Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The sale price of choice individual houses in Coronado can take your breath away. But think about the days when you could buy the entire island for far less than the cost of the cheapest condo in town. The sale of Coronado to Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story is legendary, but ownership had changed multiple times before that. It all started with the last Mexican Governor of Alta California, Pio Pico, who owned the San Diego island as part of a land grant. He set off a chain reaction of sales and purchases after he gave the "Peninsula of San Diego" as it was then called, to Pedro Carillo as a wedding present. Carillo sold it after only a few months of ownership. The record of those various sales and buyers is traced in the very rare and original draft documents currently loaned to the Coronado Public Library. The loan of this archive is made possible through Ralph Bowman, a long established dealer in rare paper documents and historical memorabilia.

The list of owners of Coronado may seem like a list of characters from a Dickens novel; Bezer Simmons; Archibald Peachy; Henry Chauncey, et al, a seeming random list of names without local historical resonance. Yet their back-story is as colorful as any fictional character, and in reality, their stories are intertwined with the birth of the state of California.

Coronado didn't have a name back in 1849. It was just called The Island or The Peninsula of San Diego. Before the big dreamers came, there wasn't much commercial value in Coronado. There were rancheros that were much bigger, and its waters were too shallow for shipping. Carillo sold the island in 1846  to Bezer Simmons, a whaling ship captain living in Maine, for 1000 dollars in silver. Simmons had visited Coronado, or The Peninsula, as did many whalers, when they used the shallow "Whaler's Bight" to careen their ships in order to repair and clean the ship's hulls during low tide.The Bay, as attested to by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast, was also navigated by trading ships coming to get cow hides from the Mission de Alcala, in what was to become San Diego.

The Mexican-American War was being fought then, and Mexico ceded Alta California to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo in 1848, just before gold was discovered at Sutter's Creek.

During the gold rush in 1849 there were expectations that California would become a state. While  Coronado (still called "The Peninsula") didn't seem to have many prospects, its location at the entry to the Bay of San Diego made it of potential interest to the U.S Army as a fort, guarding the bay entry along with the old Spanish fort in Point Loma.  In these early documents, Coronado was denoted as consisting of "two square leagues" of land, "more or less."

Frederick Billings and Archibald Peachy, named on the 1850 deed, were the principal law partners in HBP in San Francisco, along with Henry Halleck. Billings also happened to be Bezer Simmons' brother-in-law. Simmons, his younger wife Laura, and her brother Frederick Billings had made the arduous trek from New England to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, travelling by ship down the eastern coast and across land at Panama. Laura died soon after reaching San Francisco, from a fever caught in Panama, probably the first woman casualty of the California Gold Rush. Billings met Archibald Peachy in San Francisco, a fellow lawyer. In the wild days of San Francisco they had both been deputized to guard a jail against the local Vigilantes, by no less than future Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, then in command of the California State Militia. Frederick Billings and Archibald Peachy had become principal law partners in San Francisco, along with Henry Halleck. Halleck had been a fellow lieutenant with Sherman during the Mexican-American War. Their law firm specialized in the tricky but booming business of establishing legal land ownership claims during the transition from Mexican to American laws. Their other specialty was settling suits in mining claims, an even more booming specialty. Indeed, both Billings and Peachy had represented John Sutter (of Sutter's Creek) in different mining claim suits. The partners also made money from having bought the biggest commercial building in San Francisco, the Montgomery Block, where they hired George Granniss to manage the rentals.

Despite his nerdy name, Archibald Peachy was a tall, good-looking Southern aristocrat. He was fond of dueling whenever his name was impugned, a habit he started in college. He dueled with his friend James Blain in 1852, where he prevailed. Much later in 1879 when he had become nearly blind, he challenged California Supreme Court Justice David Terry to a duel, but Terry declined.

Bezer Simmons never prospered in San Francisco. He got deeper in debt and died in 1850, just after transferring full ownership of Coronado to Billings and Peachy to settle his debts.

