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

http://www.luna.blackgold.org/luna/servlet/blackgold~9~9

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

https://www.independent.com/2018/11/15/seeing-santa-barbaras-past-new-eyes/

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 – https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/lib/collections/local_history_resources.asp – to see all the online historical information related to Santa Barbara County – and beyond.

Growth of California Roads and Highways in the 1920s

After the war, many Americans purchased their first cars. By the early 1920s, more than 15 million of Ford’s Model Ts were sold in the United States. That dependable, affordable model of automobile put more people on the nation’s roads than ever before. Many were headed to The Land of Sunshine.

The Model T was not the only option. The Automobile Trade Journal provided a wealth of information about all makes of cars, including Chalmers, Studebakers, Haynes, Jewitts, and Kissels. Various models–roadsters, speedsters, sedans, coupes, phaetons, broughams, touring cars and others–gave automobile owners many options. 

The country – along with individual states, counties, and cities, struggled to meet the growing need for paved highways to accommodate travelers. In 1923, a two-cent-per-gallon of gas helped fund the enormous undertaking. In 1925, The United States Highway System helped to identify and standardize interstate roads. CalTrans states, “The most important change created by the act included the provision that state governments, rather than for-profit private road clubs, administer the system.” 

Today, California has 400,000 total lane miles throughout the state. This was not accomplished easily or quickly. 

Some construction equipment was operated by steam power – such as generators, steam shovels, steam rollers, and even steam tractors. Building and maintaining California’s roads has always been vitally important, labor-intensive, and dangerous work.

California Highways and Public Works

The California Department of Highways and Public Works magazine includes numerous stories about roads and highways built in Santa Barbara County in the 1920s. There is a good article about the construction of the road known as Ortega Hill (image above), information about the coastal highway between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, as well roads built in Santa Maria, Cuyama, and other locations in the area. By 1923, The California Highway Commission became its own entity.

Caterpillars

The Caterpillar tractor and other heavy duty equipment was vitally important to create roadways where there were none. The film, Industrial Uses of Caterpillar Tractors, offers a glimpse into the making of America’s roads, as well as other applications for earth movers, graders, rollers, and other modern equipment the country had come to rely upon.

Maintenance of Roads

A film from the late 1920s entitled Maintenance of Roads, was created by the US Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Public Roads. The hands-on method for maintaining roads is clearly a slow and labor-intensive endeavor in the 1920s. 

Old Spanish Days – Fiesta

Santa Barbara County will celebrate Old Spanish Days from August 3 – 7, 2022. The four-day event returns after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. The City of Santa Barbara welcomes tens of thousands of visitors who come for the parades, the rodeo, the food, dancing, and music.

A history of Old Spanish Days is offered by Erin Graffy de Garcia, local historian, in an article published by Noozhawk in 2017. Ms. Graffy de Garcia advises that the celebration celebrates the “Rancho period” of Santa Barbara County’s history.

Ms. Graffy de Garcia writes, “‘Our Fiesta includes the patronage of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and the participation of and presentations by the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. This is what is meant by ‘unity through community.'”

The Fiesta tradition began in 1924. In June of 1925, a devastating earthquake wrecked much of downtown Santa Barbara, including the old courthouse. While citizens considered canceling the event scheduled for August of that year, a decision was made to go on with the celebration. They did so with much success.

Old Spanish Days and The Santa Barbara County Courthouse

In August of 1929, the current Santa Barbara County Courthouse was completed. The iconic jewel was dedicated in a public event during Old Spanish Days in 1929.

From the Calexico Chronicle, August 2, 1929:

Opening with the dedication of the new $1,500,000 Spanish type courthouse on the afternoon of August 14…Santa Barbara will celebrate again for four days its old Spanish Days Fiesta with free dances and public attractions.

Governor CC Young and state officers of Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West will attend the dedication and remain for the Old Spanish Days. Will Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford and a host of other movie stars attend the fiesta every year informally.

Within the next few days, practically all of the citizens here will don Spanish costumes. More than 1000 characters, Indians, ’49ers, Fremont’s soldiers, pirates, and Spanish vaqueros will be seen in the historical parade on Thursday, August 15.

Blooded horses from famous ranchos will appear in the parade.

Two of the Southern Pacific’s oldest locomotives will be used in the re-enactment of the arrival of the first train in Santa Barbara. Several hundred characters will take part in the pageant Saturday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the Ruiz-Botello pageant will be given in the patio of the new courthouse. This pageant is given by two of the oldest Spanish families in California. There will be singing and dancing and general merry-making.

On Thursday and Saturday nights, the pageant, Romantic California, in which 300 characters take part will be given.

Old Spanish Days – 1925

The magazine, California Southland, published an article entitled, Old Spanish Days in Flower in Santa Barbara, While the article does not refer to the rancho days that Ms. Graffey de Garcia describes as the impetus for the celebration, the article cites “…the sweet romance of Spain.”

