Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose returning to History Park

History Park will once again host the Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose on Saturday, April 9 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM at History Park in Kelley Park. Organized by the San Jose Printers’ Guild, The Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose celebrates letterpress printing through hands-on demonstrations, tours of the History San José Print Shop, and features artists and craftspeople selling their wares. Visitors will learn how to set type, impress ink onto paper, and print their own souvenir poster!

“This Wayzgoose is a perfect day for all of us who are book junkies, typophiles, graphic designers, artists and print enthusiasts,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO of History San José. “History Park will be awash in ampersands and dingbats, and I mean that in the best and most complimentary way.”

Members of the San Jose Printers’ Guild, whose Print Shop is headquartered at History Park and is an affiliate of History San José, will help visitors print keepsakes on several vintage presses from handset metal type and lead tours of a 1900-era print shop. Dozens of vendors and exhibitors will be on hand to offer letterpress printed goods, artist books, fine papers, ink, handset type, reference materials, and more.

Admission to the event is free. The historic trolley will be available for rides throughout the park, food will be offered for purchase, and O’ Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor will be open.
For more information visit:

Real lives, real faces: the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s mug books at History San José

City of Chicago Police Department Bulletin

City of Chicago Police Department Bulletin, featuring gangster John Dillinger, center left

Mug books and scrapbooks dating from 1874 to 1941, from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office, are one of the more unusual collections in History San José’s archives. Initially, the Sheriff’s office simply logged in the various miscreants, with mug shots and descriptions, but by the turn of the century, the office assembled scrapbooks filled with wanted notices from law enforcement officials around the state, and eventually from across the country.

The earliest of the 29 volumes are typical of the mug books of the era. The front of each page contains photographs of persons arrested throughout Santa Clara County. On the back are the physical descriptions, charges brought against the individual, and the sentence imposed, if caught and convicted. As in many a movie or TV western, the crimes in these early volumes range from larceny and assault to horse or cattle theft, stage coach robbery, and murder. In one instance, the criminal is described as “a bad egg,” and the sentence reads only “Dead.”

Tiburcio Vasquez

Tiburcio Vasquez

An occasional woman can be found among those sought or detained, most often for larceny, petty theft or forgery. By far, the mug books are filled with men, often wearing identical coats and ties. One can assume that the photographer provided this wardrobe prior to taking the picture.

Penalties for the convicted ranged from a few days in County Jail (for theft of strawberries, for example) to years in the state penitentiary at San Quentin or at Folsom. The occasional convicted murderer met death by hanging. Among the most famous of local criminals of the 1870s was Tiburcio Vasquez, who had a long career (1854-1874) as a horse and cattle thief, stage coach robber, highwayman, kidnapper, and murderer. He was finally captured in 1874, tried in San Jose, and convicted of murder. While awaiting his death sentence, the handsome, literate and charming 39-year old Vasquez had a stream of women visitors in his cell, and he sold photos of himself through the jailhouse window to help pay his legal expenses. When he was hanged in March 1875, his final word was “pronto” (quick). A note was added to his entry: “He deserves credit for the manner in which he faced death.” Vasquez’s photo from this mug book has been widely reproduced.

Virgil Earp wanted flyer

Virgil Earp, “Wanted for Adultery”

Beginning in 1895, the ledgers became scrapbooks of flyers, postcards, and posters of criminals being sought. At first, these notices came from jurisdictions throughout California, but before long, we begin to see notices from Montana, Missouri, Texas, and increasingly distant venues.

One of the most prominent individuals for whom a wanted flyer was issued was Wyatt Earp’s brother Virgil. In 1905, the constable in Santa Rosa issued a warrant for Virgil’s arrest, on the charge of adultery. Sadly for us, these notices rarely included any information about apprehension, conviction, or release of the accused.

"Pretty Boy" Floyd Wanted Flyer

“Pretty Boy” Floyd Wanted Flyer

There are also a few wanted flyers for criminals who were prominent during the Prohibition era. In 1924, the Chief of Police in Lynchburg, Virginia, offered a $1000 reward for Charles A. Floyd (“Pretty Boy” Floyd), charged with rape. Floyd died ten years later in a shoot-out with Ohio police. Notorious gangster John Dillinger had a warrant issued for his arrest by the Chicago police, charged with murder and numerous bank robberies.

These volumes provide a fascinating insight into criminal activity and law enforcement during the last quarter of the 19th and first third of the 20th centuries. They have now been indexed by stalwart Research Library & Archives volunteer Joan Helms. The nearly 30,000 entries in the index can be searched by name, crime, sentence (if recorded), date, jurisdiction making complaint, and any aliases that might have been used.

