This summary of events in California in the last half of the nineteenth century does not pretend to be a complete survey of the state's history in this period. Instead, it attempts to provide a basis for understanding the major themes in the books included in this collection. These books, for their part, reflect the nation's contemporary changing attitude toward California, and they are a sign of what people of the day considered interesting and unusual, not discussions of themes and movements that modern historians have concluded were important and influential.
|Illustration XX: Yosemite. Photograph by Carleton E. Watkins, 1860. Lot 6731. LC-USZ62-47091. #47248]|
While some of these books do try to alert Americans to the less happy side of life in California, these are few. Some writers of the late nineteenth century like Helen Hunt Jackson might continue to protest the treatment of native peoples, but most Americans chose to ignore such protests wherever they occurred. Other authors discussed attempts of railroads and other business interests to control California's government and economy, but this was an age of trusts and monopolies. California's problems were not unique or exotic.
And this is the lesson of these books and this period in California's history. By the era's end, the Chinese "Mountain of Gold," the miners' "Eldorado," the legendary land on the Pacific Ocean had become a part of the nation to which the state was admitted in 1850. The books in this collection tell the story of that process in the words of the men and women who helped shape it.
Library of Congress
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