The land title abstract shows various transactions of sales of portions of Coronado from Billings, and Peachy to various partners. The transaction that Coronado history sources mentions the most is the 1885 sale, where Elisha Babcock, Hampton Story, and Jacob Greundike (soon to leave the partnership) buy all of Coronado ("The Peninsula") for $110,000.

By then, Archibald Peachy had served in the California Assembly and in the California Senate, Frederick Billings eventually returned to his native Vermont, where he became active in the University of Vermont and in the conservation movement. His interest in the academic world is reflected in having indirectly suggested the name of Berkeley be given to the University of California.

Of course Babcock and Story had big plans to build a resort hotel, the Hotel del Coronado, and to develop most of the rest of Coronado into housing and business lots. The name of Coronado itself was decided upon by Babcock and Story. Although they had several names that came in through a naming contest, they ended up giving the Peninsula the name Coronado, after the Coronado Islands (Los Cuatro Coronados) off the coast of northern Baja California. The name was modified in various promotional documents as Coronado Beach, considered a more picturesque name in helping sell lots.

One of the documents in this collection is the folded map shown below. This street map was used for a sales prospectus in 1886-1887. The map shows the original Spanish Bight dividing North Island from the village. This same street map was used with minor modifications through the 1930s.  The Spanish Bight was filled in as the North Island Naval Air Base expanded in the late 1930s.

Included in this Coronado archive are various drafts that notaries (historically notaries served as title lawyers) used in preparing the legal documents to transfer ownership of Coronado. in parts or as a whole. These documents could be considered like the manuscript that an author prepared before typing and sending the completed book manuscript to the publisher.

The later drafts specifically mention the Coronado Beach Company, the corporate name of the partnership that developed the Hotel del Coronado and sold lots in Coronado. 

Such documents as are part of this archive provide a larger window in which to see the beginning of Coronado in the 19th century. Much has changed in the world, and especially in Coronado, since they were written. It is amazing that these fragile founding documents survive at all. It would be a blessing to have this loaned archive return to Coronado on a permanent basis.

Written by Christian Esquevin

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The traditional world of book publishing has been broken, and we are now trying to figure out how to fit in to this Brave New World. Publishing companies are no longer the independent imprints that literary America grew up with. Publishers such as Viking Press, Harper & Brothers, Doubleday, Scribner & Sons, Houghtin-Mifflin, Harcourt,  and Knopf, publishers of the great American novels, fiction and quality non-fiction, have all been swallowed by conglomerates. 

These publishers are becoming part of ever larger conglomerates – Random House, which has consolidated Knopf, Crown, Dial Press, Doubleday, Dell, Ballantine, and Delacorte, is now owned by the German company Bertelsman. Penguin consolidated the publishers Dutton, G.P. Putnam, Viking Press, and Grosset & Dunlap. Penguin is owned by Pearson, an English company. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns HarperCollins, and Macmillan (who consolidated Henry Holt, Little, Brown and St. Martin’s) is owned by Holtzbrink of Germany.  Simon & Schuster is a division of CBS. And now the two publishing giants  Bertelsman and Pearson will merge.

While the conglomerates play a game of thrones, readers, authors, book sellers and libraries are buffeted by strong winds of change, winds that are clearing the decks of many players. Although change has been occurring for years in the publishing and retail sectors, the advent of ebooks has added gunpowder to the mix. Ebooks in 2012 accounted for 23% of book sales. and of the 250,000 or so self-published books, a majority of these are now self-published ebooks. With the Barnes & Noble Nook, 25% of sales are from self-published ebooks. Over at Amazon, which has 65% of the ebook market, it is estimated that 30% of ebook sales are those from self-published authors. This represents a huge evolutionary step in self-publishing.

