In the 1920s, the very heart of Santa Barbara County was agricultural, and much of the area remains so today.

An article in the La Habra Star, October 11, 1929, provides an excellent description of the valleys of Santa Barbara County, California, and the ways they were developed by farmers and ranchers one hundred years ago. Much of what is described here remains so today, though the burgeoning rubber plant industry faded with time.

Versatile Valleys

Diversified in its geography, versatile in its crops, varied in its industries, Santa Barbara County is a land of richness, of prosperity, of opportunity….It is a land of wide-open spaces, of rolling brown hills, of sheltered inland valleys, of level table-lands and mesas, of miles of coastal sand dunes.

Almost countless are the crops raised in Santa Barbara County. Here is grown barley, lettuce, dry onions, tomatoes, pea, cauliflower, carrots, alfalfa, beans (a pink and white species, as well as the lima), guayule (a rubber plant), sub-tropical fruits.

Not content with raising these many crops, Santa Barbara County residents devote themselves to sundry industries: dairying, beef-cattle production, the raising of flowers for world-wide distribution.

Because Santa Barbara County  has so many geographical divisions within itself, is so topographically diverse, each inland valley is best suited to the rising of certain agricultural productions, to the development of particular industries. To understand the County as a whole, it might be best to observe its natural divisions, take each section individually….

Santa Ynez Valley – From the City of Santa Barbara, one goes up over the San Marcos Pass, arrives into he Santa Ynez Valley. Rugged, covered with splendid trees, is the upper part of this valley; ranches are on all sides, thousands of acres in size, devoted to beef-cattle production, horse-raising.

Named by a colony of Danish farmers who settled in the Santa Ynez Valley several decades ago is the little central town of Solvang. Almost like a transplanted Danish community is this portion of the valley; its crops, buildings, equipment, herds–are all tidy in the way characteristic of the Dane, neat, thrifty, painstakingly clean.

Lompoc Valley – Dedicated in great measure to flower-raising is this valley, shortly to the north and west of the Santa Ynez. Spring and autumnn here finds gorgeously-had blossoms in abundance on the sloping hills, level meadows. From these fragrant flowers are secured seeds for distribution throughout the world….

Santa Maria Valley – Largest and most productive of all the agricultural districts of Santa Barbara County is the Santa Maria Valley; approached by winding upward through the hills beyond Lompoc Valley.

Guadalupe, at the valley’s mouth, is the packing and shipping center for miles around; three miles it is from the ocean, three miles of a desert local so like the African Sahara in miniature that Hollywood motion picture companies constantly wend their way north bringing screen stars of renown, adding occasional zest to the farming routine.

…Santa Maria Valley has large areas devoted to dahlias, gladiolas, other flowers…alfalfa, truck produce, dairy products.

The tomatoes and lettuce that one eats late in the season are usually from Santa Maria….

Much alfalfa hay remains at home, maintains the dairy cattle. Finest herds: Captain G. Allan Hancock’s Rosemary Farm, the Acquistapace Brothers’ the Knudsen Creamery, the JW Poison Ranch, the Santa Bargia Creamery. Holsteins predominate.

Santa Barbara County may some day rival the South American countries as a rubber-producing region. Now being grown for experimentation is the guayule, a plant which demands little attention, little water, but from which rubber can be extracted. Hundreds of acres near Sisquoc are already plated with guayule…


Photo above courtesy Black Gold Library

The California Fish and Game – Conservation of Wild Life Through Education publications provided information about efforts to conserve and protect the incredible variety of wildlife found throughout California.

Santa Barbara County itself has such variety of landscape that it is home to creatures of the seashore, river, mountain, valley, and cities.  There were many forms of wildlife in the 1920s that were endangered. Conservation and protection measures were beginning to be implemented throughout the county in the 1920s, as well as in the Santa Barbara National Forest.

Below is a sampling of articles from the report, years 1921 – 1923. The full report can be found on Google Books, here.

