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The Late Victorian Period in California


A wee bit of Scottish California history
from the late 19th century

Scottish American families read Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott as other Americans did in the 1890s. On a European Grand Tour, popular during this period, the well-to-do almost certainly visited Scotland and the places where their parents or grandparents were born. Certain elements of Scottish culture--music and dance as well as a reverence for the Scottish past--were important enough to respect and preserve for some families even as they were learning American ways and customs.

A Scottish-American Family Promenading the grounds with a Piper on a hot summer day at John Muir House in Martinez

Photograph taken by Lori Howard at John Muir House, 2003.

A few Scots were interested in preserving the sacred quality they perceived in the wilderness of California. The most renowned Scot who expressed these concerns was John Muir, who became involved in the creation of the Sierra Club and was instrumental in the preservation of Yosemite as a national park. When Muir was not hiking the High Sierra, he and his family maintained a ranch in Martinez where he grew peaches, cherries, grapes and pears.

Three young ladies, Zuriah Meacham, Clara Ackerman & Catherine Berner, dancing a step dance, 'The Lilt,' for the entertainment of Family and Friends

Photograph taken by Lori Howard at John Muir House, 2003.
Other Scots who never left Scotland contributed towards the future of California by investing in companies such as the Glasgow California Land Company, which reclaimed swamp lands in the San Joaquin Delta, thus contributing towards the change in the Central Valley's ecology.
A Family Gathering participating in 'The Duke of Atholl's Reel'

Photograph taken by Lori Howard at John Muir House, 2003.
During the Gold Rush and in the years afterwards, the industries that Scots invested in were multitudinous: they started steamship lines to carry passengers between San Francisco and Sacramento; they started up the first iron foundry in San Francisco, where mining machinery was fabricated out of scrap iron 'found' after the devastating fires that destroyed San Francisco in the early 1850s. They built locomotives and street railroads, cable cars and birdcages, fenders, fireguards, and many other wire products for use in the kitchen. Some of them became very, very rich indeed!
Greg Reznick, Charles Clear, Steve Wyrick and Michael Howard

Photograph taken by Lori Howard at John Muir House, 2003.