This phenomenon has helped many authors, and may also help libraries in the future. As it stands, the major publishers have been reluctant to "sell" ebooks to libraries. They have changed the rules of the game under which libraries and publishers have operated for 200 years. Although ebooks sell cheaply through Amazon and other sellers, the publishers charge libraries  three or four times retail for their ebooks, and they add other restrictions like the number of times libraries can check out an ebook before libraries are obligated to "buy" another one. As for authors, most writers routinely have their manuscript submissions rejected. Of those that are picked up, only a small percentage make a decent advance or regular royalties. Now with the relative ease of self-publishing electronically, authors are by-passing publishers altogether. 

Of the 250,000 or so self-published books ( a conservative estimate), a majority of these are now self-published ebooks.  The average price for an e-book is now below $8, with many in the $1.99 and $2.99 bracket. Amazon offers its Kindle Direct Publishing service for self-publishing, and Smashwords offers another self-publishing service for authors. The total number of ebooks, self-published or otherwise, will continue to grow.

"Buying" ebooks is actually a misnomer. Libraries (and the public) only lease ebooks. The normal written agreement when obtaining an ebook, spelled out in very long and not very clear legal language, states clearly the terms of this arrangement. Perhaps this may come as a bit of a surprise, but you can't re-sell your ebook as you could re-sell your printed book. The legal doctrine of "first sale," after which you (or libraries) could sell, loan, or exchange books does not apply to digital properties under new copyright laws. Thus the restrictions for libraries on the number of loans.

Behind the scenes, the road to ebook sales by the big six publishers has been bumpy. The publishers wanted to combat Amazon's selling of ebooks at less than what it was buying them for - a practice the publishers thought would erode their sales and revenues. When Apple planned  to launch its iPad, it reportedly convinced five of the six big publishing conglomerates (Penguin, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette) to set up an “agency model” for ebook sales. With this model, Apple would allow the publishers to set whatever price they wanted, as long as Apple got a 30 percent commission. And because publishers had to offer the same contract to all “like” retailers this would apply to Apple and Amazon. The publishers accordingly demanded that Amazon raise its prices. Amazon wasn't happy, so it most likely blew the whistle to the feds. The issue was that if Apple and the publishers had agreed to set a price, this was illegal. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Justice  filed an anti-trust lawsuit  against Apple and the five publishers, alleging price fixing. The publishers one by one decided to settle rather than to fight this battle in court, and ebook prices dropped back down.

Meanwhile, three bookstores have filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon. In the suit the stores claim they are filing the complaint “on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated brick and mortar bookstores.” The stores are making the claim that Amazon holds a monopoly on e-book sales in this country, maintained in part by their use of a proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management) format, and that the big six publishers are complicit with Amazon in establishing contractual terms by which those DRM-based ebooks are sold exclusively through Amazon. Their lawyer stated, “We are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders.” This essentially means than having ebooks for sale that aren't restricted to one particular brand of electronic reader like the Kindle.

With reduced profit from the sale of ebooks, some publishers are deciding to get in the game of selling their services to aspiring authors. Penguin now has Author Solutions, a separate entity that sells self-publishing services like marketing, publicity, and even publishing of your book - all for a healthy price. And at Random House, its science fiction imprint Hydra decided to do away with author advances (an initial payment to authors in advance of royalties collected). In this plan, Hydra stated that authors and publishers would share the risk in producing a book and would share in the proceeds. Hydra would take the first cut of the profits to cover its costs and the rest would be split between the author and publisher. After the Science Fiction Writers of America loudly complained, and a shower of criticism was made by authors, the plan was  dropped.

Coming along with the increasing numbers of ebooks, and becoming an increasing problem with print books, is how do you discover what is out there and available? Looking for a particular author's book is simple enough, but when you search for new books by topic or subject through a device, how long will your patience last before you just settle on the first few scrolls? With fewer brick -and-mortar bookstores, how do you browse for or find a book serendipitously? Publishers are finding this to be a problem. Discoverability is the name of the game for where and how books and ebooks (or any information sources), are placed in front of a searcher's eyeballs. This will become an increasingly important function for libraries.

