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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > “California as I Saw It”

[Detail] Emigrants Crossing the Plains. 1869.

Historical Research Capabilities

The array of different types of materials in the collection allows students to compare and question the credibility and authority of the writings, as well as analyze the nature of its historical data. Who was writing the piece, and what was the intent? For example, by searching on letter students can find this excerpt from this series of letters which were printed in a newspaper:

As I look up from my paper I see, from my open door, this falling water, thirty feet wide, falling down 2,600 feet, and hear the roaring as the water leaps down, simulating an avalanche of snowy rockets that seem to be chasing and trying to overtake one another. Of it all I can say, it is simply indescribable. Just a word about the valley as a whole. Yo Semite, an Indian word meaning large grizzly bear, is a granite-walled chasm in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, 150 miles from San Francisco, seven miles in length by half a mile to a mile in width, and bounded by frowning cliffs.

Loraine Immen, Letters of Travel in California, At Yosemite Point, p. 31

By searching on tourist, students will find this book which was written as a tour guide for visitors to the state. How does it compare with the excerpt from above?

FIRST, purchase your tickets of parties most popular in business. The railroad company are reliable and responsible, and as they run nearly everything in this State, must have a share in the pecuniary interests of the Yosemite. In getting your ticket have a fair understanding placed in writing; for if one fails to mention the fact that guides are to be furnished, extra charges will be made in the valley. This little matter has caused much annoyance among tourists; finding that they had paid the price, including guides, but not having the fact stated upon the ticket or in writing, were obliged to pay extra. There is nothing right or just about this mode of transacting business, but it is what some business men term "smart."

Caroline M. Churchill, Over the Purple Hills, Going to Into [sic] the Yosemite Valley, p. 118