Ralph Pearce

Ralph Pearce's picture
Reading Interests: 
Biographies, Mysteries, Science Fiction, Philosophy, History
What I'm Reading Now: 
Specimen Days & Collect by Walt Whitman

Blogs by this Author

Photograph taken from the Plaza of the southern face of the main library building off Market Street and West San Fernando Street showing the side entrance into the west annex or Music Room
This month we are Looking Back at the San Jose Public Library's leadership throughout the years. Since the first library was founded in San Jose, numerous individuals have carried the responsibility of offering this crucial public service to the City of San Jose. Listed below are the names and tenure of those who led the library from its years as the San Jose Library Association to the end of the 20th century which laid the groundwork for the award winning library we love today. Of particular mention are: Edith Daley (Librarian, 1923-1943), Geraldine Nurney (Librarian, 1943-1970) and Homer Fletcher (Librarian,...Read more...
San Jose Library Association Trustees
This month, in light of our newest digital collection , the " San Jose Public Library Collection ," the California Room is Looking Back at the history of the San Jose Public Library system. The public library has grown in fits and starts. Although more recently, the library system has dramatically expanded, catering to a diverse community. The one-room "Free" San Jose Library opened on Post and Market Streets in 1880 with a book collection from the members-only San Jose Library Association. The Library Association had been a private lending library since 1872 where a patron could check out one...Read more...
podium in St. James Park
This year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Kennedy had announced his candidacy on March 16, 1968, and he spoke in San Jose’s St. James Park about a week later on March 23. According to the book, The Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke , Kennedy’s stop in San Jose, California was part of a ten-day, thirteen-state, cross-country trip that began in Alabama and Tennessee on March 21. The tour included stops in New York, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Indiana, and New Mexico. Kennedy's efforts in California culminated in his being shot in Los Angeles shortly...Read more...
Damage to the Dougherty and Louise buildings on Second and San Fernando after the 1906 earthquake
This month we are looking back at the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake in the City of San José. While the greatest casualties in the county were at Agnews State Hospital, the City of San José saw a great deal of destruction and loss of life that has largely been overshadowed by San Francisco's destruction. Overall, the city suffered $3,000,000 in property damage and lost 16 lives on that April 18th morning. How the city came through the disaster however, is this story's true significance. Like San Francisco’s experience in the 1906 earthquake, San José’s suffering was heightened by fires...Read more...
Agnews Asylum upon completion in 1888.
This week we are looking back at the Agnews State Hospital. The hospital is most famously known as the site of the greatest loss of life in Santa Clara County after the 1906 earthquake. Eleven officials and over one-hundred patients were crushed when the main treatment building collapsed. But the history of Agnews is more interesting than this grim memory. Agnews State Hospital, originally known as the “Great Asylum for the Insane,” finished construction in 1888 at a cost of around $750,000. Located in the area known at the time as Agnew Station, Agnews State Hospital was the premier California...Read more...
color postcard of downtown San Jose with Light Tower in background
San José's history is full of interesting stories and anecdotes. The story of the San José Electric Light Tower that spanned the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets until 1915 is no different. The electric tower has become a symbol of the city's past. The idea of the electric tower was conceived by James Jerome Owen. A resident of Santa Clara County since the 1860s, Owen was fascinated by the potential of electric lighting. As proprietor and editor of the San Jose Daily Mercury , Owen used his editorial page to advocate for his electric tower idea. In June,...Read more...
Blossoms in bloom
In the history of San José, before the tech growth and boom from the 1960s to the present, the most significant industry in the Santa Clara Valley was in agricultural products. While the agricultural and horticultural production of the valley was limited before American statehood (1850), by 1890 the valley had a total of 4,454,945 fruit trees, a doubling in only a decade. In 1915, the tally stood at some 7,829,677, a healthy 57% increase. Around the turn of the century, after a drought had damaged the valley's production and pride, an individual by the name of Edwin Sidney Williams...Read more...
Senator James D. Phelan's Villa Montalvo
Villa Montalvo is the former residence of California businessman and politician James Duval Phelan. Taken between 1915-1902, this photo illustrates the estate's grandeur, but also how little it has changed since its construction. Construction of this Mediterranean style mansion began in 1912, before James Phelan became the first popularly elected Senator from California. A prominant member of the fraternal organization, The Native Sons of the Golden West, Phelan's rise in politics came in part from his successful leadership as a progressive Mayor of San Francisco (in office Jan 4, 1897 - Jan, 7 1902). His reputation as a polititian assured...Read more...
A View of the Electric Light Tower
Interested in historic images of Santa Clara County? The San Jose Public Library's California Room and SJSU Special Collections and University Archives share a database of images from their collections. The King Library Digital Collections database offers a vast wealth of scanned and digitized images of Santa Clara Valley’s past that document the history of the Valley from its agricultural beginnings to a bustling metropolis. These images can be searched by keyword or by collection. Some selections include: Photographs of dusty Santa Clara Street , filled with horses, buggies and the inter-urban rail line Historic postcards of picturesque scenes around...Read more...