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This address by Caroline Wenzel opens with a detailed explanation of the workings of the California section of the State Library, then discusses the history of the Leland Stanford mansion in Sacramento.
Finding Facts about the Stanfords in the California State Library

An Address before the California Historical Society
Delivered at the Stanford Mansion in Sacramento
on June 16, 1940

Supervising Librarian, California Section,
California State Library

It is indeed a pleasure to have the privilege of speaking in such an historic setting to the members of the California Historical Society and their guests.

In my childhood days I frequently passed the Stanford home on my way to school and I often wished that I might enter the house and see with my own eyes the home in which Governor and Mrs. Stanford once entertained so lavishly, and especially did I want to see the room where young Leland was born. The house was not open to visitors then and, for some reason or other, I never had the courage to go up to the door and ask the good sister to let me enter. Once the kindly gardener made me happy by giving me some of the lovely violets that grew in such profusion in the yard. The place still interests me, and now, from the windows of the California Room of the Library I can point with pride to the historic house and tell visitors that they are welcome to visit the home during certain hours of the day, thanks to the hospitality of Sister Lucile and her staff.

I know that you are all interested in hearing something about the history of the house and the changes that have been made in it, but before speaking of this I want to tell something about the California Section of the State Library. After all, that is the only reason for my appearing before you, because you all know that I am better as a literary detective in the field of Californiana than as a public speaker.

The State Library was established in 1850, and the acquisition of California material actually began at that time. The California Section, however, was not organized as such until 1903. The Library, which was then housed in the State Capitol, had throughout its collection, books, magazines, and newspapers which were either printed in California or pertained to the State. The California Section was created by bringing together this scattered material as one collection. Since that time the resources of the department have been steadily increased and its usefulness extended until today it is known to collectors, research workers, and writers throughout the country.

In the California Room are located the rare and most important reference books and the various catalogues and indices maintained as special units of our work.

The staff of the California Section consists of two professional librarians, a newspaper indexer and two library aids. The work is highly specialized and entails much hard work both in and out of library hours, but if one is interested in it there is a glamour and thrill about it that is difficult to describe. We are a vital part of the community. Our public is interested chiefly in the early history and literature of our State, but there is also a wide interest in the history of its art, music, religion, politics, economics, agriculture and allied subjects, so we must have information easily available about material pertaining to these subjects and especially must we be alert to references to current California events and books.

The aim of the State Library is to provide supplementary material to the libraries of the State and to lend to individuals through their local libraries. We try to adhere to this policy, but in the case of writers and research workers, when we know that the material is not in book form and not available elsewhere, we sometimes send the information direct to the individual. This applies particularly to people outside of the State.

Original material, newspapers, certain periodicals, reference books, and books that would be difficult or impossible to replace do not leave the library. If an applicant is unable to come to Sacramento to obtain information from a newspaper or book that does not circulate, we make photostats to a limited extent at a nominal cost for designated items.

We do a limited amount of searching in newspapers for such items as births, marriages, deaths and biographical sketches, when we do not find references in the information file, and these articles, if not too lengthy, are typed free of charge. We are quite willing to extend this search to books and other sources when the question is a difficult and important one which the local librarian is not able to answer because of limited reference tools.

Requests sometimes come to us concerning subjects which would require more specialized research than we have the time to do. In such cases we suggest that the student himself come to the State Library, if possible, and do his research work here. This individual service is a very important part of our work, and we are always glad to make all material available and give every possible assistance.

The book collection includes books on the history and description, resources and industries of the State, as well as the works of California authors in all departments of literature. The work of our fine printers is also represented.

A unique feature of the California collection and one that we believe is as complete as any of its kind in existence is that of California fiction. Books with a California setting or by a California author are included in this group. Many of them are autographed and are the gift of the author. Since it has been found that no other class of literature disappears as rapidly as popular fiction, these books are kept as a representative collection of this type of literature through the various periods of the State's history.

The collection of county histories includes nearly all which have been published. These volumes, especially the early ones, contain much valuable biographical I and historical material and, supplemented by early directories and great registers of voters, they serve as useful reference tools, especially since the biographical sketches in county histories have been indexed in card form. The directories and great registers of voters are also valuable in helping to establish proof of citizenship and in verifying age and residence in this State, particularly for those needing proof for old age pension claims.

