Museum Exhibits

The County Museum's collections focus on the history of El Dorado County.  Exhibits begin with baskets and tools made by skilled artists of the Maidu, Miwok and Washoe Native American people who lived in the area before and after the Gold Rush.  Finely made feasting baskets in the traditional designs and portable grinding rocks are just a few of the artifacts on display.

image of Baskets

Gold mining equipment, such as stamp mills, gold pans, and other tools are on display.  A rare wheelbarrow made by John M. Studebaker in the 1850s, authenticated by Studebaker when he visited Placerville in 1912, is also on display.  

Gold soon became hard to find, and many people turned to other ways to make a living. El Dorado County became a center for ranching, vineyards, and fruit orchards. Many pioneers operated stores, hotels and businesses. Schools, churches and civic organizations were established. 

Outside, a five-stamp mill used to crush rock, a large flywheel powered by a steam engine ore cars, an orchard sprayer and antique farming tools show what it was needed to get the job done.  Artifacts from the past such as a sheepherder’s covered wagon, a parlor from a fine home, and a General Store, c. 1900 are also on display.

World War I in
El Dorado County
Overseas & At Home,
1917 – 1918

An Exhibit in the El Dorado County Historical Museum

June 15, 2017 to November 15, 2018

When the United States of America joined World War I in April, 1917, it was known as the Great War and had been raging in Europe for three years.  With President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of War, people all over the country got involved in the fighting and supporting the troops. 

The National Day of Registration was held June 6, 1917 when all men between the ages of 18 and 30 registered for Selective Service.  Many El Dorado County men enlisted or were drafted, and trained at Camp Lewis outside of Tacoma Washington before being sent overseas. 

 Enlistees on the El Dorado County Courthouse Steps, 1917

In rural areas, such as El Dorado County in 1917, residents pitched in by growing and preserving their own food and collecting fruit pits to be used in gas mask production.  Patriotic parades were held on Placerville’s Main Street and new soldiers, sailors and nurses sent off with rousing tributes and stirring songs.

Many women joined national organizations supporting the military, such as the Red Cross, which trained nurses and ambulance drivers in Europe and had local chapters, knitting and sewing for the troops overseas.  The National Women's Service League, the Y.M.C.A and Y.W.C.A also provided vital services and supplies to American troops and to the refugees in Belgium and France.


In El Dorado County, the lumber mills were in full production, farmers and ranchers were raising crops for export overseas, and Placerville was a thriving commercial center with the Southern Pacific Railroad transporting fruit, lu

mber and passengers to and from Sacramento. 

The Lincoln Highway, established in 1913, was the first paved highway coast to coast, and ran through Placerville on what is now Placerville Drive and Main Street.

 During this time, the Elite Theater on Main Street hosted the popular silent movies of the day, the well-to-do attended operas and theater productions in Sacramento and San Francisco, local shops and businesses thrived.  Fashions in the mid-19teens reflected a new freedom for women with more comfortable clothes.  Skirts and blouses were popular, and the use of furs as a fashion accessory was all the rage.

In 1918 everyone, overseas and at home, was concerned about “Spanish Flu,” a strain of influenza that was virulent and deadly, seemingly striking down healthy young men.  With only good nursing care and quarantine to combat it, reports in the local newspaper published recommendations on how to avoid catching the ‘flu.

As you go through the Museum looking at the artifacts, photographs and documents of 100 years ago, El Dorado County still looks familiar to us.  Many of the issues, while the details have changed, are still with us – how we see ourselves as part of world events, the economic health of our community, the latest and most popular songs and movies, what the future will bring to a high school graduating class, a fashionable and pleasing home, and concern with political issues such as women’s suffrage and equality. 

 Child's sailor suit and woman's skirt and blouse, 1917

Do you have an artifact to donate?

If your artifact is from El Dorado County and is yours to donate, please contact Mary Cory.  You can email a photograph, a description of its condition and history, and Mary will bring it to the Historic Museum Commission for their review.