I first started getting interested in California history, and particularly the history of the East Bay and Oakland, when I was in college. One of my professors- the amazing Brian Shure- recognized my interest and loaned me a copy of a brochure he owned called California: Where Life is Better. Published in 1925 by "Californians, Inc.," the booklet advertises "authoritative information" about the superiority of our state over others. At the time I was blown away and tempted to steal Brian's copy to add to my own collection, but I am glad I didn't because yesterday I found my own copy at the vintage paper fair! The book is filled with charts advertising the number of "sunshiny" days in San Francisco versus other cities, the comparative wages for workers, acres of forest per capita, cost of electricity, etc., etc. and discusses in great detail the many benefits of living in such a wonderful place. Here is the introduction:
Why is a Californian such an astonishing phenomenon to the uninitiated and uncomprehending outlander? What vision have they seen that makes these Californians not merely contented citizens of a prosperous commonwealth, but missionaries, crusaders, impassioned bearers of glad tidings to the dwellers in less favored portions of America and of the world?
Often Eastern friends, irked by the monotonous paeans of praise sung by the residents of the land of sunshine and flowers, are moved to ask such questions as these. But they are never completely answered until the questioners themselves come to California. Then the mystery at once becomes plain...
A Californian is a person who has acquired a new scale of values, a new sense of life. Note that the most rhapsodic Californians are not necessarily Native Sons, but newcomers of one, two, or three years' residence. A Californian is a human being who, after years of struggle with a less bountiful Mother Nature, suddenly finds his fundamental adjustments to life eased, relaxed, rendered incomparably more pleasant and advantageous. If he is a particularly hard-bitten individual, if life elsewhere has treated him harshly, it may take as long as half a dozen years before he fully appreciates his improved estate. Then he begins to unbend. He is kinder, both to himself and to his neighbors. He discovers, often with a kind of naive bewilderment, what a fine and gracious thing life can be.Seeing California's fertile valleys pour forth their almost incredible abundance, he loses his distrust of life, and taps resources of confidence and enterprise that he scarcely knew he possessed. He dreams large romantic dreams and then sets to gaily and makes them come true before the eyes of an astonished world.
The Californians inherits a natural domain unparalleled in wealth and beauty. He is rich in all the essentials of life and rapidly growing richer. He is happy. He wants everybody to know about it. There is nothing very complicated about the Californian's psychology. He is merely showing the effects of an unaccustomed fullness of heart. And the strangest part about the gorgeous tales he tells, is that almost all of them are true.
The booklet goes on to discuss California's natural beauty and resources, our educational system, employment, etc., and also includes a section titled Breeding a Superior Race:
It is a fact, recently established beyond question by a report of the United States Children's Bureau, that California children grow to a greater weight and height for their ages than the average children of the United States. When these children reach college their promise is fulfilled, as is evidenced by the number of tennis, track, an football stars California has produced in recent years.
Amazing, right? I am going to be posting some of the other great ephemera I picked up over the next couple days, so stay tuned.