The Gold Rush and subsequent years brought Americans and international immigrants to Humboldt County, establishing a culturally diverse region. Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedes, Irish, Italian and Canadian immigrants lived and worked in Humboldt County, concentrated in certain industries and areas, allowing for micro-communities of individuals from similar backgrounds to share cultural practices and language. Many immigrants resumed trades they had learned in their home countries which frequently existed in climates very similar to Humboldt County. Part of the draw was also the novelty of settling in a new, ‘unexplored and wild’ place, with the chance to reap wealth from the area and make a living to support one’s family.
Natural Resource Extractions covers industries that made their money from raw materials- mining, logging, and fishing. These industries were typically what brought people to Humboldt County in the first place. Early settlers sent word back to friends and family of the ‘untapped’ bounty of resources in Humboldt County, which attracted more people to settle the area. The Gold Rush in California brought people to the West Coast in droves in 1849 and 1850 and, when the mining claims didn’t work out, some left while others settled and got into other industries to make a living. Logging prospects brought a number of people from Canada and the northeastern United States to work in logging industries and bountiful fishing opportunities brought in more settlers from Scandinavian countries.
Agriculture includes farming and raising livestock, which have long been staples in Humboldt County’s industrial history. Farming communities established in this period exist in the present, in places like Ferndale, although preferred, money making crops have changed over time due to cultural shifts and blights. Raising cattle and sheep specifically have been longstanding industries in certain parts of the county.
Commerce is an industry that is frequently overlooked- in the early days of Humboldt County and California commerce was where the rags to riches stories often took place. Commercial leaders would got their start by buying goods from San Francisco and bringing them into Humboldt County to sell to miners and other residents at a high markup. This wasn’t unique to Humboldt County, and this practice was common around mining areas across California. Commerce also includes the transportation of goods into and around the county, a feat that was not for the faint of heart. Prior to 1914, transportation in and out of the county was via ship or overland routes, both of which had the possibility of being incredibly dangerous due to weather.
The exhibit explores the three industries through presentations of work processes and tools, and the stories of local individuals who worked in the industries. They are a small sample of those that made a life in Humboldt County’s early days and those that navigated the booms- and busts- of the local economy all those years ago.
This is part 1 of a series on early industries of Humboldt County, stay tuned for part two, where we'll be looking closer at natural resource extraction industries including mining, fishing, logging, and oil.
It's a new year at the Clarke which means a whole new year of exciting events and exhibits! Here's what's new at the Clarke for early 2019:
We're reworking some of our yearly events and adding new ones to the calendar! Be sure to like us on Facebook and join our email list to keep up to date on events as they're announced. (Hover your mouse cursor over the photo and click pause to pause the slideshow below)
Be sure to stop by the Clarke and see what's new!
This week, we'll hear from Brittany Britton, the Registrar-Curator for the Nealis Hall Native American Collections. She'll be discussing sharing the collection through social media via the hashtag #basketoftheday
The collections at the Clarke are large and wide ranging at times. Added to this is the limited exhibition area, we end up with artifacts that don’t get seen regularly or ever. For the last few weeks, Nealis Hall Registrar-Curator Brittany has been sharing videos, photos and information on some of the incredible baskets in the Nealis Hall Native American collection through the hashtag #BasketOfTheDay via our Instagram and Facebook stories. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see our collection up close and personal!
Brittany will select a basket or other artifact from the collection to highlight via video and photograph to get a full view of the object. The added benefit of this is a more indepth look, she picks up the basket, showing the inside, all sides and bottom of the basket. Opening lids to look inside when it is a closed vessel, and highlighting use of the object like the salt and pepper shakers from the Hailstone collection.
Here is a quick run through of some more recent #basketoftheday posts:
If there are baskets or items you’d like to see highlighted, please send us a message! We love hearing from visitors and what they get out of the #basketoftheday. We'll also be keeping you up to date on other behind the scenes moments and collection views through our Facebook and Instagram.