“To no other community the West has it been vouchsafed to retain traditions, memories, customs and delightful conventions of the early Spanish days in the sense that it has been given Santa Barbara, and she has received and held the trust sacredly.”

The photos of that long ago Fiesta are lovely.

Censorship in the 1920s

The 1920s was the first time American youth had a culture of their own. Prior to WWI, there was little interaction with the larger world, especially in a mostly-rural nation. Culture was regional and consistent. However, by the 1920s, the United States integrated technology perfected during the war, like cars, radios, photography, motion pictures, and advances in all types of communication.

The war also moved Americans around as never before, and they returned home with an expanded view of their world. The conflict introduced millions of Americans to the diversity of other cultures, and the realization that their own lives were increasingly affected by global influences.

Young people, especially those who experienced, first hand, the realities of war, embraced fatalism tempered with abandon. The bedrock of society was often perceived as a sham benefitting few, controlling the masses.

Rebellion was reflected in music, literature, and films. The youth of America veered into unknown territory, freed from outdated ideas and their own previous naïveté. The youth culture emerged. Fashion ditched stuffy constraints; silhouettes were looser and more freeing, especially for women. Chaperones were passé; those of the old school saw modern dating as dangerous, and cars as  “rolling bedrooms.” Films splashed sexy scenes onto the big screen; actors became influencers and stars with millions of fans hanging on their every move. Libraries and bookstores offered modern literature with fresh ideas that spoke to a generation demanding civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and especially the right to free speech.

After the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the United States, as it was pro-abolishionist; it threatened the status quo by rousing widespread debate. This spawned an era of censorship intended to control access to materials and ideas in conflict with those in p0wer.

By the 1920s, special interest groups sought to ban books and movies that offended their base. In 1922, The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, later known as Motion Picture Association of America, was formed with Former Postmaster General William H Hays as its leader. That Marvel – The Movie, a book published in 1923, included an introduction by Hays. The author (and Hays) cite the need to protect Americans from themselves by censorship of radical thoughts and ideas that were not in keeping with prevailing Protestantism and the ruling male hierarchy.

In 1923, The American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet, Civil Liberty,  their statement on an individual’s rights in the United States of America. Publications such as Bibliography on Censorship and Propaganda, targeted at youth, described how censorship and propaganda were effective tools of social control.

In 1925, the Scopes Trial polarized American society.

Booksellers and Book Bans

Booksellers and many librarians defied acts of censorship and helped to galvanize readers locally, in many locations throughout the United States. They were important advocates in the fight for intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. Hoping to avoid actions like those taken by the City of Boston, a city that became famous for the number of classic literary works they banned, including those by Upton Sinclair, HG Wells, John Dos Passos, Bertrand Russell, and others.

This year, during the week of September 18 – 24, 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) has asked readers to support Banned Books Week. This annual event celebrates the freedom to read, an important freedom especially in this era of increasing censorship.

The Washington Post published an article by Angela Haupt (2022 06 09), titled, The Rise in Book Bans, Explained. She cites Jonathan Friedman, Director of Free Expression and education at PEN America, who said current efforts to ban books from schools and libraries is “unprecedented in its scale, and in the proliferation of organized groups” who want to remove entire lists of books from public access. PEN reported there were 1586 instances of books being banned in a nine month period through March 2022. (See the list of books on Fire.org.)

To learn more, visit Unite Against Book Bans.

Advocates for Intellectual Liberty in the 1920s – And Today

In 1923, the American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet stating that “all though on matters of public concern should be freely expressed without interference.” Civil Liberty is a brief publication denouncing repression, stating that it does not protect individuals nor evade conflict, but leads, instead, to violence and division.

Project Gutenberg.org provides a list of books that have been banned from 387BC to 1978AD, and are available online, free.

The University of Pennsylvania has offered readers online access to some of the books that have been banned from schools and libraries.

The New York Times (1921 01 09) estimated that over 76,000 American veterans returning from Europe during the Great War, were injured–physically or mentally–as a result. These veterans did not return to their former lives easily or well. They brought injuries none could have anticipated, both physical and psychological, due to the nature of that modern war. The fate of an entire generation of young people was altered because of ongoing trauma and disability caused by combat during The Great War.

World War I, a trench war, introduced new technology including machine guns, grenades, tanks and armored vehicles, claymores, and chemical gas. More primitive tools of warfare, such as the French raiding hammer, the billhook, the Fascine knife, rifles, hatchets, and other close-range weapons, were also widely used. Many of the wounds were survivable, but incredibly disfiguring. In addition, tens of thousands were affected by the influenza pandemic as well as outbreaks of measles, and tuberculosis. A limited number of hospitals were available in the United States that could effectively treat those who were physically injured while in service, and only a few rehabilitative training opportunities existed after the war.

