Online History Journal

Browse publications written by local historians, politicians, and superstar community members to dig deep Santa Cruz County History.

Since 1994, the MAH has partnered with local historians to write and research publications covering a breadth of Santa Cruz County history.

These publications bring together local historians, politicians, and superstar community members to dig deep into certain topics or areas of interest. View a comprehensive list of the publications HERE.

To couple those efforts the MAH launched the Online History Journal of Santa Cruz County in 2013. This online journal provides everyone with a flexible, ongoing platform for publishing original research on local history. Dive deep into Santa Cruz County history in this ever-growing forum and start curating your own.

Boaters at the Rivermouth c.1880s

Capitola Beach c.1903

Octagon c.1882

Boardwalk Casino c.1914

Read the History Journal

By Carey Casey. People from many different places around the world came together in the early days of what we know today as Santa Cruz County in the State of California. Many language and ethnic groups were present, but only one numerically-significant group of non-English-speakers arrived and successfully assimilated into the culture in the earliest days of Santa Cruz County. Read Now

By Frank Perry. **Updated March 2024** How postcards were used as an archiving tool, starting with an iconic image of Natural Bridges, which would later be altered. Read now.

by Daniel P. Gregory. The Pasatiempo neighborhood is situated on rolling hills at the northern city limits of Santa Cruz, California, as planned by developer Marion Hollins in the late 1920s. Top-flight designers helped to realize Hollins’ visions for the master planning, golf-course layout, architectural style, and gardens. Read Now

Editor’s note: This is an adaptation for the Online History Journal of a chapter from the second (1979) and third (2005) editions of The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture, by John Leighton Chase

by Dana Bagshaw. In the early 1860s Joseph Boston, a forty-niner entrepreneur and tannery owner in Santa Cruz, met and married recent arrival from upstate New York, Eliza Bull. Together, they founded a church and produced five offspring. Persevering through both success and tragedy, they became notable leaders in a fast-growing pioneer community. Read Now

Editor’s note: a new 2023 Addendum has been added to this article, an update by the author of an article that originally appeared in Santa Cruz County History Journal, Issue Number 8 (Do You Know My Name?), 2016.

by Deborah Osterberg. When one first thinks of Capitola, teeming summer beach crowds come to mind. But it was an annual off season event in the early 20th century which helped raise the profile of the small, seaside resort. Each spring from 1900 through 1911, hundreds of coeds from western colleges descended upon Capitola for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Pacific Coast Students’ Conference. The week-long conference provided young women the opportunity for Christian study, leadership training, networking and recreation. Taking up residence at F.A. Hihn’s Hotel Capitola and supported by fundraising and the generosity of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the annual Students’ Conference at Capitola became the YWCA’s most popular event. When the conference’s popularity finally outstripped available accommodations, organizers formulated plans for their own, larger venue. In 1913 the YWCA officially opened the Asilomar Leadership Camp in Pacific Grove. The framework and eventual success of what became Asilomar, developed over the twelve years when earnest, young college women annually met in search of spiritual enrichment and fellowship in the charming seaside resort of Capitola. Read Now

Compiled by Frank Perry, Barry Brown, Rick Hyman, and Stanley D. Stevens. Several wharves were constructed in Santa Cruz during the second half of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century, of which only one remains. It has often been written that the Railroad Wharf, used by the Santa Cruz and Felton Railroad starting in the middle 1870s, was originally the wharf built by David Gharky in the 1850s. The evidence presented here shows that the Railroad Wharf was an entirely new wharf and not a conversion of the Gharky Wharf. Read Now

By Frank Perry. Over 260 books on the history of people, places, and events in Santa Cruz County history were published between 1879 and 2022. Here, for the first time, is a list of these books arranged by year with a brief analysis of the reasons for the increase in rate of publication starting in the 1960s. Read Now

By Frank Perry. Learn more about postal cachets, aka the designs placed on a cover (usually an envelope) commemorating a postal event, and the ones designed specifically for Santa Cruz County events. Read Now

By Frank Perry. Photographs published in old books and on postcards can be useful and easily accessible sources of historical information. But publishers sometimes made mistakes in the captions. Presented here are examples of images with captions that are either in error or misleading as to location. Read Now

By Frank Perry. When in the late 1800s woodsman James K. Holcraft of Santa Cruz, California, posed in the notch of a giant redwood tree, little did he know that the resulting photograph
would attract so much attention. During the picture postcard craze of the early 1900s, postcards of the photograph were printed and sold by the thousands. Tourists mailed them to destinations throughout the United States, giving Holcraft’s picture wider distribution than that of any other Santa Cruzan of that era. Read Now

By Frank Perry. Imagine a 260-foot-high dam across the Soquel Valley, a submarine port at Santa Cruz, a 13-story apartment building on the beach at Capitola, or a giant nuclear power plant near Davenport. These are just a few of many projects that were proposed for our town, but never built. Read now.

