Images of America: Sacramento

Understand Sacramento’s story from its primary source — the photograph
By James Scott
May 31, 2019
In the summer of 2018, the Sacramento Room was approached by Arcadia Publishing to author — as part of its “Images of America” series — a photo essay on the history of Sacramento. Archivists Amanda DeWilde, Ignacio Sanchez-Alonso, James Scott and Librarian Beth Daugherty jumped at the opportunity. Simply entitled Sacramento, the book will offer narrative and captions for over 220 images, ranging from Sacramento’s rich pre-history to the city’s current efforts regarding people experiencing homelessness.

With libraries constantly evolving to meet the demands of its patrons, creating content is part of staying relevant.

It’s through the book that readers can understand the Sacramento saga from its most essential primary source — the photograph. “They’re instantly relatable,” Sanchez-Alonso said about the book’s variety of images. “It doesn’t matter if you take a photo with your smartphone today or if you are looking at a photo from the 1920s, most people know what a photo is. They also tell stories and those stories are usually easily accessible.”

Most imagery came out of the Sacramento Room’s own photograph collection; however, a smaller percentage was harvested from the California State Library, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the Center for Sacramento History. Those that were chosen were done so with the deliberate intent of telling a story that is four chapters: pre-history to 1869, 1870 to 1915, 1916 to 1945 and 1946 to current. For Daugherty and her coverage of the Capital City’s Gilded Age, honing in on a specific era was the best part of the experience. “I really enjoyed searching for photographs based on which ones I thought would best illustrate the history of Sacramento during the 1870-1915 time period,” she said.

Central to the book’s mission is a recognition of the city’s robust diversity as well as a desire to cover a full 360 degrees of the Sacramento experience, including the area’s struggle with socio-economic and racial inequalities, war, population growth and redevelopment.
Sacramento is the Sacramento Room’s seventh book, a process that meshes well with the library world’s pivot into content creation. “With libraries constantly evolving to meet the demands of its patrons, creating content is part of staying relevant,” Sanchez-Alonso said. “More importantly, it’s part of connecting with [our] patrons and surrounding communities.”
The book is set for release on June 24, 2019, and proceeds from Sacramento’s sale will go to the Sacramento Public Library. Copies can be purchased from Arcadia Publishing or by visiting most local bookstores.
This article featured in the June 2019 issue of History in the Making. Subscribe.
James Scott has been a reference librarian with the Sacramento Public Library since 2000. For most of that period, he has worked in the Sacramento Room, where he has co-authored four books on Sacramento history.