54th Annual Conference

Great Speakers to Share Important “Defining Moments” at our 54th Annual Conference March 29 & 30

Logo for 250 anniversary of San Diego - conference by the Congress of History

We are excited to share with you the names of the historians who will be presenting “Defining Moments” at the 54th Annual Conference on March 29 and 30, 2019, at Portuguese Hall. See the end of this article for the list. You may recognize some names of experts who have spoken at past conferences, while other speakers are joining us for the first time. Many of our talented speakers are also authors, and they will have their books available at the conference.

Topics from the Founding Era (1769 to 1850) will range from the initial Spanish exploration and settlement of the region, where Native American trails became the El Camino Real, the road northward, to how a modern day “mission walker” made the entire 1,600 mile journey herself while beating cancer. Sometimes fate can turn on a dime. But for the want of an anchor in 1770, the fragile San Diego settlement would not have survived. You’ll hear the extraordinary history of how Franciscan frontiersmen traveled all over the southwest, and their lasting contributions to the region.

For the Middle Era (1851-1950), we’ll see how dangerous sea travel was before building our first Point Loma lighthouse. Travelers discovered Southern California in droves, thanks in part to Helen Hunt Jackson turning her deeply detailed but rarely read research on the treatment of the Native Americans into the romantic myth of “Ramona.” By the booming 1880s, streetcar service evolved into more than transportation: it seeded neighborhoods and allowed for a growing population to live farther away from a city center. John D. Spreckels was one of those amazing men who had he not made San Diego his home, we never would be the same. And when we talk about “southern” California, it’s important to remember how much bigger San Diego County used to be. You’ll hear how Riverside County was formed
and what it meant to the success of both counties.

Sometimes history sneaks up on you and has unintended consequences. You’ll learn how a San Diego neighborhood railroad became part of a giant national rail connection. You’ll also find out how a Progressive, well-intentioned state law to help build public works projects backfired terribly from the crushing local burden of repaying bonds. Without proper infrastructure for a growing region, we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. Representative of so many rural areas, learn how the creation of a water district allowed for a steady supply of water for rural agricultural development. The Native Americans have always lived here. In 1932, one band took the long view with clever thinking while being relocated to keep their people and their future intact.

The Congress of History has had conferences about wars before. You’ll see a different side of war via the poignant letters of students from San Diego State College, some of whom returned and some of whom did not. We’ll tell you the story about a very important African-American San Diego man who illegally (for the time) purchased a home for his family in 1947 in a restricted neighborhood, then went on to continue to break barriers and build partnerships in public service for over 50 years.

Does anyone remember slide rules and outstanding accomplishments made before computers? In the Modern Era (1951-2000), hear the fascinating true story of General Dynamics, the Atlas missile, and San Diego’s role in space from the youngest engineer on the team. Were you here in 1963? Culturally the Modern Era was extremely dynamic. Learn about how art and poetry came together for the avant garde, then hear how the Mexican-American community made history with the creation of Chicano Park from someone who was actually there. In theater, our region is known for developing plays and sending them to Broadway. You’ll understand what forces lead to that happening. And finally, everyone deserves a voice in preserving their history. You’ll see how one group claimed their history and created their own archives to share their struggles.

I am excited to be part of the Congress of History and the dedicated historians and history buffs who have volunteered untold hours to bring this conference to you. Thanks goes to our cosponsor, the Portuguese Historical Center, without whose support and partnership we couldn’t bring this quality programming to you in such a great setting. We again will have more than a dozen historical organizations with booths at the event, along with two history-supportive booksellers. Thank you to everyone for making this another great conference!

The conference registration form is available at our website atwww.CongressOfHistory.org and in Adelante. Please register today, and bring a friend. Share with others in your organization about this event. Support the organization that supports your work. And if you know of a deserving person or organization doing great things in our southern California region, don’t forget to nominate them for a Congress of History award.

Below is a list of confirmed speakers and the working titles for their presentations. We can’t wait for you to meet them in person at the Conference!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Founding Era ( 1769 – 1850 )

  • Max Kurillo: “1769: The First Spanish Intrusion into San Diego – From El Camino Real to the 1906 Commemorative Bells” [author]
  • Alex Bevil: “March 23, 1770: For the Want of an Anchor – How a Lost Sea Anchor Contributed to the Founding of San Diego 250 Years Ago” [author]
  • Robert Kittle: “1775: How Franciscan Frontiersmen Charted the West” [author]
  • Edie Littlefield Sundby: “December 2015: The Mission Walker’s 1,600 Mile El Camino Real Trek – Following in the Footsteps of Serra and Portola” [author]

Middle Era (1851-1950)

  • Karen Scanlon: “November 15, 1855: Finally a Lighthouse at San Diego – Creating the Beacon of Safety for Southern California Maritime Travel” [author]
  • Rosanne Goodwin: ‘1884: Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona – How A Romantic Myth of San Diego Captured America’s Heart and Brought Tourism To Town”
  • Douglas Mengers and Rhiannon Killian: “July 3, 1886: All Aboard! San Diego’s First Streetcar Service Blossoms into a Neighborhood-Seeding Commuter Rail Industry” [author]
  • Dr. Sandra (Sandee) Bonura: “1887 and Beyond: John D. Spreckels: Builder of San Diego”
  • Steve Lech, Riverside County Heritage Association: “May 1893: San Diego County Loses One-Third of its Territory – The Formation of Riverside County out of San Diego County” [author]
  • Bruce Semelsberger: “November 15, 1919: With the Driving of a Golden Spike, a Neighborhood Railroad Became Part of a Transcontinental Giant”

Saturday, March 30, 2019

  • Helen Ofield: “1925: Unintended Consequences – How the Mattoon Act Nearly Killed Southern California Development”
  • Jack Larimer, Vista Historical Museum: “February 27, 1926: The Vista Irrigation District Opens the Door to Rural Agricultural Development and the Creation of the City of Vista”
  • Laurie Egan-Hedley: “1932: The Barona Band of Mission Indians – Maintaining Sovereignty Through the Relocation Process”
  • Lisa K. Shapiro: “World War II: No Forgotten Fronts – The Poignant Letters from San Diego State College Students at War” [author]
  • Lynne Carrier: “1947: Leon Williams – Together We Can Do More; Breaking Barriers for the African-American Community” [author]

Modern Era (1951-2000)

  • Bill Ketchum: “1957: To The Moon on a Slide Rule – General Dynamics, the Atlas Missile, and San Diego’s Extraordinary Role in Space Exploration” [author]
  • Dave Hampton: “1963: Guy Williams’ Poems for Painters – Evidence of the Avant Garde in San Diego”
  • Maria Garcia: “April 22,1970: The Mexican-American Community is Heard – the Founding of Chicano Park” [author]
  • Welton Jones: “1980s: When San Diego Actors Stopped Giving It Away – Theatre Turns Pro”
  • Lambda Archives Staff: “1987: Deserving of Preservation – The Founding of the Lambda Archives to Preserve LGBTQ+ History”

About Raymond Blavatt

I joined the Ocean Beach Historical Society in San Diego Ca and now part of Congress of History also.
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