Why we make war: Part II

Why do we make peace?

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John Locke proposed that humans, possessing free will and reason, do not naturally need to harm one another or themselves. Sutro’s copy of Two Treatises of Government was printed 1772, a time in which Locke’s doctrines were gaining popularity, particularly in the American Colonies. The Second Treatise declared that men are created equal, possess free will, reason and a natural liberty subordinate only to God in the state of nature, thus contravening Hobbes’s bleak view of human nature. Further, Locke determined “the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that because we are all equal and independent, no-one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Second Treatise, chapter 2).

Locke conjures much of the American philosophy of liberty in Second Treatise on Government including the protection of citizens’ rights from government overreach. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Locke’s arguments were of the utmost influence.[1] Some individuals who viewed the first draft of the Declaration of Independence actually considered the Declaration copied from Locke’s Treatise on Government.[2]

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Two Treatises of Government: Sutro Library; Vault; 302L

 

Immanuel Kant’s 1795 book, To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, championed republican constitutions, economic trade, and a federation of democratic institutions that together would deliver an everlasting peace.  Because nations exist in anarchy without a central authority (the natural condition of nations), peace must be imposed by a federation of democratic nations, which Kant referred to as a “League of Nations”.  Perpetual Peace so strongly influenced President Woodrow Wilson during the World War I that Wilson proposed establishing a League of Nations as part of his 1918 plan for an equitable peace in Europe following the war.[3]  Wilson’s plan was popular among exhausted nations and populations, but the American ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and its First Covenant establishing the League proved too difficult politically to the isolationist United States.

The United States never joined the League and thus, the League never achieved its full capability. John Maynard Keynes’ book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) stated Wilson was revered by Europeans as a guardian of the hopes of mankind.

“The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States”

Peoples, as states, like individuals, may be judged to injure one another merely by their coexistence in the state of nature (i.e., while independent of external laws). Each of them, may and should for the sake of its own security demand that the others enter with it into a constitution similar to the civil constitution, for under such a constitution each can be secure in his right. This would be a league of nations, but it would not have to be a state consisting of nations.

-Kant, Perpetual Peace, Second Article

To Perpetual Peace  Sutro Library; Vault; JX1946.K36 S6

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David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature can be found in first edition in the Sutro Library. Hume views humans as possessing “natural” virtues which are inherently social. We have an original instinct orienting us towards pleasure and away from pain,  what Hume referred to as “good or evil” passions and that  there are various human motives, including a “regard to justice, and abhorrence or villainy and knavery,” self-love, and “regard to the publick[sic] interest.” According to Hume, only civilized humans possess these motives while humans in their “rude and more natural condition” do not.[4]

Hume argues that government serves the public interest by “preserv[ing] order and concord in society.”  Promise-keeping is a human invention needed for social cooperation, and government is a human invention for enforcing such practices and thereby preserving social order. Promise breaking and anti-government actions run against the common interest. The similarities between individuals and entire nations yield the same laws of nature.[5]

Treatise on Human Nature  Sutro Library; Vault; 192H

Whether war and peace are the result of a primal drive within, or something we create as a result of civilization and progress, hopefully these extraordinary volumes from the Sutro collection highlight the philosophical arguments concerning these timeless questions.

 

Work Cited

 

Bassani, Luigi Marco. Life, Liberty, and…: Jefferson on Property Rights. Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 18. Number 1. Winter 2004, pp. 31-87. mises-media.s3.amazonaws.com/18_1_2.pdf. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Gill, Michael. Hume’s Progressive View of Human Nature. Hume Studies, Volume XXVI, Number 1. April 2000. humesociety.org/hs/issues/v26n1/gill/gill-v26n1.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2018.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill. Leviathan : sive, De materia, forma, & potestate civitatis ecclesiasticae et civilis;  authore Thomas Hobbes, Malmesburiensi. Revised Latin edition, London, dated 1668. Sutro Vault ; 192 H68l. 20.5cm.

 

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects. London, Printed for John Noon, 1739-40, first edition. Sutro Vault 192H. 21cm.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. The Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Association, Washington, D. C., 1904, Vol. XV, p. 462, in a letter to James Madison on August 30, 1823. wallbuilders.com/john-locke-deist-theologian/#edn5. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Kant, Immanuel. To Perpetual Peace. Por la paz perpetua; traducción de Rafael Montestruc. Sopena House, appeared March 1905.    Sutro Vault  JX1946.K36 S6. 17cm.