The index is searchable online. Requests for photographs of specific pages or individuals may be sent to ($5 fee per page).

New exhibit Coming to History Park – Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History

Collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Tibbals Digital Collection

Collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Tibbals Digital Collection

Do you think of tattooed women and female tattoo artists as a recent trend? If so, you’ll be surprised to discover the fascinating and largely unknown history of the the foremothers of modern tattooing prior to WWII. The exhibit explores Native American women proudly displaying tattoos as an important rite of passage; the wealthy elite starting a tattoo craze; and Tattooed Ladies making an independent living preforming in circus sideshows. The exhibit will also feature artwork from local contemporary tattoo artists.

Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California History will open to the public Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery in the Pasetta House at History Park.

Bay Area Glass Institute open for business!

Bay Area Glass Institute glassblowing demonstration

Bay Area Glass Institute glassblowing demonstration

This month we welcomed the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI) to History Park with a celebration outlining plans for their new state of the art glass-working studio at the Park. BAGI is now operating in a temporary studio at the park, but will eventually be moving in the the North Warehouse. Guests at the event had a chance to see glass blowing demonstrations and get a sneak peek at the plans for the permanent studio. Big thanks to everyone who came out to help support BAGI and welcome them to History Park!

Black History Month exhibit in honor of Tuskegee Airman Samuel L. Washington

Samuel L. Washington

Samuel L. Washington in uniform (Washington Family Collection, History San Jose)

To celebrate Black History Month, a pop-up exhibit featuring Tuskegee Airman Samuel L. Washington is on view in the Pacific Hotel lobby. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. In 1941, thanks to pressure from the Civil Rights movement and the Black Press, an all African American pursuit squadron was created, based in Tuskegee, Alabama. The members of the squadron became known as the Tuskegee Airmen, one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II, that paved the way for the full integration of the U.S. military.

History San Jose curators preparing the exhibit

History San Jose curators preparing the exhibit

Samuel L. Washington was appointed as flight officer after graduating from the Tuskegee program on June 27, 1944. Based in Italy, Washington and his fellow airmen provided air support for numerous bomber missions over Germany. After retiring from military service, Lieutenant Washington settled in San Jose with his wife Mary. The decorated war veteran passed away in 1981, but in 2006 was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Washington’s flight gear and other personal belongings were donated by his family to History San Jose, and will be on display at History Park through March.

Slugs, Dingbats & Tramp Printers! Printing in Santa Clara Valley

April – December 2015

History San José is proud to present the exhibition Slugs, Dingbats, & Tramp Printers! Printing in Santa Clara Valley, opening April 2015, in partnership with the San Jose Printer’s Guild.

Printing from moveable type was first introduced into Northern California around 1825 by Agustin V. Zamorano, then a government official in Monterey. In 1834 the soldier-printer replaced a small “seal press” (whose wood block type could print only 100 words at a time) with a Philadelphia-made Ramage Press and a small quantity of old metal type. When he set up California’s first press operation, advertising his service to the public with a printed circular, Zamorano began a long and vibrant tradition of California printing. That same press would be used to print California’s first newspaper, The Californian, in 1846.

The printing press played a key role in American society. The press was a bulwark to an informed and politically active public, and printers were vital to the routines of government. This was no less true in San Jose and surrounding communities, as San Jose hosted Gold Rush California’s first state legislature, and then blossomed as the center of a vibrant agricultural and business community.

In addition to the area’s many weekly and daily newspapers, newspaper offices often served as “job printers,” creating the letterheads, invoice forms, advertising cards, and other commercial documents needed by local businesses. They also helped advertise San Jose’s growing array of commercial and cultural activities, including the area’s lively music, theater and vaudeville entertainment venues.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw many significant developments in printing technology: chromolithography, the rotary press, the linotype, the typewriter, mimeographs, photocopiers, computerized typesetting, and inkjet, dot matrix, and laser printing. While many of these technologies originated elsewhere, they were rapidly adopted by local printing firms, and are represented in the exhibit with artifacts and printing output.

Silicon Valley itself became an important player in printing technology advancements. For example, the process of laser printing was developed in Palo Alto’s Xerox Parc in 1970. More recently, San Jose’s Adobe Systems introduced Adobe Postscript, whose fonts have become industry standards.

Visitors will learn the fascinating stories of these people and companies through photographs and historic printed documents, as well as the presses, tools, and equipment used locally over the past century and a half. They will also be introduced to the art and skill of printing through demonstrations and videos.

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