The ground surface is so nearly level that you have no sense of contour. . . . It is not a former lake, although in large part it is a former swamp. Geology characteristically repeats itself around the world and down through time, but---with the possible exceptions of the Chilean Longitudinal Valley and the Dalbandin Trough in Pakistan---the Great Central Valley of California has no counterpart on this planet.

~ John McPhee, Assembling California

Decrease Font Size
Increase Font Size


Fruit of the Valley: Women & Agriculture Exhibit with Fresno State graduate intern Ariel Lopez, May 2018

The Fresno Historical Society Archives has remarkable manuscript and photograph collections. Archivist Katy Hogue conceptualizes, designs and constructs several exhibits each year using the best of our archival collections. Located in cases at Fresno’s City Hall, in the main lobby and in the lobby of the Mayor’s Office, Fresno Historical Society exhibits offer fascinating narratives that explore unique aspects of Fresno County history.

Current Exhibits:

Fruit of the Valley: Women & Agriculture­

This exhibit explores the many roles of women in the San Joaquin Valley's largest economy. A few pioneering women have been farmers and ranchers as early as the 1880s, while many more women have worked hard in industry packing houses and fields. Images of women have also been used to promote agricultural products as the Sun-Maid Girl and on colorful fruit packing labels. Traditional supporting roles of women included participation in beauty pageants such as the Raisin Queen competition, while homemakers turned produce from the fields into healthy meals for their families and prized goods to compete in the county fair. Today, female farmers are a growing force in the agribusiness industry. 

Located in the main lobby of Fresno City Hall, this exhibit was made possible through the research and writing of Fresno State graduate intern Ariel Lopez. Special thanks to Nikiko Masumoto and Ben Sakoguchi for their contributions to this exhibit. 

Bicycle Novelties: Cycling at the Turn-of-the-Century 

This exhibit explores the evolution of the bicycle from the early nineteenth-century through the earliest motorcycles. The first bicycle was patented in 1817. Yet cycling remained a novelty in the U.S. until the 1890s when the dangers of taking a header over the handle bars of an Ordinary penny-farthing bicycle were solved by the new Safety bicycle. By 1894, The New York Daily Tribune noted, "That the bicycle "fad"...has taken a firm hold on fashionable society must certainly accepted without question." As the 1890's progressed, the bicycle transitioned from a curiosity of the rich to a commodity for the masses. For just $75 - $2,000 today - a cyclist could purchase the healthy recreation of the new Safety bicycle. Bicycle owners demanded road improvements to make cycling easier and innovations in bicycle manufacturing lead to the development of the motorcycle and the automobile. Bicycles also provided middle-class women with new opportunities outside their local neighborhoods, which gave rise to the concept of the New Woman. This exhibit traces the history of bicycling in Fresno County through photographs of the Nishkian Cyclery, Nakamura Cyclery and Fowler’s Hom Cyclery.

Located in the lobby of the Mayor’s Office on the second floor of Fresno City Hall, this exhibit was made possible through the research and writing of Fresno State graduate intern Ariel Lopez.


Cappie Barrett Wore Many Hats

Wife and mother of four Captola "Cappie" Barrett built a career in the 1950s and 1960s as a leader of Fresno's women's clubs and charitable organizations all while displaying charm and grace in her signature hats. Cappie went to John Robert Powers School of Modeling in Monterey, California where she learned the art of elegance and grace. Using her charm school skills, Cappie also taught classes and hosted a radio show on charm and fashion. In 1954, after the Barretts moved to Fresno, Cappie was a department store tea model and directed the John Robert Powers School of Fresno, which opened in 1955. Cappie was committed to communty service. She served as president of the YWCA, the Fresno County Democratic Women’s Club, the Fig Garden Women’s Club, and was a two-term president of the Fresno County Branch of the American Cancer Society, as well as being a member or officer of a number of other organizations. This exciting exhibit celebrates the life and service of Cappie through her gloriously diverse hat collection, featuring several of the top mid-twentieth century hat designers.

Located in the main lobby of Fresno City Hall behind the information desk, this exhibit was made possible through the research and writing of Fresno State graduate intern Ariel Lopez. Special thanks to Charles Barrett for sharing his memories of his mother. 

Past Exhibits:

The Voyage of the J.R. McDonald

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Over Here – Fresno County during the Great War

Chinese Heritage in Fresno County

Summer in the Sierra Nevada

See these exhibits digitally on the Fresno Historical Society Archives Flickr page. 

Historic Photograph Reproductions

Interested in purchasing a digital reproduction of an exhibit photograph? Please review our guidelines for Historic Photograph Reproductions.

Last Updated Sunday, February 16, 2020 - 05:56 PM.