This week, we'll hear from Brittany Britton, the Registrar-Curator for the Nealis Hall Native American Collections. She'll be discussing some tips for at home basket storage and care.
At the museum we get questions now and then from visitors who have a basket or a small collection of their own. The general questions are usually identification based, but also around how to take care of these objects in a way that preserves them for a long lifetime.
So a new basket has come into your home, or you have an extensive collection but just are not sure if you are storing things correctly? Here are some simple tips and check ins that you can do with your collection.
The basics come down to handling, storage, and when warranted how to clean your baskets.
When handling other artwork or antique items it is best to understand what vulnerabilities are at play in the structure of the object. When picking up the basket or other object do so with both hands and never grasp by the rim or trust handles to carry the weight of the basket. In some Indigenous traditional world views it is best seen to handle baskets with bare hands as skin contact is important to the life of some items. You can choose to wear gloves like we do at the museum (nitrile is preferred), or the next best bet is to have clean washed hands.
Storage is a common issue for all of us here on the North Coast, we have generally higher levels of humidity to deal with as well as the issues that come along with it. Humidity, light, and temperature are some of the storage variables that we can control. With our humid environment the best we can do generally is to get in-home desiccant pellets that draw moisture from the general area or use dehumidifiers. Generally it is best to store baskets and objects made of other organic materials at 30%-50% relative humidity and at a stable temperature no more that 70°F. This ensures that the organic material will not dry out and become brittle, and also to not promote the growth of mold.
The best level of care is always prevention, if there is a larger issue of cleaning or other maintenance needing to be done, contact a conservation professional.
In the coming year, the Clarke Museum is planning to hold a hands-on workshop for visitors to bring their baskets to learn basic at home care for their collections. Keep an eye out for announcements for this opportunity!
Decking the halls with boughs of holly is a common phrase to hear this time of year with Christmas just around the corner. While working on our Victorian Christmas exhibit, I came across a box labeled "Spool Tree Ornaments" in the museum storage vault. Inside the box were 30-40 decorated wooden spools wrapped in ribbon, sequins, beads and buttons.
The decorated spools remind me of a set of ornaments made by my great grandma in Wisconsin that my mom inherited and that we still use on our Christmas trees today- they're styrofoam spheres wrapped in satin with beads, sequins, lace and other decorations, similar to the ones pictured below. They were popular craft projects in the 1970s (in fact, my great-grandmother made so many of them that all of my mom's 4 other siblings also got their own set of ornaments when she passed away).
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with two volunteers on a big project: moving our downstairs archive space upstairs to make room for more exhibits on the main floor of the museum. The process lately has involved moving large, flat file cases out of the archive room to a staging area while we prepare their upstairs home and, due to the size of some of the flat file cases, that’s meant we’ve had to take everything out of the drawers, move the drawer, then replace the items once the drawer has been moved. While it takes a while to move things this way, it gives us a chance to get a really good look at some of the things in the collection that we may not otherwise see. This week, those things were a number of WWII Posters produced by the Office of War Information (OWI).
I had seen some of these posters before in the collection and outside of it. Of course the most well known include the Uncle Sam “I want You” pointing signs and Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” poster. They’ve transcended WWII era America to become something quickly recognizable (and oftentimes spoofed) however, many of the posters that were produced at the time and appear in the museum collections were rather alarming, with slogans like “a careless word, a needless loss” featuring an unconscious sailor on a beach.
The posters used a variety of symbols and slogans promoting patriotism and support for the war effort, and many were happy individuals supporting the war effort, however some drew on incredibly racist stereotypes or dark subjects. Some of these posters made specific references to negative outcomes, like ships sinking, from people “talking”.
When the WWII period is viewed through these images, a polished, united picture of the population of WWII America arises, which leads to interesting questions on what kind of America people in that period were fighting for in the decision to engage in WWII, and how that image compared to the outcomes reached by the time the war came to an end.
