Claudine Chalmers

A quest to uncover California's French Heritage

           When I first settled in Northern California, I went on a treasure hunt for French placenames, wondering how they had appeared in such a faraway land. My quest turned into stories, the stories into these books that document how a large, early French population helped shape and chronicle the Golden State.

Welcome to a new take on California's History... 

            Claudine Chalmers moved from her native Cannes, France, to California after graduate studies at the University of Nice.  She soon developed great interest in the history of her adoptive Golden State while traveling around the Sierras with her family.

             In 1991, while working freelance for Random House’s Textbook division, she turned the information unearthed in the course of her ten year research into a lively 800-page PHD dissertation on Gold Rush San Francisco’s numerous and colorful French pioneers.

             Her fascination with early California led her to research and write “Splendide Californie: Impressions of the Golden State by French Artists,” a book magnificently produced by the Book Club of California which received the Commonwealth Club’s 2001 silver award and a great review in the Los Angeles Times. An exhibit based on this book was hosted by San Francisco’s California Historical Society and Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum.  Her many articles on the subject appeared, among others, in the CHS Quarterly, the Catalog of Antiques & Fine Art, the Californians, Ancestry Magazine, as well as quarterlies in France, and a spot in a French documentary for the prestigious television show Thalassa.
             After calling Mill Valley her home for many years, Chalmers followed this quest to the Sierra foothills where she built a beautiful log cabin on the edge of the wilderness. There she finds fresh inspiration to continue chronicling the compelling stories of California’s boisterous early days, and the adventures of the French pioneers and artists who preceded her to the Gold Country so long ago.