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Guide to the City of Berkeley Records, 1878-1954
BANC MSS C-A 200  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • City History
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: City of Berkeley Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1878-1954
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-A 200
    Creator: Berkeley (Calif.) Berkeley (Calif.) City Clerk Berkeley (Calif.) Planning Commission Berkeley (Calif.) City Council
    Extent: 11 Cartons, 46 Volumes, 4 Oversize folders (18.5 linear feet)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: The City of Berkeley California records (1878-1954) consist of records from the city clerk's office. The collection includes records relating to the business of city government, such as the city charter, reports, town attorney opinions, city council minutes, planning commission information, correspondence, tax sale rolls, indices, financial records, agreements, leases, bids, ordinances, and petitions. It also contains police and fire department reports, information on public utilities including natural gas, water, electric power, lighting, and discussion of municipally owned utilities. Additional documentation including street infrastructure, street railways of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Key System Transit Company, the wharf and harbor, school construction, Civil Works Administration projects, and clippings are included in the collection. The contents are somewhat inconsistent over sporadic periods of time, however, a range of documentation on late nineteenth and early twentieth century Berkeley is available.
    Physical Location: Collection stored off-site. Advance notice required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator or the Head of Public Services for forwarding. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], City of Berkeley Records, BANC MSS C-A 200, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Berkeley, (Calif.) Assessment records, 1871-1966. BANC MSS C-A 400. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley (Calif.). City Manager. Proposed budget / as submitted to the Mayor and City Council by City Manager. F869.B5 B32. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley (Calif.). Charter of the city of Berkeley, California. \x\ F869.B5 C47.1957. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley (Calif.). Berkeley Charter. F869.B5 B545 \x\. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. The story of Berkeley: Berkeley, California, a city of homes by the Golden Gate, 1908. F869.B5 B544 \x\. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Pettitt George A., A History of Berkeley. Berkeley, Calif. Alameda County Historical Society, 1976.
    Pettitt George A., Berkeley: the Town and Gown of it. Berkeley, Calif. Howell-North Books 1973.

    Separated Material

    Early license plates added to the Historical object miscellany (BANC PIC 19xx.031:002--OBJ).
    City Publications cataloged separately.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Public documents--California--Berkeley.
    City planning--California--Berkeley.
    Community development, Urban--California--Berkeley.
    Street-railroads--California--San Francisco Bay Area. (Calif.)--History.
    Berkeley (Calif.)--Planning.
    Key System Transit Lines (Calif.).
    Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
    Berkeley (Calif.). City Planning Commission.
    Berkeley (Calif.). City Council.
    Berkeley (Calif.). City Clerk.

    Administrative Information

    Provenance

    The City of Berkeley California records were given to The Bancroft Library by the Berkeley City Clerk in 1953. Additions were made in 1988.

