The Boggs Collection at the Redding Library
● By Laura Christman
Treasures of Yesterday
Story by Laura Christman
Photos by Sarah Marie Spectrum
In the 1930s, Mae Helene Bacon Boggs donated a small wooden cabinet with books to Redding Carnegie Library. The tomes on California’s pioneer past and early transportation were the beginnings of a Redding Library collection that continues to grow — a mix of books, pamphlets, reports, recordings, maps, videos, DVDs and other things offering history and clarity about the North State.
“I love it,” Shasta Public Libraries Assistant Director Elizabeth Kelley says of the Boggs Local History Collection. “I think it is a very important collection to Shasta County and to the history of California.”
The collection is on the second floor of the Redding Library, housed in drawers and glass-covered cabinets. Among the 3,936 items are: Wintu Dictionary; gold mining guide; Shasta Dam construction stories; DVD of President John Kennedy dedicating Whiskeytown Dam; Joaquin Miller’s book, “Life Among the Modocs”; Pony Express and Wells Fargo histories; recorded interviews with Isaac Lowe and other Shasta County civil rights leaders; 1862 map of Shasta County; business directories; Redding high school yearbooks; federal government report on the 9-11 terrorist attacks; soils surveys; Redding Rodeo programs; and episodes of public television’s “California Gold.”
The focus is Shasta County people, places and events, but unusual items without a particular tie to the North State have ended up in the collection too, like former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signed autobiography.
“There are a few things mixed in that don’t fall into categories,” Kelley says.
The library is a depository for state and federal documents, and many official publications, such as the reports on Iron Mountain Mine Superfund site, are part of the Boggs Collection.
Mae Helene Bacon Boggs donated books centered on her love of California history and early transportation. She was 8 when she and her mother came to California in 1871 on the new Transcontinental Railroad. They arrived in Shasta via stagecoach. Her uncle lived in Shasta and was an agent for the stagecoach company.
Boggs died in 1962 at the age of 100. She was an activist who pushed for the creation of Shasta State Historic Park and was a driving force in naming Shasta Dam. She donated books, furniture and artwork to Shasta Courthouse Museum.
The Boggs Collection at the Redding Library is used by children writing school reports, graduate students delving into thesis work, researchers for government agencies, people new to the region, families tracking down history and many others. Kelley once helped an East Coast pencil collector date a pencil by finding the business name on the pencil in an old Redding business directory.
If there’s only a single copy of a book in the collection, it stays in the library, but many things can be checked out.
“It’s a mixture of circulating and reference books. We try to get as much of it circulating as we can,” Kelley says.
History inspired by the Boggs Collection is built into the library, which opened in 2007 in its Parkview Avenue location. Architectural details include: a concrete patio with a Wintu basket pattern, circular design in the upstairs windows based on lanterns from Pierson B. Reading’s Rancho Buena Ventura home and entrance columns paying homage to Redding Carnegie Library.
The California Indian Library Collection is in the same part of the library as the Boggs Collection. Materials from University of California at Berkeley archives were sent to regional libraries in the 1990s. Redding’s collection focuses on the Achomawi, Atsugewi, Klamath River, Wintu and Yana, with recorded interviews, songs and dances of native people, as well as photos, manuscripts and other research.
“What’s amazing about the collection is that it includes things that were never published,” Kelley says.
One library patron discovered a photograph of his grandmother and a recording. “He said, ‘I’ve never seen a picture of my grandmother.’ He listened to her singing,” Kelley says.
Tom Ramont, outreach/marketing coordinator at the library and a history enthusiast, gives tours to school groups. Introducing children to the Boggs and California Indian Library collections is a favorite aspect, he says.
“I ask things like, ‘What does rare mean?’ It starts the historical conversation,” he says.
“We have such a rich history here in Shasta County,” Kelley says. “We have mining, we have the railroad, we have the dam. People should know about where they live.”
That includes an understanding of the region’s difficult history, she adds. Materials in the collections help tell the stories of the treatment of Indigenous people and Chinese immigrants, the environmental damage of Shasta County copper smelters and other important history.
“We need to learn from our mistakes,” Kelley says. •
Redding Library • 1100 Parkview Ave.