150: The History of Kern County Through Photographs

April 2, 2016 marked the sesquicentennial of the founding of Kern County. Kern County covers an area of almost 8200 square miles and has a rich tradition in agriculture, petroleum, aerospace, and music. In 1914, Wallace M. Morgan offered this introduction in his 1556-page tome, The History of Kern County, California:

Exhibit poster
Exhibit poster

“To read Kern County’s history aright, to understand its motive forces, to get in harmony with the spirit of its people and to know why certain otherwise inexplicable events and conditions came to pass, it is necessary to keep in mind several things. First of all, there always has been some big thing doing in Kern County. It is a county of vast size, and its treasures of natural wealth are wonderful in their richness and tremendous in their variety, range and magnitude. Think of 200,000 acres of swamp land, worth from $50 to $100 per acre now and soon to be worth twice these amount, selling within the memory of men now living for fifty cents to a dollar per acre and to be acquired from an easy-going state for even less than this. Think of the great expanse of desert lands almost as cheap and almost as valuable. Think of a great oil wells flowing from ten thousand to twenty thousand barrels per day and leagues on leagues of oil lands to be had for the going and taking. Think of such manifest richness as this and understand what dreams the pioneers indulged in, what cupidity and greed of gain were fostered, what clashes of strong, aggressive, resourceful men the scramble to possess these bounties of nature brought about.”[i]

This exhibit highlights the dreams our pioneers indulged in and documents the triumphs and tragedies through one hundred and fifty years the development of a county, its communities, and its people.

[i] Wallace M. Morgan, The History of Kern County, California, Los Angeles: Historic Record Company, 1914, page 1. Available in the Historical Research Center on the second floor of the Walter W. Stiern Library.