New Artifact Drives into the HSJ Collection

Earlier this month History San José received a new addition to the Collection – a working 1940 Chevy Pickup Truck. The truck was donated by Marie Gairaud and belonged to her husband Louis. The truck arrived at HSJ on the 6th anniversary of his passing. We are honored to add Louis’ truck to the Collection and will have it operating at various History Park events. Again, our sincere thanks go out to Marie Gairaud for this generous donation.

Posters in HSJ’s Collection Illustrate Our Past

As part of a year-long, National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded project to preserve and catalog our backlog of oversize archival material, we recently processed some memorable posters documenting San Jose and Santa Clara Valley’s social history. History San Jose’s collection includes a wide array of ephemeral material, including advertisements, posters, programs, flyers, brochures, and more. These particular posters had been rolled up in our storage area, and have now been flattened out, cleaned, and re-housed in flat files. The poster collection documents everything from historic communication to events such as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, from local festivals and fine arts organizations to tourism initiatives, sports, politics, and transportation.

san jose symphony poster

Promotional poster for the San Jose Symphony with George Cleves conducting, 1981 (San Jose Symphony Collection, History San Jose)

These are just a sample of the posters in our collection, available through Google Arts & Culture:


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

NEH 50th anniversary logo

Laurence Hollings Drawings for Frontier Village at History San Jose

Some older residents of Santa Clara Valley may remember Frontier Village, an amusement park located at the intersection of Monterey Road and Branham Lane in San Jose. It opened in 1961 and closed in 1980. Laurence “Laurie” N. Hollings was the main designer for the park.

As part of a year-long, National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded project in 2016 to preserve and catalog our backlog of oversize archival material, we processed an extensive collection of Hollings’ original designs for Frontier Village, which were transferred to HSJ in 1999 from the University of California, Berkeley.

Miner's Head schematic

Schematic for Frontier Village Miner’s Head by Laurence N. Hollings

Born in South Africa, Hollings settled in San Francisco with his mother when he was 14, where he went to work making theater fronts for movie premieres. He expanded his experience by apprenticing as a set builder for the San Francisco Opera, later moving on to displays for department store windows, museums, and the 1939 World’s Fair. He was approached to create sculpture work for the Hollywood movie King Kong, which led to modeling work for animation short features.

During World War II, Hollings worked in camouflage school, occasionally designing sets and doing miniature work for training films. After moving back to the Bay Area after the war, Hollings moved into the amusement park business. In addition to designing Frontier Village, Hollings helped design rides at Disneyland, Space City, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, San Francisco’s Playland, and Happy Hollow Zoo.

View of Main Street

“View of Main Street” Frontier Village original sketch by Laurence N. Hollings

These original, hand-drawn artist drawings, schematics and plans by Hollings, created between 1961 and 1978, include artist sketches and schematics for rides and buildings, signs and artistic features, as well as landscape design drawings, and plans for park expansion. The bulk of the sketches are pencil on paper.

Find out more about the collection of drawings through our online catalog. The collection is available to researchers by appointment with the Curator of Library & Archives.


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

NEH 50th anniversary logo

Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History

March 20 – December 31, 2016
McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House, History Park

Missed the exhibit? Visit it online!

Today, more women than men have tattoos. But what about the first California women to get tattooed? Who were they, and why did they get inked? Discover the fascinating and largely unknown history of the the foremothers of modern tattooing prior to WWII.

Curator Amy Cohen originally created this exhibit at the Hayward Area Historical Society, exploring not only Native American women’s tattoos as an important rite of passage, but upper-class women who started the tattooing trend, working-class Tattooed Ladies who graced the stages of circus sideshows, and some of the first female tattoo artists in California. History San Jose is pleased to present Cohen’s original vision, with additional material featuring artwork and stories from local Santa Clara Valley contemporary tattoo artists and clients.

Helping Celebrate the Holidays with the San Jose Nutcracker!

This year, History San José partnered with the New Ballet School on their production of the San Jose Nutcracker. Our Curators assisted in providing historical and cultural information to transport this winter classic to the Valley of Heart’s Delight.

Images from HSJ’s collection were featured in the set design, and costumes for the first act were inspired by period dolls from HSJ’s collection. Our Curators put together a lovely pop-up exhibit in the Hammer Theatre featuring dolls and toys from History San José’s Collection.

I Want Candy! New Pop-up Exhibit at the Pacific Hotel

This holiday season come explore sweets and treats from San Jose’s past in a pop-up exhibit in the Pacific Hotel lobby at History Park.

