Thursday, September 6, 2018

Robert Louis Stevenson And His Journey to Monterey


There are lots of opinions about Fanny Osbourne, with whom Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love in France in 1876. But Stevenson didn't equivocate. He traveled 6,000 miles to propose marriage to her. Both images are from Historic Bay Area Visionaries, set to be published by History Press in October.

Last week I began the true tale of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson's romance with a woman from California, Fanny Osbourne, whom he met in France in 1876. It was a complicated liaison: she was eleven years older than he and had been married for twenty years to someone else. Adding to the difficulties: he lived in Scotland and she lived 6,000 miles away in California. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Robert Louis Stevenson on a Train Through Santa Clara Valley

Robert Louis Stevenson in his favorite blue velvet jacket, which is now in the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in Monterey, along with his traveling desk, which is also in the photo. 
Photo courtesy of the California Historical Society and Historic Bay Area Visionaries.

Robert Louis Stevenson made an important visit to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1879. He was not yet the famous writer he would become and he was not on a literary errand. He was besotted with a California woman and determined to marry her. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Upcoming Event Schedule for "Historic Bay Area Visionaries" (And a Few Other Things Too!)

My new book Historic Bay Area Visionaries will be published October 15, 2018 by the History Press.

I will continue to let people know about upcoming book events on Facebook--author talks and book signings--for the the release of Historic Bay Area Visionaries. But, you will always be able to find the full schedule here on my blog. Dates and events change from time to time, and I will keep this current.

Saturdays, September 8, 15, 22, and 29: Los Altos Civic Center Apricot Orchard, 11:30 a.m. "Orchard Entrepreneurs" Orchard Heritage Walks with Robin Chapman for the Los Altos History Museum. Meet behind the Los Altos Library, 13 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 94024. The walk will take about 30 minutes, is mostly on paved walkways, and will end at the Museum. Call the Los Altos History Museum with questions: 650-948-9427. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Juana de la Briones: A Self-Invented California Pioneer

Most of the land owned by Juana Briones--more than 4,000 acres--became the town of Los Altos Hills. But the house she built about 1845 ended up in the city limits of Palo Alto. It was finally razed in 2011. Photo courtesy of the Palo Alto Historical Association Archives.

I've recently written a new book called Historic Bay Area Visionaries, which includes the stories of six people from California history I know you will want to meet. They include an Ohlone Indian named Lope Inigo, California pioneer Juana Briones, poet Robert Louis Stevenson, heiress Sarah Winchester, immigrant millionaire Thomas Foon Chew, and silent film star Charlie Chaplin.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

When Families Worked Together and Life Was Very Different

Frank White was about eleven years old when his father took this photo of him in front of the family's old car and new home--which came with an apricot orchard--on Covington Road in Los Altos. World War II had just ended and the Whites were making a new start in the Santa Clara Valley.

People will think this story is about apricots. That's because I've written a book about the agricultural history of the Santa Clara Valley and its title is California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley. The book is partly about apricots, and partly about a time worth remembering.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Other Winchester House: Landmark Legend and Luxury

The Winchester-Merriman House is the oldest house in Los Altos, California, and was once owned by Sarah Winchester of Winchester Mystery House fame. 

Mrs. Sarah Winchester was a native of New Haven, but left New England after the death of her husband, who was the heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune. She moved to the Santa Clara Valley in California, hoping the mild, sunny climate would be good for her arthritis and gained fame for her fantastic house, now a big tourist attraction in San Jose. It has, however inaccurately, become associated with gossip about Mrs. Winchester's involvement with the occult, something that has never been confirmed by even one bit of verifiable research.

Sarah Winchester is one of six profiles in my upcoming book, Historic Bay Area Visionaries, coming this October from the History Press.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Grower and a Tech Pioneer: A Santa Clara Valley Friendship


Modern Silicon Valley may not feel it has a lot in common with Santa Clara Valley's recent agricultural past. But many friendships blossomed in the orchards. Ask Charlie Olson of Sunnyvale's Orchard Heritage Park. He will tell you.

It wasn't very long ago that tech visionaries like Steve Jobs and David Packard were cultivating their own apricot orchards in the Santa Clara Valley. Before Jobs died, he finalized plans for the new Apple campus in Cupertino and decreed it be surrounded by fruit trees of all kinds. Packard, of Hewlett Packard fame, had his own orchard in Los Altos Hills--sixty acres of apricot trees, now cultivated by his foundation.