An interesting and valuable collection of California periodicals includes complete files of the Pioneer, the first magazine of importance published in the State, the Hesperian, the first magazine illustrated in color, and also complete files of the Overland, Hutchings, Californian and the Argonaut.

The manuscript collection consists of early mission documents, business papers, diaries, letters and reminiscences of pioneers, as well as biographical cards of California authors, artists, musicians, state officials, pioneers and early settlers. As no other material gives a better idea of the true character and spirit of the men and women who came to California, we have listed the letters both by the names of the person and by date, thus assuring the greatest possible use.

Several thousand pictures have been collected, portraying persons, places and events in California history.

A theatrical collection consisting of actors' photographs, playbills, programs, biographical information, manuscripts and printed copies of the work of California players is one of the special features of the department.

Aside from the very definite types of material already listed, there is much in the miscellaneous collection, including old account books, scrapbooks, early ballots and political dodgers, bookplates, sheet music, concert programs and the like.

Perhaps the California Section is better known for its unsurpassed collection of newspapers of the State than for anything else. The file begins with the first paper, the Californian, which started in Monterey on August 15, I846, and includes nearly every representative paper from that time until the present. Nearly all the early San Francisco papers, such as the California Star, the Alta California, the Herald and the Bulletin, as well as many northern papers, including the Placer Times, the Sacramento Union and the Sacramento Bee, are in the collection. These newspapers, now numbering over sixteen thousand volumes, are bound and shelved by counties in the specially constructed newspaper stacks and are listed in a card catalogue by title and locality. At the present time over two hundred California papers are received regularly and about ten from outside the State. Needless to say, these papers do not circulate.

One of the most useful tools in the department is a card index to California material found in California newspapers. The index covers the period from 1846 to date, and the entries, estimated at over five million, are chiefly from San Francisco papers with the exception of about thirty-five thousand cards which were indexed by Winfield Davis from the Sacramento Union. This index is of great assistance in locating sketches of California people and places and items of local historical interest. Frequently people come into the Library and tell us they understand that we have a subject index to all the newspapers published in California, but such is not the case. At the present time the San Francisco Chronicle is the only newspaper being indexed, and it takes the full time of the newspaper indexer to keep it up to date. Only California items are indexed, and legal notices and advertisements are not included.

In addition to the newspaper index and the general dictionary catalogue of California books, several other card catalogues are maintained in the California Room. The information catalogue consists of miscellaneous references to material that has been found in county histories, periodicals, directories, general books, etc. Entries to this index are being constantly added, thus widening its scope and increasing its value.

Perhaps I can best give you an idea of how this material is used by telling you of the assistance we were able to give to the citizens of Sacramento last year when the Centennial was celebrated. Much interest was aroused in the community. Stories of the pioneer days were recalled and old songs and dramas revived. A local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, published a guidebook, and a group of merchants sponsored a series of broadcasts featuring stories of local interest. Guests invited to many of the large balls and parties that were given were requested to wear costumes of the 1839 period, and we were kept busy advising them regarding the styles and furnishing photostatic copies of costumes to the dressmakers.

Some of the local citizens decided that it would be a good idea to assist in the work of renovating the old Stanford mansion and have it open for inspection during the Centennial celebration. This naturally aroused curiosity regarding the house and its early occupants. The public turned to the State Library for information.

Although the Stanfords were married in 1850, and Mr. Stanford came to California in 1857, it was not until 1855 that Mrs. Stanford came to make her home in Sacramento. At that time there was no suitable dwelling for rent, so they lived in a hotel until a small house on Second Street between O and P Streets became vacant. They furnished this house in a very frugal manner, and Mrs. Stanford did her own housekeeping.

Wealth and distinction came to the Stanfords during their stay in Sacramento. It was here, at 54 K Street, that the Big Four–Stanford, Crocker, Huntington and Hopkins–conceived and carried into successful execution the daring scheme of building a transcontinental railroad. Also very important to us is the fact that these same men were all charter life members of the Sacramento Library Association, which later became the Sacramento Public Library.

The Stanfords entertained frequently in the days of their growing wealth and growing popularity. Yet for all their prominence, only brief mention is to be found in books of the home life of the Stanfords during their residence in Sacramento. Considering the vast amount of material that has been published about them this is rather surprising. After exhausting the references in our indexes we found it necessary to make a diligent search of newspapers, directories, county records, etc., for information.

