The Story of Santa Barbara - California Statehood

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Like many California cities, Santa Barbara once had a Chinatown where immigrants duplicated on a small scale their native civilization. They tended to settle together, and preserved their language, customs and traditional dress to shield themselves from western influence. By 1900, there were an estimated seven hundred Chinese immigrants in Santa Barbara. Today, Chinatown is just a memory, as this vibrant and close-knit community occupied just a brief moment in time.

Chinese Headquarters in Downtown Santa Barbara,
c. 1920
Colin Campbell Cooper (American, 1856-1937)
Oil on canvas
14 x 20 inches
Gift of Helen F. Seeley
x.3.78.56

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

In 1846, Lieutenant Col. John C. Frémont (1812-1890) marched into Santa Barbara with the California Battalion to recapture Southern California from Mexican forces. He raised the American flag over the Alpheus B. Thompson home, where he had established his headquarters, and the flag has flown over Santa Barbara ever since. The Thompson home later became the San Carlos Hotel and was one of the first Monterey-style adobes built in Alta California. Badly deteriorated, it was razed in 1923.

The San Carlos Hotel, Santa Barbara, Cal. c.1913
Alexander F. Harmer (American, 1856-1925)
Oil on canvas
17 x 28 ¼ inches
Gift of Girard and Kathleen van B. Hale
xx.7.57.40

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Pablo Andrés Antonio de la Guerra (1819-1874) was the eighth son of Don José and María Antonia de la Guerra. A signer of the California Constitution, his overwhelming popularity with the Anglo-Americans and Hispanics resulted in his election to three consecutive terms in the state senate, and as Lieutenant Governor of California. De la Guerra also supported the Union cause during the Civil War, and was involved in the creation of Company C of the California Cavalry Battalion, whose members were mostly from the de la Guerra family and spoke no English.

Pablo Andrés Antonio de la Guerra, c. 1860
Artist unknown
Oil on canvas
30 x 25 ¼ inches
Gift of Frederica Dibblee Poett
x.2.78.42

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

This shrine was once owned by the Santa Barbara Chee Kung Tong (Chinese freemasons) who were dedicated to the overthrow of China's last dynasty, the Qing. The shrine was carved in Kong Mun, a city near Canton, and arrived in Santa Barbara in 1898, when revolutionary activity against the Qing was increasing.

"The Chinese celebration in dedication of their new altar went off with a Fourth-of-July twang yesterday. During the noon hour they exploded $50 worth of firecrackers . . . The altar is a gift to the joss house from the boys of the Sin Lung Company . . . The altar, including freight and duty, cost $1,000.
- Santa Barbara Daily Independent, 1898

Chinese Shrine and accessories, c. 1898
Wood, marble, glass, gold, and polychrome
Gift of Elmer and Barbara Whittaker
12.63.111, 12.64.176, and 12.65.230

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Gold fever struck California in 1848, and thousands of fortune seekers poured into the state. Settlers who crossed forbidding deserts, vast plains and treacherous mountains were often a tempting target for thieves. Although the gold fields were centered in the northern part of the state, Santa Barbara was affected by the influx of newcomers, and Anglo-American business practices, social patterns and governmental institutions soon replaced those of Mexican California.

Wells Fargo Strong Box, c. 1850
Wood, iron, polychrome, and paper
For gold transport on stagecoaches
Gift of Pauline Finley
xx.5.56.33

Iron Handcuffs, c. 1860
Gift of Dudley C. Backus
12.64.178.16

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The steamship Yankee Blade was one of several ships that made the run from Panama to San Francisco during the 1850s, carrying gold and passengers along the Pacific coast. On October 1st 1854, the Yankee Blade, floundering in a storm, struck a reef at Point Arguello and sank.

Stormy Voyage Around the Horn, c. 1875
Frank W. Thompson (1838-1905)
Oil on canvas
20 ¼ x 31 inches
Gift of Georgiana Lacy Spalding Estate
x.3.78.52

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Porthole & Cannon
Bronze and brass
Salvaged from the Yankee Blade in 1969
Gift of Louisa C. Anderson
In memory of Harold W. Anderson
1987.4 & 14

« BACK »