The exhibit features vintage candy advertisements, candy packaging, tools of the trade and much more. Discover some of the candy manufacturers that called San Jose home and some fun candy facts.

The Candy pop-up exhibit is on display daily from 11:00am – 5:00pm through January in the Pacific Hotel Lobby at History Park.

Two Years a Slave in the Santa Clara Valley: Sampson Gleaves and Plim Jackson

Notes on Manumission Papers in the History San Jose Research Library & Archives

Roxanne L. Nilan,
History San Jose

November 8, 2016

In early October 1852, James Washington Finley arrived in the Santa Clara Valley with his wife and seven children following an arduous overland journey from Missouri. With them traveled two men, perhaps unwillingly, who might otherwise have been lost to history. In a 1922 memoir by Finley’s son Newton, these two men are listed merely as “Black Sam” and “Black Plim.” (1) Within weeks of arriving, 38-year old Sam, and Plim, 34 (as “Clem”) were recorded in the California state census, again without last names, living with the Finley family near present day Campbell. For each of the two men, their recorded occupation is eye-catching: slave. (2)

Two years later, in November 1854, James Finley freed both men. The manumission papers of Sampson Gleaves and Plim Jackson, preserved today at History San Jose, are rare in California, and provide clear evidence of African-American slavery in the Gold Rush state, but they also raise questions about Sam and Plim as well as about pioneer white families like the Finleys and their neighbors in the Santa Clara Valley. (3)

Perhaps it was James’ exhaustion after six months of travel, and Margaret’s death soon after reaching Santa Clara, that resulted in his admission to Sheriff John Yontz, the 1852 census taker, that the two men were his slaves. Since it was James, not Sam or Plim, who was answering on behalf of those in his household, he could just as easily have said “laborer,” “cook,” or “servant.” More likely, his Finley and Campbell relations, now living in the Valley, had made it clear that California, notoriously admitted to the Union in 1850 as an anti-slavery state, was also notoriously irregular in determining what that meant for either slave or slave owner once they arrived in the state. In any event, Finley seemed little worried about being challenged as a slave-owner. (4)

Manumission paper

Manumission paper for Sampson Gleaves, 1854 ((History San Jose Collection)

By comparison, another 1852 resident, Dr. L. H. Bascom, listed “David,” a 24-year old Kentucky-born black man with no last name, as a laborer. An 1887 recollection by Bascom’s wife, Anna Maria, mentions their 1850 purchase, in California, of a black man for $800, who stayed with them for four years. It seems that Dr. Bascom chose not to disclose David’s true status to the census taker. (5)

Having officially recorded the mens’ status as “slave,” James unknowingly had started the legal clock ticking on his “ownership.” Earlier that year, the state legislature had passed a fugitive slave law more rigorous and pro-slavery than the federal law. Between 1852 and 1855, its enforcement depended less on the merits of the case than on the peculiarities of the lawyers and judges involved, but much depended on the length of time a slave-owner had remained in California with his alleged “property.” In a state where African-Americans, slave or free, were generally unwelcome, the owner had a good chance of keeping his “slave property” if he could prove that he was a temporary resident and intended to take the slave back to a slave state, or, if he had returned South, hired agents to find and return his “property.” (6)

Finley clearly did not bring his large young family to California for a visit. Custom expected him to free Sam and Plim within a year of arriving. While the law was unclear, many California-bound slave owners also promised manumission in exchange for a worry-free trip overland, as suggested by Finley’s wording on their freedom papers, acknowledging his full “receipt of all demands … for further services” from Gleaves and Jackson. (7) Perhaps the death of Finley’s wife, his need of help (his 7 children were all under the age of 14), and doubts about making a go of this California move, were convenient excuses for waiting more than two years. And perhaps he felt little social pressure, living largely among neighbors and family from Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.