With books increasingly becoming digital ebooks, and libraries unable to own them, what will the long term scenario be for archiving books? Paradoxically, the relative ease of preserving digital files will be contrasted by the lack of this being done by anybody. Publishers don't have the mission of preserving even their own printed books, will they care about ebooks that never sold well? The books that Google has digitized over the years, along with research libraries, are print books, not ebooks. Will self-published authors preserve their own works for the long run? Will archaeologists of the future be digging up old e-readers in the hopes of extracting some lost ebooks? The copyright issue is making all these trends murky.

The good news is that digital technology is making it possible for libraries to make easily accessible a variety of special collection documents and photographs, including the contents of historic local newspapers. The Coronado Public Library has its own plans to deploy the Coronado PhotoAtlas project and to digitize over one-hundred years of Coronado newspapers.  And we do provide ebooks through the Coronado Library/Serra Library Cooperative Overdrive platform.

Another renaissance is coming for libraries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Maps for getting around can be produced in an instant these days, on computers, tablets or mobile devices. And many cars have their own GPS navigation systems. Printed road maps are still plentiful in car bins or side pockets, and occasionally the older ones are bought out of nostalgia. Yet producing the maps of 150 years ago or more took major expeditions and even an Act of Congress. The maps and charts shown or described below, in the Coronado Public Library's collections, are no longer needed to determine your roads or navigate your route, but they are fascinating glimpses into a very changing, and much changed, American landscape. They show the proposed routes of the transcontinental railroad, the tentative boundary line between the United States and Mexico, the wagon roads from El Paso to San Diego, the entrance to the San Diego Bay, and how Coronado looked when there was still water that divided most of it from North Island.

The map and chart above is reproduced in the book Maps of the Pueblo Lands of San Diego, by Neal Harlow and published by the Dawson's Book Shop in 1987. This map from 1782 is based on the expedition of Juan Pantoja Y Arriaga, and is named after him. It is the first reliable chart of the San Diego Bay. It was made when the Mission San Diego and the Presidio were the only large structures in San Diego, although the map also shows the Rancheria de las Choyas in the area of present day Chula Vista.

This important map above was surveyed and drawn to determine the initial boundary between the U.S. and Mexico following the Mexican-American war of 1846-48. It is officially described as:
Topographical Sketch of the Southernmost Point of the Port of San Diego and Measurement of the Marine League For Determining Initial Point of Boundary Between The United States and Mexico as Surveyed by the United States Commission John B. Weller U.S. Commissioner, Andrew B. Gray U.S. Surveyor, agreeably to the decision of the Joint Commission of July 9th 1849, and in conformity with the 5th Article of the Treaty dated at the City of Guadalupe Hidalgo February 2nd 1848.

This hand colored map from 1851 shows the entrance to San Diego Bay with depths shown by soundings in feet. Map has one inset: a general sketch of San Diego Bay and Los Coronados islands. It is officially described as:

J. no. 7 San Diego entrance and approaches, California [cartographic material] : from a trigonometrical survey of the coast of the United States / by R.D. Cutts & Geo. Davidson, Asst., and A.M. Harrison, Sub Asst. ; published in 1851.

This beautiful hand-colored map from 1857 is described as:

San Diego Bay : California / from a trigonometrical survey under the direction of A. D. Bache superintendent of the coast of the United States ; triangulation by R.D. Cutts, asst. ; topography by A.M. Harrison, Sub-Assistant ; hydrography by the party under the command of Comdr. James Alden U.S.N Assist.

It includes fathoms, sailing directions, and information about the tides. Coronado is completely undeveloped at this time. But even in 1857 there was a lot of land speculation, with various land holdings of the Coronado peninsula being owned and re-sold among a group that included Bezer Simmons, Archibald Peachy, Frederick Billings, James P. Bolton, and H.W. Hallock.

