RSB Books

RSB Books

Richard Schwartz
Writer, Historian
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RSB Books
Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley
Earthquake Exodus, 1906
Berkeley 1900
The Circle of Stones

Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley

Return to the Eccetrics web page | Go the Introduction

Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley
            cover painting

 

David Crosson, Executive Director, California Historical Society

Too often history is presented as an abstract force outside of human control that has happened to others sometime in the past. Humans did not shape history but were shaped by it. Worse yet, those same humans never really become people, especially people like you and me or, for that matter, anyone who you and I know. In truth, however, history is created by people very much like us. In the end (to paraphrase Tip O'Neal) all history is local. All history is personal. And all history is a story or the undetermined sum of many stories. All modesty aside, we common sort can be pretty fascinating.

If you want proof of this simple truth, all you have to do is pick up Richard Schwartz's collection of stories on Berkeley, California, and the East Bay in the last half of the nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth centuries. In this small book of stories on a single community, Schwartz touches all of the abstract themes that you will find in grand histories: class struggle, ethnic conflicts, economic greed, and political intrigue. To be sure, you will meet a full cast of outlandish characters that you would expect to find in Berkeley: a national caliber humorist known locally as "the Boss Baggage Buster of Beautiful Berkeley," a lone widow washerwoman who maintained a 20 year fight against the power of both the City and the railroad, and a hotdog maven who advertised with a sign that read, "Eat Here; Die at Home."

At the same time, however, all of these dead, historical people come dressed in clothes, wearing the faces, and speaking the voices of people we will recognize. By the time Richard Schwartz is through with each portrait, we don't just know the story, we know the person. Wait, doesn't she live next door? The past, as Richard Schwartz tells it, is comprised of a lot of people who look, act, and sound a lot like us. For me, at least, that is comforting news.

David Crosson

 

RSB Books
Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley
Earthquake Exodus, 1906
Berkeley 1900
The Circle of Stones