 

Keynes, John Maynard. The Economic Consequences of the Peace.  New York, Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920. Sutro Vault 341.2 K.  21cm.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. L. K. Whiston, 1772. Sutro Vault 302L.  22cm.

 

Machiavelli, Niccolò. Art of War in Seven Books with notes by a gentleman of the state of New York.  Albany, Printed by H. C. Southwick, 1815. Sutro Vault U101 .M17. unk cm.

 

Paret, Peter, Editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age.  Princeton University Press, 1986, pg. 27.

 

Thucydides. Eight bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre; Written by Thucydides, the sonne of Olorus; interpreted with faith and diligence immediately out of the Greeke by Thomas Hobbes. 1628. Sutro’s imprint by Richard Mynn, 1634. Sutro Vault 888.2  T. 35cm.

[1] Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XV, p. 462, in a letter to James Madison on August 30, 1823. wallbuilders.com/john-locke-deist-theologian/#edn5.  Accessed May 29, 2018.

[2] Bassani, Luigi Marco. Life, Liberty, and…: Jefferson on Property Rights. Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 18. No. 1 (Winter 2004), pp. 31-87. mises-media.s3.amazonaws.com/18_1_2.pdf. Accessed May 29, 2018. Cites Jefferson letter to James Madison on August 30, 1823.

[3] US State Department. history.state.gov/ milestones/1914-1920/league. Accessed May 29, 2018.

[4] humesociety.org/hs/issues/v26n1/gill/gill-v26n1.pdf

[5] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Treatise_of_Human_Nature

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Why we war?

Why we make war & make peace – Sutro Library exhibit War in the Archives through August 20, 2018, in commemoration of the 1918 Armistice.

Thucydides Hobbes

First of Two Parts:

Is war inevitable? Can nations and people get along? Do we make war when diplomacy fails, or is conflict an intrinsic part of human nature? Since the beginning of written history, various schools of thought have debated the causes.  In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918, the Sutro has arranged a superb exhibit on war and peace at the library. We will post another entry in August highlighting themes from the exhibit.

For our first installment, our volunteer Craig Kelliher, takes a look at the historically relevant discourse surrounding the questions, “Why we make war” and “Why we make peace.”

Some philosophers and numerous political realists believe humans cannot help themselves from taking up arms,  we are hard-wired to do so. Others argue such pessimistic perspectives overlook the cooperative elements of human nature. In International Relations theory, Classical Realism is built on the pyramid of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, Renaissance Italian Niccolò Machiavelli and seventeenth century English theorist Thomas Hobbes.  Realists maintain a fatalistic view of human nature, believe relations between nations are competitive and conflictual, value national security and survival as primary goals of the state, and are skeptical about progress in international cooperation beyond a state’s self-interest.

On the other side of the disputation are views that people are social and tend to cooperate with one another. John Locke, Immanuel Kant and David Hume believed in free will, reason, and naturally sociability. These beliefs are constitutional incentives towards peace and cooperation among individuals, societies and nations.

On “Why we make war”

Thucydides ranks among the first historians. In the years up to 400BC, Thucydides recorded The History of The Peloponnesian War, spending 27 years systematically registering first-hand accounts of dialogue and conflict between Athens and Sparta. In witness of what he described as the natural reality of unequal power among nations, Thucydides realized that nations must recognize their relative position and act accordingly. Decisions and actions carry consequences, therefore leaders must behave with “deference to one’s superiors,” and with moderation towards inferior powers, resulting in logic based self-preservation. This dynamic makes for an international system governed only by power and nation states’ relative positions within it. Thereby, Thucydides provides the basis for describing the international system as “anarchy” — lacking an overarching world government. Thucydides makes no accommodation for a celestial deity governing human behavior or morality. He includes sections on military technology, in particular, engaging sieges and naval warfare.

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Thomas Hobbes translated Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War from the original Greek in 1628 (Sutro’s imprint is dated 1634). This translation informed many of Hobbes’s own philosophies. While Thucydides defended the power of democracy, Hobbes highlighted the weakness of democracy as evidenced by the fall of the democratic Greek empire, in his subsequent writings.