This Rand-McNally map of southeastern California from 1884 shows San Diego County stretching to the Colorado River. Imperial County was not formed until 1907.

This San Diego city street map detailed San Diego City, and pinpoints 5th and F Street as the center point of the one, two, three, and four mile radius circles. Map includes Coronado and a very large "City Park" which then consisted of some 1400 acres. It was named Balboa Park in 1910.

Rand, McNally & Co.’s New Business Atlas lithographic Map of California. This map includes California railroads, 1908.

Above is a rare "skeleton map" of the San Diego & South-Eastern Railway showing the Southern Division Main Line with the Sweetwater Branch, formerly the National City and Otay Railway, the Southern Division formerly the Coronado Railroad and the Eastern Division formerly the San Diego & Cuyamaca Railway. It dates from about 1915 during the period when the Railroad was owned by John D.Spreckels. It shows the rail line through Tent City, the Hotel del Coronado Bath House, and to the old Ferry Landing.

This street map of Coronado from about 1923 shows the stability of the street layout in Coronado, drawn from the very beginning of Coronado's development in 1887-88. Of note, however, is that the Spanish Bight still divides Coronado from North Island, and a bridge crosses over it. The Bight was later in-filled with dredged sand, which also expanded a great deal of North Island, southeastern Coronado at the present Golf Course, and Coronado's beaches as well.

For the current Coronado Library exhibit "Westward Ho," the Library also has on display some wonderful large-sized maps including a rare 1853 map drawn showing the proposed railroad routes from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, and another rare map from 1857-58 showing the wagon roads from El Paso and Fort Yuma through Indian territory to San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. This latter map was graciously purchased for the Coronado Library by the Lee Mather Company and Debbie Riddle. The "Westward Ho" exhibit will be up through June and July, 2012. Several of the other maps have been purchased with funds donated by the Friends of the Library.These maps make fascinating trips through time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


May is Preservation Month, a topic that has become increasingly important over the years. In this blog post, we will outline some of the preservation techniques you could use to help preserve your family records, photos, and memorabilia. This subject will be offered as a program to be held at the Coronado Public Library this summer, scheduled for July 14 at 2:00pm. The information below is a highlight of the information that will be covered and is also offered by a variety of preservation-oriented organizations and institutions.

Family documents and historical memorabilia on paper are widely held but subject to the same enemies everywhere. Water and flooding can make certain inks or watercolors run or bleed. Water can also warp, stain and cause mildew to books and paper. Floods can not be avoided, but it is cautious to store paper-based items away from water-heaters, washing machines, and basements, garages, or walls that can be prone to rain or water intrusion. Mildew can also form on walls that are shaded and prone to getting wet. Mildew can form on the inside drywall in such circumstances and transfer to the spines of books or other papers and fabrics.

Wet photos at the Cornell University Library

Photographs that become wet should be dried individually. Wet photos that are stacked and left to dry naturally can stick together, causing tearing or loss of the film emulsion when separated. This situation is best left to a professional, but it you must separate photos that are stuck together this can be achieved by immersing the photos in a bath of distilled water. When the photos become saturated they can usually be separated more easily (but still carefully). Curling can also take place from either drying naturally, or if the photos are exposed to dry heat. Wet photos that are mounted on card stock or album pages should be removed gently from the pages. Drying photos can be achieved by blotting with paper towels or preferably cotton towels. They can be fan dried or hung on a clothes line (avoid direct sun)but will likely need to be pressed between two clean smooth sheets of toweling with a slight weight on them. Photographic prints began their life in a wet solution so they can take water pretty well if dried afterwards. Distilled water can also be used as a bath if there are debris or soiling from dirt or mud. Wet books should be fanned open and dried with a fan. Other paper can be cotton towel dried flat assuming there is no ink or pigment run-off or bleeding. Institutions that have been subject to flooding will usually use freeze-drying techniques when the quantities of materials is high.

