Martinez adobeThe California and the West Study Group is sponsoring an event on September 30th open to the whole Institute membership.  We will be attending a fandango in Martinez at the historic Martinez adobe, with a number of added inducements. The fandango, a traditional community dance, has been organized by a group that sings historic Californio songs and also plays for dancing, Los Arribeños.  At the fandango, the group will teach a few of the dances and songs for anyone who would like to try.  This is a public event attended by all ages, as befits the original fandangos of the era (roughly 1815–1848). Observers are also welcome.

Institute members will have a mid-afternoon talk by Lance Beeson, director of the group, about the elements and sources of the music, how he got interested and put his group together, and some history of the era.  There will be Q and A. At about 5 pm we will adjourn to one of the many Mexican restaurants in Martinez. We will return for the fandango about 6:30.  The event lasts until dark, but Institute members may of course leave whenever individual carpools decide.

Admission to the adobe and the Muir house are free at all times.  There is also no charge for the fandango.  Mr. Beeson is being paid by the Institute, so there is no charge for his lecture.  However, members will pay for their own dinners, although we will make a group reservation to make sure we can be accommodated.

martinez_adobe_small_plaque_thumbThe 1849 Vicente Martinez Adobe is on the property of the John Muir National Historic Site.  Although seeing John Muir’s mansion is not part of our “official” program, interested members could certainly visit the residence before the talk, which will start about 3:30.

If you plan to attend—and especially if you want to be in on the dinner reservation—please email Jody Offer by September 23rd.

It’s Mini-Grant Time!

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 5.42.41 PMThe Institute Board of Directors is pleased to announce the Mini-Grant Program for 2017-18. The deadline for this year’s application is September 15. The Mini-Grant Committee will examine the applications and report its decisions to the Board, which will have the final say. Checks will be issued by October 15.

The purpose of the program is to assist Institute members in good standing to complete worthy, sound and original projects of historical scholarship. Past mini-grants have been used to pay for duplicating, translation, travel, and conference registration, but are not limited to these uses. The size of mini-grants varies, but usually they are in the range of $500 to $750.

For more information, see Information for Mini-Grant Applicants. Download the application form here.

Mother Lode Trip, Sept. 23–25, 2016

Angelo Rossi family store, Volcano, CA, early 1878. The bundle of white in Maddalena Quirolo Rossi’s arms is her infant son, Angelo J. Rossi, future mayor of San Francisco. (from original tintype, courtesy Rose Marie Cleese)

Angelo Rossi family store, Volcano, CA, early 1878. The bundle of white in Maddalena Quirolo Rossi’s arms is her infant son, Angelo J. Rossi, future mayor of San Francisco (from original tintype, courtesy Rose Marie Cleese).

Members of the Institute, along with members of the Italian-American Studies Association, had a fabulous history trip to the heart of California’s Gold Country the weekend of September 23–25, 2016.

Thank you to Rose Marie Cleese for organizing it! For a report on the weekend, see our Fall 2016 newsletter.

History of Art Venues in Berkeley

It’s Mini-Grant Time!

Annual Meeting New Member Presentations

Report on San Francisco Main Library Tour

SFPL Tour 1/31/15

Public Program: World War I Films

Local History Field Trips for 2015

Report on Richmond Waterfront Field Trip

Report on Los Gatos Field Trip

Los Gatos Field Trip

History Expo

Visit to Juana Briones Exhibition

Report on Archives Program

Public Program on Archives, October 10

Annual Potluck, September 7

Trip to Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

World Map, Thomas Cavendish, 1707


Native American Encampment on Lake Huron, Paul Kane (1810-1871)


The Old Plantation​, ca. 1790, attr. to John Rose


The Unicorn is Found


Companions, Claude Raguet Hirst (1855-1942)

Companions, Claude Raguet Hirst (1855-1942)

Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay, Fortunato Arriola (1827-1872)

Golden Gate

Vallejo Outing April 13, 2013

2012 Annual Dinner Lecture Report

Member News

Welcome to our newest members, Gail Greene and Ernest Hook.

Steven Levi is working on his 8th book of creating thinking.  Using history as his guide, his work Off the Wall Thinking illustrates how off-the-wall ideas which were greeted with jeers when introduced have sometimes changed the world. Some of the ideas include toilet paper, braille, “creative equivocation” and other concepts.  This will be Levi’s 82nd book.  His next mystery novel, The Matter of the Dematerializing Armored Car, will be out in time for  Christmas.

Dot Brovarney is publishing a book this fall called The Sweet Life: Cherry Stories from Butler Ranch. Besides editing the collection of stories and photographs, she has provided historical context to the book about a cherry ranch in the hills west of Ukiah. At the center of The Sweet Life stand longtime owners George and Ella Butler, who through their u-pick orchard and a generosity of spirit created a unique sense of community in Mendocino County for over sixty years.

With mention of a body of work including her newest book, Framed by Sea & Sky: Community Art in Seward, Mural Capital of Alaska, and noting that she “meticulously collects, records, and shares the stories of the people, history and culture of Seward through her research, presentations, and publications,” Jackie Pels (Hardscratch Press) has received the 2017 Historic Preservation Award in her hometown of Seward, Alaska. She says she is most pleased by that word “meticulously.”

Ann Harlow has been elected president of the Berkeley Historical Society and continues to serve as editor of its quarterly newsletter (as well as copy editor of our newsletter, the newsletters of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, and the magazine American Art Review).

Monika Trobits will be teaching her third course for San Francisco State’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), beginning in late August. “‘San Francisco Urban Journeys’ will consist of 5 walking tours exploring the Embarcadero, the Haight, Civic Center, and Russian Hill. These journeys will begin at 10 a.m. the week of August 21, on either Monday or Wednesday (the course schedule is still being worked out). For more information and to register: (415) 817-4243 or” “Meanwhile,” she writes, “I continue to fine tune my second book for publication in late 2017 or early 2018. This one will trace the story of a commodity in the San Francisco Bay Area from the gold rush era to the present day.”

On June 24, the City of Sonoma unveiled a fullscale bronze statue of city-founder General Mariano Vallejo portrayed sitting on a bench in the central Plaza. Peter Meyerhof was one of the seven-member committee of citizens which planned all aspects of this monument, hired the skilled artist Jim Callahan to fabricate it, and raised the necessary funds entirely from private donations. This interactive creation was given to the city at a dedication ceremony attended by approximately 300 people. Because of General Vallejo’s historically invaluable memoirs, Peter made sure that he was depicted holding a book entitled Recuerdos.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to

Contact Us

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P.O. Box 5743
Berkeley, CA 94705

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California and the West Events


Saturday, September 30, Martinez
California and the West history outing to a "Californio Fandango" at the Martinez Adobe at the John Muir National Historic Site.

Saturday, October 21, home of Jody Offer, Oakland
California and the West planning meeting for 2018

Wednesday, November 15, 7:00 p.m., Merced Branch of the San Francisco Public Library
Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”
 by a panel of four, including Institute members Rob Robbins and Maria Sakovich.


Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

We Promote:
  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history


About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 


Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

Friday, October 27, 1 p.m., home of Nancy Zinn, San Francisco

Breaking the Code, by Hugh Whitemore

Public Programs

Public programs usually occur once or twice a year and have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives.


Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, September 10, 1:30 p.m., home of Celeste MacLeod
Passages from Celeste's book about Fanny Trollope

Next Medieval Studies Meeting:
To be announced. Please contact Lyn Reese for date, time and location.