family farm newspaper ad "Secondhand Stores"

Writing my debut novel, Reckoned by the Light of Stars, required untold hours of research, of getting into bed with the past, if you will. Rather than seeing history through the eyes of those who have filtered research through their own lens to hand down an interpretation, then filtering that information even further myself, technology has allowed that I, as much as possible, could step into the past with the people who lived it.

It has proven such a worthwhile endeavor, to discover for myself, through maps and children’s books, house plans and garden manuals, magazine and newspaper articles of the 1920s, to learn for myself what daily life was like in that era, it seems imperative I share with others what I have found.

Items preserved in the public domain belong to all the people, without restriction. This throws wide the gates that once was accessible only through formal education or privilege.

Blog posts will offer information, photos, and links to various repositories of online information, especially those items in the public domain. My hope is to inform and inspire readers to access this wealth of knowledge, to advocate for expansion, and to explore that which belongs to all, without restriction.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain – Cornell University

library, garden, horseback riding

In addition to some of the online resources used in my research, I have recently been given permission use historical photos from both the City of Santa Barbara Library, and the Black Gold Cooperative Library, to use historical photographs from their collections.

From City of Santa Barbara Library:

Edson Smith Photograph Collection

The Edson Smith Photograph collection contains over 3100 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1950s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925. Funding for the Edson Smith Digitization Project generously provided by John C. Woodward.

Additionally, Jace Turner, MLS, City of Santa Barbara Library, provided me with a excellent article about this very special collection:

Santa Barbara Independent Article

Seeing Santa Barbara’s Past with New Eyes: Santa Barbara Public Library Digitizes More than 2,500 Historic Images

Black Gold Cooperative Library Historical Photographs

Photographs from this collection are also included on the City of Santa Barbara Library website. Please visit the City of Santa Barbara Library’s website – – to see all the online historical information related to Santa Barbara County – and beyond.

Old house interior, farm, orchard

This website includes a copy of the Santa Barbara County Metsker map, created by Charles T. Metsker the Map Man, in 1925. I contacted the Historic Map Works (, the company that purchased rights to the map collection. They do not have a copy of the Santa Barbara County map, and advised that as long as I have a copy of the original map to scan, it may be included on my website without violating copyright. While I don’t find any specific information as to the date of the map, it shows Camp Cooke which existed from 1941 – 1953, and is the current site of Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Santa Barbara County covers a large area – 2735 square miles, including a portion of Los Padres National Forest, and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, which now belong to the National Park system.

The largest towns extant at the time of my novel, 1922, still exist, but there were well over 100 small settlements and “service towns,” with names like Arlight, Muscio, and Betteravia in north county, and Orella, San Augustin, and Drake to the south.

In 1922, new highways were being laid, and more Americans owned cars than ever before. But many people in the area still traveled by horse or wagon. A journey through the area might require an overnight stay along the route. For those who did own cars, engine trouble might waylay a traveler for a day or two, until fresh parts could be brought in from one of the larger towns.

In 1925, there were 113 library branches in Santa Barbara County. The school directory for Santa Barbara County (1918 – 1919) lists 74 public schools throughout the county, one for every tiny settlement and berg and the larger towns, as well.

Santa Barbara County in the 1920s was an agricultural wonderland, replete with farms, ranches, orchards, dairies, a channel rich with tons of fish that were pulled from the sea each year.

We’ll explore each of these arenas in future posts.