Skip to main content

Minor White photographs

Identifier: PC-RM-White
The collection consists of 479 black and white gelatin silver prints and 423 gelatin silver print negatives of urban and rural postwar Bay Area and greater Northern California taken by photographer Minor White while he resided in San Francisco from 1946 to 1953. The bulk of the photographs document San Francisco county neighborhoods, including the downtown financial and produce districts; the Embarcadero and waterfront; and the Potrero, Mission, Glen Park, Bayshore, Nob Hill, Chinatown, Bernal Heights, Laurel Heights, Fillmore, Sunset and Richmond districts. The images document African American, Japanese American and Chinese American neighborhoods and businesses in San Francisco. A significant number of photographs document the postwar housing construction boom in San Francisco including the construction of the planned neighborhood Parkmerced; the construction of single family housing in the Sunset district; the development of former cemeteries into residential and commercial areas; and the construction of public housing in the city.

The collection also includes many photographs taken in counties in proximity to San Francisco County, including Alameda County, Amador County, Calaveras County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, Mariposa County, Mendocino County, Placer County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Solano County, Sonoma County, and Tuolumne County. These photographs document many of the historic buildings located in these California counties. Of particular note are images of one of the oldest Chinese temples in California, the Temple of Kwan Tai in Mendocino County; the first Serbian Orthodox Church in America, the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church and the Argonaut Mines in Amador County; and flood damaged buildings in Alviso, San Jose, Santa Clara County.


  • 1946-1953

Language of Materials



The photographic prints in the collection are open for research. The negatives in the collection are restricted for conservations reasons.

Publication Rights

Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum. © Trustees of Princeton University. Reproductions can be obtained from the California Historical Society. For copyright clearance and permission to use images from the Minor White photographs held at the California Historical Society, please visit the Minor White Archive website.


2.25 Linear Feet (5 manuscript boxes)

Biographical Information

Minor White (July 9, 1908 – June 24, 1976) was an American photographer and educator. His professional career began in 1938 as a photographer on a Works Progress Administration project, documenting historic buildings in Portland, Oregon. After serving in World War II, White settled in New York enrolling in Columbia University and working as a photographer for the Museum of Modern Art. In 1946 Ansel Adams invited White to teach in the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). While teaching White continued to practice photography, documenting the distinct neighborhoods of San Francisco and various other Northern California counties. He left the California School of Fine Arts in 1953, accepting a curatorial position with the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Two years later White joined the faculty of the Rochester Institute of Technology, and in 1965 was invited to design the visual arts program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. White continued to teach, photograph, exhibit his work and publish a monograph and text on his personal photographing process. He died of a heart attack on June 24, 1976.

System of Arrangement

Photographs are arranged into forty-five folders organized chronologically by year, then by print size and, finally, by either a numbering system presumably created by White, or by month and date on which the photograph was taken. Negatives are stored in two boxes, organized in chronological order by negative number. Negative numbers appear in the left upper corner of negative enclosure and correspond to negative numbers recorded on backs of photographic prints.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Minor White, 1957.

Related Materials

The Minor White Archive—comprising more than 26,000 photographs and other items created by or related to Minor White—is held by the Princeton University Art Museum. Rights to Minor White’s work are held by Princeton University.


Supplied titles created by cataloger.
General The original information recorded on the verso of the historical photographs may include racial terms that were commonplace at the time, but are considered to be derogatory today.

Processing Information

Processed by Jaime Henderson, 2017.
Finding aid to the Minor White photographs PC-RM-White
Henderson, Jaime
2017 March
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the California Historical Society Repository

678 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94105