Living Legend No. 64 – Dr. Robert J. Chandler

Dr. Robert J. Chandler

Westerners International Living Legend No. 64 Dr. Robert J. Chandler

Dr. Robert J. Chandler (1942-2019), an Army brat, was born in Utah. Much of his childhood was spent in Hawaii, many of his student years in Southern California, and he spent most of his adult life in Northern California. Bob joined the San Francisco Corral of Westerners in 1987. Thirty years later, in 2017, during a moment of weakness, he allowed himself to be persuaded by Brian D. Dillon to also join the Los Angeles Corral.

Chandler was repeatedly the Sheriff of the San Francisco Corral, having served in that capacity in 1992, 2002, and finally from 2016 through 2017. He made over a half-dozen presentations to the San Francisco Corral and in 2016 also graced the Los Angeles Corral with his benign presence as a scholarly presenter. Bob contributed articles to the Los Angeles Corral’s Branding Iron, and his books were favorable reviewed within its pages. Chandler had the unique honor of seeing his penultimate literary opus get published quite literally on the day he died as the lead article of Branding Iron No. 293. What may very well be Bob’s final publication was his chapter in Aloha, Amigos! the Los Angeles Corral Brand Book 24, published posthumously in 2020.

Dr. Chandler was an historian of international repute, specializing in California history, political history, economic, monetary and banking history, historical ephemera, printing and lithography, and the history of California racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities. Bob earned his Ph.D. in history in 1978 at U.C. Riverside: his dissertation was The Press and Civil Liberties in California During the Civil War. He then spent 32 years as Senior Research Historian for Wells Fargo Bank, based in San Francisco. Bob wrote more than 60 articles on California during the Gold Rush and Civil War periods on civil rights, commerce, finance, gold, journalism, politics, military suppression, numismatics, philately, printing, stagecoaching, steamships, and Wells Fargo generally. He served as an editorial advisor to the California Territorial Quarterly until that outstanding journal became a casualty of the catastrophic Camp Fire in 2018, and was one of that journal’s most consistent contributors for more than twenty years.

Bob was the co-editor (with Bob Schoeppner) of the very first two Brand Books published by the San Francisco Corral (BB 1: 1996; BB 2: 2001). He was also the recipient of three prestigious Westerners International Coke Wood Awards, the first (for 2001) for California Stagecoaching: The Dusty Reality (Dogtown Territorial Quarterly 47, Fall, 2001: 4-24, 34-40); the second (for 2005) for his co-authored article with Steve Potash The Pacific Mail: Pioneering U.S. Flag Steamship Company (The Argonaut, 16, Summer, 2005: 54-106), and the third (for 2010) for his three articles on the Pony Express (California Territorial Quarterly, 81, Spring 2010: 4-27; 28-41; 42-49). Chandler’s books include an Illustrated History of California (2004); Arcadia’s Wells Fargo (2006); Gold, Silk, Pioneers & Mail: The Story of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (co-authored with Stephen J. Potash, 2007); and San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014). Bob’s final book, An E Clampus Vitus Hoax Gone Awry: Sir Francis Drake’s 1579 Plate of Brasse was published by the Grand Council of the ECV in 2018.

In addition to being one of the most active of all Westerners, Dr. Chandler was a member of the bibliophilic Roxburghe Club of San Francisco, and also served on the Council of the Friends of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. He was the Director of the San Ramon Valley Museum and the past President (2003-2011) of the Western Cover [Philatelic] Society and also its secretary. He was the President (2005-2007) of the Book Club of California, and was the long-time (1996-2013) editor of its Quarterly News-Letter. Bob was the President (1981-82) of the San Francisco Civil War Round Table, he was an honorary Kentucky Colonel and the past President of the Fighting ‘49ers Toastmasters (1980, 1982, 1984, 1992).

Bob “Clamper” Chandler was the living embodiment of his alter-ego, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. He was the X-Noble Grand Humbug of Yerba Buena #1, the Mother Lodge, of E Clampus Vitus, holding this exalted position in 2005-2006. During his few remaining minutes of spare time stolen from his research, writing, publishing, and public speaking Bob was also a devoted husband to his long-suffering wife Susan and a loving father to his three adult children, all of whom willingly served out life sentences as his closest relatives without any possibility of parole.

In recognition of Dr. Robert Chandler’s exemplary service to Westerners International, to the advancement of California History, and of his many contributions to Western Civilization, especially his valiant efforts in stemming the rising tide of illiteracy on the Pacific Littoral, he was made a Living Legend of both the San Francisco and Los Angeles Corrals, Westerners International, in 2018.

By Brian Dervin Dillon, Ph.D., 2018; revised 2022