Santa Barbara to Frame Protective Laws – January 1923 – Page 33

This article describes the park that is known today as the Santa Barbara Bird Refuge, on Cabrillo Boulevard.

The city park commissioners of Santa Barbara are making a progressive and commendable move in the direction of a city ordinance which will make of all their city parks wildlife refuges. For several years a pond in one of the city parks near shore has been designated by the commissioners as a refuge for water birds. Owing to the general prohibition of the use of firearms within the city limits, the ducks which flock there have learned to feel themselves so safe that poachers now find it an easy matter to approach them near enough to throw clubs and stones with stunning or fatal effects. There seems to be no statute, city, state, or federal, which makes this a legal offense during the open season on waterfowl….

The establishment of such refuges in the heart of a city affords pleasure to the numerous park visitors, has great educational value, fosters the love and appreciation of birds, and ultimately serves the interests of true sportsmen.

Large Annual Kill of Deer in the Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

Santa Barbara County hunters reported there were 119 deer killed during deer season.

There was a total of 978 reported last year [statewide], which would tend to indicate that hunting was not being carried on as formerly, or else that deer are becoming scarcer. However, from our observations, the woods were full of hunters…deer are just about holding their own against the hunters and lions, with a probably increase in some localities.

-Thomas Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

New Game Refuge Proposed for Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

A game refuge is recommended in the Santa Ynez district for a double purpose, namely:

First to provide an area into which a number of people go and in which hunting is forbidden, and also into which the game drift from the higher areas. It is felt that a game sanctuary is needed to better protect and perpetrate, especially the deer that come down for water into the region covered by the proposed refuge.

Second, within the area covered by the boundaries of the proposed game refuge is what is known as Gibralter Dam, in the Santa Ynez River, which impounds a large body of water with a surface of about 250 acres and from which the city of Santa Barbara derives its water supply, and it is very much desired by the city of Santa Barbara that everything possible be done to protect the domestic water supply from possible sources of contamination.

– Thomas W Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

Violations of Pigeon Law Numerous – January 1922 – page 57

Wild pigeons were not popular with Santa Barbara County farmers and ranchers in the 1920s. Hog farmers claimed band-tailed pigeons ate acorns which were the prime source of hog feed locally. Santa Barbara County Deputy HJ Abels of Santa Maria, sent a report to the US Department of Agriculture listing offenders who committed various offenses against the pigeons, as outlined in Fish and Game Law Section 626 by “hunting, pursuing, taking, killing, detraining, and having possession of wild pigeons.”

Among the offenders who were cited and fined:

  • GW Fryman, Whittier, Cal.
  • RN Hobbs, Lompoc, Cal.
  • B Davis, Los Olivos, Cal.
  • AR Wurz, Los Alamos, Cal.

Facts of Current Interest – Mountain Lions – Santa Barbara County – January 1922 – Page 49

That the mountain lion is still found in numbers in certain places in California is evidenced by the fact that JG Moore of Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, recently applied for bounty on eleven lions taken between October 9 and November 26, 1921, in the Santa Barbara National Forest. The bounty will total $300.

Few Antelope Left in Southern California – January 1922 – Page 191

Antelope may still be found along the foothills of the Tehachapi Range and in the Antelope Valley on the Santa Barbara Forest where there are at least 10.

Notes on the Sea Lions – Edward Starks – January 1921 – Page 250

Mr. Starks’ article describes in detail the role that the Santa Barbara Channel Islands play as home and rookeries for thousands of California sea lions on the western coast of the United States. See page 250 in the January 1921 volume for full article.


Santa Barbara County Libraries – A History of Providing Connection and Resources

Santa Barbara County established the first Santa Barbara Free Public Library in 1882. The county’s first librarian, Mrs. Frances Burns Linn, established the first County Branch Library System in California. In the early 1900s, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded a total of 121 grants throughout California to help establish and improve libraries. Three Santa Barbara County cities–Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Lompoc–were grant recipients.