Fragile or important documents should be stored in a container or folder that is acid-free or archival quality. This will keep the documents away from light, which fades pigments and inks and which will also degrade paper itself. Paper items should be unfolded if possible, and paper clips and staples removed to prevent rust staining. Good quality mylar or polyurethane sleeves can be used for many documents as well as photographs. Storing flat is best, but upright is okay if the items are supported so as not to fold over. Photos that are in old photo albums that used card stock pages or self-sticking pages are not in a good environment. Today there are better quality, archival stock albums available. Rare books and important bound documents are best preserved in a wrapper container such as picture below or in an appropriately sized  clamshell box.

Folding wrapper for fragile books or documents

Clamshell box for rare books

Very old photographic prints are very fragile. They are best stored separately in an archival folder or plastic sleeve. You should not use adhesive tape on tears as this causes staining and later removal problems. This applies to photos as well as to any paper item. Newspaper or newsprint paper is very fragile and is high in acid content so this type of paper should not be stored touching other paper items as the acid will migrate and stain the other items as well as causing accelerated deterioration. Even in the proper container, family documents, paper, photos, or books should not be stored in damp conditions like in a basement or in the dry hot environment of a typical attic.

Many cherished documents and old photos are framed and mounted on walls for display. Unless light, either natural or electrical, is limited, the items will be prone to fading. Over time, inks or colors will fade until the document is hard to read or the image is faint. It is best to remove the original, digitize or scan it, and display the copy while preserving the original. Old frames and their backing are themselves not archivally safe containers. Paper-based  items are also subject to being eaten by silverfish or other bugs. These can get especially bad in garages. Silverfish packets  or tablets obtainable at hardware stores can help reduce these pests.

Color photographs are especially prone to fading under light. And the mid-century Kodak color prints have often faded under any storage circumstance. These too can be scanned and displayed if desired. Older black and white photographic prints can also show "silvering" or have clouded area on the print. This is a natural reaction over time coming from the film emulsion that was used. Sepia toning can result from light exposure, but can also take place naturally to older photos. Negatives should be handled and stored under the same conditions as prints - with minimal (or no) touching of the face of the negative. They are best stored individually. Slides can also be stored in plastic sheets with individual pockets. Small photographic prints can be stored in smaller-sized archival envelopes and then in archival boxes made available for the purpose. Photographs, slides, and negatives can be digitized and stored on electronic file devices.

Paper cleaning products are commercially available

Soiled paper documents (and prints) can often be cleaned by using special erasers or gums. This works best on dirt stains. Oil stains or tape stains are best left to professionals to clean. Rust staining or "foxing" is often a by-product of the particular paper-making process used and is often permanent. The same goes for mildew stains.

These book pages show "foxing" stains, usually caused by excessive iron in the water used in the paper-making process.

Textiles are subject to the same enemies as paper: light; water; bugs; and mildew, mold, or framed display. Often they are improperly stored as well. Archival boxes and acid-free tissue or good cotton sheeting is best, with the item stored flat. For very old and historic clothing, normal clothes hangers are not recommended as the weight of the garment will eventually weaken or tear the fabric at the shoulders. Also clothing is prone to damage from food or oil stains, make-up, or cleaning product residue. Moth balls are actually damaging to wool and cedar is almost as bad.

Costume storage at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum

Flat storage for antique costumes or clothing with interior padding in drawers, or in flat archival boxes is ideal. Folding of textiles will cause the fabric to weaken at the crease. Similar storage techniques can be used for antique samplers, embroideries, and flags.

Padded hangers are commercially available that can be used for hanging clothing that is not fragile.