Hobbes’ The Leviathan (Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill), is a pillar of philosophical works describing the human “state of nature” as perpetually at war, in a world in which anarchy reigns, and with every human endangered by the actions of others. A person and a commonwealth’s primary motivations are self-interest and survival. Hobbes describes the natural pre-civilized human condition as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’ The way to avoid this natural condition is through a strong and united government. Unfortunately, each nation-state exists in competition with others creating a similarly uncivilized ‘state of nature’ among nations, referred to as the “Security Dilemma” among modern theorists.  The Leviathan was banned for a variety of reasons; foremost was Hobbes’s suggestion, perhaps inspired by Thucydides that sovereigns rule by consent of the governed, not by divine right, which angered monarchs, royalists and the church. In this revised Latin version printed 1668, Hobbes writes “auctoritas non veritas facit legem”, meaning “authority, not truth, makes law.”

The Leviathan: Sutro Library; Vault; 192 H68l

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Niccolò Macchiavelli’s Art of War was his only political treatise published during his lifetime. The Prince, first published in 1532, is more broadly read, offering a head of state lessons in attaining success through power and scheming. Art of War outlines military strategies and the rules of warfare to military commanders. It is considered his masterwork. Taken together, Machiavelli posits the why and the how of nations engaging as enemies.  The Prince‘s infamy lies in the lesson that the ends justify the means; Art of War proffers the argument that war is the inevitable result when diplomacy fails.  You will find a copy of Art of War in Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress.

Art of War in Seven Books with notes by a gentleman of the state of New York, 1815.  Sutro Library; Vault; U101 .M17

Work Cited

Bassani, Luigi Marco. Life, Liberty, and…: Jefferson on Property Rights. Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 18. Number 1. Winter 2004, pp. 31-87. mises-media.s3.amazonaws.com/18_1_2.pdf. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Gill, Michael. Hume’s Progressive View of Human Nature. Hume Studies, Volume XXVI, Number 1. April 2000. humesociety.org/hs/issues/v26n1/gill/gill-v26n1.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2018.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill. Leviathan : sive, De materia, forma, & potestate civitatis ecclesiasticae et civilis;  authore Thomas Hobbes, Malmesburiensi. Revised Latin edition, London, dated 1668. Sutro Vault ; 192 H68l. 20.5cm.

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects. London, Printed for John Noon, 1739-40, first edition. Sutro Vault 192H. 21cm.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. The Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Association, Washington, D. C., 1904, Vol. XV, p. 462, in a letter to James Madison on August 30, 1823. wallbuilders.com/john-locke-deist-theologian/#edn5. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Kant, Immanuel. To Perpetual Peace. Por la paz perpetua; traducción de Rafael Montestruc. Sopena House, appeared March 1905.      Sutro Vault  JX1946.K36 S6. 17cm.

Keynes, John Maynard. The Economic Consequences of the Peace.  New York, Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920. Sutro Vault 341.2 K.  21cm.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. L. K. Whiston, 1772. Sutro Vault 302L.  22cm.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. Art of War in Seven Books with notes by a gentleman of the state of New York.  Albany, Printed by H. C. Southwick, 1815. Sutro Vault U101 .M17. unk cm.

Paret, Peter, Editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age.  Princeton University Press, 1986, pg. 27.

Thucydides. Eight bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre; Written by Thucydides, the sonne of Olorus; interpreted with faith and diligence immediately out of the Greeke by Thomas Hobbes. 1628. Sutro’s imprint by Richard Mynn, 1634. Sutro Vault 888.2  T. 35cm.

Tales of a Telephone Book’s Repurpose

Phone books can be a great source of information for researchers. However, they were not built to last; their fate usually being they were thrown out once next year’s book landed at the door. Browsing San Francisco phone directories in the Sutro Library stacks, we chanced upon a bit of ephemera that a clever someone repurposed as a San Francisco history scrapbook. Within this San Francisco Telephone Directory of July 1, 1918, a previous owner pasted clippings from San Francisco newspapers.

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Cover of the San Francisco Telephone Directory originally published 100 years ago on July 1, 1918.

Among the mementos are first publications of precious panoramic photos of the city, a color full page poster commemorating the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair, and San Francisco street histories by Edward A. Morphy, plus other bizarre and notable snippets from the Chronicle and San Francisco Call. The clippings have dates from the dawn of the new century up to 1928, including a few obituaries, a record always sought by genealogists.

