We oftentimes say that our building is our number 1 artifact: it's on the National Register for its unique style, it protects our collections, and serves as a great landmark in the heart of old town. Over the last few months, we've been working to restore the interior of our building, starting with the clock in the center of the building. Lisa Jarrow completed the first phase a few months ago.
This last week, Lisa Jarrow came by to continue working on the restoration of the clock wall- to great results! Here's a few progress shots, and a photo of the completed section.
Early Eureka was a small place, locked into its location by the bay on one side and a dense forest on the other. People could walk or ride their horses wherever they had to go. But as the town began to grow in population and physical size with the logging of the neighboring forest and the construction of levees on the bay, a new alternative had to be found for those traveling to the city center from further and further away.
The first streetcars to move through Eureka were horse drawn ones in 1888. The line ran from H Street from fifth out to J Street and was said to be a very popular line. It was operated by an elderly man named Collins. An editorial reminiscing about the line stated the Collins would irritate passengers in the wintertime with "the odor from [his] lunch, particularly the coffee in the thermos bottle… Mr. Collins paid no attention.” In 1894, a street line was built from 5th street along E street out to the city limits, which at the time was Trinity Street. The streetcar company, named the Eureka Street Railroad Company, came upon tough financial times and on March 30 1897, the horses and rail cars were sold to people in Eureka. However, the need for public transportation was still needed as the area continued to grow. The rights to operate a streetcar line were auctioned off to the highest bidder, who happened to be George Henderson of Oakland.
In 1903, George Henderson was the Vice President of the newly formed Humboldt Transit Company and announced that three electric trolley cars would be arriving in Eureka to whisk the townspeople into a new era of travel. They were described as attractive cars with glass windows on the sides and no windows on the front and back of the cars, allowing the flow of fresh air through the cars, which could seat 50 and supposedly hold a maximum 150 people. The electric streetcar line began operating September 16, 1903 with only slight difficulty- two cars jumped the tracks on the first day at California and Summer streets. Regardless on that first day of operation, 3000 people rode the trolley cars (our of a population of 11,000). Talks began almost immediately about adding a line out to Arcata.
Henderson’s concern was to continue expanding the trolley lines in Eureka, a concern supported to a great degree by lumber companies in the area, who had built their mills on the far sides of town and needed to be sure that workers would be able to get to the mills for work each day. Within a month, the streetcar line on California was extended from Wabash to Harris Street. Within a year, the E Street line was extended to go from 2nd street to Harris Street. The street lines also ran from Bucksport to Harrison Avenue and from California and Harris out to E Street and from Harris to Sequoia park with a spur on J Street. There were plans to build a streetcar line connecting Arcata and Eureka along the Old Arcata Road (a route that had been surveyed by J. N. Lentell of Lentell Map fame), however this route was shot down by the Eureka City Council in fear that the streetcar would interfere with already operating passenger service on the California and Northern Railroad along the Bay. There were also talks about having a line from Eureka to Ferndale.
The streetcars operated without issues for a few decades, however, issues did arise. A girl was standing on the tracks one dark and stormy night and was hit north of Harris on E Street. She happened to be the daughter of the superintendent of Jetty Repair, Mr. Powers. He sued the company and won, however the case was appealed and settled out of court. A popular Halloween prank was to grease the tracks and wait for an unsuspecting trolley car. One year, cars went across greased tracks at Harris and Bucksport and the cars jumped the tracks and ended up “many feet beyond the end of the line”. There are also a few quotes about “the arrest and trial of a “youngster who put rocks on the track”, however we haven’t been able to find out the outcome of this case.
Eventually, when the streetcar company faced financial difficulty. That difficulty may be related to the fact that Henderson was sued by his ex-wife Bereba Henderson for the money he used to promote the streetcar line and other railroad interests, which totaled about $6,000. Other sources say that the transportation company also operated an oil business, which was profitable enough to cover shortfalls with the trolley system until the company lost its oil contract and had to recoup losses by reducing trolley car crew sizes to one man operated cars, however it wasn’t enough. The City of Eureka took over managing the cars until a bus system was created and the streetcars took their last ride on February 20, 1940.
