Vallejo Outing April 13, 2013

Twelve Institute members had a history-filled day in Vallejo on April 13, with private viewings of two institutions: the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, where Executive Director Jim Kern gave us a tour before regular open hours, and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library.  Highlights at the museum included artifacts from Mare Island (the first U.S. naval base on the West Coast) and from various ships including the USS San Francisco, paintings of sea battles in the War of 1812, a periscope, a Russian cannon, and an exhibit about a Vallejo woman dancer.

Following lunch in Old Town and a walk past numerous historic buildings, we arrived at the McCune Room and browsed around the collection of rare books and printing-related objects, assembled by local physician Donovan McCune and donated to the city of Vallejo in the 1960s.  Judith Hilburg, President of the McCune Committee, introduced the collection and showed us some of their finest incunables (books printed before 1500) and other treasures.

Institute member Peter Meyerhof gave an illustrated talk about José de la Rosa and California’s first printing press. The Ramage press arrived in Monterey in 1834 and was used by a series of governing authorities, including Mariano Vallejo, to issue proclamations and other printed information (and misinformation, in the case of an already obsolete Spanish book of home remedies).  Although the name Agustín Zamorano is usually associated with the press, Peter’s research has revealed that de la Rosa was its main user, both in Monterey (spelled Monterrey in those days) and in Sonoma, where he worked for General Vallejo in a number of capacities.

We then heard a talk about a Victorian-era home entertainment called toy theater or paper theater and a project the McCune Collection is developing to further explore printing history. Michael and Valerie Nelson of Magical Moonshine Theater are using this form of puppetry to develop a performance based on William Morris’s illustrations of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the “masterpiece of publishing” known as the Kelmscott Chaucer. We also had the opportunity to peruse a display of other recent examples of toy theater, often based on illustrated children’s books but not exclusively aimed at children.

You can learn more about the McCune Collection at, the puppeteers at, and the Vallejo Museum at

California and the West Events

Fall 2020: Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts, lecture by Susan D. Anderson, SF History Days (video here)

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento

Fall 2019:  Tour of Marin Civic Center and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

In the abundance of caution recommended by heath authorities, the group has decided to take a break from regular meetings.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, March 14, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. Jim Gasperini will present.


Public Programs

Saturday, September 26, 1:00 pm, Public Program  via Zoom - pre-registration required Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts Part of San Francisco History Days, this event is co-sponsored by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. Join Susan D. Anderson, history curator of the California African American Museum, for a talk and tour of artifacts that reveal the hidden history of San Francisco’s 19th-century African American past. Anderson’s talk begins with the Gold Rush and weaves the state’s raucous beginnings into the national narrative. The photographs, manuscripts, and publications in this presentation allow viewers to experience the urgency of early campaigns for civil rights and the fervent hopes of the African American community. Learn about the beloved ship’s captain who has a street named for him in West Oakland. Hear a Civil War poem by a distinguished Black poet and friend of John Brown proclaimed in public in 1864 San Francisco. See court documents of the lawsuit brought to challenge discrimination on streetcars 90 years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This presentation proves that California history is more challenging, complicated, and fascinating than we’ve been taught. Hosted and co-sponsored by the Institute for Historical Study, co-sponosred by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. This event is free but pre-registration is required.  
Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, March 21, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program  via Zoom:  a special webinar
Beth Wright (daughter of longtime IHS member Georgia Wright) will provide practical information and guidance to help aspiring authors succeed with their self-published books. The webinar will include tips on how to find and work with the most suitable editors and other book publishing professionals; information about printing and distribution options; and insights into trends in self-publishing, and ways to help a book find its audience through online and other opportunities.
Participants are welcome to contact Beth after the program to schedule a free half-hour consultation about their self-publishing project. Beth Wright, owner of Wright for Writers LLC, is a writing coach, editor, and publishing consultant with more than 20 years' experience in book publishing. She's helped dozens of writers self-publish. Books she's edited include many award winners and a New York Times bestseller. Beth specializes in creative nonfiction but works with writers in any genre. She spent her first years in publishing at a small academic press.

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 


We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history



Member News

Welcome to our newest members, members, both currently residing in London, England. Laure Latham describes herself as “a blogger, storyteller and lawyer,” holding a B.A. in religious anthropology from Paris Jussieu University and a B.A. in law from La Sorbonne. She has practiced law at the Paris Bar and has taught international tax at La Sorbonne. Her writings include articles on the environment as well as children and the outdoors. Laure coauthored George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin and is currently working on a fictional account of Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California.

Esther Shallan is a philosopher (PhD in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University and Mphil in the philosophy of psychology from Kings College London) with interests and research on the problem of evil, the nature of suffering, and personality traits. She is also a psychotherapist working in North London who specializes in bereavement, depression, and anxiety disorders. Esther is currently working on a book entitled “God, Good and Evil: The Problem of Moral Evil Re-evaluated.”

Members' Recent Activities:

This summer saw publication of John Graham’s Looking For Elves At Wood Creek: Hunting And Other Stories (TheBookPatch), which “follows my relationship with a ranch property that I visit in San Benito County. It covers some history of San Juan Bautista, Paicines, Tres Pinos, Highway 25 and local flora and fauna.”

Oliver Pollak’s “Downsizing Generations of Family photos,” republished from San Diego Jewish World can be found here.

Peter Stansky has just published Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press). It is a selection of the pieces he has published over the last 20 years on aspects of British history and culture, notably on William Morris, the Bloomsbury Group, and George Orwell as well as other topics, introduced by an essay on how and why he became a historian of Britain. It is available as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon and other sites.

Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada completed a biographical sketch of Alice Charlotte Williams (1877-1945) for the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States. Williams served as the corresponding secretary of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association from 1905 to 1909. She was also a librarian. Liz appreciates the perceptive comments she received about the sketch from Institute members Joanne Lafler, Rose Marie Cleese, and Bonda Lewis.

Leslie Friedman’s play, “The Panel,” was the September offering of Play by Play, the organization presenting performance readings of new plays founded by Institute member Judith Offer. “The Panel” was originally accepted for March, but the pandemic cancelled the live event. Leslie was delighted to have The Panel read online and to receive many positive responses to it from audience members. After the reading Judith led a discussion about funding for the arts and diversity. On October 24 Leslie also presented her book The Dancer’s Garden at Stanford’s Company of Authors, an event founded and directed by Institute member and Stanford professor emeritus Peter Stansky. This program was originally slated for live presentation on May 2, but rescheduled for the Zoom format.

Bonda Lewis reports: “I’m doing my first show by Zoom on 28th October, for a Rotary meeting in Los Gatos. Is that sort of off-the-wall? I think so—but it’s an interesting challenge to perform for one camera—and that fixed—and no real audience. (Even when doing television, there are crew members and production types as sounding board.)

Ernie Hook notes that “I just finished an article on aspects of the history of therapeutic bloodletting, far I suspect from the general interests of almost all members.”

Kevin Knaus writes that he has recently started writing the biography of Amos P. Catlin, who came to California in 1849 and was active in mining, business, politics, and eventually was elected as a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge. “Catlin was a very honorable and ethical man. The drama and interest of his life comes not from personal failings, but the politics and law suits he was involved with.”

Congratulations to Our 2020 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Steven Levi for expenses of a visual presentation of his poem, “The Contract," about women's suffrage.
Pam Peirce for editing of her biography of Katherine Gibson Wicks.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to

Join Us

We welcome all men and women who have a commitment to historical study, which may be demonstrated in one or more of the following ways...


Contact Us

Institute for Historical Study
1399 Queens Road
Berkeley, CA 94708

    Your Email:

    Your Message: