California, Wallace Stegner observed, is like the rest of the United States, only more so. Indeed, the Golden State has always seemed to be a place where the hopes and fears of the American dream have been played out in a bigger and bolder way. And no one has done more to capture this epic story than Kevin Starr, in his acclaimed series of gripping social and cultural histories. Now Starr carries his account into the 1930s, when the political extremes that threatened so much of the Depression-ravaged world--fascism and communism--loomed large across the California landscape. In Endangered Dreams, Starr paints a portrait that is both detailed and panoramic, offering a vivid look at the personalities and events that shaped a decade of explosive tension. He begins with the rise of radicalism on the Pacific Coast, which erupted when the Great Depression swept over California in the 1930s. Starr captures the triumphs and tumult of the great agricultural strikes in the Imperial Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, Stockton, and Salinas, identifying the crucial role played by Communist organizers; he also shows how, after some successes, the Communists disbanded their unions on direct orders of the Comintern in 1935. The highpoint of social conflict, however, was 1934, the year of the coastwide maritime strike, and here Starr's narrative talents are at their best, as he brings to life the astonishing general strike that took control of San Francisco, where workers led by charismatic longshoreman Harry Bridges mounted the barricades to stand off National Guardsmen. That same year socialist Upton Sinclair won the Democratic nomination for governor, and he launched his dramatic End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign. In the end, however, these challenges galvanized the Right in a corporate, legal, and vigilante counterattack that crushed both organized labor and Sinclair. And yet, the Depression also brought out the finest in Californians: state Democrats fought for a local New Deal; California natives helped care for more than a million impoverished migrants through public and private programs; artists movingly documented the impact of the Depression; and an unprecedented program of public works (capped by the Golden Gate Bridge) made the California we know today possible. In capturing the powerful forces that swept the state during the 1930s--radicalism, repression, construction, and artistic expression--Starr weaves an insightful analysis into his narrative fabric. Out of a shattered decade of economic and social dislocation, he constructs a coherent whole and a mirror for understanding our own time.
The third reader of my long-gone school days said something like, Life is a river, from its small and unimportant beginning it flows steadily onward. It may hesitate, but never stop until early or late its end is reached. By anyones calculations, the river of my life has been a long and, on the whole, a very placid one. No treacherous rapids or impassable falls have ever disturbed its steady flow. I have filled many pages with recollections of what to some may seem a very humdrum and uneventful life. Arent most lives just that except to the individuals who have lived them? This self-appointed task has been a very pleasant one. I trust that someone sometime in the future will find pleasure and perhaps a bit of knowledge hidden in these pages. It is said that three score years and ten is ones allotment for life; beyond that, one lives on borrowed time. It has never been clear to me just where and from whom this time is borrowed. I must say, the last decade and a half that I have borrowed from somewhere have been most satisfactory. I most sincerely hope that my credit will hold good awhile longer
In part a tour of California as a virtual laboratory for refining the circulation of capital, and in part an investigation of how the state's literati, with rare exception, reconceived economy in the name of class, gender, and racial privilege, this study will appeal to all students and scholars of California's—And The American West's—economic, environmental, and cultural past. Author note:George L. Hendersonis Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota.
California may be the golden state but it is also a garden state. Innumerable gardens have been made since the Europeans first came, starting with the Franciscan missionaries.The gold rush was the defining period, leading to immense expenditures by newly rich miners. This book discusses many simple but beautiful gardens created by waves of immigrants. Gardens were necessary for food but also represented repose and leisure. The nature and style of domestic and private gardens shape the landscape of cities and towns just as much as large civic architectural achievements.
The purpose of this study is to examine the Chinese confrontation, on the Pacific Coast, as it was experienced and rationalized by the white majority. For reasons which will be evident in what follows, the main body of the work (chapters 3 through 11) will focus on the Democratic party and the labor movement of California through the forty-year period after the Civil War. The two opening chapters turn back to explore aspects of the Jacksonian background which appear crucial to an understanding of what occurred in California. The final chapter looks beyond the turn of the century to trace certain results of the sequence of events in the West for the labor movement as a whole, and to suggest the influence of those events upon the crystallization of an American concept of national identity.
In the nineteenth century, as immigration greatly expanded the American population, demands on crop output increased. Seizing an opportunity to play upon fears of food shortages, chemical companies declared war on bugs and declining soil fertility, the archenemies of the American farmer. By the 1860s, pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers developed highly sophisticated media campaigns. Bugs were touted as a mortal threat to American farms, and quacks promoted miracle cures culled from industrial waste such as whale oil, arsenic, mercury, sulfuric acid, and lead in the form of dusts, granules, and liquid sprays. New fertilizer products also came from industrial waste piles, including potash, sulfur, and sodium nitrate. From the start, farmers and consumers opposed the marketers' noxious shill. But more than a century of collusion among advertisers, editors, scientists, large-scale farmers, government agencies - and even Dr. Seuss - convinced most farmers to use deadly chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and, more recently, genetically modified organisms. Akin to seminal works on the topic like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Arthur Kallet and F. J. Schlink's 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, The War on Bugs - richly illustrated with dozens of original advertisements and promotions - details both the chemical industry's relentless efforts and the recurring waves of resistance by generations of consumers, farmers, and activists against toxic food, a struggle that continues today but with deep roots in the long rise of industrial agriculture.
"A masterpiece. . . . Two months after the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, Little, Brown issued the second controversial California documentary of 1939, Factories in the Field. . . . If John Steinbeck was a novelist seeking documentation, Carey McWilliams was a documentary journalist seeking the moral and imaginative intensity of art."—Kevin Starr, author of Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California "Factories in the Field is a true classic of the 'other California' that one rarely hears about. McWilliams chronicles the modern saga of industrial capitalism's transformation of would-be yeoman farmers into a low-paid, multi-racial army of farmworkers toiling on huge factory farms. From the start, McWilliams called for the abolition of the artificial distinction between factory and farm as the necessary first step in guaranteeing farmworkers the right to collective bargaining. His work is still relevant to the ongoing migrations of peoples around the world in search of a better life."—Neil Foley, author of The White Scourge "Indispensable to the study of California history."—Jules Tygiel, author of The Great Los Angeles Swindle