Author Mary Wadden showcased a vivid collection of photos, historical posters and tourist postcards that trace the story of the Santa Clara Valley’s development from the Gold Rush to today’s Facebook collaborators in a Rotary Club of Los Altos presentation March 13.
Wadden’s book, “Silicon Valley: The History in Pictures” (Silicon Valley Historical Association, 2013), shares her vintage photos of the people, places and events that shaped the region. A 1998 graduate of St. Francis High School, Wadden is a commercial real estate broker.
According to Wadden, one of Silicon Valley’s earliest towns was Mayfield, developed around the corner of El Camino Real and Lincoln Avenue on what is now California Avenue in Palo Alto. A true Wild West town, Mayfield boasted a dozen saloons and six brothels.
Passing through what is now the city of Los Altos, the early Southern Pacific Railroad linked Mayfield with San Jose and Los Gatos. Paul Shoup, later the vice chairman of Southern Pacific, formed Altos Land Co. in 1906 to develop the area, building several summer homes that still stand on University Avenue.
Wadden said numerous Silicon Valley towns were created in the 1850s and 1860s. Mountain View grew around a stagecoach stop and the wharves that shipped agricultural products to San Francisco, near what is now Shoreline Amphitheatre.
The book’s clear, sepia-tone photos convey the detail in dress and horse-and-buggy transport in the area’s early days. Colorful fruit-crate labels recall the golden days when 100,000 acres of orchards and fruit-canning operations bolstered the Santa Clara Valley economy in the early 1900s, inspiring the moniker the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.”
Railroad baron Leland Stanford purchased 8,000 acres to establish a first-class university. Stanford University played an instrumental role in developing Silicon Valley’s economy, Wadden said. Fred Terman, dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering, mentored David Packard and Bill Hewlett, among many others, leading to the creation of numerous high-tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Varian Associates and Lockheed Corp.
Between the turn of the 19th century and the end of the Cold War, the Santa Clara Valley spawned a slew of technological advances. The U.S. Department of Defense’s demand for local brainpower prompted the launch of Silicon Valley.
Fairchild Semiconductor built the first silicon integrated circuit in 1960, and the years ahead saw the creation of more than 60 semiconductor companies, Wadden said.
Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit LosAltosRotary.org.