California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900
I chose the California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900 collections from the American Memory Project. I chose this topic due to the unique history of the State of California, and my lack of knowledge about the state itself. California and its general importance to the union today lead me to choose this website in order to better understand its history.
The website itself contains several illustrations and photographs, as well as other primary sources such as diaries, reports, and guidebooks. The photographs and illustrations can provide the reader a unique insight into life in California at the time, and when analyzed, can be useful in researching historical trends. The diaries and reports also allow the reader to witness historical trends and changes through the eyes of those who experienced them.
The first document is a guidebook produced by the English writer Walter M. Fisher in 1876 (http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/calbk:@field(DOCID+@lit(calbk094div6))). Fisher lived in California for four years in the 1870s, and in his guidebook he gives an in depth analysis of the social setting and the residents of California, at the time, as well as Californians’’ respective historical origins. Fisher created this document in order to clarify and explain the different types of people living in California, and to explain their cultures and history for the international community. For example, each chapter is a different cultural/ethnic group that resides in California, and describes Spanish Californians as descendants of a “lost power”, exemplifying that Fisher did not attempt to explain these people to actual residents of California. The document has a neutral point of view, and focuses on describing the people of California in depth.
The document does have limitations, however. It fails to explain the ethnic concentration of the people of California, and it fails to acknowledge his brief residence as an unreliable factor in his analysis. He also fails to go in depth about the relationships enjoyed (or not) between the different groups of Californians. It also doesn’t go in depth about the geography or the physical makeup of the state. Although the document focuses on the people of California, it leaves out key aspects of the state itself and provides no record of his travels. The document is in line with other secondary sources such as the textbook, Who Built America?, in terms of the history of California and its people.
The second document is an illustration of San Francisco bay in 1949 (http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/calbk:@field(DOCID+@lit(calbk011div5))). It’s part of a pamphlet created Leanard Kip’s, a lawyer from New York, journey throughout California from 1849-1850. The purpose of the document is to showcase the growing business of miners and general growth of the city of San Francisco,…