Peoples Temple Publications Department Records
As Peoples Temple was building its political connections and influence in California, a small group of settlers was establishing a cooperative colony in Guyana called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Mission, later known as Jonestown. In response to the publication of an exposé of Temple abuses and other pressures, nearly one thousand Peoples Temple members immigrated to Jonestown in the summer of 1977. The Publications Department Records provide the most extensive visual documentation of Jonestown extant, from the settlement’s establishment in 1974 to the penultimate days of 1978. Reflecting the public relations interests of the Publications Department, images of Jonestown present an interracial utopian agricultural society in the heart of the South American jungle. The new collection includes photographs of Jonestown residents of all ages, working, attending school, and participating in communal activities, as well as imagery of the site itself and construction of the settlement.
In addition to photographs, the collection contains forty-three film and video recordings of Peoples Temple in the United States and Guyana, thirty-eight of which have been digitized and made available online via the Internet Archive as part of the California Audiovisual Preservation Project. These moving pictures poignantly capture daily life in Jonestown, including children’s parades, work projects, and musical performances. Forty-nine sermons given by Jim Jones, previously digitized, have also been put online as part of the project.
The Publications Department records also contain publications, ephemera, and manuscript material documenting Peoples Temple efforts to tighten control over public opinion amidst mounting concerns over abuse, child custody issues, and living conditions in Jonestown. These materials include the “Conspiracy Book,” compiled by the Publications Department to document alleged media and government conspiracies against Peoples Temple, and statements written by public officials in support of the Temple. Other publications and ephemera, including meticulously organized mailers, illustrate Peoples Temple’s evangelical roots and religious outreach to the African American community.
- circa 1965-1978
Language of Materials
All researchers must sign the Access Agreement form, confirming that they have read and understood the restrictions outlined in the document Restricted Materials in the Peoples Temple Publications Department Records, MS 3791. This document, and the Access Agreement form, are available at the reference desk or can be sent electronically.
Restricted Materials in the Peoples Temple Publications Department Records, MS 3791
Open but subject to restrictions on disclosure:
Records throughout the collection may contain personally identifiable information of a personal or confidential nature such as medical information and social security numbers. Publication or disclosure of such information is strictly prohibited, unless researcher can show proof that the person is deceased, or has provided proof of permission by the party named to CHS.
Sealed and closed until 2046: [Peoples Temple meeting], Thanksgiving meeting, Nov. 25, 1971, Reel 1, Video Tape 04, Box 43. [Peoples Temple meeting, Los Angeles], 11-27-71, #2, Video Tape 10, Box 43. [Peoples Temple meeting], Reel #3, 11/27/71, L.A. meeting, Video Tape 03, Box 43.
Sealed and closed until 2050: [Peoples Temple meeting], March 5, 1975, Wed nite, Video Tape 01, Box 43. [Peoples Temple meeting], 3/14/1975, Video Tape 02, Box 43.
Sealed and closed until 2051: Testimony Photographs (Found with Disappearing Photographs), Box 51, Folder 19
Sealed and closed until 2052: Visitor Information Cards, Box 51, Folders 4-5.
Sealed and closed until 2053: Portraits [restricted], Box 51, Folders 1-2. Restricted Contact Sheets from 90220-91399, Box 51, Folder 6. Medical Photographs, Box 51, Folders 7-8. Restricted Contact Prints and Negatives, Box 51, Folder 9. Disappearing Photograph Correspondence, Box 51, Folder 10. Disappearing Photograph Envelopes, Box 51, Folders 11-12. Disappearing Photographs, Box 51, Folder 13. [Medical, Restricted], Box 51, Folder 14. Conspiracy Book [restricted], Box 51, Folder 15. [Psychic surgery on unidentified woman's abdomen and neck], Film Reel 40, Box 44. [Peoples Temple meeting], L.A. Saturday, Video Tape 07, Box 43 Restricted Slides, Box 51, Folder 16 People Who Left the Temple, Box 51, Folder 17 Photographs of People Who Left Peoples Temple, Box 51, Folder 18
Sealed for the lifetimes of the subjects: Temple Member Biographies, Box 51, Folder 3 (Timothy Carter and Lee Ingram) “Jim and Marcie respond to John Stoen suit from Jonestown,” Film Reel 01, Box 44 (Timothy Stoen and Grace Jones)
Conditions Governing Use
28.25 Linear Feet (29 o-ring preservation box albums, 9 legal document boxes, four albums with slipcases, 2 record storage cartons, 1 oversize flat print box Q, 1 shallow lid cabinet card box, 1 flip top cabinet card box, 1 oversize print box B, 1 oversize legal document box, 1 large capacity CD box)
Donor Tim Clancey took over the Publications Department after the defection of its former head, Deanna Mertle. A candlemaker who joined the Temple along with his wife MaryLou and his close friends Tim and Terry Carter, Clancey retrained as a printer within the Temple and operated a print shop in Redwood Valley for both commercial and Temple use. In the mid-1970s, he and his shop moved to the San Francisco Temple. The Publications Department eventually grew to include several full-time staff: Bryan Kravitz, Don Jackson, graphic artists Kathy Barbour and Patti Chastain, typesetter Gloria Rodriguez, and teenage photographer Mike Rozynko. Professor and former journalist Dick Tropp edited the Peoples Forum itself. Although Jim Jones would suggest stories and give broad directives, he did not closely manage the department, and it was largely left to its own devices.
The collection’s other donor, Jean Brown Clancey, was not considered a member of the Publications Department, but she was involved in Temple communications. A former high school teacher, she moved to the San Francisco Temple in the mid-1970s to accept a job with the Housing Authority which had been offered to her by the new Moscone mayoral administration. She also wrote for the Peoples Forum and acted as a contact for the mainstream press.
In its heyday, the Temple pursued a very ambitious program of political action: defending marginalized activists, getting out the vote for candidates, working with mainstream media, maintaining relationships with other churches within its denomination (the Disciples of Christ), recruitment trips across the country, letter-writing campaigns, radio appearances, marches, and alliance-building with celebrities and politicians. The Publications Department and its photographic library supported all of these activities, as well as the Temple's bureaucratic needs, such as passport and membership photographs.
The Publications Department declined in scope and reach after several of its key staff were sent to Jonestown. Many of those who had distributed the Peoples Forum also left for Guyana, and by November 1978, department activity in San Francisco was very limited. Rodriguez, Rozynko, Tropp, and Jackson died in Jonestown, as did Tim Clancey’s wife MaryLou and Tim Carter’s sister Terry (Carter and Rodriguez had also since married). Tim Clancey and Jean Brown were married in 1979, survived the dissolution of the Temple together, and donated the Publications Department materials to the California Historical Society in 2010.
The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:
Series 1: Contact prints, circa 1965-1978
Series 2: Slides, 1967-1978
Series 3: Negatives, circa 1965-1978
Series 4: Manuscripts, ephemera, publications, and other materials, 1961-1978
Series 5: Photographic Prints, circa 1965-1978
Series 6: Audiovisual Recordings, 1972-1978, undated; further subdivided into Subseries 1: Moving Images, and Subseries 2: Sound Recordings
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Materials were placed in new acid-free sleeves, folders, and boxes. Original caption information, when available, was transcribed onto negative sleeves; original titles of files were kept where possible, with archivists' own titles written in square brackets.
- Finding aid to the Peoples Temple Publications Department Records, MS 3791
- Finding aid prepared by Isaac R. Fellman, Lynda Letona, Al Bersch, and Marie Silva.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in: English.
- Funding for processing this collection was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.