The first item we located read as follows:

GUBERNATORIAL MANSION.-Leland Stanford purchased yesterday of S. C. Fogus the house and lot on the southeast corner of Eighth and N streets, for the sum of $8,000. The property consists of two full lots– a quarter of a block–with a two-story brick dwelling house, finished in a costly manner inside and out, with addition of frame building, brick stable, fruit trees, shrubbery, etc., surrounding it.
The article appeared in the Sacramento Union of July 12, 1861, and the caption "GUBERNATORIAL MANSION" is optimistic, to say the least, because Stanford, though nominated for governor on June 19th of that year, was not elected until September 4.

From the records in the assessor's office it was found that the house was originally built between the years 1857 and 1858 by Shelton C. Fogus, a wholesale merchant and one time city councilman of Sacramento. It was sold to Stanford for less than the 1858 assessed valuation.

In 1872, just after the mansion had been renovated, the assessment against Stanford included $45,000 for improvements and $1,000 for a library. In addition to his other assessments there was listed against him the following personal property: 11 vehicles, $3,000; 12 mares, $3,500; 4 horses, $1,500; 1 horse [probably "Occident"], $20,000; 2 colts, $150, and 2 cows, $100.

The following description of the mansion by Colonel James Lloyd La Fayette Warren, who restored the grounds after the flood, appeared in the California Farmer of July 4, 1862:

...The mansion itself can be said to be the most perfect specimen of a residence in this State, the main building is 46 by 40, with a wing in the rear of 20 feet by 31. another wing to which is attached the Governor's office, is 32 feet by 18. The office of the Governor is furnished with reference to convenience of business, yet with taste and neatness. it contains the department for clerks and his private office, the whole complete in itself, easily communicating with his dwelling. The whole design forms a unique and faultless structure.

The saloons on each side of the hall occupy the whole size of the building, and are lofty and elegant, being 16 feet high. The side centers are ornamented with chaste Corinthian columns and caps, with architraves over the doors, these, with rich central ornaments of pure white for the chandeliers, make a fine contrast to the oak-grained wood-work, and give to the whole an elegant appearance. The chambers, also, are the entire size of the building, but making four in number, are 14 feet high, furnished perfectly, with blinds and shades so as to control both heat and light.

The mansion, to the view, is lofty, having a heavy rich cornice and coping for each window and ornaments under the cornice. [Parenthetically let me say that on each of the ornamented windows the head of a man is carved, and up to the present time we have not been able to determine who is represented. I throw this out as a challenge to the historians gathered here.] The front entrance is furnished with Corinthian columns and caps. The outside of the building (being of brick, with extra solid foundations) is finished in blocks and painted a delicate stone color; cornices and copings a lead color, which present a soft yet delicate tint. Yet the whole is much more beautiful in its natural view, than any illustrations can make it....

In front of the mansion a noble liberty pole, 116 feet high, was raised, and from its point waved the Stars and Stripes–a banner 30 feet long.

Beautiful gardens surrounded the building, but they were destroyed by the flood of 1861-62.

It was owing to this flood that the inauguration ceremonies incidental to Stanford's assuming the office of governor were made as brief as possible.

On January 10, 1862, the day of the inauguration, flood waters swept Sacramento. The Governor-elect went to the capitol, at that time on I Street at Seventh, in a row boat, and when he returned home a few hours later, the water was so deep, he had to enter the house through a second story window. In those days the house that now stands three stories high was but two. It was not until ten years later that the building was raised and what is now the ground floor placed beneath.

Ella Sterling Mighels, who knew the Governor as a tiny child, once wrote that her father said that the waters rose and surrounded the house, and everyone left the city who could. Governor Stanford's mansion was abandoned. But in the midst of the worries of everybody, there was seen a poor cow in the drawing room of the mansion, with her head sticking out of the window and mooing incessantly for help. finally a boat went up alongside and pitched in some hay for her and she settled down peacefully in her headquarters.

The story has been told that the piano was floating about in the reception room on the lower floor. Being a bit skeptical about this story, we tried to verify it in contemporary papers, but were not able to do so. However, we did find one article that stated that the piano in the parlor of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, though perched on chairs, was soaked and probably rendered worthless, and that the pictures in the parlor of the new Governor were spoiled.

