Purchasing Books for the State Library in 1853

August 8, 2017

When California State Government was in its infancy, high level officials became involved in routine activities such as the purchase of books for the State Library. Recently, the Foundation acquired on behalf of the Library a beautifully printed warrant from the Comptroller’s Office for $260 dated March 14, 1853. The warrant read as follows: “The Treasurer of State will pay out of the State Library Fund to the order [of] Bigler Governor two hundred and sixty-five dollars cash in said fund for the purchase of books.” Winslow S. Pierce, the State Comptroller signed the warrant. John Bigler served as California’s third governor following statehood. On the reverse side, a hand-written statement read as follows: “Mar 14 1853. Received amount of the written warrant in cash [signed] John Bigler.” Back in the day, the governor approved library purchases.

Unfortunately, we do not have a record of what was acquired at that time. More than likely, the purchase consisted of law books as the young State needed legal material.

The State Capitol in 1853 was in Benicia. The comptroller’s warrant is an attractive document supplied by the stationery company of LeCount & Strong and printed by Britton & Rey, both of San Francisco. In many ways, it is amazing the sophistication and beauty of routine government forms being created on the local level just a few years after statehood. State Government did not have to contract with an East Coast printer. On one side of the warrant is the Great Seal of California, a portrait of Captain Sutter, and the scales of justice. On the top middle is a representation of the state capitol building in Benicia and a large trunk with bags of gold guarded by a large dog. The canine held between its paw a large key that, no doubt, opened the treasurer’s vault.

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