at @williejcowan or contact him at


As we begin 2018, we asked several Huntington Library curators to share specific collections relevant to the West that have been newly acquired, catalogued and are now accessible for research. As many know, the Huntington Library has extensive materials related to the American West. In fact, the subject constitutes nearly 40% of the Library’s holdings. Historians interested in these new archives can learn more about researching at the Huntington Library on its website:

Peter Blodgett, H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American History
The Barrows and Weyse Families Papers contain hundreds of letters and photographs from two families who became linked by marriage in 1860s Los Angeles.


Parcel of Henry D. Barrows (circa 1888) in downtown Los Angeles, courtesy of the Huntington Library.

Julius Weyse was a political refugee from Germany to England in 1836 and then a gold seeker to the United States in 1850 while Henry D. Barrows had relocated to California from the eastern United States. The contents include German-language Gold Rush narratives and later correspondence with details about family life in California while the Barrows materials include similar documents. With the presence of a US Marshal’s letter book for Southern California between 1857 and 1864, various land papers, and 62 pocket diaries from Henry Barrows, the collection includes numerous details about life in Southern California in the second half of the nineteenth century; the presence of significant content from German immigrants offers the possibility of investigating a potential transnational Los Angeles.

When incorporated with copies of Barrows publications here and other family collections at the Huntington such as the Wolfskill papers (Henry D. Barrows’ first wife was Juanita Wolfskill), the Barrows and Weyse Families Papers might shed some additional light upon the multiplicity of peoples and perspectives in Los Angeles. Also, depending upon the degree of depth in the papers, researchers might find possibilities for inquiring into the history of the Historical Society of Southern California.

Collection description in the Online Archive of California:


Dan Lewis, Dibner Senior Curator, History of Science & Technology
The Huntington’s history of aerospace collections have essential California connections — including the recent acquisition of the papers of William Arata, an aerospace engineer whose work spanned corporate life at Lockheed, Northrup Grumman, and other corporations.

Delta Northrop plane

Building a new Delta Northrop plane (circa 1933), courtesy of the Huntington Library.

His materials provide an excellent pan-corporate view of aviation and aerospace in Southern California between the 1930s and the 1980s, and are notable for his work across institutions. Arata also worked with Willis Hawkins at Lockheed, whose papers are at the Huntington, and with many others in positions of power and responsibility. The papers contain a great deal of material on transport designs, and are more broadly reflective of Arata’s thinking, responses and reactions to industry change and innovation. This transport work is an excellent counterpoint to the military focus of other aerospace holdings at the Huntington.

The Papers of J. Michael Scott, a pioneering Federal wildlife biologist who worked in Hawaii just after enactment of the Endangered Species Act, will be ready this Spring for research use. Scott was one of four such biologists working in the islands to survey the wildlife, but especially the bird life, in order to help set Federal conservation priorities. These papers have strong utility for environmental history research, as well as the particulars of wildlife biologists’ fieldwork in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, the Federal government, and other stakeholders.


Clay Stalls, Curator of California and Hispanic Collections
The Huntington has recently opened two valuable collections for research in Hispanic history in California.


Map of Mexico, Texas, Old and New California, and Yucatan (circa 1851), courtesy of the Huntington Library.

The Chávez Esparza Family Letters document extensively the immigration of members of this family from the state of Aguascalientes, Mexico, to California in the 1960s and 1970s. The letters provide particularly valuable first-person accounts of the family members’ experiences at work, especially types of employment and relations with employers and fellow employees; transnational family relations; and strategies for moving to and living in the United States. Collection description in the Online Archive of California:

The Pedro Villaseñor Political Papers offer rare documentation of the transnational character of Mexico’s troubled church-state relations in the 1930s. Born in the Mexican state of Michoacán, Pedro Villaseñor (1907-1996) was an ardent Mexican nationalist aligned with the political resistance against the federal government’s suppression of Roman Catholic religious liberties in the Mexico of the 1920s and 1930s. After his move to Los Angeles, he supported this cause, which still strongly resonated among the large Mexican population of Los Angeles, by organizing political groups and activities and publishing newsletters that would have a nation-wide circulation. Collection description in the Online Archive of California:


Li Wei Yang, Curator of Pacific Rim Collections
Last week I acquired the papers of Kenneth Y. Fung, immigration attorney based in San Francisco. Fung was president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (1947-1949) and he testified before Congress in 1945 about the unequal treatment of Chinese American spouses under the American immigration system. Fung was also a good friend of Y.C. Hong.


Kenneth Y. Fung (back row, far right) stands with the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (circa 1928). Photo courtesy of the Huntington Library.



Northrop Aircraft 1947US responses to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor remade the Southern California landscape — from the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese American families living on Terminal Island to the rapid expansion of defense efforts by local aerospace companies. The photo above features a Northrop jet bomber prototype aircraft (available on the Huntington Digital Library). The company was already in operation in Southern California prior to Pearl Harbor but sped up production after the attack.