The African American population around San Jose was small (an estimated 49 in a county population of around 8,000) and Plim and Sam had few legal options. Nevertheless, Finley, now settled and remarried, legally freed them in November 1854. (8) The two papers were witnessed by his brother, Asa Wallace Finlay, well-known in the Santa Clara Valley, and then serving as County Coroner (1853-55). (9)

Interestingly, both records were filed with the Santa Clara County recorder in November 1855, a full year after their creation, at the request of Sam and Plim. Why did they take this extra step? Had these papers been kept in the Finley home, or hidden away by Sam or Plim until that time? Were they aware of fugitive slave cases elsewhere in California where such precious documents had been stolen or destroyed by kidnappers and “slave catchers”? At least one well-reported case, in 1853, had been won by an alleged fugitive, whose freedom papers had been kept safe by a sympathetic lawyer. Someone involved understood that the 1852 California Fugitive Slave Law was clear: the burden of proof was on the accused “escaped slave.” Since African Americans did not have the right to testify in court, manumission papers were vital. (10)

In this case, the county recorder, Solomon A. Clark, was well known to both Asa and James Finley. Unlike many of Santa Clara County’s officials, Clark and Finley were not Democrats or associated with that party’s pro-slavery politicians, lawyers, and judges (including the notorious Santa Clara County Judge Joshua W. Redman) who held influential posts throughout the state. Rather, they were colleagues among the county’s small Whig party, an organization desperately trying to avoid the slavery question. To avoid any misconstructions, Clark carefully noted that James Finley was well known to him, and that Finley had freely and voluntarily executed the manumission documents. Having recorded the transaction, Clark then filed the two documents among county property records, where they would be found more than 150 years later, preserved at History San Jose among deeds and other Santa Clara County property transactions. (11)

Manumission paper

Manumission paper for Plim Jackson, 1854 (History San Jose Collection)

Unfortunately, the trail of Plim Jackson and Sampson Gleaves goes cold after 1855. Some information from Finley family records, however, reveals a bit of their earlier lives. James Finley’s father, Asa Finley (1769-1853) had been a successful farmer and land investor in Saline County, Missouri, and before 1819-20, in Kentucky, Plim’s birthplace. Asa Finley Sr.’s will, executed in 1853, records earlier gifts to his children to document a fair proportion to each. Regarding James, the eldest son, Asa states: “I have also given to my said son James W. Finley a negro man named Plim, valued at four hundred dollars and for which I have not taken a receipt, making the whole amount given to him three thousand two hundred & three dollars. I therefore give him nothing at this time.” (12) The 1850 US Census for Missouri (slave schedule) reveals that among seven nameless slaves owned by James W. Finley is a 32-year old man, likely Plim. Little else is known of Plim Jackson, including the source of his last name, although it is likely related to his earlier life in Kentucky. (13)

Sampson Gleaves probably took (or was given) his last name from the family name of James Finley’s mother, Esther Gleaves. Esther (1786-ca.1839), the first of three wives of Asa Finley (Sr.), came from an established Virginia slave owning family. The extended Finley and Gleaves families had settled in Kentucky and Missouri and maintained close personal, business and property connections. (14)

Sampson Gleaves and Plim Jackson might have been lost to history altogether, two men without last names. Subsequent accounts of the Finley-Campbell overland journey have leapt to the conclusion that the two men were among the teamsters and cooks “hired to help” the family during the overland journey. (15) Many local histories of pioneering white families assume that Anti-Slavery California was slave-less, and that all who headed overland did so willingly. If we could only ask Sam and Plim if they, too, saw the journey as a new beginning. How can we know who they left behind, or if other family members may have been sold for funds needed to prepare for the arduous overland journey? Without connections made between memoirs by white settlers, manumission papers, census records, and other documentation, the special nature of the Black emigrant experience is a missing piece of the Gold Rush puzzle.

