Category Archives: Museum News

Spring 2020 MIRROR Newsletter

MIRROR Newsletter

We hope you enjoy this most recent issue of the MIRROR newsletter. Thanks so much for the entire newsletter team for coming together to publish this issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Museum and Ship both remain closed to the public to adhere to the shelter in place order. Thanks to everyone who has stayed home.? California is flattening the curve!

Click here for the Spring 2020 issue of the MIRROR. MIRROR Spring 2020 – FINAL

Dr. Charles R. Blake & the Spanish Flu

Richmond & the Spanish Flu

Dr. Charles Robert Blake (September 9, 1869 – December 27, 1944) was the public health officer in charge when the Spanish Flu swept through the City of Richmond in 1918-1919. The museum archives holds the secrets about how our community emerged stronger from past epidemics.

Charles Robert Blake was born September 9, 1869 in Visalia California. He attended public schools throughout his life and attended University of California for Medical School graduating in 1891.

Dr. Charles R. Blake CCC Health Officer

Charles is listed as residing at 1844 Geary Street in San Francisco but the historical buildings there have since been demolished. OpenSFHistory.org allows us a peek of his neighborhood with a photograph of the intersection of Geary and Steiner on October 18, 1916.

Geary & Steiner (1916)
Charles Blake’s residence at Geary & Steiner while a medical student at then University of California. Courtesy of OpenSFHistory.org

Charles worked for several years in Hawaii after graduating from medical school. He married Lilian Hoog of Oakland in 1898 and they had one son Herbert in 1900. The 1900 census lists Charles, Lilian and baby Herbert living in the City of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Charles came to Richmond in 1903 and was elected to the City Council as early as 1907.?

Dr. Blake enacted many important changes to improve public health in the City of Richmond, aspects of life that many of us take for granted today. In 1914 he set out on a mosquito abatement campaign while also managing outbreaks of diptheria and measles.?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1916, Dr. Blake began requiring all milk sold in local markets to be pasteurized when the State board of health did not require pasteurization of milk tested with tuberculin.

Pacific Municipalities, vol. 30 1916 Courtesy of Google Books

In 1917, Dr. Blake crusaded for improvements in the outdoor Municipal Market, complaining that dirty water, unsanitary food storage and nearby open latrines were a threat to public health.?

 

Dr. Blake worked as a public health official until 1943 and navigated the changes brought with the influx of people that came here to work in the Kaiser Shipyards. He voiced his concerns for overall public health in the City of Richmond warning the health of the City would explode from unsanitary conditions. Widespread vaccinations of over 10,000 children was celebrated as one of the successes attributed to Dr. Blake during his tenure as a public health officer.

Oakland Tribune Sunday April 11, 1943
Oakland Tribune March 5, 1943

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Blake died in 1944 having served as Health Commissioner up until the previous year. His last days as a public health official were spent managing the boomtown conditions of Richmond during World War II.

 

Stay tuned for more coverage on Dr. Blake and the Spanish Flu in the City of Richmond.

 

Richmond & the Spanish Flu-October 21, 1918

Richmond & the Spanish Flu

The Spanish Flu raged through the United States approximately one hundred years ago.? Like all small towns in the United States, daily life in the City of Richmond was deeply impacted by the epidemic.

We found these three articles in the museum archives from the Richmond Daily Independent dated October 21, 1918.

Just like COVID 19 today, essential workers were particularly hard hit by the Spanish Flu. The post office was no exception, the article above reporting the mail carrier and several employees had been out sick because they had contracted the disease.

The newspaper article below reported thirteen deaths in the previous 24 hours. The dead included eight males, three females and two of indeterminate gender with an age range from infant to thirty eight. Limited information about the victims are presented including occupation in some cases. The men were employed at Standard Oil Company (now Chevron), Hercules Powder Works and Wells Fargo Express. The last entry in the list is interesting because it indicates local physicians were in high demand and difficult to engage. Pinole resident Manuel Rodriguez, aged 33, died before he had the opportunity to be seen by a doctor.

The final article we have from October 21, 1918 is full of interesting facts demonstrating similarities between the Spanish Flu and COVID19. The State Board of Health issued formal guidance in local newspapers, equivalent to today’s media advisory. Restrictions to curb the spread of the Spanish Flu include social distancing, self quarantine, masks, hand washing and disinfectant. Thankfully, nurses no longer use bichloride of mercury or liquor cresol, because they’re both harmful substances. The scarcity of gauze is another interesting similarity between the modern and historical epidemics.

Introducing Richmond & the Spanish Flu

Richmond & the Spanish Flu (1918-1919)

The Spanish Flu raged through the United States approximately one hundred years ago. The country had just entered World War I and the first cases of Spanish Flu were reported at military camps in Spring 1918.

Spanish Flu Timeline from the Center for Disease Control

We dug deep into our archives to learn more about how the Spanish Flu impacted the City of Richmond. The newspaper clippings files in the RMHC archives are a trusted wealth of information about all major historical events in Richmond. The file on the Spanish Flu in Richmond includes dozens of articles dating mainly from October 1918 to January 1919. The first article in this series includes fun double meaning and references to popular culture of the time.