While phone directories are sources of data, newspapers were fountains of information, opinion, correspondence and advertisement, as well as entertainment. You sense the responsibility of a reporter in their publishing of bona fide news stories, but in retelling tales of peculiarity they often express a joy of writing. The only mundane thing you could say of this scrapbook might be its original purpose as a phone directory, the stories adhered herein abound with wit and verve in their verbiage. Sam Clemens would be proud!

Whale of a Story

SFPhonebook_July1918_AncientWhale
Whale tales in the telephone directory!

Collecting whale tales show the scrapbooker’s penchant for the smelly underbelly of the city. Another clipping, a possible follow up to Jonah’s tale, was found in a different section of the phone book. It describes the fire department’s task of incinerating a beached whale at Golden Gate Park. Under the headline “Mourners Stand Away Off at Last Sad Requiem Sobbed by Winds,” the writer finds the absurd comedy in an off-putting situation:

An elderly woman residing in one of the beach homes nearby, who came to the obsequies in a black mother hubbard, stood to windward of the pyre. Her handkerchief was pressed to her face. The linen luffed, and the lady gasped: “That’s my finish,” and she fled from the scene.

“The whale’s, too,” remarked a scoffer near her, pronouncing the words as if saying, “whale stew.”

The 1894 Mid-Winter Fair

Tucked in the midsection of this old school DIYer’s paper project is a full page, full color poster promoting a commemoration of the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair. A camel parades in front of stately buildings where crowds are milling in what must have been a spectacle. This was the year before Adolph Sutro was elected mayor of San Francisco. The fair was conceived as an antidote to the recession the city endured at the time.

 

SFPhonebook_July1918_MidwinterFair
A colorful poster promoting a commemoration of the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair.

 

Accompanying the poster is a recounting of Sandow the Strongman’s battle with Parnell, a lion who earned the sobriquet “killer lion” after attacking and killing its trainer, Carlo Thieman, while on exhibit with Daniel Boone’s Wild Animal Show.

SFPhonebook_July1918_killerlion
Sandow the Strongman’s battle with Parnell, the Killer Lion.

Very little of the Fair remains, but we know Adolph Sutro rescued several attractions before they were destroyed. He relocated the Firth Wheel, the Haunted Swing, Scenic Railway as well as others to his plot of land between his train station and the Sutro Baths.[i] Thanks to our favorite benefactor, we can still enjoy the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House today.

 

Panorama pics of the city

In the years prior to the Mid-Winter Fair, a pair of panoramic photographs showcased how San Francisco grew expansively. One taken in 1855 from Telegraph Hill towards Marin; another from the early 1850s from Rincon Hill shows the bay reaching where Montgomery Street is now paved. You can see from the second stitched together photos that downtown was definitely part of the bay. Ships once floated where many offices are now!

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Street Stories

SFPhonebook_July1918_bernalheights
Local histories authored by Edward A. Morphy are pasted throughout the telephone directory.

If you are a fan of local San Francisco history, your engine will rev when you find your local ‘hood in one of Edward Morphy’s streetscapes. The scrapbooker saved a number of these celebrations of the city’s neighborhood pioneers and colorful residents. Below is a sample covering Bernal Heights.

Filed under Serendipity

The Sutro Library collection often reveals many surprises. Almost every day, we happen across discoveries like this phone book/scrapbook which is hundred years old as of today! Like a magician’s hat, you never know what’s inside that you weren’t expecting. Come on down and browse a while. We love it when you share your bizarre and serendipitous discoveries with us.

 

Craig Kelliher, one of Sutro Library’s wonderful volunteers, wrote this blog post.

 

Sources cited:

LaBounty, Woody. “Making Merry on Merrie Way.” Outsidelands.org Western Neighborhoods Project, 15 Dec.2011, accessed 27 June 2018. www.outsidelands.org/merrie-way2.php, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180627214324/http://outsidelands.org/merrie-way2.php.

The Legacy of Dr. Donald Hébert

The Father of Southwest Louisiana Genealogy

I first heard the name Hébert not long after beginning my new role as the Genealogy Librarian. A group of researchers traveled from Sacramento, braving the summer heat and Bay Area traffic as they embarked on a mission to trace their family history in the Sutro Library. Their objective: To research in the Louisiana section of the Genealogy Collection and, more specifically, to consult the Southwest Louisiana Records compiled and edited by the Reverend Donald J. Hébert.

