History told through words, images of pioneers
Local couple producing series of history books
Jody Hornor enjoys going back in time.
In fact, Hornor, 55 and her husband, Ric, 56, have created a new career
for themselves by producing history books that capture the words and
images of the people who lived during the Gold Rush era.
While most history books are dry reading - "all facts, but no
fun" - the Hornors' books take a different tack. "They had to be
fun. They had to appeal to people who like pictures - people who like to
scan and read," Hornor said.
The first in a planned series on Northern California, "The Golden
Corridor," tells the history of the Gold Rush era from San Francisco
to Lake Tahoe through more than 150 personal stories gathered from journals,
diaries and letters as well as 176 photographs.
"Ric and I don't consider ourselves authors. All the words are
written in the vernacular of the 1800s," explained Hornor. "I
was in tears when I first read some of the material. There was such
heartbreaking stuff that people went through."
And that's what hooked the couple on the concept of
producing a series of history books. "This is real stuff happening to
real people. It's people doing what they did and writing it down in their
journals. This is history," she explained.
Hornor points out the books are not meant to be a comprehensive history.
"It comes back to what I thought would be the most interesting
reading," she said. "There are enough elements to hook them and
teach them something about history."
A computer graphic artist, Ric Hornor uses his skills to bring out the
sharpness of photos that have darkened over time. These photos give
readers a visual image of the places and events described in the text.
"I've felt like an archeologist these last few months,"
commented Ric. "I've restored most of the photos - many of them were
so aged that you couldn't even tell what was in them prior to restoration.
In every one I worked on I made fun discoveries...like the black blob in
front of the steamer, the 'New World,' wasn't a blob at all, but a man
repainting the name on the side of the vessel."
Residents of Pilot Hill for 13 years, the Hornors feel intimately
connected with the history of the area. "This was an extremely
important area during the Gold Rush," Jody continues. "We have
all these rock walls (on our property) that the Chinese coolies
The concept for the books evolved as Jody began typing the history of El
Dorado County for online use by the El Dorado County Historical Society.
In 1999, the couple suffered severe concussions when their car was
broadsided. The injuries as well as the lengthy recovery process meant the
end of their successful careers.
The task of typing helped Jody retrain her brain to perform once-simple
functions, like typing and using computer keyboard functions.
Prior to the accident, Jody had been working as a marketing consultant,
public speaker and business publication writer, while Ric's career in
computer graphics included studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and
teaching at the Pratt Institute.
Once they embraced the idea for the books, the couple spent countless
hours sorting through the collections of local museums as well as online
at the Library of Congress searching for material and photographs to use
in the books.
When they began gathering material for their first book, Hornor admits,
she was overwhelmed by the quantity of material. However, she eventually
narrowed the search to material that showed the character of the people
who settled in Northern California during the Gold Rush.
Published under the imprint of 19th Century Books, "Golden
Corridor" recently received an "Award of Excellence" from
the Sacramento County Historical Society as well as a western-region
Independent Publisher's Award for Excellence.
The awards came on the eve of the publication of their second area history
book, "The Golden Quest," which focuses on 19th century history
in the Lake Tahoe region and includes the western Nevada mining districts.
Their third book, "The Golden Highway," which takes a look at
19th Century life along what is now known as Highway 49, will be available
In addition, the Hornors also publish historic calendars for Sacramento,
Folsom and San Francisco as well as note cards with historic photographs
from the region.
For more information, visit www.19thCentury.us
The Golden Corridor" and "The Golden Quest"
Folsom History Museum,
Or online at Amazon.com