You can find some interesting and unexpected things on official Secretary of State’s websites. For example, the California Secretary of State website has information about California’s Old Series Trademarks. The things a family historian learns about the history of a state could provide insight into what the lives of his or her ancestors were like.
The website notes the California Gold Rush. On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Thousands of people rushed to California in the hopes of finding gold and becoming rich. The Gold Rush increased the non-native population of California from less than 20,000 in 1848 to more than 223,000 in 1852. Perhaps one of your ancestors was among them.
Most of the people who got involved with the Gold Rush believed that they would get rich quick and then go back home to their families with the money. This plan did not work out for the majority of people who attempted it. Some of the people who arrived in California, and mined for gold, in 1848 were successful. Almost no one else was.
Some of the unlucky people returned home empty-handed. Others decided to stay in California and start a business. The Gold Rush caused an explosion of commerce the likes of which the state of California had never seen before.
The result was that California ended up being the first state in the nation to create a trademark law. It focused on bottled beverages. Only the registered trademark owner was allowed to use, sell, or have in his possession any bottle for which a trademark had been acquired under the provisions of the Act.
Every person engaged in manufacturing or bottling certain beverages could have a trademark, or name, as he deemed proper, stamped on, or blown in, bottles. Persons wishing a trademark for bottled beverages had to file a claim and a description of the mark with their County Clerk and a duplicate with the Secretary of State.
As a result, the State of California ended up with a collection of trademarked logos. California got a grant from the National Archives to digitize their collection of old trademarks, artwork, and images. The California Secretary of State website has links to some of them.
It is noted on the California Secretary of State website that the “Old Series Trademarks” reflect social trends and cultural norms of the Victorian era, including sometimes racist or stereotypical depictions of ethnic groups. The collection also provides a glimpse of commerce and consumer goods in California at a time when the industrial revolution and transcontinental railroad brought transformation.
Image by Loco Steve on Flickr.
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