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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > “California as I Saw It”

[Detail] Emigrants Crossing the Plains. 1869.

Chronological Thinking

By studying the life narratives and journals in the collection, students can construct sequences of events within individual's lives. Comparing these writings, students can then understand the larger picture of the history of the state and the development of the cities within it.

commercial street, 1870

Commercial Street, about 1870, p. 254 Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913, Harris Newmark, 1916

1) Nearly all the narratives in the collection are "remembrances" of some kind, and, therefore, span a specific amount of time -- from a few months to 75 years. Students can explore a timeline within a life narrative or can compare narratives on the same subject written in different eras.

Search on memoirs and narratives for writings in the collection which illustrate lives over time.

2) The collection is filled with materials that recount the relatively quick sequence of events of California's movement from a "foreign" territory to a U.S. territory to a state. For example, students can compare these two texts to understand the rapid growth of the small town first known as Yerba Buena into the bustling city of San Francisco:

[1835] This tent was the first habitation ever erected in Yerba Buena. At the time, Richardson's only neighbors were bears, coyotes and wolves. The nearest people lived either at the Presidio or at Mission Dolores. The family lived under that tent about three months, after which Richardson constructed a small wooden house, and later a large one of adobe on what is now Dupont (Grant Avenue) near the corner of Clay Street.

William Heath Davis, Seventy-five Years in California, Chapter III, p. 12

PIOCHE BAYERQUE had their store on the north side of Clay street, just below Kearny. Davidson's bank was just below them. Then came Bennett Kirby's store; William Hobourg was a partner in their house. Bagley Sinton were adjoining. Cross, Hobson Co. were opposite. The Adelphi Theater was about half way between Kearny and Montgomery streets, on the south side of Clay, and was used for theatrical performances, concerts, balls, etc. W. H. Lyon kept the bar of the theater.

T.A. Barry and B.A. Patten, Men and Memories of San Francisco, in the "Spring of '50", Chapter III, p. 35

Search on San Francisco history for more documentation of the rapid growth of this city during the latter half of the nineteenth century.