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Contains photographs and picture postcards depicting scenes of California places, people, activities, and cultural resources, mainly from the 1870s to the 1980s. Each listing represents a file containing from one to more than fifty images. Some files may also include a small number of non-photographic reproductions and prints depicting images from as early as the 1770s.

Includes images depicting California's agricultural economy (crops, livestock, ranching, etc.), industry (fishing, lumbering, etc.), and mining operations, as well as common plants (cactus, redwoods, etc.) and animals (bear, coyote, etc.). Images of the California missions provide the earliest views in the collection. Other scenes of the California landscape reflect the wide variety of the state's natural features (lakes, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, etc.), and the built environment as evidenced through architecture (commercial, domestic, and public) and transportation (automotive, rail, water, etc.), and depicted in the art of individual artists. Also includes images of people engaged in community and cultural activities as members of organizations (Freemasons, Sierra Club, etc.), or participating in recreation (amusement parks, cycling, dance, swimming, etc.), theater, and social groups (Chinese, Hispanic Americans, Italians, hippies, women, etc.). The largest segment of the collection concerns the work of California photographers (chiefly portraits). These have been divided by the city in which they chiefly worked, and described in further detail as individual catalog records. Images included here compliment those found in the California Counties Photography Collection.


  • 1850s-1980s
  • Majority of material found in (Bulk 1870s-1970s)

Language of Materials



Collection is open for research.


From the Collection: 94 boxes, 12 oversize boxes (ca. 23,150 images)

Repository Details

Part of the California Historical Society Repository

678 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94105