This week I started working on metadata for the Chaffey
Brothers Letters. It seems like I am the last CLIR CCEPS Fellow to work on the
Chaffey Brothers Letters, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away from the
Chaffey brothers for long. Other fellows have written about the Chaffey
Brothers Letters many times before. They have inspired a lot of conversations
here at Special Collections, and Alfonso even did his culminating presentation
on the letters.
The infamy of the Chaffey Brothers Letters here at the
CLIRWater Project is due to two factors. One is simply that there are a lot of
letters which gives an enormously well-rounded view of their business
operations. We are very lucky that these fragile records have survived almost
150 years and that complete transcripts exist in the case that the wet copy
letters are illegible. Complete or near complete records like these can provide
huge insights for researchers interested in the Chaffey brothers or the history
of land use in Southern California.
This brings us to the second reason that the Chaffey Brother
Letters are such a hot topic here at the Claremont Colleges Library’s Special Collections:
the Chaffey brothers are incredibly important to the history of Southern
California and the Inland Empire specifically. They influenced the settlement
of the area and effected water and land use in the area to such an extent that
their legacy can be seen even today. Since our project centers on water
resources and allocation, the Chaffey brothers are big players in the larger
narrative that we are uncovering and publishing via the CLIRWater Project.
Now that I am creating metadata for some of the letters, I
am beginning to understand why the Chaffey Brothers Letters are so captivating.
Although most of the letters are short and center around specific business
transactions, when read together a larger image of the Chaffey brother’s
business comes into focus. I have talked about learning history through osmosis
before, and I am experiencing this sensation again while working with these
Anyway, this is my last blog post for 2017. I will be back
again working on the CLIRWater Project in 2018. Happy Holidays!
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