Various suppliers can provide specialty products for storing documents, papers, photos, and other memorabilia. Some of the ones that supply libraries and archives (and individual customers) are:

Hollinger Metal Edge

University Products

Archival Products

The Library of Congress also has a Frequently Asked Questions" about preservation on their
website, along with other useful information, see: LOC FAQs

Your heritage and legacy is important. Protect it while you can or seek professional advice or referrals from libraries and museums.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


This year is a big year for commemorating historic anniversaries. While every year has its share of special anniversary dates, 2012 has several historically significant ones. The Coronado Public Library has many resources for you to view images or films and read interesting books about these special anniversaries. We had already mentioned in our last blog the 50 year anniversary of the Navy Seals and the Coronado Library's special collection of books on special operations.  Here are some of the anniversaries:

The War of 1812 - 200 Years Ago:

The War of 1812, a war between the United States and England, occurred 200 years ago. The war saw many see-saw battles and events, including the burning of the White House, but it was famous for the sea battles involving the U.S.S Constitution, nicknamed "Old Ironsides." The ship was involved in several successful battles with British ships during the blockade. It was victorious in the battle with HMS Guerriere depicted above. The Battle of New Orleans was another famous U.S. victory. The war lasted two and a half years.

Map of the War of 1812.

The Birth of Charles Dickens - 200 Years Ago:

Charles Dickens was born February 7, 1812, at Landport in Portsea, England. He was the second of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Charles had a happy childhood until he was 12, which changed when his father was sent to Debtor's Prison, soon followed by the rest of the family except Charles. He became a journalist as an adult and soon began writing stories and novels. Hi books are classics of English literature and are still read avidly today. Among the best known are: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Sketches by Boz, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

1912 - 100 Years Ago:
Two significant events occurred in 1912, one tragic one wonderful. The Girl Scouts USA was founded in March 12, 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. The other event was the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Tutankhamen's Tomb - 90 Years Ago:
Englishman Howard Carter found Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt on November 5, 1922. This was by far the best preserved and most intact Pharaoh's tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings. Carter and his group found Tutankhamen's nearly intact tomb. News was spread around the world, which subsequently sparked a classical Egyptian influence in jewelry, fashion, art and decorative objects. Exhibitions of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world including the U.S.

Tutankhamen's burial mask at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

The Battle of Midway - 70 Years Ago:
This naval battle is considered the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II.  It had been only six months since Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.  Between June 4 -7,1942, one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy  defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy and their attack against the Midway Atoll. Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."

Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless airplanes at the battle of Midway.

The Battle of Midway was also the first naval battle in which opposing ships were beyond sight of each other. The airplanes from the opposing aircraft carriers carried the battle, fighting each other and with the enemy ships.

Chart of the Battle of Midway
Space Flight of the Mercury Friendship 7 - 50 Years Ago:
John Glenn made America's first orbital flight on February 20,1962, piloting the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. He circled the Earth three times.

Astronaut John Glenn exits the Mercury spacecraft.

Cuban Missile Crisis - 50 Years Ago:
In August 1962, Cuban and Soviet governments began building bases in Cuba for a number of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles capable of striking the United States. President Kennedy and the U.S Armed Forces responded by deploying U.S. Naval forces to form a blockade of Cuba in October 1962. U.S destroyers and frigates intercepted not only merchant shipping en route to Cuba, but also Soviet submarines, while Navy aerial photographic and patrol aircraft monitored and enforced the blockade. These actions led to
a negotiated agreement with the U.S.S.R. and thus averted a possible nuclear war. 

On a more cheerful note, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released 75 years ago.

Walt Disney's Snow White was the first animated feature film, which premiered in Hollywood on December 21, 1937. Before its release it was often considered "Walt Disney's Folly." The rest is history.

Find out more about these events at the Coronado Public Library.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


In January of this year, 2012,  the U.S. Navy SEALs (SEa, Air, Land) had their 50th anniversary. While the commemorations were mostly low-key, a variety of recent events have made for much news coverage and a plethora of books and movies being produced about the legendary SEAL Teams.

