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For the record : catalog of the public records, City of Sacramento 1849-1982, Sacramento County, 1848-1982
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Access Points
  • Preface
  • Introduction

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: For the record : catalog of the public records, City of Sacramento 1849-1982, Sacramento County,
    Date (inclusive): 1848-1982
    Creator: Searcy, Susan E.
    Extent: ca. 3,000 linear feet
    Repository: Center for Sacramento History
    Sacramento, California 95814
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research by appointment only.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Center for Sacramento History for private collections. All requests for permission to publish or quote from private manuscript collections must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Center for Sacramento History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. No permission is necessary to publish or quote from public records.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], [Identification of Government agency], Center for Sacramento History, Sacramento, CA

    Access Points

    Sacramento (Calif.)--Public records--Catalogs.
    Sacramento County (Calif.)--Public Records--Catalogs.
    Public records--California--Sacramento--Catalogs.
    Public records--California--Sacramento County--Catalogs.
    Sacramento (Calif.). Museum and History Division.


    This catalogue is the culmination of two National Historical Publications and Records Commission grants awarded in 1979 and 1980 to the Sacramento Museum and History Division. The purpose of the initial grant was threefold: to survey the historical records in offices and departments of the City and County of Sacramento; to transfer significant, non-current historical records to the Museum and History Division; and to catalogue those records and make them accessable to the public.
    The second grant allowed the Division to complete the transfer of non-current records, to compile retention manuals for records created by the city and county, to finish arranging and describing the public records in the Division archives, and to publish the catalogue describing those records.
    The contracts for the work were awarded to Lawrence Hibpshman and Susan Searcy. During the last two years we transferred 2025 linear feet of records to the Division archives and arranged and described 2568 linear feet of records. The success of this project came as the result of the help we received from many people. The staff of the Division, and in particular, Kathryn Gaeddert, Curator of History, gave enormous support, both in practical advice and moral encouragement. Cheryl Lundstrum authored the procedures manual used to arrange and describe the records. Her careful attention to detail allowed us to follow a consistant format. Helpful too, were the department chiefs who opened the files and storerooms, and whenever possible allowed us to transfer their historical records.
    A special note of appreciation must be extended to Dr. William N. Davis Jr., former Chief of Archives of the California State Archives, and to his staff. They were instrumental in the rescue of many important county records at the time when the former County Hall of Records was torn down. Over the years they provided finding aids for un-indexed records and kept them accessable to researchers. Dr. Davis' article "Research Uses of County Court Records, 1850-1879..." ( California Historical Quarterly, Fall and Winter, 1973) illustrates very well the use to which local records can be put.
    Finally, acknowledgement must be given for the assistance extended to us by our archival volunteers from the Volunteer Bureau of Sacramento and student interns from the History Department of California State University, Sacramento. They worked without complaint, often at mundane tasks and with little reward other than "thanks" and the opportunity to "get their hands on history."

    March 1, 1982


    Among western metropolitan areas, Sacramento may claim a unique heritage. The study of Sacramento history reveals a sequence of economic, social, cultural, and political developments that is duplicated nowhere else. This region has been a vital center of frontier settlement, pioneer growth, and western business enterprise since John Sutter, the Swiss adventurer and entrepreneur, began his efforts in 1839 to found an imperial fiefdom near the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. During the gold rush era, Sacramento emerged as the leading commercial entrepot, financial hub, state capitol, and entertainment center for the Mother Lode mining region. From that time through the post-World War II boom years of the large scale expansion of state government and federal military installations, the Sacramento area has grown in ways which mirror the general patterns of western historical development, yet which remain distinctive in detail.
    The discovery of gold at Coloma in 1848 catapulted California into the limelight of the nation and the world. It set in motion a world-wide migration, and a new frontier was born. Sacramento was the destination for overland migrations. It was the outfitting and embarking point to the gold fields. Here the gold seekers purchased their supplies which they carried with them into the gold fields. Here they returned to recuperate from the hardships of mining for gold and--for the lucky ones--to recoup their profits from the local banks.
    The population of the Sacramento region in 1849 was about 150 people, but by 1850 it had exploded to and estimated 25,000. To accommodate the excitement of gold fever and the population explosion, the citizens of Sacramento were forced to improvise hasty solutions to the problems created by instantaneous growth. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had establish the Alcalde Court as the transitional government to protect the citizens of the western territory relinquished by the Mexican government to the United States. The Alcalde Court system endured less than two years before Sacramento's residents attempted to replace it with a system of government similar to what they had left behind when emigrating to the west. In anticipation of the gold rush, the City's residents wanted to establish a system of law and order which would be effective in the turbulent times ahead. They elected their first Board of Commissioners in the spring of 1849, but it was not until February 1850 that the City and County were granted their official charters by the California legislature, eight months before California was granted statehood.
    The establishment of government was the citizenry's method for grappling with the chaotic times created by the discovery of gold. From local government's infancy, the men entrusted with its functions recorded the City's and County's affairs in the deed books kept by Henry Schoolcraft, in the documents of the Court of First Instance, in the maps and surveys platting the land, in the assessment rolls and map books kept by the Assessors for collecting taxes, and in the City Clerk's minute books which recorded the transactions of the first elected officials.
    Through the decades, the functions of government steadily expanded and so did the volume of records. The records chronicle more than government's bureaucracy. They reflect the growth and development of a community. They portray the attitudes and experiences of the area's residents through time. They illustrate the events particular to Sacramento as well as the community's reactions to an involvement in regional, national, and international events. The City's and County's records document what has made this area distinctive in the western historical experince, epitomized by the gold rush beginnings, succeeded by the ensuing problem of water rights, control of the rivers, and land reclamation. The records document how this region's history illustrates the broader western experience; poignant examples of which are the first City Manager's firing of Ku Klux Klan members employed in the Police and Fire Departments in 1922; the registration of Japanese citizens during World War II as documented in the County Recorder's Official Records; and the urban and suburban sprawl which has steadily consumed the agricultural lands since 1912.
    The history of the Sacramento City and County is a panorama of dramatic events, varied cultures, and daring enterprises. The public records in the archives of the Museum and History Division contain the raw data from which this history can be extrapolated. The wealth of historical information contained in the records is inexhaustible, bounded only by the regional provenance, inclusive dates, and imagination of the inquirers.
    Kathryn Gaeddert

    Curator of History