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[Detail] Ships at the Erie Basin, New York.

State Histories

The collection includes a variety of materials that provide insight in to the histories of California, Hawaii (once called the Sandwich Islands) and Texas.  Search (on these states' names for journals, letters, photographs, nautical charts, narratives, and articles that reflect the histories of these states.

A search on California provides 63 items, including Granite crags of California by Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming.  Gordon-Cumming covers a range of topics from the origin of California's names in the history of Spanish missions, to the state's agriculture.  She provides an extensive description of a camp of "Digger Indians," and in the following chapter writes about the cycle of violence between Native Americans and Euro-American settlers in California.  Although her account includes cruelties perpetrated by both groups, the author recognizes the plight of Native Americans

"THE Indian question is apparently inexhaustible. . . . One would imagine that some sense of fair-play might have induced a certain amount of sympathy with the wild tribes who saw their hunting-grounds so ruthlessly cleared, and they themselves driven out from every desirable rest resting-place; but this is an idea which apparently never found room in the mind of the encroaching whites. They wanted the land, and its natural inhabitants were looked upon as cumberers of the soil, for, whom there was but one alternative — either they must 'git up and git' (which is Californian for clearing out), or else they might be shot as wantonly as the wild buffaloes of the prairies...."

  • According to the author, what were the reasons for the conflicts between settlers and Native Americans in California?
  • Is her appraisal of the hostility of Euro-American migrants towards Native Americans accurate?

Other items that deal extensively with California history are The adventures of a forty-niner, and California life illustrated, which depict the era of the Gold Rush.  Several log books and journals, such as the Sheffield (Ship) Journal provide observations of California by visiting sailors.  Scan the bibliographic summaries for relevant sections.  Finally, Sandwich Islands - California and the Rocky Mountains  is a travel journal published in 1887 that provides illustrations and basic descriptions of the state.

  • How did the Gold Rush impact the development of California?
  • How did it change the culture of California?
  • What, besides the Gold Rush, brought settlers and visitors to California?

Search on Sandwich Islands and Hawaii for journals, sketches, maps, and narratives written by missionaries, such as A residence of twenty-one years in the Sandwich Islands, A Residence in the Sandwich Islands and History of the Sandwich Islands mission, which provide histories of the islands and their inhabitants as far back as before European contact.  An article called On shore in a foreign land: Mary Stark in the kingdom of Hawaii  by Richard C. Malley is also available.  Mary Stark traveled from Philadelphia to San Francisco with her husband, the commander of the B.F. HoxieStark's letters  describe her travels, including a two week stay in Honolulu. Malley quotes Stark's letters and provides contextual information about Hawaii in the 1850s:

"The land to which the B.F. Hoxie sailed, known then as the Sandwich Islands, was a nation experiencing trying times on many fronts.  Following Captain James Cook's visit in the 1770s the strategically located islands became subjected to increasing western military, economic, and, after the 1820 arrival of American missionaries, religious and cultural influences.  Also, periods of internal strife had exacted a great price on the islands until the final triumph of one chief, Kamehameha, secured relative peace and unity by the early 1800s.  By 1855 the government, a constitutional monarchy headed by a newly inaugurated twenty-one-year-old king, Kamehameha IV, was largely guided by naturalized Hawaiian citizens drawn from the resident British and American business and religious community.  Rumors were rife of imminent filibustering expeditions from, or outright invasions by, a number of countries seeking to annex the islands. Thus, the government was desperately seeking assurances from the U.S., Brittain, and France that Hawaiian sovereignty would be respected and guaranteed."

  • What political transition in the Sandwich Islands made it possible for increased interaction with Americans and Europeans?
  • What were the consequences of Cook's discovery of the islands in 1778?
  • What supported the economy of the Sandwich Islands in the 1850s?
  • Why would other countries have wanted to annex or invade the Sandwich Islands?

View of Honolulu, Sandwich Islands provides another account of this port town in the 1850s.  Compare these accounts with the missionaries' histories and identify the major changes that took place on the islands over time.

  • What major changes took place on the islands during the first half of the nineteenth century?
  • What caused these changes?
  • How similar are the two accounts of Honolulu in the 1850s?
  • How did the writers of these accounts regard the cultural traditions of the islanders? Do they show respect for these traditions or do they view the islanders as curiosities?

Finally, a search  on Texas provides four images and a narrative called Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, or, Yachting in the New World, by Matilda Houstoun, an Englishwoman who sailed to Galveston, where she lived from 1862 to 1864.  The descriptive narrative includes chapters on the Texas War for Independence, the capture of Santa Ana, and the Texas Constitution of 1836, as well as various observations on Texan culture:

"My berth opened out of the state cabin, and as the only partition was a Venetian door, I could not avoid hearing all the conversation that was carried on by my neighbours. . . . Their talk as usual was of dollars: politics, indeed, occasionally took their turn, but the subject ceased to become interesting, when the pockets of the company could no longer be affected by the turn of affairs.  There was no private scandal, no wit, no literature, no small-talk; all was hard, dry, calculating business.  I heard many shrewd hard-headed remarks; the fate of their country was talked over as a matter of business, and one rather important-looking gentleman made a stump speech on the expediency of Texas becoming a colony of Great Britain!"