Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2007 Issue

California Promotional Items from Dawson's Book Shop

Dawson

California Ephemera from Dawson's Book Shop.


By Michael Stillman

We recently received California Ephemera, Winter 2007 from Dawson's Book Shop. Winter 2007? Either we received this catalogue very late or very early. It doesn't matter. It still has loads of tourist and other promotional material for the Golden State, most nearly a century old. Not surprisingly for promotional items, most are filled with photography from the days when California land was cheap and plentiful. While the publications come from all over the state, the concentration is from the southern part, Los Angeles and nearby communities. Here are a few of these brochures for your consideration.

Item 7 is a Fred Harvey promotional from 1914: California and the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Harvey was the railroad service magnate. He built a series of restaurants and hotels along the railways, mainly the Santa Fe. His belief was that by providing the finest services along the railroads, he could draw tourists to the American West to fill his hotels and restaurants. The plan was a great success, and proved enormously beneficial to both Harvey and the Santa Fe. Some credit Harvey as playing a major role in "civilizing" the West with his introduction of elegant facilities into what was once and rough land. In time, the Harvey Company faded along with travel by rail, and was sold in the 1960s, long after Harvey himself passed on. This brochure will take you back to the days when the Harvey empire was thriving and still growing, before automobiles replaced the train as the tourist's favorite mode of transportation. Item 7. Priced at $100.

Item 34 is an item of memorabilia from the early days of what is now known as "Knott's Berry Farm," an odd name for one of the nation's largest amusement parks. Walter Knott was a berry farmer in California, who opened a restaurant on the highway from Los Angeles to Orange County's favorite beaches in the 1930s. The recipes featured the boysenberries the family grew on their berry farm. In 1937, when this piece was printed, Knott was still primarily a farmer and restaurateur, not an amusement park operator. At the time, the location was still known as Knotts Berry Place. It would not be until the 1940s that his ghost town, and eventually rides, would be added. $50.

Everyone knows about the fires in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, but not so well remembered is the catastrophic fire that hit nearby Berkeley in September 1923. A small grass fire was fanned into an enormous blaze by the Santa Ana winds that sometime arise in late summer, replacing the normally damp sea breezes with hot, dry blasts from the west. The flames swept into the north end of town, and by the time the damp sea breezes returned to help extinguish the fire, over 600 homes and businesses had been destroyed. With the aid of students, the flames were stopped short of the university at Berkeley, but over 1,000 students and many professors lost their homes to the fire. Item 131 is The Berkeley Fire, by Aubrey Boyd. Published shortly after the fire, it includes many photographs of the devastation. $40.

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