For the first time in the history of the City,

Richmond is a bone dry town and

for the first time too old John Barleycorn received a solar-plexus knockout

October 19, 1918, Richmond Daily Independent Newspaper.? ? ??October 18, 1918 Richmond Daily Independent Newspaper

My first response to this headline was “Ok, what?!?”

The headline is a metaphor stating the City Health Commissioner had Richmond Police closed down all the bars in Richmond. Apparently, the many saloons in Richmond had ignored the previous health department orders to shut all non-essential businesses. So heroic Dr. Blake had a police officer personally visit and close down every bar in the City of Richmond. More to come about heroic City Health Commissioner Dr. Blake later!

Let’s break down the langue in the headline. John Barleycorn refers to a historical British folk song about barley, the basis for many alcoholic drinks. Solar plexus knockout means a hard punch to the stomach, likely referring to the popularity of boxing in that period. The solar plexus is an anatomical term referring to a bundle of nerves located in the stomach.

The bars refused to abide by shelter in place and boldly remained open? Wow! How would the public have responded if that happened today?

 

Apparently, there were a lot of bars or saloons in Richmond during the early 20th Century as well. Just check out this partial list of saloons from the 1914/5 Polk’s Directory for the City of Richmond (courtesy of Internet Archive).

The second article in our archives from October 19, 1919 provides more grim details about the Spanish Flu in Richmond. Dr. Blake has closed all the schools, churches and bars, and ordered the community to wear masks in public. He states the apex (or worst) of the flu epidemic is yet to come.? A total of 96 new cases of flu have been reported and four individuals have died in a period of only 24 hours.

Local history is important because it demonstrated people have overcome adversity in the past and inspires people to be strong through their own trials. The City of Richmond has endured epidemics in the past and we will emerge from COVID19 stronger and more resilient.

We hope to bring you more notes from the archives about the Spanish Flu in the City of Richmond. Stay tuned!

Opening Reception

Between Two Worlds: Untold Stories of Lao Refugees

Sunday March 1, 2020 at the Richmond Museum of History & Culture

Photo by: Lisa Foote
Photo by: Lisa Foote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, March 1, 2020, the Richmond Museum of History & Culture collaborated with the Center for Lao Studies of the traveling exhibit,? ?Between Two Worlds: Untold Stories of Lao Refugees?, to host an opening reception unlike any we?ve had. Despite a couple ominous rain clouds that loomed over the museum and gusty winds, the day was bright with a subtle buzz of excitement that connected all staff and volunteers during our final moments of preparations. This was a reception that embraced history and tradition; inviting guests to reflect on the past as a means to see towards the future.?

It was not long before guests started to funnel in through our courtyard gates. All were greeted with a free reception bag and welcomed to enjoy refreshments, treats, and a plate (or two) of food from the numerous large platters of Lao cuisine generously donated by Champa Garden and the Center for Lao Studies.

 

Photo by: Lisa Foote

 

 

 

Led by our master of ceremonies, Tony Phouanenavong, we officially started our program with a Baci Blessing ceremony; a practice used to call back the 52 different souls that the Lao believe are housed in each of our bodies. The absence of any one of these souls leads to illness, depression and many other ailements. Golden in color, a small altar stood on a mat in our courtyard. The altar was carefully? prepared beforehand; dressed with greenery, dried marigolds and featured bundles of white yarn, fruit, and snacks. As ceremony leader, Mr. Jiangkhamhe approached the altar the audience suppressed their side conversations, bowing their heads in silence. A prayer hummed through all for a calm and still ten minutes. Now blessed and charged, pieces of white yarn from the altar were distributed among guests and tied around wrists. Three days, that?s how long the strings remained on our individual wrists; allowing ample time for all souls to return. The strings bound our newly returned souls to our bodies.?

Representing a brave ancestral warrior, Mr. Alan Keosaeng followed the Baci ceremony with a traditional Khmu* Sword Dance, used to clear spaces of negative energies. With a sword in each hand, Keosaeng gracefully balanced? them above and around him, dancing as he occasionally clashed the two. With the vibrations of each clash, he cleared negative energy through space. [*Lao ethnic group]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest speakers of the program included Melinda McCrary (Richmond Museum Executive Director), Dr. Phoumy Syavong (member of the Between Two Worlds curatorial team), Vinya Sysamouth (Center of Lao Studies Executive Director), and Richmond Khmu community member and Asian Pacific Environmental Network organizer (APEN), Torm Nompraseurt.?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Nompraseurt?s speech which recounts his observations as experiences as Richmond’s first Lao refugee. It did not take Nompraseurt long after arriving in California in 1978 before he began dedicating any free time he had to invest back into his community, both in Lao and in America. Nompraseurt journey made it possible for many more Lao refugees to find a new home in Richmond, California. With decades of community, he is also a long time APEN community organizer working towards equity and environmental justice.

Click here for video coverage of the sword dance and our guest speakers graciously provided by Richmond Pulse.?

?Between Two Worlds: Untold Stories of Lao Refugees? will up until May 29, 2020. Please check our website or Facebook for the latest?updates!?For more photos on this event, check out our Facebook.

The Between Two Words: Untold Stories of Refugees from Laos (B2W) is a project of the Center for Lao Studies. It is made possible with the generous support from The McConnell Foundation,?Turtle Bay Exploration Park,?California Humanities, and?Central Valley Community Foundation.

1 2 3 4 8