By 1920, Santa Barbara County had a total of 125 branches throughout the area, bringing books to every town, city, and small settlement, as listed here: Branches of Santa Barbara County Libraries – 1920.

The document also includes entries about the Santa Barbara County Law Library, the Santa Barbara County Teachers’ Library, and libraries located at local schools.

The rural, agricultural nature of the county in the 1920s necessitated that, on occasion, books be delivered to the more remote locations by librarians who traveled on horseback. It was not unusual for patrons, as well, to travel to their closest branch of the library on hoof, as depicted in the photos above. The Ship Library, pictured above, was sited in Mission Canyon. While many of the locations listed in the News Notes of California Libraries for Santa Barbara County have disappeared through the years, the county’s libraries continue to evolve, providing information, events, and services that meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

Edson Smith Photograph Collection – Santa Barbara County History

The Edson Smith Photograph collection is hosted locally by the Santa Barbara Public Library. The collection contains over 3100 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1950s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925. Funding for the Edson Smith Digitization Project generously provided by John C. Woodward.

Jace Turner, MLS, City of Santa Barbara Library, provided me with a excellent article about this very special collection:

Santa Barbara Independent Article

Seeing Santa Barbara’s Past with New Eyes: Santa Barbara Public Library Digitizes More than 2,500 Historic Images

Black Gold Cooperative Library Historical Photographs

Photographs from this collection are also included on the City of Santa Barbara Library website. Please visit the City of Santa Barbara Library’s website – – to see all the online historical information related to Santa Barbara County – and beyond.

Juneteenth Santa Barbara

Members of Juneteenth Santa Barbara hosted a community event on Sunday, June 19, 2022, commemorating the history and of African-American residents of Santa Barbara County, and looking forward to “Caring for the People” today, and into the future.

The City of Santa Barbara, through a grant from the California Office of Historic Preservation, has developed a document entitled, Draft: Santa Barbara African American and Black Historic Context Statement that explores the themes, events, people, and places important to the African American and Black community in Santa Barbara.

This effort will help to recognize landmarks and sites of historical significance to the Black community in the City of Santa Barbara, and to all residents of Santa Barbara County, as well.

You may review the Santa Barbara  Context Statement online. The City of Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission will hold a public hearing to review the draft. The hearing will begin at 1:30pm on July 6, 2022, at 630 Garden Street in the City of Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara County Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee

Santa Barbara County also has a Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee. From their website:

The purpose of the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC) is to promote the economic welfare and prosperity of the County by preserving and protecting those places, sites, buildings, structures, works of art and other objects having a special historic or aesthetic character or interest, for the use, education and view of the general public and to remind the citizens of this County and visitors from elsewhere of the background of the County.

A list of Santa Barbara County’s historical landmarks recognized by the Committee, along with a description of each site, can be found online, here.

A Santa Barbara Girl

The photo of the young girl, above, was taken in Santa Barbara by James Dearden Holmes, in about 1925. I found the photo on  Ninskaphotos, an Etsy seller’s website:

This photo is from a collection of 9,391 images titled ‘World Travel’ by British photographer James Dearden Holmes (1873-1937). Holmes travelled the world for three years and his trip has been dated from immigration records to 1925-1927. All of the images were taken with a stereoscopic camera and most of the photos from this world trip are not available anywhere else. Holmes travelled extensively across Asia and the Americas.

Healing Justice Santa Barbara is actively seeking information, photos, or archived materials that are a part of Black history in Santa Barbara County. If you have any to share, please contact Healing Justice Santa Barbara at

William Henry Harrison, Jr – Inspiring United States History

The photo of the African American man, above, is William Henry Harrison, Jr, author and publisher of a book entitled, Colored Girls’ and Boys’ Inspiring United States History and a Heart to Heart Talk About White Folks. In his book, published in 1921, Mr. Harrison stated that as a young man of 15 years, he loved to learn about history. He was “hurt not to find any history, except about slavery, in such books concerning the American Negro.”