ICW’s offering for this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is an invitation to the archives of local memory to better understand parts of the US domestic response. Interviews of aerospace workers from ICW’s Aerospace History Project that include their memories of Pearl Harbor Day are available on the Huntington Digital Library.

One riveter-turned-engineer, Jerry Huben, joined Northrop only three weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. An excerpt from his oral history:


Frank Bullock was a long-time control systems engineer at Lockheed and recounted this memory in his oral history:

Frank_Bullock_Oral_History_on_Pearl_HarborPearl Harbor Day calls for a solemn remembrance of those who lost their lives as well as a reckoning of the domestic responses and their present-day ramifications.

PieBy Elizabeth Logan

In case you are still sorting out dessert, we offer pie recipes from the 1951 church cookbook of the First Evangelical United Brethren Church. Church history places the congregation’s roots in 1884 Los Angeles in the Fireman’s Hall on Main Street. The church moved to its first sanctuary in 1887 at 718 S. Olive and then to the corner of 12th and Hope Streets in 1904. The denomination served the city’s German American families – many of whom were migrants from the mid-west. Even as late as the 1950s, the church featured a German language service at their location at the corner of Washington and Van Ness. Merging with the United Methodist Church in late 1960s, the history of their congregation serves as a reminder of the diversity of religious practice in Los Angeles and supplies us with a pretty great apple pie recipe at the bottom of the page.

Elizabeth Logan is the Associate Director of the Institute on California and the West


The November 13, 1852 edition of Los Angeles Star, courtesy of USC Libraries.

Joshua Bean died 165 years ago today.  Joshua Bean was one of the many Kentuckians who made their way west in the middle of the 19th century.  A soldier, a soldier of fortune, a saloon owner, a vigilante, and a politician, Bean ran “The Headquarters,” his bar and store, near the Mission San Gabriel.  He came to an inglorious end in 1852, when Felipe Reid, son of Hugo Reid, the Scotsman who owned Rancho Santa Anita, shot him.  The circumstances are murky; Reid may have killed Bean in a dispute regarding a woman.  The murder sparked vigilante reprisals led, in part, by Bean’s younger brother, Phantly, a man better known, and cinematically misunderstood, as “Judge Roy” Bean.


Photo of Edward Roybal courtesy of the Julian Nava Collection at CSUN’s Oviatt Library.

In 1949, Edward Roybal, who had been defeated in an earlier attempt,  won election to the Los Angeles City Council on the strength of one of the first multiracial coalitions to elect a minority candidate. His candidacy symbolized postwar Mexican American aspirations.  The coalition united organized labor with the Catholic Church amidst the multiethnic neighborhoods of the 9th District. Roybal also owed his council victory to a grassroots voter registration drive headed by Mexican American activist women (including Roybal’s wife Lucille).  Roybal became the first Latino elected official to serve on the L.A. City Council since 1881. He served 13 years before resigning his position to run for U.S. Congress in the new 30th Congressional District, which included Boyle Heights, downtown L.A., MacArthur Park, Hollywood, and Hancock Park. The 30th District was one of the most racially and socio-economically diverse districts in the State of California. Roybal used the same multiracial political coalition to win his congressional race on this date in 1962.  He served in Congress for 30 years.

Drawn, in part, from Andrea Thabet, Shawn Landres, and William Deverell, Space to Lead: A Century of Civic Leadership in Los Angeles, forthcoming.

ChineseMassacrePlaque - 1 (1)Posting a photo of the plaque that sits outside Los Angeles’ Chinese American Museum as 146 years ago today, a mixed-race mob of whites and Latinos set upon Chinese men, women, and children in a horrific display of racial violence that still reverberates today.  The Chinese massacre left nearly two dozen victims in its bloody wake.  In his recent book “Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles,” author John Mack Faragher wrote:

At approximately 8:45pm, “four Chinese men had already been killed. Over the next twenty or thirty minutes fourteen more would be lynched in one of the nation’s most appalling episodes of collective violence. Four more men were hanged at Tomlinson’s, including Dr. Gene Tong, the only one of the victims recognized by the mob. Dr. Tong pled for his life in both English and Spanish, offering the lynchers gold and silver if they would let him go. At the mention of money, someone pulled off the doctor’s trousers and began going through his pockets, looking for cash. Finding none, a frustrated lyncher thrust his revolver in the doctor’s mouth and pulled the trigger, blowing off the side of his face. He was probably dead before was hanged. ’It was a most heinous and gruesome scene,’ wrote Joseph Mesmer. ‘I have seen a good many men hung, both legal and by the valiance committee, but nothing so revolting as what befell these Chinese.’”

Contemplating its horrors today, we need to remember the racist chain that connects the massacre to Chinese exclusion to Asian land laws to Japanese internment and beyond.