On January 8, 1921, the Santa Barbara Morning Press printed an article about the fate of veterans who were left with mental disability incurred during WWI. The article notes that legislators had not set aside any money for the welfare and care of those veterans suffering from ongoing disability, whether physical or psychological. Victims of shell shock, a new affliction (now known as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder), returned to find little, if any, assistance for their psychological wounds. Many never recovered.

Veterans identified with psychological issues were sent to insane asylums, alms houses, or sanitariums. In order to enter such a facility, the US required that a court of law judge find the individual to be “an insane pauper,” which added a new layer of demoralization to those already injured. Once committed, most were forgotten as the federal government did nothing to ensure “they were properly cared for or to see if the institutions in which they are confined are even fireproof and fit for human beings.”

The American Legion (founded in 1919), joined with the Disabled American Veterans organization founded in 1920, to raise awareness of the difficulties veterans faced, as well as to force the government to create avenues for support of returning veterans and treatment of those injured, though few actual remedies were put in place.

Black, Asian, Native, or Americans of Color who were called to serve in the American armed forces faced discrimination during their enlistment and limited veterans’ services when returning to the US. Despite serving with courage and honor, Americans of color still faced Jim Crow laws, the Anti-Japanese movement, the Chinese Exclusion Act, among other restrictions to their civil rights. Most were denied the right to vote in the United States of America.

Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War ,  a “profusely illustrated” work, documents the experience of Black military members during WWI.

The January 12, 1921 edition of the Santa Barbara Morning Press reported that one Japanese American, Frank Maso Sasaki, petitioned for citizenship based on his service in the armed forces. Mr. Sasaki  was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was “admitted to citizenship” by District Judge Maurice Dooling. Judge Dooling stated that “anyone who enlisted when the United States needed men deserved to become an American citizen.”

Veterans’ Memorial Building – Cabrillo Boulevard

The Veterans’ Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara lists the names of Santa Barbara County’s military members who died in service during times of peace or war.

Pierre Clayessens – Veterans’ Advocate

To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen.

To be lost is not the worst that can happen.

To be forgotten is the worst.

~ Pierre Claeyssens (1908-2003)

Santa Barbara County is fortunate to have Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation as a community resource. Local philanthropist Pierre Claeyssens was a child growing up in Belgium during WWI. He credited the United States military for saving him and his “countrymen from the German occupation during World War I.” Forever after, Mr. Claeyssens advocated for the rights and well-being of US veterans and to ensure no veteran would ever be forgotten.

National Archives

The National Archives provides access to military records for individuals who served during World War I. You may find more information, here.

Battle Scars – Reconstruction of the Face

According to the Public Domain Review, the first textbook on plastic surgery was published by Italian Dr. Gaspare Tagliacozzi in the sixteenth century. The consequence of modern warfare left over twenty million wounded military personnel.  In 1918, a movie entitled Plastic Reconstruction of the Face, chronicled the work of Anna Coleman Ladd, an American artist in Paris. Ms. Ladd used her skills as a sculptor to create face masks and prosthetics for those whose injuries were permanently disfiguring.

Telephone Service in Santa Barbara County – The 1920s

It’s hard to imagine a time without telephone service, but in Santa Barbara County in the 1920s, the technology was revolutionary. By 1920, 35% of American homes had telephone service, though the number was far less for rural areas like much of Santa Barbara County. Telephone lines were strung from pole to pole, throughout the region, though fires, floods, earthquakes, storms – even a bird – could damage the line and disrupt phone service for days or months at a time. Prior to the 1920s, communicating at a distance was limited to sending telegraphs or via USPS mail.

Communication had gone live, whether to a shop around the corner or to a governmental office at the other end of the country. Residential customers were usually grouped into “party lines,” with three or four households sharing one line. While the main line was shared, calls were identified by a unique ring assigned to each number. The method did allow for people to eavesdrop on calls placed to other individuals.

Transatlantic lines laid beneath the ocean allowing for international calls between the United States to Europe. Business dealings were expedited with the advent of telephones, and customer bases were increased. Families, friends, sweethearts enjoyed having conversations even from a long distance.

Like other hallmarks of the 1920s, telephones, like automobiles and airplanes, virtually shortened time and distance between individuals. It seemed all of society moved at a faster pace than ever before.

By 1927, an increase in automated telephone exchanges and new dial telephones put the power of communication in the caller’s hands. A film from 1927 provided guidance, albeit silent, in using the newest technology:  How to Use the Dial Telephone.

Along with the ability to make and receive calls, cities and towns provided customers with local directories. In addition to names and numbers, state and local government information was included, along with advertisements.

Telephone Directory for Santa Maria, CA – 1922 and Beyond

The Santa Maria and Vicinity Directory included listings for a number of towns and settlements in its pages: Santa Maria, Ballard, Betteravia, Bicknell, Careaga, Casmalia, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Los Cruces, Los Olivos, Orby, Orcutt, Santa Ynez, Sisquoc, and Solvang.