Hebert_SouthWestLouisiana_new

Unbeknownst to me, it would not be the last time I would witness the awe and reverence expressed with the mere mention of the name Hébert.  Since that moment, now over a year ago, I must have heard, thought, and said his name a thousand times, as I began my own journey to learn more about this holy figure within the genealogy community. Along the way, I learned that Sutro Library was one of the few libraries on the West Coast to hold this invaluable, albeit incomplete, set, and for years – possibly decades – researchers have been coming to the Sutro Library to view these treasured volumes all while expressing their hopes for us to one day complete the set. Well, that day has finally come.

This 52 volume set contains information meticulously extracted from Southwest Louisiana church and courthouse records spanning two centuries, 1750s – 1950s, and covering thirteen parishes: Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermillion. Occupying three shelves, the set is arranged chronologically with corrections and/or supplements found in later volumes. The abstracts include information on births, marriages, baptisms, deaths, and succession.  Researchers can also find parish histories, cattle brands, maps, tombstone inscriptions, court transcripts, and photocopies of original documents throughout the set.

 

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As a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Dr. Hébert was able to gain access to Catholic Church records. His original intent was to create a guide to the church and civil records of Southwest Louisiana enabling researchers to contact archives for complete information. Hébert was not alone on his pilgrimage. This endeavor required help from others including his secretary who transcribed the tapes Hébert recorded as he read each record, some so fragile they turned to dust in his hands. He also enlisted help from students who copied, indexed, and arranged the transcriptions into volumes.

All of the volumes are extraordinary resources that contain utterly unique information; however, the one volume worth noting is Volume 33. Not only was it the last volume we needed to complete the Sutro Library set, but it also contains abstractions of the “Records of Blacks (1765 – 1886)”. This is not the only volume that holds information needed to trace African American ancestry. Prior to the Civil War, the priests kept separate registers for whites and blacks, and these records were known to be accidentally intermixed into the wrong registers. Because of this, it is important to look throughout the set and not just at sections specifically related to these types of records. Volume 33 also contains an index of the sections found within volumes 1 – 33. For example, if researchers wanted to find out what else the set had on tracing African American ancestry, they will find a listing for “Introduction to Black Genealogy” located in Volume 2 which provides more details on the different parishes and their records.

Other tips for using this record set include:

  • As with most resources, it is imperative to read the introduction. This is provided in most of the volumes, but not all of them, especially those published posthumously.
  • Original records were written in French or Spanish so it is important to search for variations of the name. Inside each volume, the names are arranged alphabetically by the name’s translation. Some entries may even include the original name used in the record. A name variation table is provided at the beginning of Volume 1 and may prove useful for later volumes.
  • Revisions of volume 1 (labeled as 1a and 1b) and volume 2 (labeled as 2a, 2b, and 2c) now have every name indexes whereas before researchers had to go through each section of each volume to find their ancestors. These revisions also provide more information eliminating the need for researchers to contact local archives.
  • When looking at marriage records, remember to look up the names of BOTH the bride AND the groom as there may be vital details provided in one entry that are not found in the other.
  • Lastly, make sure to check later volumes for corrections and supplements to earlier ones. While Hébert is considered an authoritative voice for Louisiana genealogy, even he admitted to making mistakes in the process of compiling his work.

 

By the time of his death on February 22, 2000, Hébert had published 96 titles. Sutro Library holds 55 titles authored by Hébert. Southwest Louisiana Records volume 42 was the last one of the set that he himself published. Claitor’s Law Books and Publishing Division released the remaining five volumes, already compiled by Hébert prior to his death. The publishing house is still looking for a priest who will continue Hébert’s noble crusade.

Hebert_portrait
A memorial to Dr. Hébert in Volume 42, the last one he himself would publish.

One dedicated “Sutronian” (a researcher who frequents the Sutro Library) makes weekly trips to our reading room and is often found in front of one of our computers with a few of these volumes spread open beside her. After a long wait, we finally received our last volume and had it waiting at our reference desk upon her next visit. Her reaction was one full of joy and serves as a wonderful reminder of why I am a librarian.

It has been over 18 years since his death, and his absence in the genealogy community is still felt. What once took family historians and scholars years to research, now only takes a matter of hours thanks to the selfless work of Dr. Donald J. Hébert.

