|Why do communities change over time?|
In California, as elsewhere, many of the answers to this question are found in the lives of community members. California owes many of its changes to the Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, and others who explored, settled, and inhabited the area long ago. Later, the Gold Rush, the building of railroad lines and roadways, and the growth of California’s cities brought people here from across the country and around the world. This too, led to many changes over time to all of California’s communities.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Changing Communities
In virtually every community you can find tangible clues of past ways of life and the types of changes that have occurred there.
Photograph (circa 1900) and Native American Artifacts
Sierra Nevada ghost town, California
Through every era since Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, forceful changes have come to California. The nineteenth century, however, may be the time period of California’s most dramatic changes. It was during the 1800s, for example, that gold was discovered on John Sutter’s land (1848), the Gold Rush began (1849), California entered the Union as the 31st state (1850), Sacramento became the state capital (1854), San Francisco grew from a town to the fifteenth largest city in the United States (by 1860), and the state was linked to the East by the first transcontinental railroad (1869). The “cow town” of Los Angeles began to see its population boom starting in the late 1870s. Then, nearby Pasadena, Santa Monica, Monrovia, Compton, Pomona, South Pasadena, Redondo Beach, and Long Beach all were founded between 1886 and 1900.
Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, California
A Brief History of Postcards and Postcard Collecting
The precursors to postcards were pictorial envelopes In 1861, J.P. Carlton copyrighted the first postal type card in the United States. This copyright was later transferred to H. L. Lipman, which is why these early cards are now known as the “Lipman Postal Cards.” They were on sale until replaced in 1873 by U.S. Government Postal’s.
Philately is the collecting and study of postage stamps, postcards, and all other related items. The word is Greek-derived, and literally means “love of what is free of further tax.” Deltiology is, more specifically, the formal name in the United States for postcard collecting. It is believed to be the third largest collectables hobby internationally, surpassed only by coin and stamp collecting.
Writing “Time Traveling” Postcards
1. Show students some nineteenth century California postcard samples from the websites and from page 26 of your Primary Sources Handbook. (If you like, try to get some that were taken of your own area. Then share these with students also.) Using the information above, remind students of some of the changes taking place in California during this time period. Discuss with students how these places may look the same as they once did and also how they have changed. Then, distribute copies of the worksheet from page 27 of your Primary Sources Handbook for students to complete.
2. Assign or have pairs of students select a different California location. For example, you might have each team select a different city in the state. Or, assign pairs of students to different locations within your own community. Be sure, however, that students will be able to find reference materials showing how their selected location appeared between 100 and 200 years ago. If possible, offer each team a recent photograph or postcard of his or her assigned area.
3. After locating reference materials showing how their selected area looked about a century ago—and additional materials showing how that same area looks today—distribute art supplies (crayons, markers, and two sheets of light-colored drawing paper) to each pair of students. If the images that they have found are from magazines or newspapers and thus can be used to create collages, distribute scissors and tape or glue, also.
4. Direct one member of each team to use a sheet of drawing paper to create a “then” picture postcard image of their selected area. The other team member should use the remaining sheet of drawing paper to create a “now” picture of the same place. The other side of each sheet, tell students, will be used as they would the back of a postcard. As a reminder of how these look, display a postcard template for students to follow. They should not begin writing their postcards, however, until you give them further instructions.
5. When students have the picture side of their postcards completed, direct students to imagine that they have a “postcard pen pal” from the past or present—the time period that their partner drew on his or her sheet. Tell students to imagine that they can write a postcard from the present to the past or the past to the present (from the time period he or she drew to the time period his or her partner drew). Have them describe to their friend how life in the area they drew differs from the one that their partner’s picture represents. As they write their postcards, encourage them to consider possible answers to these questions:
6. After everyone has had an opportunity to share their postcards with the rest of the class, clip these pages, clothesline-style, from a string across the center of the room. That way, visitors to your class will be able to see and enjoy both the students’ words and images of California communities.
Additional Primary Sources
Chapter 5: Newcomers Leave Their Mark
Chapter 6: Communities
Image credits: a. Scenics of America/PhotoLink/Getty Images; b. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USZC4-7422 DLC