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Editorial Review

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 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 built."

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 December.

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

The Golden Corridor" and "The Golden Quest" Available at:

Folsom History Museum,
Powerhouse Museum
Or online at

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Links  Folsom History Museum  w Living in & History of El Dorado County

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