Dr. Tiemann has devoted much of his spare time researching, reading and exploring archival materials about how banking emerged during the years both prior to as well as during the California Gold Rush. In the course of his research, he has dug deep into both the Huntington Library and the California Historical Society archives. Recently, his research and experience as a user of archival materials at the California Historical society was featured on the CHS website. They are seeking to provide readers with “a glimpse into the world of the CHS researcher.”
Every year hundreds of people—students, academics, writers, filmmakers, genealogists, historians and people simply interested in history—come to the North Baker Research Library at the California Historical Society looking for answers to their questions. They know that somewhere in the CHS vaults there may be a letter or a photograph that contains the information they are seeking, or a clue that will lead them to a new and perhaps different path.
Each week we will post a piece from a different writer about their experience—what they were seeking and, in particular, what they discovered. Without them, and without the thousands of manuscripts, photographs, maps, books, periodicals, and ephemera that make up the CHS collection, how many California histories would remain hidden, out of sight, and perhaps out of mind? We collect history so that each generation can examine and learn from these valuable primary sources.
As an introduction to publishing an article written by Dr. Tiemann about his work, Frances Kaplan, CHS Reference & Outreach Librarian wrote:
The North Baker Research Library at the California Historical Society, pre-Covid-19, has always been open to the public without appointment. Reference staff never really knew what each researcher would be looking for and what each day might bring. It was always exciting when something that had not been seen before was requested. With over 4000 manuscript collections in our holdings, this could easily happen. When Jonathan Tiemann came in to the library looking for materials related to banking during the Gold Rush, he uncovered rare documents that were new to both of us. He spent hours painstakingly photographing, enhancing, and transcribing handwritten business correspondence from an 1850 letterbook of James King of William, gathering clues from that—and other collections—until he was able to turn his findings in to articles, and his articles into a book project. I have to thank him for introducing me to this complicated chapter of California history.
To read Dr. Tiemann’s original article entitled “Golden Treasures at the North Baker Research Library,” and see official reproductions of some of the California Historical Society’s archival materials showing the archaic handwriting that Dr. Tiemann has worked to translate, click the link.