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23rd August
written by Richard

D. C. Collier had his new automobile on the streets yesterday for the first time and the vehicle, when it was not speeding up and down the street, was the center of an admiring throng. . . He has the distinction of being the first San Diegan to own an automobile. –San Diego Union, Feb. 13, 1900

San Diegans marveled at the sight of Charlie Collier’s automobile in 1900. His three-wheeled “French design” vehicle could speed up to 25 miles per hour and go 50 miles on three quarts of gasoline. For most San Diegans, it was the first automobile they had ever seen.

Read the story of how San Diego Discovers the Automobile.

29th July
written by Richard
The first issue of the San Diego Herald.

The first issue of the Herald.

After surmounting difficulties and suffering anxieties that would have disheartened any but a “live Yankee,” we are enabled to present the first number of the Herald to the public. –John Judson Ames, editor, San Diego Herald.

San Diego’s first newspaper, the Herald, appeared on May 29, 1851, only twelve days after the first issue of the Los Angeles Star—the earliest newspaper in Southern California.  The editor and publisher of the Herald was thirty-year-old John Judson Ames, a towering, six-foot six-inch “live Yankee” from Calais, Maine.

Read the story of John Judson Ames and the San Diego Herald.

14th July
written by Richard

“GO!” Major General Leonard Wood, chief of staff of the United States army, gave the command . . . The first automobile in the desperate San Diego-Phoenix race shot forward with a bound. –San Diego Union, Oct. 27, 1912. 

In the fall of 1912, San Diego challenged Los Angeles to a road race across the desert to Arizona. The story of The Great Race


14689 Franklin Model E Touring - c. 1913

Ed Fletcher behind the wheel of his 20 hp Franklin “race car.” Special Collections, University of California, San Diego.


16th June
written by Richard

On July 22, I’ll be at the San Carlos branch of the San Diego Public Library. Here’s some info from the San Carlos Friends of the Library:

Friday, July 22, 2:00-3:00 pm: Richard Crawford will speak on “San Diego Yesterday.” July, 2016, San-Diego-YesterdayRick is the Manager of Special Collections at the San Diego Public Library. He is the former Archives Director at the San Diego Historical Society, where he also edited the Journal of San Diego History for nine years. He has degrees in history (San Diego State University) and library science (San Jose State University). As a historian and archivist, he has written extensively on local history, including the books Stranger Than Fiction: Vignettes of San Diego History, The Way We Were in San Diego, and most recently San Diego Yesterday.

San Carlos Library
7265 Jackson Dr.
San Diego CA 92119

(619) 527-3430

San Carlos image


8th June
written by Richard

Father’s Day is on the way and here’s a quick history fix for Dad.  The books are available at AMAZON and in local bookstores. Each book has 38 stories originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Topics include San Diego people, military, schools, water, sports, crime, scandal, and more–all illustrated with historic photographs. Amazon currently has a price deal for both books, which includes San Diego Then and Now– a photograph history of the city. (I wrote most of the captions for the current edition.)

441.4 San Diego AC

Now available in bookstores and

26th May
written by Richard

Saturday morning, June 4, I’ll be at the Costco in Poway from 11:00 to 1:00 to sign copies of San Diego Yesterday. Come see the book. A great gift for Father’s Day!

  • 12155 Tech Center Dr, Poway, CA 92064
  • (858) 848-2450

Also available at

Awarded “Best Published Local Interest” for 2013 by the San Diego Book Awards Association.

“Crawford masterfully sheds light on San Diego’s past in concise, digestible, yet information-laden narratives.” –Matthew Schiff, Journal of San Diego History

5th March
written by Richard

Please join us for a discussion with local author and historian, Rick Crawford, as he presents stories from his 2013 book, San Diego Yesterday.san-diego-yesterday-cover1-199x300

Extra copies of the book are available to borrow from the Skyline Hills library, or libraries through the area. Please join us for an inside peek into San Diego’s colorful history!

Wed, Mar 9, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Skyline Hills Library
480 S. Meadowbrook Dr.
San Diego CA 92114

(619) 527-3485


28th January
written by Richard

Gambling ships were quite the vogue in the 1930s. Anchored three miles off the San Diego coast, ships like the Reno or Monte Carlo frustrated law enforcement but delighted the sporting crowd. Click below for a story I wrote many years ago about the ill-fated Monte Carlo, the wreck of which can usually be seen each winter at low tide in front of the Hotel del Coronado. This was originally published in Stranger Than Fiction: Vignettes of San Diego History (San Diego Historical Society, 1995).

The Gambling Ships of San Diego 

The SS Monte Carlo, beached at Coronado. From Stranger Than Fiction, p. 42.

The SS Monte Carlo, beached at Coronado. From Stranger Than Fiction, p. 42.

9th January
written by Richard

Jubilation greeted the opening of the Sweetwater Dam in the spring of 1888. On the heels of the great land “boom of the eighties,” National City and the south bay reveled in the completion of an engineering marvel—the tallest masonry arch dam in the United States, which created San Diego County’s first large reservoir of water–an essential key to the region’s growth and prosperity.

The story of Building the Sweetwater Dam.SweetwaterPromo

21st December
written by Richard

Kelp–best known as the flyblown brown seaweed that fouls beaches and tangles the legs of ocean swimmers—is actually one of San Diego’s great natural products. In the early 1900s, the processing of ocean kelp by the Hercules Powder Company in a huge plant in Chula Vista employed hundreds of people and helped win a war. The story of Hercules Powder.

Hercules Powder Company

Hercules Powder Company