Treasures of The Society

Anonymous, Thomas  Drew, daguerreotype, c. 1850
Anonymous, Thomas
Drew, daguerreotype, c. 1850

Treasures of The Society of California Pioneers
September 14, 2005 – March 17, 2006

The collections of The Society of California Pioneers, formed beginning in the 1850s and predicated on the reigning mindset of growth and unlimited opportunity, provide a remarkable artistic and historical legacy that document a new civilization on the rise. The mission of the Society’s founding fathers was clear: to “cherish and nourish the objects contemplated in our organization,” in the words of former Society president Samuel Brannan. Thus, from its establishment in 1850, the Society was organized, at least in part, with the intention of forming a collection that would commemorate and portray the state’s founding and early history.

The Emmigrant's Guide to the Golden Land, G.A. Fleming, London, 1850
The Emmigrant’s Guide to the Golden Land, G.A. Fleming, London,1850

Despite this foresight, there appears never to have been a uniform collecting policy, and the collection grew haphazardly according to the tastes and generosity of its donors. On occasion, purchases were enabled by member contributions to an acquisition fund, and several major collections were acquired in this manner. As Pioneer families favored objects that recalled their own antecedents, the collection that developed is accordingly weighted more towards the earlier periods of California history, with a corresponding absence of art and artifacts from more recent decades. Within these limitations, however, the collection has begun to assume the appearance of a broad, balanced survey of California civilization, spanning the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century.

The Treasures of The Society of California Pioneers exhibits showcased some of the collections’ most exciting pieces, including portraits of early pioneers, the Lick Medal, and photographs of the Pioneer Building at Fourth and Market, among many others. The exhibition ran from September 14, 2005 to March 17, 2006.

~Gianna Capecci, Peter J. Flagg, Drew Heath Johnson, & Patricia Keats

Return to exhibitions page