James D. Phelan: The Golden City will Rise Again

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Duty of Collective Identity:

[Source Transcription]

Mayor Phelan’s Call for a Celebration.

California’s Golden Jubilee is the celebration of an event which meant everything for California, a great deal for the Union, and much for the world.

On January 24, 1898, –fifty years ago–gold was discovered by Marshall. At once–Minerva-like–a State sprang into existence. California and all its subsequent history and development, anticipating ordinary processes by two hundred years, took their inspiration from that day. The world was enriched, and the fame of the new State sounded from pole to pole.

Californians would fail in their duty to themselves, to their State and to their country if they did not fittingly celebrate an event upon which so much depended. A celebration will honor a worthy and patriotic sentiment, recall the fact to the minds of men that this is still “the Golden State,” and at the same time attract the argonauts of 1898, now about to seek the golden fleece in the far North. Bearing in mind that our State’s gold is not only in the hills and streams, but in the sunshine, flowers, fruits, grains and wine,–perennially and inexhaustibly golden,–let us make the Golden Jubilee Celebration commensurate with the golden possessions of California, and the golden promise of the years to come.

James D. Phelan, Mayor

Source Citation:



The Identity of Space: California’s Golden Jubilee

February 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Living with the Identity of Space:

Continuing a strategy of providing the primary sources along with analysis, here is another significant statement of California and particularly San Francisco’s collective identity. While the process by which this collective identity is established is complex, (see my exchange on the USIH Bloghere) the resulting influence of an established identity is that residents of the state and the city must reconcile their own individual and group identities with those deployed by the commercial-civic elite and the socially powerful. Below is a statement printed in California’s Golden Jubilee Souvenir Program which describes the story of California and San Francisco’s rise as the most significant example of American Manifest Destiny.

Collective Statement of San Francisco’s Established Historical Identity

[Source Transcription]


Fifty years ago to-day a man stood shouting in the wilderness, “I have found it! I have found it!” His hand held rigidly aloft a scrap of yellow metal. It was gold! Being a simple man and ignorant of the fact that he was a maker of world history, an accident of Fate, he naturally thought to turn his find to his and his companions’ profit solely, limiting the rich secret to their own small circle. But see how Fate made little of his intentions, and how events, like a heard of stampeded cattle, overrode his plans.

There were other men and also a woman in this camp in the wilderness, and they shared the secret and soon it was traveling. Just how is not known. One account relates that the woman, having no one else to tell it to, narrated the great event to a passing teamster, who happened providentially along. But he was a doubting teamster, and teh woman finally gave him one of the little scraps of gold, –thus triumphantly convincing him. And so the teamster went his dusty way, and at the first tavern sold the metal to quench his thirst, and with it went the story. Others again say that one of the laborers grew tired of work, and, quitting, took with him some of the shining bits he had picked up in the creek bed. Presently he fell in with a man who had been a practical miner in another country, who stared and questioned, and forthwith hastened to the scene with pick and pan, –the forerunner of untold thousands of other men with pics and pans. But what does it matter how the story leaked away? It was the world’s secret, not theirs; and, while at first it crept forth in devious whisperings, it was not long before it was passing orm mouth to mouth, outspoken, and even as it passed the sound of it grew louder, thrilling and vibrating in the hearts of those who heard and passed it on to others, until its mighty voice went thundering to the four corners of the earth,–Eureka!  Eureka! I HAVE FOUND IT!

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Adventuring, Reminiscence, and Nostalgia: A Path to an Early California Identity

December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Society of California Pioneers: Identity & Temporal Orientation

Founded in 1850 the Society of California Pioneers was charged to:

collect and preserve information connected with the early settlement and conquest of [California], and to perpetuate the memory of those whose sagacity, enterprise, and love of independence induced them to settle in the wilderness, and become the germ of a new State.

Membership in the Pioneers was reserved for, “all who were residents of California prior to January 1, 1850, and the male descendants of all such who were members.” James W. Marshall, for example, would be one of those revered pioneers, but his legacy of remembrance would be a rocky one compared with other figures in the pantheon of California’s origin story among the Society of California Pioneers. In the future, Marshall’s precise (and longer) story among the Society of California Pioneers will appear in another post. However, just as Daniel Boone opened the Cumberland Gap and the Cooper’s settled Cooperstown in upstate New York, “Men with names like “Sutter, Reading, Larkin, Stearns, Hensley, Bidwell, Marsh, Young and many others” symbolized the virtues espoused by the Society of California Pioneers. These men they argued were, “Pioneers of the first class…gentlemen.”

A Society of California Pioneers diploma of membership as illustrated in 1898

The membership diplomas demonstrate this nostalgic orientation towards the past.  The certificates reveal a keen reverence for the romance of California’s frontier and pioneering past, and by implication a derision of its recent path in industrial development. The certificate depicts an eight paneled series of distinctly wild California scenes, none of which contain imagery of industrialism. The images of independent miners, Mexican vaqueros, and mission neophytes, juxtaposed with the image of sleepy Yerba Buena cove, expansive San Francisco Bay, and the natural wonders of Yosemite Falls and the Sierra big trees, demonstrates a reverence for what seems to have been lost in their mind.

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