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Media Advisory

News conference to discuss the infamous "Drake's Plate" hoax

13 February 2003

ATTENTION: Assignment desks

Contact: Kathleen Maclay
(510) 643-5651 ckm@pa.urel.berkeley.edu

A news conference about the latest research on one of California's greatest hoaxes - the infamous "Drake's Plate," a brass plate found in the 1930s in Marin County and engraved with what appeared to be Francis Drake's claim to California.

Who made that plate, on display at the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library, has been a mystery. New research, reported in the latest issue of California History magazine, an official publication of the California Historical Society, helps answer this question and others.

10 a.m.-noon, Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Conference Room 245, The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Speakers will include:

  • Three of the four authors of the California History article-
    Edward Von der Porten, Robert W. Allen and James M. Spitze
  • Peter Hanff, deputy director of The Bancroft Library
  • Stephen Becker, director of the 5,000-member California Historical Society
  • Richard Saber, Noble Grand Humbug, Yerba Buena Chapter No. 1 of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization founded during the Gold Rush. Other Yerba Buena members also will attend.

The brass plate at The Bancroft Library was discovered in 1936 on a hillside overlooking San Francisco Bay. Herbert Bolton, then-director of the library, had long suggested that a plate posted by the English explorer in 1579 might be found along the Marin County coast.

When Drake's Plate was brought to him for inspection, Bolton easily accepted it as genuine and explained away contrary evidence. He proudly acquired the plate for the library. Some 40 years later, testing determined the plate to be a forgery.


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