By Joan Martin. Possibly more talented than Georgia O'Keefe, Henrietta Shore's paintings have been lost in the dark. Surprisingly, outside the MAH collection, the only place in Santa Cruz where you can find them today is at the Santa Cruz Post Office. Read now.

By Frank Perry. How many stories can a single postcard tell? An early postcard of a tree named “Jumbo”—mailed from Santa Cruz in 1917—was found to contain over twenty topics for investigation. These include explorations of the image, message, sender, receiver, postmark, stamp, and publisher. Careful observation and the use of a wide variety of research tools helped illuminate this postcard’s many historical features. Read now.

By Greg Gardner. Did you know that an influenza epidemic in 1918/1919 was the most important medical emergency in modern history? The city of Santa Cruz was plagued by the worst ravages of the epidemic, although Watsonville was the most beaten, as approximately one percent of its population died from this epidemic. Read now.

By Various Authors. Explore how to investigate historical properties in Santa Cruz, research techniques and sources of material. Read now.

By Greg Gardner. Immerse yourself in the history of the strongest defender of Santa Cruz in the cause of public works and women at work. Read now.

By Jill Ramar. Records the history of these popular contests during a time when poultry was the main industry in Santa Cruz. Read now.

By Norman Poitevin. Biography of architect Lee Dill Esty (1876-1943) who designed at least twenty-three homes and other buildings in the Santa Cruz area, some of which still remain in the city. Read now.

by Rev. Charles Volney Anthony (1831-1908), transcribed and commented on by Stanley D. Stevens. Elihu Anthony, who came to Santa Cruz from the north of the state of New York in 1847, was a blacksmith by profession who became much more than that: Methodist minister, elected local and state official, first head of the Post Office of Santa Cruz, inventor, and builder. Read now.

by Frank Perry. Get to know local photographer Harry A. Kay who's work provides an important visual record of Santa Cruz County during the Great Depression. Read now.

by Frank Perry. In 1933 the Chamber of Commerce in Santa Cruz, California, paid laborers for a public works project with trade warrants instead of cash. Learn how the innovative program was widely successful but not without disadvantages and setbacks. Read now.

by Frank and Jill Perry. Located beside Monterey Bay in central California, Santa Cruz has long boasted of its year-round mild climate. In the early 1900s, a large rose growing in a Santa Cruz garden was used to promote tourism and attract potential home buyers—not just for Santa Cruz, but for California in general. Read Now.

by Frank Perry. In 1954 two entrepreneurs founded a tourist attraction in Santa Cruz County, California, called Curious Canyon. Nearly identical to the nearby and already popular attraction called The Mystery Spot. Learn more about this short-lived, largely forgotten attraction. Read Now

by Frank Perry. The City of Capitola, California, began as “Camp Capitola”—a seaside resort established on the north shore of Monterey Bay in the late 1860s or early 1870s. Historians have long disagreed on the year of the resort’s founding, the origin of the name Capitola, who named it, and when it was named. Did the people in nearby Soquel want the area to be the capital of California? Was it named for the character in a popular novel of the era? Or did the name originate in some other way? This essay is an attempt to sort through the conflicting evidence. Read Now

by Carey Casey. A nearly-forgotten Victorian-era home witnessed over fifty years of Santa Cruz County, California, history in the area now known as Pasatiempo. Read Now

Learn How to Submit Your Article

Share your research with Santa Cruz County.
Read MAH Guidelines

This index to Museum’s hardcopy publications shows the contents of each arranged alphabetically by region. Most are still in print and are available in local bookstores, at the Museum, and in libraries.

Support the MAH

Become a MAH Member or consider donating to help fuel creative collaborations live the Online History Journal Archive.