Telephone directories were a vitally important item in any home or business. In the 1920s, not only did listings include a telephone number, but the location of an individual’s residence, employment status, and place of employment were often included, and the names of high school students and their phone numbers were often listed, as well.

The old style of residential telephone directories were obsoleted with the advent of cell phones, as telephones were no longer associated with a physical location, but with an individual, instead.

United States of America – The Anti-Lynching Act

On March 29, 2022, United States President Joe Biden  signed the historic Emmett Till Antilynching Act. For the first time in the history of the United States of America, the lynchings of human beings is considered a hate crime. President Biden said, “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone, belongs in America, not everyone is created equal….Racial hate isn’t an old problem – it’s a persistent problem. Hate never goes away. It only hides.”

Throughout the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was active throughout Santa Barbara County and the surrounding counties of Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Kern.

In her book, The Mexican Outsiders, author Martha Menchaca, professor at the University of Texas, Austin, states that in 1923, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties held a KKK membership drive. The organization garnered more than 400 new members locally, through that effort.

In the October 26, 1923, edition of The American Hebrew, an article entitled, A Jew Answers Klan Hatred with Reason and Fact, the author advises that the Santa Barbara County branch of the KKK was distributing pamphlets (Ku Klux Klarion) threatening residents for “alleged misconduct and immorality.”

Samuel Adelstein, identified as “an American Jew,” paid for an ad to run in the Santa Barbara Daily News. Mr. Adelstein wrote, “The Kln stands for hatred. Hatred is blind, mentally and spiritually.” Mr. Adelstein said that Jewish tradition respects all churches, and that any issues of unlawful activity are adequately handled by authorities, without the need for mob violence or vigilantism.

Anti-Lynching Crusaders

In the 1920s, an effort between the NAACP and the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, a group of women with members throughout the United States, wrote an agreement stating that they wished to, “Unite a million women to stop lynching.” The Anti-Lynching Crusaders joined with the NAACP to continue the work of Ida B Wells, journalist, who spurred activists to promote legislation prohibiting the act of lynching human beings in the United States of America.

In November of 1922, the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill failed to pass, and similar bills failed for the next 100 years. Learn more about the history of lynching in California here, on KCET.

Leila Weeks Wilson, author of the book, Santa Barbara, California, written in 1913, describes tales of hangings in Santa Barbara.  These lynchings were supposed to been performed at a large oak tree growing downtown, between Highway 101 – El Camino Real – and State Street.

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 HJSB.org.

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.

The Volstead Act

Prior to the passage of the Volstead Act, streamlined channels were put in place to ensure access to the world’s finest liquid spirits–despite the new legislation that took effect on January 1, 1920. For people of means, Prohibition merely added a bit of effervescence to their lives. Narcotics–opium, White Horse heroin, marijuana–were also gaining in popularity, especially as the Jazz Age blossomed.

But for others, the Volstead Act was a tool used to increase the vulnerability of people of color, the poor, and a large wave of European Catholic immigrants that were imagined to threaten “the American way of life.” These groups were especially vulnerable to prosecution and imprisonment for violating Volstead, while privileged white Americans avoided consequences.

In her article, Why the Ku Klux Klan Flourished Under Prohibition (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017 12 05) author Kat Eschener explains the complex layers of intent that helped to usher in the era of Prohibition. The effort was driven by the white American elite, along with bankers, developers and land owners, the members of various white mens’ and women’s clubs, the Anti-Saloon League, and the KKK. Santa Barbara County was no exception.

As far back as 1906, Santa Barbara County entertained the Anti-Saloon League, as described in one article in the Santa Barbara Weekly Press. On February 15, 1906, the “Presbyterian church of this city,” Santa Barbara, announced a “mass meeting,” in support of the League.

The additional bureaucracy generated by Volstead required new governmental bureaus and branches to uphold the unwieldy Act. Myriad departments and offices and thousands of employees were needed to administer the law. Federal oversight increased throughout California and the nation.

So many well-placed individuals in Southern California were awarded choice appointments and promotions as a result of Volstead that the LA Herald called it “the Prohibition plum tree.” (1920 06 10)

Immigrants, people of color, and the poor, already subject to discrimination, mob violence, and harassment by the Anti-Saloon League and the KKK , were also the targets of federal and state legislative efforts aimed at further limiting their civil rights.

James P Phelan, First National Bank, and a US Senator, ran for re-election using the slogan, “Keep California White.” It was a sentiment shared by many in Santa Barbara County, and throughout the state despite the contributions made by Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, and other people of color. Without the skill and tenacity, the contributions and hard work of Santa Barbara County’s agricultural workers, our history would have been a very different one.

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