Announcing My Newest Book

Announcing the publication of my newest book: From Measures to Missiles.

From 1951 to 1971, a United States Government laboratory was in operation at Corona, California, first under the National Bureau of Standards at the Department of Commerce, then as part of the United States Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance. During that period some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the nation engaged in groundbreaking work in service to the national defense. That work included the creation of the first guided missiles in the U. S. arsenal.

This book is the story of that lab. It was written based on the recollections of one of those lab scientists, Everett B. Ireland, who asked me to write it. He shared his personal memories of his years at the lab and also guided me to books and other sources from a number of government archives. What emerged from this research was the story of a group of men and women who literally re-invented not only military technology, but also laid the foundation for the digital revolution that continues to transform America and the world today.

It’s a complicated history reflecting the intersection of science, national security and politics. And by politics I mean not only governmental politics but also inter-service, inter-departmental and interpersonal politics as well, told by the people who were on the ground, making in happen.

From Measures to Missiles is now available for purchase on the “Books” tab.

The Flume

It was a big event in San Diego. How big? On the front page of the San Diego Union on February 22, 1889, Washington’s Birthday was bumped four columns over by an article on the dedication of the San Diego Flume.

The flume was a massive irrigation project that damned the waters of the San Diego River at the base of the Cuyamaca Mountains, then relayed that water through a network of 35 miles of wooden chutes, climbing atop hundreds of trestles and down through excavated tunnels, winding through the El Cajon Valley to be impounded in another reservoir in La Mesa, from which pipes carried the water to the city of San Diego.

Here’s a photo from the 1908 book History of San Diego: 1542-1908 by William E. Smythe showing a delegation of officials in flat-bottom boats riding the flume as part of the dedication ceremony. The bearded man sitting on the far right in front is then-California Governor Robert Waterman.

Access to a steady water supply was crucial to San Diego City and County. Up until the mid-nineteenth century, San Diego County farmers and ranchers practiced water management individually by digging wells, creating earthen dams to form local reservoirs, and keeping careful track of rainfall. The last half of the century saw growing collective action within and between individual communities, private companies and public efforts at the county and state level to promote irrigation and other conservation programs. The city of San Diego’s first water company was formed in 1873. The San Diego Flume Company was founded in 1886. Other water companies and irrigation districts began to form throughout the county, like the Escondido Mutual Water Company and the Vista Irrigation District, formed in 1904 and 1923 respectively. Local, county and state water management efforts became more intertwined with the creation of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California in 1928 and the California State Water Project (SWP) in 1960.

The MWD brought a steady supply of Colorado River water to San Diego County, while the SWP linked our water systems to the reservoirs of northern California.

These efforts along with aging infrastructure made the flume system obsolete by the 1930s and led to its abandonment. But remnants of the old trestles and tunnels can still be seen in parts of the county.

Fruit of the Land

Below is an early label for one of the main products of San Diego County agriculture, courtesy of the California Secretary of State’s Office and the U. S. National Archives:

C.C. Brandt applied to the California Secretary of State’s office for trademark rights to his lemon juice in April 1900. At that point lemons and their by-products had become a major cash crop for San Diego County farmers. Just a few months earlier, The San Diego Union had made “the lemon-growing industry” the focus of most of its edition of Sunday, October 22, 1899.

“The subject of lemons was the sole topic of discussion at a meeting of the San Diego Horticultural Society held in the chamber of commerce rooms in this city last Tuesday,” noted the Union. Six of the paper’s twelve pages were dominated by articles reporting on the meeting, which included addresses by local growers offering advice on growing and marketing lemons.

Unique soil and climate conditions had made San Diego “the center of the lemon industry in the United States,” according to the Union.

“In round numbers,” reported a separate Union article, “San Diego County has 500.000 lemon trees. Of these, one-fifth are now bearing, their product being 500 carloads or over for the present year.”

That’s railroad carloads they were talking about. Up to October, according to industry statistics, 401 carloads had been shipped to markets across the country. That was compared to 228 carloads just three years earlier.

“In no county in the United States has lemon-growing assumed the proportions it has reached in San Diego County, and nowhere can lemons be produced more successfully than here, the frostless belt of the bay region being peculiarly adapted to this fruit. The industry has a magnificent future.”

Just as an update, according to the latest crop report from the County of San Diego, in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available, 73,295 tons of lemons were harvested, tops for all local citrus fruits.

From the Horse’s Mouth-Literally

William Perry Bevington, like a lot of other San Diego County residents in the 19th century, originally came from elsewhere. Born in the Midwest in 1850, he’d come to southern California with his family in 1871, originally settling in San Jacinto. In 1873 he married and in 1875 he and his wife Elizabeth acquired land in the San Pasqual Valley. In the 1880 United States Census he is listed as a farmer. But in 1887 he moved to the budding new town of Escondido where he started pursuing a different line of work, one still critically important to San Diego County life in that era, a “liveryman.”

In the 1892-93 city/county directory, Bevington is listed as the proprietor of “Fashion Stable.” Below is a view of his corral and stables, also known as “Fashion Livery,” from an 1892 fire insurance map of Escondido, part of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection of the Library of Congress. It was a pretty large operation, covering most of a block along the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Ivy Street:

From the early 1890s until Bevington’s death in 1917, Escondido newspapers frequently ran ads for his stable, offering horse breeding as well as stabling services, as shown by the ad below from the March 24, 1911 Escondido Times-Advocate:

An add from June 30, 1905 shows another service Bevington offered:

Equine dentistry may have become his primary business, as the 1910 U.S. Census lists his occupation as “Veterinary Surgeon.”

When he died in September 1917 one of Escondido’s prominent citizens, Judge J. N. Turrentine, gave the eulogy, and the Times-Advocate noted “Many beautiful flowers and floral pieces were brought by loving friends in token of the high esteem in which they held the memory of the departed.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

“We stand upon a land that carries the footsteps of millennnia of Kumeyaay people. They are a people whose traditional lifeways intertwine with a worldview of earth and sky in a community of living beings.”

These are the opening words of a resolution adopted by the Senate of San Diego State University in September 2019. That resolution acknowledged the legacy of the university’s site as Kumeyaay land. It was part of a movement throughout the nation by the descendants of America’s original residents to reassert their historical legacy and to assume agency over their history and their future.

You can read the resolution in full by clicking on this link: .

I would also recommend checking out two other San Diego County organizations in the forefront of embracing and building on San Diego’s indigenous heritage:

This is the link to the website of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at California State University San Marcos:

This is the link to the Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy: