Re: San Francisco's Celebration of the States Centennial in 1950

06/27/16 - posted by Paul Judge

The older generations tended to optimistically present history that was a selected interpretation of California and Western Heritage with romanticized gusto. What comes to mind are accounts and images of early and mid 20th Century festivals and pageants celebrating the settlement of Spanish and Mexican California. Typically the narrative skewed how the indigenous people were displaced and omitted how the influx of Anglo Argonauts mistreated and chiseled the holdings of Californios and Mexicanos and exploited Asian and Pacific Islanders. One result of such popular celebrations is that it sparked efforts that preserved some of the Mission settlements of Alta California. During the California Centennial the state’s population was approximately 10.5 million and many of those alive where direct descendants or residents with living memory of historic events. Communities and locales up and down the state used such events to celebrate and muster enthusiasm that pertained to their particular place and time in history. The Jesse Brown Cook photographic collection portrays various immigrant and ethnic communities conducting parades and festivals in the neighborhoods of San Francisco. As a child I remember the excitement and lore generated by the Jumping Frog Contest of Angels Camp or Logging Camp and Fishery celebrations along the Redwood Empire. One can look at daily newspapers, magazines, and photo collections in the Bancroft Library and the Online Archives of California to see documentation of such events. The Prelinger Archives and Rick Prelinger’s ‘Lost Landscapes of San Francisco” has screened home movies of a Westward Expansion & Settlement pageant performed at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.
At the time of the California Sesquicentennial the State Parks System, local historic sites, and educational institutions put effort into celebrating the milestone. Yet it seemed to me that the public’s interest was merely luke-warm. By then the population had reached 34 million and Californians were more aware via 24 hours news sources of the potential cyber threat of ‘Y2K’.

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