Mrs. Stanford actively participated in the social affairs of Sacramento, and in an article in the San Francisco Alta California, of February 23, 1863, we find a notice which states that ladies will be interested to understand a new rule of etiquette lately decreed by Mrs. Governor Stanford, with the concurrence of the wives of various officials of the city. This rule was that Mrs. Stanford would expect the first call from ladies visiting Sacramento. This rule had become a matter of necessity because so many wives of members of the legislature came to the capital to spend a few days, and the Governor's wife would like to call upon them, but she did not know when they were in the city or where they stopped. Evidently there was objection to this new procedure, because the article explained in great length that it was based on a rule well established in Washington and other places.

We found that many notables were entertained in this house during the time the Stanfords lived here.

William H. Seward and party were guests overnight on August 24, 1870, President Hayes, the first President of the United States who during his term of office found time and inclination to visit such a remote part of the republic as California, was the guest of Leland Stanford in September 1880. He was accompanied by Mrs. Hayes, Secretary of War Alexander Ramsey, and General William T. Sherman. A reporter for the Sacramento Daily Record- Union tells us that when the first carriage arrived at the front entrance of the Stanford residence, which had been fitted up for the occasion, Governor Stanford ran nimbly down the steps and himself opened the carriage door and handed out the occupants. After a few hurried words of welcome he drew Mrs. Hayes's arm within his own, led her upstairs, and in the absence of Mrs. Stanford, who was in Europe, installed her as hostess of the mansion. At this juncture, General Sherman and the President again descended the steps, walked out of the front gate, and shook hands with the boys of Sumner Post, conversing with each for a moment. The day was observed as a general holiday.

The most brilliant affair that occurred was the magnificent ball given in February 1872, in honor of Governor Newton Booth and the members of the legislature. A San Francisco newspaper sent a special reporter to the party, and a three-column description was telegraphed to the paper. The headlines would have captured the fancy of a Hollywood producer of today.

The party was given just after the mansion had been thoroughly renovated, the house had been raised, a lower floor and mansard roof constructed, additional wings built, and altogether its appearance radically changed.

In order that you may visualize the home as it was at that time, I will read, with your permission, excerpts from the description that appeared in the Chronicle of February 7, 1872.

...It [the mansion] contains forty-four rooms, all most elaborately and luxuriously furnished and fitted up. Good taste and cultured imaginations have been exhausted in furnishing the establishment. Magnificent and costly furniture in every room; lace curtains of the finest fabric; carpets that receive with noiseless tread the footfall; frescoes beautiful in design and exquisite in artistic perfection, adorn the wars and ceiling. Large bouquets of natural flowers are placed in every room, and their fragrance perfumes the air. Added to these are numerous baskets of artificial flowers, pendent from which artificial birds warble forth the rarest music, imitating canaries and other sweet singers. These artificial birds are an ingenious piece of mechanism, winding up like a clock. It requires an expert to say that they are not live birds. The bedroom and adjacent apartment in which the supper is served present a most inviting appearance. For each guest there are six different wine glasses. The entire service, from napkin-rings to centerpieces, is of solid silver, all being entirely new. There is room for 200 guests at a sitting. [From] the sidewalk to the grand entrance of the mansion is a waterproof canopy. Ladies descending from carriages are thus protected from rain, and an elegant carpet adds to the comfort. Everything is on a scale of unsurpassed magnificence.

Seven hundred invitations were issued by the hospitable Stanfords, principally to their friends and acquaintances, who were asked to come and make themselves it home. Of these five hundred were issued to friends in Sacramento; the others to those in San Francisco....

On entering the mansion of the Stanfords the guests were escorted upstairs, where appropriate dressing rooms had being prepared wherein the ladies could prepare themselves for the general muster and the gentlemen give their claw-hammers the last graceful touch. Being so prepared, and everything in apple-pie order, the guests descend. In the parlors to the right as you enter Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford receive their guests. The Governor looks pleasant, and has a hearty greeting for all his friends. Mrs. Stanford looks radiant, and feels happy at the idea that this, her grand reception, is a grand success in every sense of the word. She has pleasant words for the ladies and vies with the Governor in exchanging compliments. The guests then pass on to the other apartments.

The disciples of Terpsichore soon find where they can worship at their favored shrine. Church & Clark of Sacramento furnish the music. Seven pieces are stationed in the parlors to the left which connect with a large hall 30 by 86. The parlors are 20 by 50. The second band is stationed on the lower floor in the hall beneath the main upper hall. This lower hall is also 30 by 86. This gives, according to our hurried mathematics, 6,000 square feet of space covered with the tireless dancers....

