Berkeley's Bancroft Library teams up with Wells Fargo Bank to
produce California history tapes
Kathleen McClay, Media Relations
to excerpts from the Bancroft tapes |
Read press release in Spanish
- Californians soon will have easy access to expertise about
Hispanic California and its missions, the Gold Rush era and
Mark Twain in the West, thanks to a project by the Wells Fargo
Foundation and The Bancroft Library at the University of California,
a $100,000 project underwritten by Wells Fargo, audiocassette
tapes about these topics will be distributed free or at low
cost to California's nearly 1,100 public libraries, to state
officials, including the governor, and to every county supervisor
in the state. Wells Fargo is working on translating the tape
on California's missions into Spanish and providing it along
with a lesson plan to fourth grade classes in the Los Angeles
Unified School District, where Latino students comprise 60
percent of the classroom population.
people are interested in California or Western history, then
Bancroft is the place they have to come to," said Charles
Faulhaber, director of The Bancroft Library. "We realize there's
a lot of public interest in what we do, and this gives the
public access even if they can't come to the campus."
Berkeley purchased the book and manuscript collections of
historian Hubert Howe Bancroft in 1905, and his collections
form the core of The Bancroft Library. Today, the institution
concentrates its holdings on California and the West, Mexico
and Central America, the history of the University of California,
science and technology history, oral histories and the Mark
(Fargo) is an institution that has a strong and long history
in California, like Bancroft," said Bob Chlebowski, executive
vice president at Wells Fargo and a member of Bancroft's Council
of Friends. The tapes will promote understanding of California
history and the library's rich collection, he said.
project has produced two 45-minute tapes on each of the three
topics designated so far, with the library helping to select
experts and arrange recordings.
are the sorts of tapes that one would listen to while commuting,"
Faulhaber said. "They're not dry, scholarly lectures."
expertise on the tapes are:
J. Rawls, an authority on California history, a professor
Holliday, former assistant director of The Bancroft Library,
director emeritus of the California Historical Society and
award-winning author of "Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and
the Making of California" (University of California Press,
H. Hirst, principal editor of the Mark Twain Project at
The Bancroft Library.
choice was easy, Faulhaber said. "Rawls is wonderful at presenting
California Western history for the general public," he said.
Hirst is well known for his work with the Mark Twain Project,
said Faulhaber, " and Holliday is the author of two classic
books on the Gold Rush and is a wonderful speaker."
received his PhD in California history from UC Berkeley and
is known in the San Francisco Bay Area as "Dr. History (The
Man Who Makes History Fun)" for his lead role in a "history
for the masses" radio show from 1990 to 1995. He has written
numerous books on California history, is a history instructor
at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., and has
taught at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University.
Rawls also has updated the classic college text, "California:
An Interpretive History," by the late UC Berkeley history
professor Walton Bean of the College of Letters & Science.
describes the "essence of the California experience" as unchanged
since the state's earliest days. Sunshine, health and freedom,
along with a geographical and psychological "edge," have combined
to lure people since the start, he said.
region originally boasted more Native Americans, in terms
of numbers and varieties of cultures, than any area of comparable
size in the nation, he said. Recent census data revealed that
minorities are now the majority of the more than 33 million
people who call themselves Californians. "That's news, but
it's also part of a long continuity," Rawls said.
tape takes listeners through the "Hispanicization" of California
from 1769 to 1846, as representatives of Spain and Mexico
took up residency and exerted influence throughout the state,
leaving their imprint in terms of culture, language and place
names still much in evidence today.
also offers a fresh perspective on the symbolism and mythology
surrounding California missions in the 200 years since their
establishment. Rawls said missions have met with varying degrees
of support or opposition, depending on the political and moral
imperatives of the times and the latest newcomers trying to
forge their way.
his recording, Rawls said, "I keep coming back to social history
and within that, the ethnic diversity of California. My paradigm
for understanding our diversity is the dream, that terribly
attractive power of California."
the start of the Gold Rush in 1848, "I'm suggesting the world
had already rushed in," he said, referring to Holliday's book,
"The World Rushed In."
on the Gold Rush, Holliday's tape emphasizes that the Gold
Rush has been misunderstood as a finite period of time. Instead,
he said, it really created a long-lasting mentality of risk-taking,
experimentation, inventiveness, optimism and freedom from
old rules that continues to shape California's character and
public appeal even today. That period shaped the state's business
environment, along with its social and economic forces that
continue to lure people to the West Coast 150 years later,
was the Gold Rush decades that created the image of California
as 'America, only more so,'" Holliday said.
to common depiction of the Gold Rush era as one of woebegone
days of loss and despair, he also said "there was far more
success than traditionally presented."
at the Mark Twain Project, also wants to shed new light on
California history as it pertains to Twain.
general strategy is to tell the story of Mark Twain's time
in the West - how he got here, how long he expected to stay,
how long he did stay, why and what he did," said Hirst. "At
the same time, I also introduce folks to this unfamiliar body
of Mark Twain's work."
branch out from there to stories and anecdotes used in his
late works - books, like "A Tramp Abroad" and "Huckleberry
Finn" - in which the folklore and stories he heard in the
West are remembered and transmuted into something written,
and made in that sense permanent," Hirst said. "Twain's Western
experience carried forward into books we all know, books that
would have been very different without such experience."
time in the West is one of the most undocumented periods of
his career, said Hirst. That's mainly because of the loss
of the Virginia City "Territorial Enterprise" newspaper files,
the last of which were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco
worked for several papers in the West, but longest and best
for this one," he said.
said Twain's sense of humor was a bonus of sorts during the
recording session. "It's a little like being a standup comedian
with jokes that are 100 to 140 years old!" he said. "Fact
is, I never have to worry about whether they'll work - they
always work, if read competently."
of the joys of the tape project for Hirst is reading Twain
aloud, the way the author wanted to be read. Twain was a consummate
lecturer, with a keen ear for the rhythms of American speech.
Hirst also finds satisfaction in exposing more and more people
to Mark Twain, or to Twain materials most people have never
read or seen before.
face it," Hirst said, "no one knows when someone as good as
Mark Twain will come along again. Geniuses like him don't
cross our path every day, or even every century."
tapes on California's early history also are rare, but Faulhaber
said he hopes funding can be found to continue the series
with other topics on the history of California or the West.
press release in Spanish
The three tapes will be available on the shelves of California
public libraries after the holidays. They are available for
purchase for $20 for the set by contacting Audiotapes, The
Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000.