    City History

    The City of Berkeley, California was incorporated on April 1, 1878 from two distinct settlements. Much of the area surrounding Berkeley was given the Peralta family as a land grant from the Spanish king in 1820. After the gold rush and California statehood in 1850, the large ranchero should have stayed in the Peralta hands. However, the large ranchero's unoccupied land quickly filled with Americans, using "squatter's rights" or a right to occupy empty land. Confusion over rights to the lands was finally settled in 1877, but by that time the land was already settled and the Peralta family sold their remaining land.
    James Jacob first anchored in the area where Strawberry Creek flows into the bay in 1853. In 1854, Captain William J. Bowen established an inn on Contra Costa Road (today's San Pablo Avenue) that became a successful stage stop. The small community known as Ocean View encouraged industry to settle in the region, beginning with the Pioneer Starch and Grist Mill in 1855. The industrial area steadily grew, with Z.B. Heywood's lumberyard in 1866, the Hofburg Brewery in 1869, the California Watch Company and Standard Soap Company factories in 1875, Griffin Glove Company in 1877, and a number of chemical plants in the 1880's. In 1877 the Southern Pacific Railroad located its transcontinental mainline along the Berkeley shore, giving West Berkeley businesses direct access to the national rail network for the first time. Ocean View (West Berkeley) thus developed into a lively working class and agricultural community.
    The other settlement, a mile east of the Ocean View, surrounded land chosen by the College of California. After the original site in Oakland and proved too urban for the founder's ideal for the College, the trustees bought land located five miles north of Oakland near Strawberry Creek with a spectacular western view of the Golden Gate. Ground was broken for the new college in 1860. The community was named after George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, Ireland, a strong supporter of higher education in the new world. What particularly attracted the trustees was a line in one of Berkeley's poems: "Westward the course of empire takes its way," a fitting tribute to a new educational community on the western frontier. The state legislature voted to establish a state university in 1867, and the College of California combined with the proposed land grant university, becoming the University of California in 1868. In 1869 the state School for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind was moved from San Francisco to a new facility under construction a few blocks south of the university campus. The surrounding community grew to service the University population, though most students and faculty came to the university by means of stage coach or rail line from living quarters in Oakland.
    An animosity between the two areas sprung up for several specific reasons, along with general social and economic differences. When the university dammed Strawberry Creek for a water supply, Ocean View residents claimed this substantially lowered the water level in their wells, and argued that waste from the campus area was polluting the stream. A law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages within two miles of campus would have closed down taverns in Ocean View, a matter of concern to the hardworking community. The limit was reduced to one mile, but caused other problems as new bars opened in Ocean View catering to students. Yet along with conflict, economic ties to the two communities grew, as the campus community used Ocean View's shops and labor.
    By the late 1870's, residents from Ocean View and Berkeley were dissatisfied with the level of services from the county government that had jurisdiction over unincorporated areas. Moreover, Oakland seemed to be making plans to extend its borders north to include both areas. The two sides united, incorporating on April 1, 1878. Additional annexations of territory in 1891, 1906, 1908, 1920, and 1958 brought the town to its current size.
    Due to the fact that the communities were polarized, many simple things were issues. The location of the town hall was settled by the creation of a steam rail line on Shattuck Avenue, the most convenient route to Oakland and the Southern Pacific ferry to San Francisco for both East and West Berkeley. In 1899, the town hall was put on wheels and moved from University Avenue and Sacramento Street to a site on Grove Street between Allston Way and Center Street, just two blocks west of Shattuck.
    From 13,214 residents in 1900, Berkeley's population increased to 40,434 in 1910 and to 56,036 in 1920 due to increase in the availability of transportation to Oakland and San Francisco. The community continued to grow, with populations reaching 82,000 in 1930 and 115,000 by 1940, fueled by a boom in defense spending, both in research at the University and in the Richmond area shipyards. Since the 1940's, the population of Berkeley has remained relatively stable at just over 100,000 due to space constraints and the growth of surrounding suburban communities.
    The availability of transportation options such as street rail and ferries from 1900 to the 1920's promoted Berkeley's development and growth as a suburban area. The red Southern Pacific electric streetcars were in competition with the orange San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railways or Key Transit System streetcars. Francis Marion "Borax" Smith established the Key Transit System routes in 1903 to help with real estate development. The Key System street rail to a propeller driven ferry transport promised a 35-minute trip from Berkeley to San Francisco. By 1923 Golden Gate Ferry established a ferry option for those with automobiles. Ferries could not compete after the Bay Bridge opened in 1936. More cost-effective buses over took all street rail routes by 1948. The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District was formed to publicly operate a local bus system in 1960.