(1) Finley, Newton Gleaves, “Memoirs of Travel, from Saline County, Missouri, to San Jose, California in 1852,” Oregon Genealogical Society Quarterly (Oregon Genealogical Society, 2001). Original at Bancroft Library, C-D5182. (This 1922 recollection is also available online at the “Campbells of Southwest Virginia” website ( as “Memoirs of Travel,” by Newton Gleaves Finley, with an introduction by Phil Norfleet.) The James Finley family was part of the Benjamin Campbell overland party, a small party of 44 made up of four related families; Benjamin, later founder of Campbell, California, was Margaret Finley’s brother. James’ brother Asa was married to another sister, Mary Jane Campbell. On the Campbells, see “Benjamin Campbell,” in Pen Pictures from The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated, Edited by H.S. Foote (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888) 526-527. On the Finleys, see The Descendants of John Finley (?-1783) fourth generation. (accessed October 25, 2016 at, and “John Pettis Finley,” in History of Oregon (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Co., 1922. 384-385).
(2) California Census, October 12, 1852, Santa Clara County. Sam’s birthplace is recorded as Missouri, Plim’s as Kentucky. James and his wife, Margaret, were both born in Kentucky, their children all born in Missouri.
(3) Certificates of Manumission, History San Jose 1997-297-1 and 1997-214-35.
(4) James (1813-1865) and the children arrived around October 1; Margaret (1820-1852), ill with “mountain fever,” had been sent ahead and died near Santa Clara in late September. Both she and James, who died in 1865, are buried in Santa Clara.
(5) Mrs. Bascom recalled: “It was not till spring [1850] that Doctor found a black man who could cook. He paid $800 for him. Folks said he wouldn’t stay—for, of course, he was free in California—but he did. He lived with us for four years.” M. H. Field, “Grandma Bascom’s Story of San Jose in ’49,” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine 9:53 (May 1887) 549.
(6) On fugitive slave cases and the unpredictability of court judgments, see Rudolph Lapp, Blacks in Gold Rush California (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1977) and his Archy Lee (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1969), and William F. Franklin, “The Archy Case: The California Supreme Court Refuses to Free a Slave,” Pacific Historical Review 23 (1963) 137-154.
(7) Sampson Gleaves, 1997-297- 1; Plim Jackson’s release 1997-214- 35, is similarly worded.
(8) See Lapp, Blacks in Gold Rush California, and Herbert Ruffin, Uninvited Neighbors: African Americans in Silicon Valley, 1769-1990 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014) on population figures. James married Tennessee-born Rebecca McCoy (1827-?) in May 1854. They had five children, all born in Santa Clara County: Thomas, ca. 1855; Margaret, 1857; Joseph., 1860; Rubin, 1862; and Irving, 1864.
(9) Missouri-born Asa Wallace Finley (1822-1910) and Mary Jane Campbell had arrived in California in 1846 with a large overland party of some 250 wagons led by her father, William Campbell (the “Donner Party” was a splinter group). The main party’s travel was, for the most part, carefully managed and safe. On arriving in the Sacramento Valley, Asa was among several men of the party recruited by John C. Fremont, to bolster his California Battalion during the Bear Flag revolt in 1846. Asa Finley are listed in the 1852 California state census with five children, two born in California, with no servants or slaves; however, other families listed nearby include Negro “servants” listed only by their first names. By 1860, the Asa Finley family had moved on to the San Joaquin Valley. See also U.S. Census Records, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900; History of Kern County (1914) 1233. On the William Campbell wagon train, see David Campbell, “Pioneer of 1846: a sketch of the hardships endured by those who crossed the Great Plains in 1846,” Weekly Review [Porterville, CA] (July 1899. Available online, with an introduction by Phil Norfleet, at the “Campbells of Southwest Virginia” website,].
(10) On the widely-reported 1854 case of the paper-less Stephen S. Hill, see Carlo M. De Farrari, “Stephen Spencer Hill, fugitive from slavery,” [Tuolomne County Historical Society] Quarterly 5:3 (1966), and Silvia Roberts, Mining for Freedom: Black History Meets the California Gold Rush (Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, 2008) 49-54. In 1853, a free young woman in Auburn averted kidnapping because her freedom papers were filed with a sympathetic local lawyer. The much-talked about George Mitchell case occurred in April 1855. See Lapp, Blacks in Gold Rush California, and his “Negro Rights Activities in Gold Rush California,” California Historical Society Quarterly (March 1966).
(11) Solomon A. Clark was born in Massachusetts in 1823. He had lived briefly in Mississippi as a youth, but returned north on coming of age. He left New York for California in 1850, where he worked as a bookkeeper and store keeper. He served as county recorder from 1853 to 1857, then maintained a successful grocery business. History of Santa Clara County, California (San Francisco: Alley, Bowen &; Co., 1881) 779-780. Clark and Asa Finley’s county service and their party affiliation is listed among County and Township Offices on pages 783-785.
(12) The Descendants of Matthew Gleaves (Gleaves Family Association, 2009), available at
(13) In 1850, James is listed as owning 7 slaves ranging in age from 32 (likely Plim Jackson, who would be listed as 34 two years later in the 1852 California census) to a child of five months. Four children were under the age of 8; one or more of the children may have been related to the 26-year- old female recorded, and perhaps to one of the two men; however, while one of the children is listed as “black,” three are listed as “mulatto,” suggesting a mixed-race parentage at some point.) Two black women also are listed, first names only, as part of the family household in the 1850 Federal Census (Missouri) rather than on the slave schedule (there is no evidence that they were not slaves, but merely living in the same quarters as Finley’s family): Charlotte, 50-year old woman born in Virginia, and Georgina, 14, born in Missouri. This may be the “Charlotte,” who with a “Sampson” was inherited by Burrell Perry Jr. from Absalom Gleaves of Tennessee. Gleaves Family Records, #174 Division of estate of Absalom Gleaves, Davidson County Tennessee, March 16, 1835,
(14) Red Herrings: Gleaves family records reveal several men named Sam or Sampson, in Virginia and Tennessee. One individual, listed in probate records of Esther’s brother James Turk Gleaves as “Young Sampson,” is not our Sampson Gleaves of California, but appears to be another Sampson Gleaves (1826-1915) who is documented in post-Civil War federal censuses as living in nearby Christiansburg, Virginia. This man is younger, and is listed as being married in 1854 in Virginia. U.S. Federal Census records, Virginia, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and Virginia state marriage and death records.
(15) Jeannette Watson, Campbell: The Orchard City (Campbell Historical Museum Association, 1999) 33.

