by Paul R. Spitzzeri
On Friday, Governor Brown issued a proclamation proclaiming today as “Admission Day” in California, noting that, in 1976, shortly after beginning his first term of governor, he vetoed legislation to decommission Admission Day as a recognized state holiday. Brown added that, eight years later, Governor George Deukmejian signed a law reassigning it as a “personal holiday,” which was “convenient to some, but in no way disrespectful of our storied founding.”
Brown added a couple of paragraphs in his proclamation to the background of California’s admission as the 31st state in the American union, noting the American seizure of Mexican California during the Mexican-American War, three years of martial (military) law that followed, and the impact of the Gold Rush as an impetus for California residents (many of them new arrivals) to push for statehood.
The governor added the passage of the first California constitution, the election of first civil governor Peter Burnett, and the beginning of the first legislative session. While this was done pre-emptively, Congress debated the admission question, Brown continued, culminating in “the famous Compromise of 1850” regarding free and slave state admissions (altering the formula in the compromise of thirty years earlier concerning Missouri) and leading to California’s admission on 9 September 1850.
The governor’s proclamation ends with:
California’s history is too often neglected in schools and among our citizens. For that reason, I call upon Californians to pause and celebrate Admission Day this year by reflecting on how it was that California became the 31st state.
Tellingly, a Google News search finds only scant mention of the day at all. The proclamation is digitally reproduced in the Sierra Sun Times, an online Mariposa County newspaper, and there is a short notice in the Davis Enterprise about an event held today at the State Capitol.
The Homestead tried, in recent years, hosting Admission Day lectures at the museum in conjunction with the Native Daughters of the Golden West, but the attendance was, unfortunately, very light. It’s a shame that virtually nothing is done with Admission Day to at least bring attention to the history to which Governor Brown alluded in his proclamation.
This post (the third straight covering Admission Day) highlights a program, from the museum’s collection, for an Admission Day celebration sponsored by the Native Sons of the Golden West and the Native Daughters of the Golden West and held in Los Angeles in 1922. The program cover was included in the 2016 Admission Day post on this blog, but not discussed in detail.
The venue was Exposition Park, where the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (dedicated to World War I veterans) was under construction and opened the folliowing May. The event, which had Sheriff William I. Traeger as the honored chairman of the day, included a half-hour concert by the Exposition Band, a 60-piece orchestra, performing such tunes as “I Love You California,” “The Grizzly Bear,” and “The Golden Gate”; a half-hour oration by Rex B. Goodcell, a San Bernardino County attorney, county judge and regional Internal Revenue Service tax collector; a 45-minute”open air organ recital,”; and fifteen minutes of “selections by grand opera singers” at a grandstand on the park grounds. During the day, film stars were present (as they were at seemingly all civic events) to “demonstrate . . . the art of picture making.”
In the evening. there was a “Hippodrome Water Circus,” which appears to have involved acrobatics amidst fountains of water (perhaps not unlike what Cirque du Soleil does in some of its shows), and “open air acts about the Grounds” of the park. Animals from the Lincoln Park zoo of film impresario William Selig were also present. There was also a spectacle by the Thearle-Duffield Fireworks Company of Chicago that involved a reenactment of the Battle of Chateau-Thierry followed by a fireworks show.
That conflict, which took place in mid-July 1918 towards the end of World War I, was considered a turning point in the four-year conflict, as the American Expeditional Force, commanded by General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing, played a critical role in driving German forces back across the Marne River and leading to the eventual collapse and surrender of Germany.
The reenactment included four hundred soldiers from the 11th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army and then came what was touted as “the greatest, most thrilling military fireworks spectacle and pyrotechnic display ever seen in the west.”
Newspaper coverage of the 1922 Admission Day event weren’t lengthy, but at least were more substantial than what passes for coverage now. It was noted in the Los Angeles Times, in its edition of the 9th, that the event was the culmination of an exposition called “The Pageant of Progress,” which started on 26 August and included about 800 exhibitors promoting the industrial might of Los Angeles, which experienced enormous growth in that sector in recent years.
On the 10th, the paper observed that “native sons made Exposition Park their official playground” where “appropriate ceremonies were staged” for the event. It added that “yesterday’s crowds and those last night completely swamped the fair grounds breaking every previous record for the past fourteen days.” Moreover, it was stated that “extra shows were given by all attractions, but still hundreds were turned away from every grand stand at all performances.”
As to the sponsoring organizations, the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West, a foreword in the program observed that the orders “were organized for greater social intercourse, mental improvement, and mutual benefit” while offering “such services as they might to the State and Nation and to Humanity.” Another key element of the groups was “to unite all native Californians in one harmonious body throughout the State by ties of friendship” by rejoicing together in times of prosperity and assisting each other during adverse periods.
A major goal of the groups was “in the gathering of historic memroies and the hunting out and marking of those spots in our State where important events occurred in the early days.” This was done not just “to remember these events” but to familiarize and direct tourists to them because visitors had “become so familiar [with California] through reading of our State.” The long shadow of the Gold Rush, some seven decades removed, was at hand as it was claimed “California has produced so much gold . . . that the eyes of our American brothers . . . seem to be constantly turning toward the Golden West.”
Mention was also made of the work the Native Sons and Daughters did with their “homeless children committees,” with assistance to unfortunate youngsters forming “the whole heart and soul of the two orders.” Note the concluding words of the foreword which state “the realization of the deam of Empire which California is entitled to is possible only by the careful planning today for the events of tomorrow.”
Yet, at the reverse is a very interesting set of statements:
People born in California are no better than People born elsewhere.
They owe higher duty to their Native State than those born without.
Every reputable White Native Californian should as a matter of duty join the
Native Sons of the Golden West
Native Daughters of the Golden West
The principles of the orders included: integrity in private life; honest of purpose in private affairs; liberty of conscience in all things; absolute toleration; good citizenship; complete Americanism.”
Certainly, the question of reconciling “absolute toleration” in a group that only permitted “reputable White Native Californian” members is striking. So, too, is why there was mention of what (white) people should in their private lives, while nothing was said about public life. Finally, what exactly constituted “good citizenship” and “complete Americanism”?
It should be added that Irish residents of Los Angeles had an “annual Irish reunion” on the same day at Selig Zoo next to Lincoln Park. Music, dancing, food, athletic events and addresses were part of that program. Given that Ireland was in the midst of a civil war, which started in June 1922, it is notable that a featured speaker was Reverend Michael O’Flanagan, the vice-president (and later president) of Sinn Fein and who fled Ireland in late 1921 for the United States, where he’d lived earlier.
Recent posts here about the situation involving ethnic groups during the Gold Rush; the settlement houses that worked with ethnic communities in Los Angeles; and an upcoming one on public memorialization of aspects of the First World War I are interesting to observe given the statements in this fascinating and intriguing program.
Meanwhile, the Native Sons (founded in 1875) and the Native Daughters (established in 1886) are still in existence, though their numbers have declined over the decades, much as has happened to fraternal orders, service clubs and other organizations. Obviously, the web sites of both organizations invite new members regardless of ethnicity and they discuss what they are and what they do very differently than their antecedents of nearly ninety years ago.
The Homestead has a plaque installed near the entrance to the historic area where the Workman House and La Casa Nueva are located and giving information about the homes and the Workman and Temple families. It was installed through the efforts of the local chapter of the Native Daughters in the late 1980s.