Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pivotal Books on California History

From: writes:

I attended a meeting of the Zamorano Club earlier this week, which is a group of Los Angeles book collectors, printers, and librarians. (Librarians from the Huntington, USC, UCLA, UCSD) In the late 40's they agreed on the 80 most important books in California History. At this time a sub-committee is working on the second 80 most important. At the meeting I was asked if there were any pivotal books indicating how California railroads impacted the success and uniqueness of California. I cannot readily answer so I am posing the question to you in hopes of real insight. Their preference seems to be first person narratives, reports or surveys. I feel that a publication like Reports on Canals, Railways ... , 1826 by Edward Strickland done for Pennsylvania is a important work of the type which would merit inclusion. I know of nothing like that for California, but thought to ask for suggestions of publications which would be considered pivotal to California growth from a transportation angle. For example works on water rights in California are being discussed for inclusion.

If you have any specific book thoughts, or bibliography suggestions I would be appreciative. Their thoughts are for publications 1850's through 70's. I like the Pope Diary.

Any thoughts are helpful.



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Great question; and as a librarian I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't think of it.

Edward G. Beckwith's reports of his and James W. Gunnison's surveys for the Army's Pacific Railroad Survey had significant impact defining the central route for a Pacific Railroad as southern Wyoming, Salt Lake Valley, and the Humboldt River across Nevada (rather than Benton-Fremont's San Luis Valley, Cochetopa Pass, old Spanish trail route). However it was the event of the discovery of the Comstock in 1859 and the Southern secession that actually put a railroad on that route, not the books – which I doubt were read by very many people.

My impression is that most of the relevant discussion and dissemination of information was via convention and pamphlet, not monographs.


1/08/2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


If I'm reading your note correctly, the club is looking for positive accounts about the railroad and its impact. That suggests any one of a long list of travel accounts and travel books, including Bell's New Tracks (1870), Bowles, The Pacific Railroad, (1869), Croffutt's Great Transcontinental Railroad Guide, (1869, etc), Derby, or Rea, et al. Of course, more influential was the negative view as in John Robinson's, The Octopus (1894)


1/08/2007 6:03 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Don Snoddy"

I suppose one could check the number of copies printed, like for Crofutt and make some assessment based on that. I like Bob's notion that we give them both positive and negative works, since the real thrust seems to be impact one way or the other. Don't know if the California Calls You series are worth including, we seem to be focused on 19th Century and I don't know if we should limit ourselves in that manner. Certainly the Arrowhead doesn't apply as book or monograph or even pamphlet, but might be considered worthy of inclusion for its efforts in settlement of Southern California.

Or, I could be reading the whole thing wrong.


1/08/2007 6:06 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Speaking of John Robinson's The Octopus, I have a prized publication from the Zamorano Club making the point that this John Robinson was the former contractor/superintendent of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, and that his antipathy toward the Central Pacific stemmed from that period when the CP first started up. Makes a great read, but utterly false. So false, in fact, that I'm surprised Stephen Ambrose didn't make use of it. The SVRR's contractor/superintendent was James P. Robinson.

Now, I have always wondered whether the SVRR's J.P. Robinson was the J.P. Robinson who later pops up as a director of the (Missouri) Pacific RR.


1/08/2007 6:09 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


So George –

Hope you picked up a few ideas for the Zamorano Club. Lots of interesting thoughts.


1/08/2007 11:11 PM  

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