Volunteer Finds Great-Uncle’s 1876 Voter Registration in HSJ’s Collection

While filing a folder of election-related material recently, our long-time Collections Volunteer Nadine Nelson let out a small gasp (those who work closely with Nadine will recognize this exclamation). “That’s my great-uncle!”

Sabastian Albertoli's Certificate of Registration, 2 November 1876 (History San Jose Collection)

Sabastian Albertoli’s Certificate of Registration, 2 November 1876 (History San Jose Collection)

Nadine had stumbled upon Sabastian Albertoli’s original Certificate of Registration, Number 14863 in the 1876 Great Register of Santa Clara County; essentially his voter registration document. A Swiss immigrant, Sabastian was married to Amelia (nee Solari). They lived at 26 South River Street in San Jose, where Sabastian was the innkeeper at the Swiss Hotel.

It would appear from his certificate that he was naturalized on November 2nd, 1876, the same day he was registered, just in time for the election on Tuesday, November 7th. (The race between Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes just so happens to have been one of the most disputed Presidential elections in the country’s history, resulting in the Compromise of 1877 and the end of Reconstruction).

The first voter registrations in California took place in 1866 following the Registry Act, an effort to prevent voter fraud. A later law required counties to publish an index of all registered voters every two years. These lists were kept by the county clerk, eventually printed in volumes known as the Great Registers. Though most of these books have now been scanned and are searchable online through sites like, History San Jose preserves the original Santa Clara County registers in its collection.

It’s easy to forget when doing research that these Great Registers aren’t inclusive. Until 1911, only men — not women — over the age of 21 were eligible to vote. An 1879 state constitutional amendment denied the vote to natives of China (repealed in 1926), and an 1894 law established a literacy requirement (no longer in effect).

Sabastian and Amelia Albertoli

Sabastian and Amelia Albertoli, 1896 (Courtesy Nadine Nelson)

That shock of recognition that Nadine experienced, and the sensation of being able to see your ancestor’s original handwriting, or view a photograph that you didn’t know existed, is an experience that we are happy to share with researchers whenever they find a tangible connection to their past through our collection.

(Want to find out more about voting in California? Check out the Secretary of State’s “Voting in California” page)

Thanks for coming to the First Annual SC Archives Crawl!

Thanks to everyone who came out to visit HSJ’s Collection Center for the First Annual Santa Clara Valley Archives Crawl. We had 61 visitors throughout the day, who engaged us with research questions, imparted their own experience and knowledge of growing up in the Valley, and enjoyed “backstage” access to our storage area.

We prepared table top exhibits to highlight some of the more unique collections at HSJ, including political ephemera, the KNTV Channel 11 News Archive, our extensive Music Collection, and early California papers such as the 19th century cattle brand book, the Pueblo Papers, and the manumission papers for two slaves freed here in the County in 1954.

If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, we are hoping there will be another one next year, and we plan to expand the event to include more of our artifact collection and tours of more storage areas. Look forward to seeing you back next year! Check out photos from this year’s event.

Empire Firehouse Update

Work continues on History Park’s Empire Firehouse to transform it into a brand new interactive exhibit space. Recently several historic fire vehicles from the San Jose Fire Museum were moved into the space, including a Hand Drawn Chemical Fire Cart, c.1890, and a Hand Drawn Hose Cart, c.1880 – both restored by HSJ Volunteers.

Empire Firehouse mural

Work has just begun on installing large scale photo murals in the space. The one seen here features an image, c.1885, of a fire station formerly located on North Market Street with horse-drawn engines and firefighters standing in front. Stay tuned for more updates!

Original copyright 2011+ History San José | All rights reserved