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 then moved to Las Vegas NV where he worked at Caesar's Palace and played bass trombone for such singers as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. Also working there for Paul Anka, he left Caesar's and worked for Anka for two years.
In 1977, Brewer retired as a musician and moved to Bakersfield and starting a short career at the Kern County Museum. It is while working at the museum that he met Frank F. Latta while attending UCSC in the summers in Santa Cruz. AS a result of this friendship, Brewer was eventually able to secure much of Latta's research collection from the estate, including the name Bear State Books, used by Latta for his publishing house.
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
189 East Pine St.
Exeter, CA 93221