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Guide to the The Society of California Pioneers Collection of Autobiographies and Reminiscences of Early Pioneers
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Collection Overview
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The Autobiographies and Reminiscences are made up of 153 documents varying in length from one page to over sixty pages, the average being around five pages in length. Most include details from the writer's early life, but the bulk of each document tends to be their overland journeys or voyages to the Pacific Coast and California in pre-Gold Rush times and then accounts of their lives after arrival. Many of the writer's - all are men - talk of their families, education, occupations before and after arriving out West, as well as experiences mining, businesses, farming and ranching. Other aspects of their new lives are discussed: law and politics, the military and wars, social events, agriculture, literature and theater, shipping and leisure activities. The time period covered by the accounts is from the 1840s through 1904 - when the project was completed. The geographic location discussed range from all over the United States: New England, New York, the south, the Midwest - especially Missouri - and of course locations along both the overland trails to the West, as well as ports of call in South and Central America. Many accounts are looking back at their lives, and some are accurate and others may or may not be embellished as the writer relates a life some fifty or sixty years earlier.
The Society of California Pioneers is California's oldest historical organization, founded in 1850 by pre-Gold Rush pioneers. The Society's original aims were "...to collect and preserve information connected with the early settlement and conquest of the country, and to perpetuate the memory of those whose sagacity, enterprise, and love of independence induced them to settle in the wilderness...". Toward the end of the 19th century, when many of the original members began passing away, the Society's Historical Committee put out a call for "Autobiographies and Reminiscences" of its members. The members included in the 154 reminiscences range from gold miners to farmers and businessmen to lumbermen, representing the broad range of men who made up the early membership of the Society. Accounts relate the members' early lives, journeys out west, and finally their lives in California and places beyond. Many were submitted by handwritten documents, but others appear to have been dictated to the Committee. Each submission was then typed and all were bound into eight oversize volumes which still exist today, as do sixty-three of the original handwritten accounts.
8 v. (1661 p.); 36 cm. and 63 items (755 leaves); 36 cm. or smaller. 152 online items
Copyright has not been assigned to The Society of California Pioneers. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Society of California Pioneers as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must be obtained by the reader.
Collection is open for research.