The Museum of Redlands recently received a framed photograph from 1915. On the far left, a young girl wearing a white dress and headband sits with knees tucked, her eyes casting an inquisitive gaze at the camera from under trimmed bangs.
She forms part of a crowd of approximately 145 women, men and children posing for the camera on a day in mid-October. Nearly everyone wears a hat — bowlers, newsboy caps, homburgs, hats with statement feathers and ribbons.
Poses and expressions prove as varied as the hat selection, ranging from playful grins, to stoicism and even scowls. The sea of personalities stretches into a single horizontal tier, composing a snapshot of a shared moment during the Santa Fe Farmers’ Special excursion stopover in Redlands.
As described in the San Bernardino County Sun under the headlines, “Farmers Will Spend Half Day Here: Santa Fe Bringing Easterners to Look over Chances in California,” on Aug. 19, 1915, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Special was a special excursion designed to lure eastern and Midwestern farmers to California to view western produce.
The Santa Fe railway authorities who arranged the “unique experiment,” hoped to tempt these prospective purchasers and revive California farmland sales. Famous for its luscious citrus groves, Redlands marked a significant stopping point on the farmers’ tour, after which the group traveled on to Riverside and Needles. An article titled, “Farmers are Here; Marvel at Products,” appeared in the San Bernardino news on Oct. 19, 1915, to announce that visitors devoured the exhibits of grains, vegetables and tobacco with “rapturous eyes.”
Signage announcing the presence of stables, hotels, stores, coal and wagons surround the easterners in this image. The Santa Fe Depot, now known as the Historic Redlands Train Station, frames the group from the left. It was the bustling Santa Fe line, then one of the nation’s largest railways, which permitted this assembly of farmers to congregate on an autumn day almost exactly 104 years ago.
The push launched by the Southern California Railway in 1892 to promote tourism to Redlands by railway persisted well into the 1900s. Tourist influx called for the replacement of the original wooden depot with the Grecian-style colonnaded structure completed by Arthur Brown Jr. in 1910 that locals cherish to this day.
Though the passenger service to Redlands that permitted such excursions ceased in March 1938, the station will once more come to life with the establishment of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project (Arrow) in 2022.
The Museum of Redlands
To donate Redlands-area-related historical items: Contact the A.K. Smiley Public Library Heritage Room at (909) 798-7632.
$2 million matching campaign drive: The Museum of Redlands is in a $2 million matching-fund capital campaign drive by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2019, for renovating its building at 700 Brookside Ave.