For those of you who might be interested in knowing about the order of dances, the menu, the names of those present, and a description of the gowns worn by the ladies, a photostatic copy of the Chronicle article is on display in an exhibition case in the State Library. Mayhap one of you will find the name of a member of your family among the list of guests.

It was in this house that Leland Stanford, Jr., was born on a sunny day in May 1868. This to both Mr. and Mrs. Stanford was the crowning event of their lives. They had been married eighteen years and had not before been blessed with a child.

You are all familiar with the story told by Bertha Berner in her biography of Mrs. Leland Stanford, that shortly before the birth of young Leland Mr. and Mrs. Stanford and a group of friends were enjoying a tea party out of doors on the front veranda. Mrs. Stanford, sitting in a rocking chair, overbalanced and tipped off the porch into a flowering bush. Her husband was stunned, but Mrs. Stanford was rescued without mishap and laughingly assured them that she was not hurt in the least."

Miss Berner also tells this story:

When the baby was only a few weeks old, Mr. Stanford asked Mrs. Stanford to arrange a dinner party for a group of their particular friends. It was a large party, and when they were seated the waiter brought in a large silver platter with a cover and placed it in the center of the table. Mrs. Stanford was very much surprised, for she had planned nothing of the sort and also had not seen the platter before. Then Mr. Stanford arose and said, "My friends, I wish now to introduce my son to you!" When the cover of the silver dish was lifted, the baby was discovered lying in it on blossoms. He was carried around the table and shown to each guest. He was smiling, and went through introduction very nicely.
The platter, beautifully engraved, now reposes on the sideboard with other pieces of an elaborate silver service.

Leland Stanford, JuniorMrs. Mighels recalled memories of Mrs. Stanford driving with her mother and sister, Miss Lathrop, and said that when the little boy was taken along, he looked like a baby prince, he was so bedecked and so cherished, as if he were more than an ordinary child. He had dark eyes and resembled his mother and his aunt more than his father. As he grew, he was very fond of playing at railroading, so a track was built for him and he was given a little car to run on it.

The son was six years of age when the family moved to San Francisco. His death in Florence, Italy, at the age of sixteen, was the cause of great grief to his parents.

Mr. Stanford's beloved mother lived with them for a time and died here in February 1873.

When the Stanfords moved to San Francisco in 1874 they left the home in Sacramento completely furnished. Mrs. Stanford always kept a very warm spot in her heart for Sacramento and frequently remembered the city with generous gifts in later years. On February 7, 1888, she sent a check from Washington, D.C. for the Protestant Orphan Asylum. On April 25, 1890, in keeping with her creedless religious ideals, she sent $1,000 to the mayor with the request that the sum be distributed among the more worthy charities of the city. That same year she had placed in St. Paul's Episcopal Church a magnificent memorial window of stained glass, said to be at that time the most costly in this country or Europe. A few years later she presented to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament a magnificent painting of Raphael's Sistine Madonna, copied by permission from the Royal Gallery in Dresden. She also contributed a sum of money to assist in the purchase of Sutter's Fort.

On April 18, 1900, she came to Sacramento to make a final disposal of the mansion where her happiest days had been spent and her loved son born. For twenty years this home had been unoccupied, save for a solitary caretaker who had served in that capacity since Senator and Mrs. Stanford had removed to San Francisco. Before leaving for a prolonged stay in Europe, Mrs. Stanford wished to safeguard for all time the cherished place and its sacred memories. Money could not buy the "old home," and love forbade that it should ever be given over to profane use. Therefore, she offered to the Most Reverend Thomas Grace, Bishop of Sacramento, and his successors in the bishopric, forever, the home, together with an endowment of $75,000. The Bishop, honoring the charity and lovable intentions of Mrs. Stanford, accepted the gift, and promised that the hallowed spot should be preserved according to her wishes.

When going through the building you will notice evidence of the railroad builders interest. Two crystal light shades on a chandelier in the banquet room remain of all those that bore etched designs of an engine resembling the famed "C. P. Huntington." Again, the railroad design appears in Stanford's own glass enclosed bookcase. At the top, the engine and one car are carved, and the initial "S" appear on both frosted glass doors of the case.

In conclusion, may I say that we are still seeking information about the Stanfords. No doubt, there are invitations, photographs, original letters, etc., concerning them in the possession of individuals. It is our earnest hope that this material will be brought to the attention of the Library or the Historical Society in order that the information may be made available to future historians.

California Historical Society Quarterly
September 1940
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