“I hope that the material found in these many volumes will be a source that guide other researchers to appreciate what our ancestors have left us—a documentation of their activities that reveals to us our connection with past generations.”

~Dr. Donald J. Hébert

Sutro Library is now the only library west of Salt Lake City to have a complete set of the Southwest Louisiana Records ensuring that Hébert’s wish is continuously fulfilled as researchers refer to these treasures bound in dark blue book cloth and etched with gold empowering them to connect with generations of the past.

Hebert_new

Thank you to the California State Library Foundation for completing this set!

 

Access Note: These volumes can only be accessed within a branch of the California State Library. They are not eligible for InterLibrary Loan; however, upon request, they can be sent to the Sacramento location of the California State Library, if it is more convenient for a researcher to view them there. Sutro Library can also send scans in answer to known-item inquiries or provide look-ups on a case-by-case basis. 

Related resources available through the Sutro Library:

  • Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans by Earl C. Woods; Charles E. Nolan; and Dorenda Dupont, volumes 1 – 19 *Same access restrictions as stated above.
  • Ancestry.com’s Southwest Louisiana, Death Index (1840 – 1906) created from the Southwest Louisiana Records and provides indexes of records for 7 out of the 13 parishes within Southwest Louisiana.

 

Dvorah Lewis
Genealogy & Local History Librarian

Sutro’s Genie Librarian @ JAMBOREE!

As I walked through the Burbank Airport Marriott and into their Convention Center, flashbacks from my first visit at the official convention for the TV series Xena, over six years ago, filled my mind, from running into Michael Hurst (aka Hercules’ sidekick Iolaus) in the elevator to gallivanting around in my warrior princess garb with my friends.

XenaCon

Quite a few times, I had to pull myself back to the present. Unlike XenaCon, this conference was for professional reasons: the annual genealogy conference hosted by the Southern California Genealogical Society known more commonly as Jamboree, which took place May 31st-June 2nd.  Instead of running into my favorite characters, I was running into well-known genealogists and speakers. I knew I’d create just as many fond memories now as I did back then.

On the very first day, there was a moment when an instructor asked me to speak a little bit about the California State Library resources. Many attendees gasped at the mention of the name, Sutro Library, while some had no idea that one of the largest genealogy collections in the country existed in their very own state. After the session, a few attendees crowded around asking me questions and getting my contact information. This gracious welcoming of the California State Library’s presence at the conference stayed with me the entire weekend.

If I had to pick the greatest thing I learned at Jamboree, it is how to correctly pronounce DAR as if it were spelled D.A.R., the acronym for the Daughters of the American Revolution. Or maybe it was the tidbit of information about the “x” near the person’s name in the 1940 census, which notes who gave the information to the recorder? All kidding aside, I learned so much during my time at the conference and in a way, I am still processing it all. I learned about better strategies for navigating resources, including the treasure trove of information in criminal records (many of us assume our ancestors were law-abiding citizens, but you’d be surprised); the functionality of GoogleEarth (overlaying historical maps or tracing the trends and change points of your FAN club, ie Friends/Family, Associates, and Neighbors); and the different ways to access the FamilySearch.org collections since the majority is not indexed (Tip: best way to search is through the Catalog).

I also took workshops that covered researching ancestors from various ethnic backgrounds, such as Eastern European or Spanish. The most interesting and informative were two separate talks by Janice Lovelace, one on Native American Genealogy and another on the Black Experience in the Revolutionary War.

Jamboree2018

I learned so much during this visit and can’t wait to use what I learned to help researchers embark and continue their genealogical journeys. All of this could not have been done without the generosity and support of the California State Library Foundation.

Dvorah Lewis
Genealogy & Local History Librarian

 

Books that should be in Hogwart’s Library

On May 1st, the Sutro Library partnered with the J. Paul Leonard library and held its first-ever pop-up exhibit. In collaboration with archivist Meredith Eliasson from J. Paul Leonard Library’s special collections, we provided some very special books and artifacts for students to “pet” during the hectic and rather stressful week of finals – #booktherapy!