The Manning Transportation Company had bid for the franchise to run a bus system for the city and won. The new bus system, Eureka City Lines, opened on February 23 to much fanfare, summarized by local newspaperman Will Speegle: “Seldom, if ever, have there been so many people on Eureka’s streets at any celebration time. The features of the parade were a mule-drawn, old -time car and three of the electric cars that have been discarded. The climax of the celebration was the igniting of one of the old streetcars [streetcar number 18] as it stood on the Fifth Street track in front of the White House. In a few minutes the old car was a seething mass of flames and the nearby portion of the street on either side was like an oven, scorching some of the buildings. A fire alarm was sounded, and a fire pumper arrived and soon had the flames under control” There are a number of photos of this event, with crowds watching the spectacular end of the streetcar system. Looking closer, one can see that there is a live band, including a few tubas and a trombone and people filling the streets, some people are even watching from nearby rooftops.
Look at that crowd!
Thanks to Clarke Board Member and HSU Special Collections Librarian Carly Marino for sending over scans of the Susie Baker Fountain Papers for this article. The Susie Baker Fountain Papers are publicly accessible through the Humboldt State University Special Collections. You can learn more about this spectacular collection here.
Thanks also to Morgan Harvey at the Humboldt County Historical Society for sending over the incredibly thorough and helpful Humboldt Historian article named "Streetcar System began with horse-drawn cars" by Lynwood Carranco and scans of tickets
Settlers to Humboldt County brought their own crops with them to the area, searching for the ‘golden crop’- one that would grow exceptionally well and could be sold for a good profit. That first crop happened to be potatoes. In 1874/1875, farmers raised and exported almost 50 million pounds of potatoes, making the crop a defining part of early Humboldt industry. However, it was not meant to last. The year following the 50 million pounds crop, production dropped by a third as as blight hit Humboldt County. That same year, potatoes from Sacramento flooded the San Francisco market and out-competed Humboldt potatoes due to the shorter shipping distance, reducing Humboldt’s potato exports by over 90% from two years prior. Farmers began to diversify into products like oats and beets in the 1880s. There was a point in time when there was a potential for high beet production to attract outside investment to establish a beet sugar processing plant, the beets produced in Humboldt County did not produce enough sugar to make the plan viable and the beet market busted, ending the dream of a beet sugar processing plant. Oats tended to fare better than other products like wheat, which didn’t do well in the foggy conditions.
Sheep fared incredibly well on the local landscapes and could be sheared yearly without depleting the herd, unlike the yearly butchering of cattle for meat. Wool was lightweight in comparison to products like potatoes, meaning that shipping and transportation would be less expensive. Cool temperatures led to richer wool production, fetching higher prices at market. While the sheep ranchers were initially faced with opposition from cattlemen as sheep negatively impact cattle pastures, the cattlemen followed the money and many became sheep ranchers themselves. At one point, wool production reached about 500,000 pounds a year, with a third of the land in the county being dedicated to raising sheep. This wool was processed by the Eureka Woolen mill, which operated in Eureka from 1890 until 1966, when cheaper synthetic fabrics were being imported to the US. Remnants of the wool industry can be found in places like Redwood National and State Parks, which contains Lyon’s Ranch, a 5,660 acre sheep ranch which produced internationally recognized wool and was in operation for three generations before it was abandoned in 1850, added into the National Park in the 1970s, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.
Next time, we’ll be looking closer at the out last major group of industries: mercantile, trade, and transportation!
Working in the archives is part treasure hunt, as we search through boxes for items for exhibits, blog posts, and places to put new donations. I find that it’s a lot of fun, partially because you sometimes don’t know what you’re going to find while you’re looking for something else. A few days ago, we came across a unique and fascinating find in the collections: a dress.
We have almost 500 dresses in the Clarke Collections ranging in colors, time periods, shapes, sizes and uses. Some are handmade, others are machine made, some are two pieces like Victorian dresses, others come in one piece. This dress was in two pieces, a bodice and a skirt, with internal boning that clasped at the front. It was probably for a woman who was about 5 feet 3 inches tall, which was a relatively common height at the time. The neckline was made up on long strips of silk that flowed loosely and long strips of silk ran down the full length of the skirt. The silk was not any regular kind of silk though, but cigar ribbons, which had been sewn in layers onto a tan colored slip.