He was determined that someday he would write about the great accomplishments of African American poets, orators, artists, and other professionals to encourage young children by providing a true history for “colored girls and boys upon whose noble efforts and achievements will rest the foundation for the future success of the Negro race…”

The book provides an unflinching account of the history of African Americans in the United States. Mr. Harrison partnered with more than 100 African American partners from around the country to compile a list of individuals who had made contributions to the country and who had achieved success in the fields of art, science, sports, medicine, education, law, politics, and the military. Mr. Harrison also wrote about the harsh realities of life for African Americans in the 1920s, while giving children hope and encouragement for their futures.

Lessons in California History

The book, Lessons in California History, published in 1922, was typical of history books approved for use in California public schools in the 1920s. Written by Harr Wagner, author and publisher of educational books used widely throughout California’s public school system, and by Mark Keppel, educator and Superintendent of Los Angeles County Schools throughout the 1920s. Their version of California’s history was very much typical for the time.

Pleasure Drives

When wealthy tourists discovered Santa Barbara County near the end of the 19th century, grand hotels catered to their every need by providing luxury accommodations, fine dining, music, dancing and social events for those who chose to “winter over” in Southern California. High-end shops in the area offered furs, jewels, and other extravagant merchandise. Outdoor diversions were especially popular for those who were no longer housebound by winter weather. Hotels arranged tours for hunters who sought wild game, or those who wanted to fish creekside, or from the sea. Visitors could enjoy golf, ‘sea-bathing,’ tennis, hiking, or yachting almost any day of the year.

One of the most popular pastimes was the pleasure drive. Carriages could be rented so tourists might spend the day driving along an oak-shaded road, the beach at low tide, or braving the extraordinary San Marcos Pass between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. These were rare and exotic landscapes for people who were from the Midwest or East Coast.

By the 1920s, the number of auto-enthusiasts throughout the country continued to grow. While many in the United States could not afford the luxury hotels, new auto courts and less expensive hotels grew like mushrooms, especially in Southern California. The area was a prime destination for tourists.  Locally, a variety of m.aps highlighted various points of interest throughout Santa Barbara County, including the mission trail – El Camino Real – identified by the slew of highway markers.

This era was also the beginning of modern photography. New technology put easy-to-use cameras in the hands of many Americans for the first time. Most families had photo albums filled with pictures of life’s memorable moments, especially those taken on vacation. California’s landscapes and incredible vistas became familiar photo backdrops in a pre-Instagram world.

Auto Enthusiasts

With the advent of better roads and more dependable cars, camping soon became a popular hobby. With little more than a car and some helpful tips, families could travel economically and find enjoyment in Nature, whether for a weekend or a month. The national parks were in the business of welcoming travelers and campers. Auto-camps sprang up throughout California. With advice from books like Motor Camping, authored by JC Long and JC Long, or The Motor Camping Book, by Elon Jessup, campers’ questions were anticipated and answered. Even families with small children and little extra money could enjoy time outdoors. The love of camping became a national pastime that only grew more popular with each passing decade.

Not for Everyone

Even with the advent of affordable, dependable cars and the many opportunities for camping outdoors, these pastimes were not available to everyone.

Prior to the 1960s when legislation secured services and supports for Californians who had developmental disabilities, families were routinely advised to institutionalize – and forget about – a family member who was differently abled. Invisibility was society’s answer. There was no accessibility with regard to transportation, housing, employment, or even the smallest of daily tasks and pleasures others enjoyed: dining out, entering a shop, attending a movie or play, going to a park or beach. Camping was, for most, completely out of range.

The era of the 1920s was also one of segregation and mob violence. People of color suffered the wrath of these vigilante groups, most of all.