Maker:S,Date:2017-12-8,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The event was held just a day before International Harry Potter Day, when Harry Potter defeated Voldemort, as well as on the Gaelic holiday Beltane.  It also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter book series. Our exhibit started at 12:30 p.m. but students were lining up to see our treasures 10 mins before we officially “opened.”  Sutro staff selected books that related to specific Hogwarts classes and professors, with each book receiving a Hogwarts “staff pick” sign.  The exhibit concluded at 2p.m. after having been seen by over 150 happy Harry Potter fans.

Maker:S,Date:2017-12-8,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
Maker:S,Date:2017-12-8,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Students got the rare opportunity to touch and interact with some incredible objects. There was a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of comets – chronicling them from the beginning of history through 1665, a Hebrew Talisman from Medieval Yemen, and a Nuremburg Chronicle printed in 1496 – just to name a few.  The theme not only gave us a chance to showcase some of the amazing antiquarian books and resources that Sutro has in abundance,  but was a great enticement to take a break from the stress of finals and have students get to know who we are.

Pop-up exhibit

And thanks to our wonderful volunteers Craig, Kelliher and Pat Munoz for your invaluable help in making this an awesome event!

Other Hands

I love the smell of a new book, the slight creak of the binding as it’s opened for the first time, the smooth, unmarked pages.  But I also love the smell of old books, the soft, forgiving bindings that have been opened time and time again, the pages that bear the marks of previous owners.  I am lucky enough to be working as a volunteer at the Sutro Library, so I get lots of opportunities to see and handle old books.

Sometimes the evidence that a book has been well-used (and, I always hope, well-loved) is shown in patterns of wear:  soiled corners that are reminiscent of the countless fingers that have turned the pages; rubbed covers that suggest a book has been slid in and out of a pocket or a satchel again and again.  Sometimes the evidence is more direct and personal, a note or mark in a margin. For instance, I came across this small hand recently, inked in the margin of Spanish religious text.  Its purpose is clear: check this passage out!

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But I think my favorite thing to discover in an old book is a hand-written name.  Often when I find one, I catch myself saying the name out loud as I hold the book, enjoying a moment of connection with someone across centuries and thousands of miles.  Joannes Trotter was nice enough to date his signature, which had me counting on my fingers to figure out just how much time had passed since he set his name down and I picked his book up.

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I found this slip of paper with its elegantly written name tucked into the pages of another Spanish religious text. The book itself must have been quite an elegant little volume when it was new, too – with copper catches and a patterned leather cover.

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clasp with patina

In a Latin textbook published in Mexico in 1805, I found the same name written twice.  In one instance it was inscribed in a boyish hand, with an uncertain squiggle at the end.  On a facing page, it was written again, big and confident with an artful flourish.  I like to imagine that the owner of the book grew up while he made use of it and that his handwriting and confidence (and hopefully his Latin, too!) improved over the years.

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Sometimes the books and names feel more familiar, but they hold just as much charm.  M. E. Van Beuren (I know from another signature elsewhere that her name was Melissa Elizabeth) carefully wrote her name in her copy of The Arabian Nights, published in 1827. [Other hand pic 7.]

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Each of these books, and most others in the Sutro Library collection, have made long, complicated voyages through the hands of different owners, booksellers, auction houses, and libraries to end up in San Francisco.  And so, against all odds, Joannes Trotter in seventeenth-century Holland and Melissa Van Beuren on nineteenth-century Long Island have something in common with each other: they both owned books that have come to rest here. And I, and all the people who utilize the library collection, have something in common with both Joannes and Melissa when we have the opportunity to hold their books as they did and when we read their names.  That is part of the wonderful magic of libraries.

 

 

This post and all of the images are by Isabel Breskin, Sutro Volunteer.

 

 

 

 

Huzzah, Mazel Tov, and Happy Birthday Adolph Sutro!!!

Maker:S,Date:2017-12-8,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
Maker:S,Date:2017-12-8,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Last Saturday, April 28, 2018, we had a fantastic turn-out to celebrate Adolph Sutro’s 188th birthday.  The afternoon included stories, exhibits, and cupcakes. Our amazing speakers covered different aspects of Sutro’s fascinating life and legacy with insight and humor. One of the highlights was Marc Shaffer, director of the film American Jerusalem. Shaffer’s film takes a look at the German Jewish pioneers who settled in San Francisco in the wake of the Gold Rush.  Adolph Sutro’s emigration story frames the narrative which focuses on Jewish assimilation within the context of the Gold Rush which allowed Jews to make inroads as never before.