Cigar silks were ribbons that were used to bundle cigars together during processing. Smoking cigars was a popular past time during the Victorian period, and women would oftentimes collect the silk ribbons for their sewing, creating beautiful quilts from rows and rows of the silks. Cigarettes came with coupons that could be redeemed for silk pieces as well, known as cigarette premiums, which included the brand name and, oftentimes a beautiful lady or some other popular design like flowers. Collecting premiums was happening around the same time as a rise in popularity of the Crazy Quilt, which had women searching for scraps of pretty fabrics to add to their ever-growing patchwork quilts. These silks were oftentimes incorporated into other quilts, or became quilts in themselves.
This dress, however, was an unusual find. We don’t have any information on who donated it to the museum, who wore it, or why it was made. We haven’t been able to find much in terms of other dresses like this being made. Was it made to show off a silk collection like the quilts were? Or to advertise cigars sold locally maybe, in a way similar to this photo of a model for Wells Drugs decked out in a variety of items sold at the store? We may never know.
Welcome to part 2 of our blog series on early industries of Humboldt County! This week, we'll be taking a closer look at the earliest industries in the county-natural resource extraction. These are the industries that initially brought settlers to the region.
At these landing points, port towns like early Eureka, the waterfront developed in a wildly colorful locale, stocked to the brim with saloons, supply stores, docks, and gambling halls. These port towns supplied newcoming miners with everything they needed (and didn’t need) at a high cost. Once they were stocked, the miners could start the journey to the goldfields located along the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. Some eager miners also tried to pull gold flakes from beach sand en masse, most notably Gold Bluffs Beach in the present day Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Those efforts failed- but the name stuck.
Mining was carried out by people from around the world who worked, oftentimes uneasily, side by side. Chinese miners were employed in the lowest paid, most menial jobs, becoming an integral part of the mining history across California and in Humboldt County. While they were detested by a large majority of other workers, they worked hard, rarely were sick (due to boiling their water for tea and rice and rarely drinking alcohol), and followed directions. They were employed digging water ditches in mining centers like Trinity Center, where 200-500 Chinese were employed at Coffee Creek Ditch.
Early settlers to the area did log the area immediately adjacent to Humboldt Bay in order to build their homes, however, early logging efforts focused on smaller trees, as tools brought from the East were built to handle smaller trees. Tanoak was popular in many areas, with the bark used to tan livestock hides. Bundles of this bark were stacked onto carts and carried by wagon trains along early roads in Humboldt county to port towns for export. Logging tools that traveled to Humboldt county with immigrants and merchants were not designed for the redwood trees of unusual size in Humboldt County- in the occasion that a large tree or stump had to be removed, loggers would drill holes into the tree, pack it with dynamite, and blow up the tree. It was a matter of time until advancements were made to capitalize on the giant trees and endless forests. Innovations, management expertise, and luck under the guidance of John Dolbeer, William Carson, and other enterprising men led to the construction of mills around Humboldt Bay. New inventions and technologies invented in Humboldt County like the double band saw, Steam Donkey, and Bull Donkey revolutionized the logging industry on the whole and allowed logging companies to speed up all parts of logging and milling, leading to more trees processed at lower costs. Logging companies forayed into the shipbuilding industry as well, to reduce their shipping costs by operating their own ships built from their own timber. With the addition of railroads locally and railroads later connecting Humboldt County to markets in San Francisco, the local and international markets boomed with redwood.
One often overlooked and short lived industry was oil drilling. Oil in Humboldt County was found as early as 1857 but was overshadowed by the rush to the gold mines, which offered the tantalizing chance of making a lot of money with low overhead. It wasn’t until the 1860s that oil was becoming nationally valuable, warranting locals to begin investigating the possibility of drilling for oil in the area.
A backup option was to attach barrels of oil to the sides of mules and send them on overland routes, but it was costly, inefficient, and dangerous. Drilling season was also limited due to rainfall flooding the oil wells. Other regions that drilled for oil were able to out-compete Humboldt County oil, bringing the short-lived oil industry in Humboldt County to an end in 1866. Later attempts were made to revive the industry, but none succeeded due to similar issues, namely cost and transportation.
The natural abundance of the region that became Humboldt County attracted early settlers to the region, tying the early history of the county to the larger history of California and the West as a whole. The towns themselves boomed and busted with the economies, but people began to settle in, starting their families and settling into industries like agriculture, which included farming and raising livestock. We’ll look more into these industries in our next post!
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!
Keep up with the Clarke through our Blog!