    The new community also had to face significant challenges in utilities. The water supply through Strawberry Creek and shallow wells that first encouraged settlement proved insufficient for the growing population. Due to lack of water storage, Berkeley residents had restricted watering for gardens as early as 1883. A series of private water companies failed, were bought out, restructured, and failed again in a cycle from 1877 to the 1920's. Seeing a need for reliable water supply and larger water storage, there was a move to implement municipally owned water companies and public utilities as early as 1911. The proposal for the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) was voted on in 1923, winning in part due to lack of water supply to quell a wildfire that burned a great deal of North Berkeley in October 1923. EBMUD turned down San Francisco's offer to share water supply from the Hetch Hechy reservoir, creating the San Pablo reservoir from Mokelumne River water by 1929.
    Fire was a constant threat in early Berkeley, due to lack of water supply, wood construction, and a dependence on wood stoves and kerosene lamps. The first volunteer fire department was established in 1882, continuing until paid fire positions were established in 1904 in as many as 10 firehouses. Fire continues to be a hazard in Berkeley, as seasonal drought, hot weather, and large wildfires destroy homes. Particularly destructive fires occurred in October of 1923 and 1991.
    The police department began as the town marshal and constables, elected positions. In 1905, August Vollmer, a veteran of the Spanish American war, was elected marshal. When the 1909 charter established a professional police department, Vollmer was appointed police chief. Chief Vollmer demanded honesty and efficiency from his force, requiring staff to know the laws they were enforcing and wear standard uniforms while on duty. Vollmer was among the first to implement scientific investigation, a record keeping system, and instituted codes of ethics including a ban on gratuities and drinking in uniform. During Vollmer's 40 years on the force, Berkeley grew into one of the most highly respected police forces in the country, a reputation that continues through today.
    After World War II, Berkeley faced a migration to the surrounding suburbs. The University's student population doubled from 1945 to 1948, for a total of 25,000. The University's prestige increased, in part because of participation in the Manhattan project building the atom bomb. During the 1950's, the Regents required all university personnel to take an anti-Communist loyalty oath. However, much of the University's faculty felt the loyalty oath was a violation of First Amendment rights and a threat to academic freedom and tenure. Faculty that refused to take the oath were fired, and promptly sued. The California Supreme Court ruled that the university could not impose a loyalty oath different than that required of all other state employees. Controversies such as the loyalty oath demonstrate the liberal nature of Berkeley citizens. By 1961, the city government had liberal majorities. The city council worked on the issues of racial justice, including housing discrimination and school desegregation. Students at the University were also active participants in the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960's.
    Berkeley activists participated in demonstrations against a San Francisco meeting of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1960, employment discrimination all over the Bay area, and organized political activity on the edges of Campus. In September of 1964, students were told that political activity would be banned from the campus edge's Bancroft Way sidewalk. Student groups decided to use direct action and civil disobedience to oppose the administrative restrictions. The activists transformed the structure of the protest from a "united front" of organizations to the Free Speech Movement (FSM), a separate group with its own identity and highly informal governing process. FSM activists put their campus conflict into a broad context, beginning an era of activism in many arenas.
    Liberal politicians had long urged campus and city radicals to pursue their goals through electoral politics rather than direct action. Berkeley's on-going legacy of the sixties has promoted laudable popular involvement in community affairs and a willingness to defend important values and promote useful social experimentation.
    Sources: City of Berkeley Home Page. http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us (accessed 11/10/2003)
    Wollenburg, Chris., Berkeley: A City in History. http://www.infopeople.org/bpl/system/historytext.html (accessed 11/10/2003)
    Pettitt George A., A History of Berkeley. Berkeley, Calif. Alameda County Historical Society, 1976.
    Pettitt George A., Berkeley: the Town and Gown of it. Berkeley, Calif. Howell-North Books 1973.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The City of Berkeley California records (1878-1954) consist of records from the city clerk's office. The collection includes records relating to the business of city government, such as the city charter, reports, town attorney opinions, city council minutes, planning commission information, correspondence, tax sale rolls, indices, financial records, agreements, leases, bids, ordinances, and petitions. It also contains police and fire department reports, information on public utilities including natural gas, water, electric power, lighting, and discussion of municipally owned utilities. Additional documentation including street infrastructure, street railways of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Key System Transit Company, the wharf and harbor, school construction, Civil Works Administration projects, and clippings are included in the collection. The contents are somewhat inconsistent over sporadic periods of time, however, a range of documentation on late nineteenth and early twentieth century Berkeley is available.
    Highlights of the collection include: documentation on the early town of Berkeley, including the charter, 1899 census documents, tax sale rolls and indices, planning commission and street information, documentation on the street railway systems, and early police department records.