Historical records

Hi everyone,

Today as I scanned and named documents, I thought about how my work might affect a historian’s research. A decision or error that I might make in the process could later determine a researcher’s access to, or understanding of, certain information. I tried to be very careful in my steps because of this. Although making one mistake on one scan of one folder of one box about California water history may not necessarily transform a historical narrative, it was interesting to think of how information is recorded and preserved, and the effects that can have on the way we understand the past.

I haven’t found anything too fascinating this week because, again, the folder I was working on was full of business-related documents, but I’m keeping an eye out for cool details.


On to scanning!

Hi everyone,

This week, due to some technological difficulties, I mostly just worked on learning how to scan and save documents. I then scanned a folder of documents relating to the Ontario Mutual Water Companies Collection which were from the mid-1900s. These weren’t very interesting to read, since they were mainly data and memos, but I still enjoyed working with the historical documents! I’m excited to be doing some work outside of naming and converting files.


Back to Work/ Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I am pleased to be back at work and
picking up where I left off processing the Woman’s Club of Claremont records. I
am making progress and am almost finished processing the Club’s operational
records. I am looking forward to moving on to processing the Junior Club’s
project reports and associated records. The process keeps unfolding as I get
deeper into the records. The plan keeps evolving, and I can see ways of improving
the plan as I continue to wade through the material and become more familiar
with the Club itself. I really want to finish as much as possible before my
time with CCEPS is over, so I feel like I accomplished something important when
I leave. This desire is fueling a sense of urgency in my work.

The Woman’s
Club/Junior Club has done some amazing projects to better their community over
the years. The Junior Club has made a difference through projects under program
themes such as Building a Better Community, Fine Arts, Family, and many more. I
was able to learn about one such program while processing correspondence with
the theme of International Affairs. The letters detailed the club’s sponsorship
of an orphan named Lee Myung Cha from the Orphans’ Home of Korea located in
Seoul, Korea. Lee Myung Cha wrote a touching letter of appreciation and
gratitude to the ladies of the Woman’s Club that appears to be dated ca. late
1950’s to early 1960’s. Lee Myung Cha reports that, through the Club’s
sponsorship, she can stay healthy and continue her educational studies. She
mentions twenty cows that were sent to her town from Texas and a homemade
drawing she sent to the club depicting happy children playing with a top. I wonder
what ever became of Lee Myung Cha? I haven’t come across any records detailing her
fate, but her letter says a great deal about the Woman’s Club of Claremont’s efforts
to make the world a better place. These compassionate women not only impacted
communities domestically, but also managed to touch lives on an international
scale. Brava Ladies! 

Children of Home of Korea located in Seoul, Korea   

“Children Spinning a Top Joyously,” quote from Lee
Myung Cha’s letter.

Letter of Thanks.jpg
Lee Myung Cha’s letter of thanks, (in Korean).

Letter of Thanks Translation.jpg
English translation of Lee Myung Cha’s letter.

April 18, 1883

On April 18, 1883 William Henderson, on behalf of the Chaffey Brothers, wrote a letter to E. F. Spence, the president of the Los Angeles Telephone Company. In the letter William Henderson expresses his displeasure regarding the telephone connections between San Bernardino, Colton, and Riverside. Apparently the Los Angeles Telephone Company is responsible for these telephone lines and they are inadequate. William Henderson claims that the “modern improvement has proved an aggravation rather than a convenience.” In fact, according to William Henderson, the time it takes to finally make a telephone call between San Bernardino and Riverside is actually longer than the time it takes to physically travel between these two cities. I will let you decide whether this is hyperbole in a pre-automotive age. The letter is steeped in disdain that verges on outright rudeness and it reminds me of “ye olde” customer service complaint. Towards the end of the letter, William Henderson claims that the telephone line is “the cause of more profanity than would sink a ship.” Unfortunately, I have found no record of what E. F. Spence’s response was to this letter. I can only imagine what he thought when he read the letter almost 150 years ago!

Finishing Naming Chaffey Letters

Hi all,

Today was my first day back at work after break, and I finished naming all the scans and transcripts from Chaffey letters book 2. As I was skimming transcripts to make sure they matched the scans and to record the relevant information in Excel, some interesting sentences caught my eye and made me think. For example, the brothers wrote a letter to “Wells and Fargo” about financial matters, and referenced “Proctor and Gamble,” in another. These are brands I come across in life today and it’s fascinating to see them talked about in letters from the late 1800s. It made me ponder how much they must have grown and transformed in the century that exists between myself and the Chaffeys.

The Chaffey brothers also wrote to San Bernadino County about a school district I believe they were trying to establish. I know there’s a Chaffey High School in Ontario now, so again I thought of the lasting presence of what these men wrote about. Furthermore, one letter mentioned that the brothers hoped to have a furniture factory, a drugstore, and a dentist in town soon, foreshadowing the expansion of the inland empire.

In January of 1884, William Henderson wrote to a business partner of the Chaffeys saying “a glorious rain has fallen… everything looks lovely.” Today’s forecast shows rain, too. I look forward to everything looking lovely.


Chaffey: The Banal to the Unusual

I’m back and furiously working on metadata for the infamous Chaffey
Letters. After nearly a month off I thought I would have forgotten
everything, but somehow I was able to jump right back in. Luckily I left myself
a note to remind me where I had left off and this Tuesday I was able to upload
20 documents onto the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. Today I started
creating metadata for 22 more letters written by or on behalf of the Chaffey brothers.
I’m up to my eyeballs in the Chaffey brothers, reading each letter quickly but
carefully so that I can concisely create metadata for each item uploaded onto
the digital library.

Some of the letters are quite dull and creating metadata for
these documents can be difficult. Some letters are short correspondences of a
couple lines that reference something banal like a check being deposited at a
bank with no additional context. The Chaffey brothers may have known what they
were referring to in 1883, but in 2018 I have no idea what to glean from that.
For each document I must compile a list of key terms as well as write a short
summary of each letter. If the letter is only a few vague sentences doing these
two tasks can be a stretch.

Other letters are quite interesting and provide much needed
relief when creating metadata on a large scale like this. One memorable letter
from this week regarded a boarding house in the San Antonio Canyon. The letter
was written by William Henderson, on behalf of the Chaffey brothers, to a man
who was interested in establishing a boarding house on Chaffey lands in the San
Antonio Canyon. William Henderson reported that the Chaffey brothers had no
problem as long as the boarding house did not serve liquor. He later adds, “From
what we are informed we believe your boarders would be of a highly respectable
class and of course we couldn’t permit none others to reside even temporarily
on our property.” The propriety of the letter tickled me, but besides my own
amusement at the letter’s strict morality, I think it is illustrative of a time
and place as well as the nature of the Chaffey brothers.

I’m happy to be back at Special Collections as a CLIR CCEPS Fellow and I’m looking forward to what other unusual letters (and other documents) I find along the way.