Image from Act of Valor

Before the establishment of the SEALs, the Navy developed UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams) as a means of special warfare. As explained in an article by Lieutenant James J. Ritter:

"Early in 1943, the U. S. Navy not only lacked hydrographic information on enemy beaches from the three-fathom curve inshore, but it also had no knowledge of heavy fortifications which had been built by both the Germans and Japanese in and near the beaches suitable for amphibious operations.  The necessity of breaching these fortifications resulted in the formation of Naval Combat Demolition Units—NCDUs.  Their primary mission was to demolish any obstacle that would hazard landing craft.  It was initially envisioned that this job could be done almost completely by working on the beach during low tide with covering naval gunfire support overhead.  In practice, however, there was not sufficient time to complete the assigned tasks.  Worse, the personnel were often exposed to devastating small arms fire from the beach defenses.  After D-Day at Normandy, the NCDUs were reformed into larger Underwater Demolition Teams and transferred to the Pacific to assist in the island invasions against Japan."

Members of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams are shown above
off the coast of Borneo during the WWII Battle of Balikpapan in 1945

UDT in Korea, 1950.

The establishment of the SEALs came later, as explained by the Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs Office:

"In response to the demand for a maritime special operator, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Arleigh A. Burke authorized the creation of the first two SEAL teams Jan, 1, 1962. SEAL Team 1 was established in San Diego, Calif. to support the Pacific Fleet. The team was established under the command of Lt. David Del Giudice. SEAL Team 2 was established in Little Creek, Va., to support the Atlantic Fleet. SEAL 2 was under the command of Lt. John Callahan. These first two SEAL teams were commissioned with a complement of 10 officers and 50 enlisted men taken from the ranks of the Navy's Underwater Demolition teams who made their mark in World War II and Korea investigating and removing all obstacles, both natural and manmade from beach landing locations."

Shortly after establishment of the teams, the inaugural class of Navy SEALs took to the jungles of Vietnam for reconnaissance, ambush, captures, raids, POW recovery, and other innovative and offensive efforts to disrupt Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army operations and infrastructure. The teams were among the most decorated units in the Vietnam War."

The modern world has seen ever-increasing uses for the techniques of special operations, and the SEALs in particular, from hostage rescues to the elimination of terrorist leaders. Many books have been written over the last few decades about special warfare. The Coronado Public Library has been working jointly with retired Navy SEAL and Special Warfare historian Roger Clapp to develop a special collection of books about special operations and the Navy UDT and SEAL teams in particular. Because of the SEAL training facilities in Coronado, this has been deemed to be of particular relevance. New acquisitions for this collection have been funded by the Friends of the Coronado Public Library. Currently the Coronado Library has some 145 books on special operations covering various branches and time-periods. See the book list here.

Author and retired Navy Captain George Galdorisi.

Co-author of the book novelization of Act of Valor, George Galdorisi, spoke at the Coronado Library on Friday evening, February 17, 2012. Capt. Galdorisi, USN ret'd, talked about the book and his involvement along with Dick Couch, author and former SEAL in this project. He has previously spoken at the Coronado Library on combat search and rescue and his book, Leave No Man Behind. This will be a very special occasion and should be a very popular event.

A Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) 20 navigates a rigid-hull inflatable boat while SEALs from a West Coast based SEAL team board a yacht for a scene in the upcoming film Act of Valor. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger
The movie Act of Valor has been four years in the making, which included documentary style film-making with Navy SEAL training operations. The film was produced and directed by the "Bandito Brothers," Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh, and distributed by Relativity Media.   Several scenes were filmed in Coronado and North Island. as well as in many other locales. Nine active duty SEALs were used along with actors. Written publicity about the movie, states: "An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, “Act of Valor” stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs in a powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism. Inspired by true events, the film combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure."

Having seen the movie, I can attest that it is a very emotional and heart-pumping experience. It also is rare in a "Hollywood" movie to frame the action based on how the SEALs involved would actually have conducted themselves in a real operation. And the scenes are filmed on location rather than in front of a blue screen with backgrounds filled in by computer graphics. It's a unique movie and one that truly conveys acts of valor.

Scenes from Act of Valor above and below.