When I visit Founder’s Grove and Women’s Fed, I think of Laura and thank her for her work, and for the work of the women, many now lost to history, who stood with her to save the redwoods.
We’ve been working away reorganizing our storage to make way for a new exhibit space on the main floor of the museum and through all the reorganization, we’ve come across more than a few interesting items in the collection! From seed artwork to “health lamps’ this post has got your weekly dose of "WOW!"
Sun-Kraft Wireless Cold-Quartz Ultraviolet Ray Health Lamp
Charge of misbranding by Sun-Kraft - list of ailments treated with the lamp:
Treatment time varied based on distance from the lamp and what ailment was being treated. Muscular ailments like arthritis required longer treatments of 6 minutes daily and treatments of respiratory illness encouraged the user to direct the lamp away from the face and inhale ozone, declared as a “germicidal agent” produced from the operation of the lamp for 6-12 minutes. According to the users manual that came with the lamp, it was recommended that babies and children use the lamp to help “enrich their system with Vitamin D and thereby build strong resistance to diseases and infections.” The first few treatments with the lamp caused skin peeling, which would eventually decline when the skin became used to the ultraviolet rays and could be reduced by using the company’s skin crème, which was advertised in the users manual.
This sunlamp was a 1940’s invention that lasted only a short period, from 1940 until the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act declared it to be a false and misleading device in 1945. (See here for other things that were discontinued for misleading or false information- some of them are pretty wild). Ultraviolet and Violet Light tools were popular around this time period, and we did find a second one during the move, pictured below, produced by the Violet Ray Corp:
The Victorian period (1837-1901) was a time that greatly changed how holidays were celebrated in the United States, oftentimes taking them from being relatively small affairs linked to particular ethnic groups to large, grand celebrations and demonstrations of wealth, prestige and the importance of family. Christmas is a perfect example of this holiday up-scaling within the upper classes of Victorian society. From the Christmas trees to gift giving and holiday games, the upper class Victorians-who were imitated by lower classes- left a deep and long-lasting footprint on the traditions that are celebrated today.
Tree decoration preferences began to include glass ornaments around the latter half of the 19th century as mass production of glass décor became more prevalent. A notable tree décor tradition rooted in the Victorian period that has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity is the tradition of the Christmas Pickle, which is largely attributed to an old German tradition where the first person to find the pickle in the tree would be the first person to open presents on Christmas morning. While it is not a tradition in Germany today and some claim never was a German tradition to begin with, the attribution could be linked to the earlier traditions of hanging edible ornaments in the holiday trees, which was originally a German tradition. An alternate story linking pickles to Christmas is a surprisingly macabre story of two young Spanish boys were were murdered by an inn keeper, stuffed in a pickle barrel, and revived by St. Nicholas, who is also known as Santa Claus. The earliest glass Christmas Pickles in the United States were part of a shipment of glass ornaments from Germany and were sold by Woolworth’s Department store in 1880. Some say that the pickle story came from a shopkeeper who was trying to sell more pickle ornaments.
Christmas cards also came into being in the Victorian period and, with the aid of mass production, became incredibly popular and elaborate with reflective foils or fabric trim. In some places, cards would be hung from the trees as part of the décor. The cards festively illustrated the Victorian emphasis on the importance of family, winter motifs, the rise of mass-produced gift-giving, and subjects like Krampus, a half-man, half-goat demon who punishes naughty children as a counterbalance to Santa Claus. As Christmas cards started becoming more popular, producers experimented with a number of topics to find what consumer wanted and how to visually define the increasingly popular holiday- with some strange results, including cards displaying thieving clowns, torch-carrying birds, dancing frogs, and flowers with children’s faces.
This Christmas while your family is searching for the Christmas Pickle, decorating the tree, or sharing Christmas cards, take a moment to tip your hat to the Victorian traditions that still appear today- and be thankful that it’s fallen out for fashion for friends to send you a Krampus card. They’re rather scary.
Pass the Wassail!
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