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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.

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.