Bear State Books has been dedicated to the publication of area histories and biographies to help preserve our heritage. It is owned and operated by Chris Brewer, a registered Professional Historian through the California Council for the Promotion of History (CCPH) and an architectural historian for the California Department of Transportation.
Brewer started publishing books in 1979, when his mother-in-law, Bonnie Botkin, asked him how to reprint Walter M. Smith’s First Fifty Years of Exeter Union High School.
“I had access to typesetting equipment through an acquaintance in Bakersfield and we went over to Taft Community College and worked on the book in the evenings after working at the Kern County Museum,” Brewer recalled.
“I loved the idea of printing books and slowly learned the process necessary to do so.”
Eight years later, a cousin asked him about publishing a book of historic pictures. Brewer had “a fairly substantial collection” of old photographs so the two partnered up with Brewer doing the work and his cousin paying the bills. The book, The Bakersfield and Kern Picture Album, sold more than 8,000 copies. Since then, Bear State Books has published more than 30 titles, including El Camino Viejo á Los Angeles, Death Valley ‘49ers, Exeter’s Photographic Past, Handbook of Yokuts Indians, Bakersfield Pastoral and the huge Thompson’s Atlas Map of Tulare County, California.
Brewer, the great-grandson of Colonel Thomas Baker, for whom the city of Bakersfield is named, spent a decade as a professional musician, starting while in the service in the U.S. Navy. He played bass trombone for such singers as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Paul Anka.
Chris and his wife own Book Garden in downtown Exeter. They also own and operate Exeter Flower Company next door.
Chris is a member of the Society of California Pioneers, the California Council for the Preservation of History, and, with his wife is a life member of the Tulare County Historical Society and the Death Valley `49ers. He also serves on the advisory committee of the Great Valley Center, in Modesto.
Besides at local bookstores like Book Garden in Exeter, his books are sold internationally including through retail locations such as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and at BearStateBooks.com.
Bear State Books
179 East Pine St.
Exeter, CA 93221
Chris Brewer contributes to video on the Daltons. The video, produced by the California Auctioneers and Appraisers, interviews California historian Chris Brewer and others about the history of the Dalton Brothers and the Wild Bunch gang and describes in detail the capture of the 1876 Winchester riffle used by Bill Dalton in California’s first train robbery 1891 and seized by Sheriff E.W. Kay, Tulare County, California. The incident was described in Frank Latta’s book, “Dalton Gang Days,” and the riffle ended up in Latta’s archives until it was sold after his death. The riffle was auctioned off May 5, 2013.
The latest book from Bear Sate Books in Exeter is a must have for anyone interested in local history and Native American culture. The Handbook of Yokuts Indians, produced especially for Table Mountain Rancheria, the classic reference text for scholars studying area Indians, as well as collectors, has been re-released in 2014 with a whole new look.
Written by Frank F. Latta and originally published in 1949, the Handbook of the Yokuts Indians is considered by many historians and cultural anthropologists to be the single most important work on the lives and culture of the more than 60 tribes that made up the Yokuts.
“The book is the definitive reference on Yokuts Indians,” said Chris Brewer, local historian. “It lives up to the name ‘Handbook,’ and is the only major reference source on Yokuts.”
The original 1949 publication was enlarged and edited by Latta and his daughter, Monna Latta Olson. It was released in an enlarged second edition in 1977. The edition soon sold out, and collectors and researchers found themselves paying up to 10 times the original cover price. Brewer felt it was time to republish the book as the price for the old edition was way too inflated.
The inflated cost of the second edition, as well as its scarcity are what prompted Brewer to gain the rights from the Latta Family Trust to re-release the Handbook.
The release of the latest edition is priced at a more reasonable $99.95.
The book’s latest incarnation was published for collectors, and serious researchers, as well as for those interested in Native American culture and local history. People who are interested in local history or the history of the San Joaquin Valley will want this book, especially those who missed it last time. It is also felt to be a superb textbook for anthropology, history, and archaeology students.
Drawn from first hand interviews, the book contains literally hundreds of photographs of the Yokuts people demonstrating their traditions and artifacts.
There are dozens of photographs in the book, many of rare Yokuts ceremonies and basket makers.