The discussion concerning American Jerusalem was followed by an appearance of Adolph Sutro, portrayed by Allan Schwartz. Schwartz is a staple at San Francisco History-related events, and stayed true to character, rallying against the Southern Pacific Railroad, decrying “the Octopus must be stopped!” This reenactment of Mayor Sutro was followed by two San Francisco historians Marian Gregoire and Chelsea Sellin both of whom touched upon the strength and resilience of the women who made an impact on Sutro.  Gregoire presented “Adolph Sutro: Tales of the Women Who Affected His Life,” while Sellin spoke on “The Forgotten History of the Sutro Family Women.”

This event was coordinated by Dvorah Lewis, Sutro’s Genealogy & Local History Librarian and the planning goes all the way back to the Fall of 2017 when it was decided that the library would host a genealogy event for Sutro’s birthday. Dvorah started researching potential speakers, but was thrown several curve balls! The original two speakers who were going to speak had to cancel at the last minute, so it was “like a scavenger hunt trying to find other speakers. And unfortunately, most who specialize in Adolph Sutro were unavailable; didn’t live in the Bay Area; or had passed away.” In the end Dvorah persevered and found great speakers who contributed to a truly successful event.

Special thanks to our volunteers Craig Kelliher and Pat Munoz and to everyone else for an awesome event!

Next on our blog: books you’d find at Hogwart’s!

The WPA at the Sutro Library

The Work Projects Administration (WPA) was one of the key programs that brought relief to Americans in the wake of the Great Depression. Formed in 1935, it would go on to employ over eight-million people and create landmarks and buildings in almost every state. The WPA is perhaps best known for its  contributions to the oral history of the United States, as well as their amazing work building places like Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory.  In addition to the glamour of larger projects the WPA created, they also worked to help libraries across the country—including right here at the Sutro Library.

The WPA’s work in libraries centered on the idea that historic preservation and learning was something that was worth large amounts of funding. In libraries across the country, the WPA went in and organized books, created card catalogues, and even did detailed information aggregation about collections—like writing summaries or reviews. This work is what allowed so many libraries to have the necessary systems of organization that allowed them to function at higher levels and be more organized and accessible.

In the case of the Sutro Library, this is especially true. By the time of the WPA’s inception in 1935, the Sutro Library was only a little over twenty years old,  with the majority of erstwhile Mayor Adolph Sutro’s vast collection still yet to be organized and cataloged. The WPA came  and  ushered in “progress”  for the new library in the form of writing detailed descriptions and bibliographies of broadsides and pamphlets, creating card catalogs, and even publishing a newsletter about the Sutro Library.

But more pertinent than all these internal improvements, the WPA helped promote the Sutro Library. The work that the WPA did was vital in fostering awareness  of the Sutro Library. In newsletters and interviews, the WPA promoted the Sutro Library and gave it visibility. Up until this point, it became very clear (upon my reading of the WPA’s documents—their notes about the library and their collections, even newsletters) that the Sutro Library was not receiving enough press and media attention. It is the coverage that the Sutro Library received from being a WPA project site, that helped it to gain recognition. The bibliographic guides  that the WPA published on Sutro’s collections included works on “The Mexican Republic”, “Hebrew Scrolls”, and even “Early Americana.” Having those resources printed and let out to the public is something that allowed Americans to have access to the knowledge that Sutro Library was an institution that they could come and visit.

Though the WPA has long been disbanded, the idea of public works projects remains alive within the context of universities today. It is no coincidence that many academic internships are modeled on the idea of doing public service. Helping at a related public institution (a history major working at an archive or an engineer working on a local dam) is not just good practice for anyone in that field, but it is also a matter of paying one’s dues and contributing to one’s community. The WPA was, first and foremost, a way to improve America. Though it was, indeed, an effort to employ people during the worst economic period of U.S history, it also encouraged a sense of community values and contribution through the ideas of public working projects. In a time that was rather dark, the idea of coming together to strengthen the community through the building of works for the public is something that created lasting change. That legacy continues on with the level of public service and internships that are still required by many educational institutions today.

Interning at the Sutro Library and writing this blog may be very different from those WPA workers that catalogued books and created newsletters, but at the end of the day, I would like to think that there is a lovely similarity in our service and continued passion for spreading the word about this wonderful place.

Blog Post by Akiko Bates, USF Public History Intern