Article from Big Pine Citizen, Volume 9, Number 52, 9 December 1922:

Washington – Administration leaders in the Senate abandoned the Dyer anti-lynching bill, admitting defeat by the combined Democratic and insurgent Republican filibuster. The decision to throw the bill overboard was reached at a secret caucus of Republican senators. The filibuster started last week and put a stop to the transaction of all business in the Senate.

The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, legislation to prohibit the lynching of human beings in the United States of America, was not re-introduced until 1935. The bill was never passed because of opposition by Southern legislators. It wasn’t until March 29, 2022, that United States President Joe Biden signed anti-lynching legislation into law, for the first time in United States history.

Green Book

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book published in the 1950s, proved that people of color traveled in the United States of America at great risk to themselves and their families. The book lists hotels, restaurants, tailors, bars, auto mechanics, and other establishments considered safe for African American travelers. There are no entries listed for Santa Barbara County.

The 1920s and ensuing years, were just as restrictive for Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, and other people of color, who have endured limitations in their ability to travel freely throughout their own country.

Negro Travelers’ Green Book


The Selling of a Dream

For many years, Santa Barbara County was the winter playground of those who could afford to escape winter’s cold – and many other unpleasantries of life. They came from places like St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and New York. These lucky few spent the darkest months of each year reveling in sunshine and daytime temperatures that rarely dipped below the mid-60s.

A spate of luxury hotels drew them to Southern California where outdoor activities kept them entertained. There were several in Santa Barbara County, among them the Potter Hotel, the Arlington Hotel, the Miramar, El Encanto, and the San Ysidro Ranch. Sea-bathing, hunting, fishing, yachting, and long afternoons touring the magnificent canyons, valleys, beaches or islands in the area were favorite pastimes. Opulent accommodations and fine dining rivaled many in the Midwest or East Coast. Soon, a number of the wealthiest built large, fabulous estates throughout the area, though most were sited in Montecito.

Health sanitariums, too, offered places the well-to-do might seek treatment for tuberculosis. The incurable disease was said to be improved by  leisure, fresh air, sunshine, and frequent trips to natural hot springs, all of which were found in Santa Barbara County.

But by 1920, Santa Barbara County began to draw thousands of dreamers, adventurers, hopefuls, regular people who responded to the relentless advertising campaign waged for more than a decade. Hoping to dodge life’s harsher elements in a place where promises seemed to grow on trees like oranges – said to be free for the picking – even real winter could not reach here. In this place, anyone’s past – and their troubles – could be left behind in favor of a new start at life.

At the time, 8.9% of California homes were wired with electricity, but that was greater than in many areas of the nation. The state was also first advertised as a car-culture, although only 6.5% of residents owned cars. In 1920, this was a modern world filled with possibilities for the future.

Not for Profit

The pamphlet, California, Where Life is Better, was published in 1922 by Californians, Inc, a group of entrepreneurs w

ho encouraged Americans to begin anew in California and create a better life than the one left behind. For those who were disappointed the harsh realities of life, the words and photos in the pamphlet became the stuff of dreams:

Whoever you are, if the spirit of the pioneer is in you – if you are a worker, a dreamer, a builder – there is a place and a chance for you in California. There is a chance for you to live healthfully…among people who are almost universally friendly and helpful to the stranger…California stands forth as a tremendous reservoir of power and productivity, of health and youth and hope.

At the time, for many, it seemed that California was truly a place of health, youth, and hope – vague words and promises that, nevertheless, resonated with many readers.

The end piece of the publication lists as the officers and directors of the incorporation the President of Standard Oil Company, the Vice-President of Crocker National Bank, the President of the Bank of California, Vice-President of Cornwall & Banker, and other men of great influence.

Their organization, as stated in the publication, “is the outcome of the desire of hundreds of business firms, associations, and individuals to establish for the state an impartial, non-profit-making body for the dissemination of exact, unprejudiced, authoritative facts.”

Like some of the more prominent civic clubs of the time, this “impartial, non-profit-making body,” was anything but.