The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1991, Volume 37, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Collections Documenting San Diego History at the University of California, San Diego

by Geoffrey B. Wexler

Images from the Article 

“There’s something missing!” exclaimed a frustrated researcher. While searching through a series of files he had discovered an important gap. A kindly archivist stood nearby. She provided a simple explanation: “We never got that stuff,” she said with an apologetic tone. “And where do you think it is?” asked the researcher, incredulous. The archivist pointed out the window, where the rooftops of the vast city could be seen. “Out there,” she replied, “somewhere.”

As most researchers know, historical records are “out there somewhere,” often incomplete and sometimes scattered. Those who have looked for documentation on the history of San Diego are particularly aware of this situation. Although the Research Archives of the San Diego History Center maintains the largest collection of local history materials in San Diego County, there are other resources throughout the area that should be known to researchers. One significant repository of documentation can be found at the library of the University of California, San Diego, or UCSD.

One of the goals of the UCSD Library is to build collections in support of the university’s instructional and research programs. Besides general holdings in all branches of knowledge, the Library acquires special collections relating to subjects such as the history of science, science and public policy, oceanography, Pacific voyages, Latin America, contemporary poetry, and urban studies. The Library also documents the history of UCSD itself through the UCSD Archives and the Scripps Institution Archives. Although UCSD’s collections generally relate to subjects of national and international scope, the materials are also rich sources for the study of the San Diego area.

This article will focus primarily on archives and manuscript collections since these are the materials that have been, traditionally, the least accessible to researchers. These collections can be found in two locations: the Mandeville Department of Special Collections, on the eighth floor of Central University Library; and the Scripps Institution Archives, located on the third floor of the Scripps Library. Each collection will be described in relation to a general subject area of San Diego history: the development and history of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD; San Diego pioneers and 19th century urban growth; the enterprises of Ed Fletcher; the Point Loma Theosophical Society; culture and the arts; organizations and civic life; science; photographic materials; and Baja California. It should not be surprising that UCSD’s archival holdings provide documentation on the history of the campus itself. The oldest UCSD-related documents can be found at the Scripps Institution Archives. Here one can view the records of the Marine Biological Association of San Diego, dating from 1902-1912.1 This private association served as the precursor of the present Scripps Institution, and its board of directors included local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps and her brother, newspaper magnate E.W. Scripps.2

Also at the Scripps Archives are records from offices of the institution’s various directors. Most extensive are the files from two long-term directors: Roger Revelle, who served from 1950 to 1964, and William Nierenberg, 1965-1986.3 These were periods of dramatic expansion, both for Scripps and for the surrounding community. The director’s files document all aspects of this dynamic era. Here are files on land acquisition, building, community relations, and the many significant projects and expeditions carried out by the Scripps faculty.

The Scripps Archives also document another aspect of San Diego’s history: its marine environment. The Archives house records of changing tides, shorelines, marine flora and fauna, and ocean sailing conditions. San Diego’s well-known tuna fishing industry is represented in the extensive records of the American Tunaboat Association, 1929-1982.4 The historical and geological background of San Diego’s beaches — among some of the city’s most prized natural resources — can also be found at the Scripps Archives.

The UCSD Archives, located in Central University Library, contain the university’s official archival records. These include correspondence and reports from various administrative offices, publications of all sorts, and photographs of the campus and its activities. Here can be found student newspapers like The Crazy Times and Reviled College Inciter (a parody of another paper, the Revelle College Indicator), planning documents that project the physical growth of the La Jolla campus, and correspondence between local citizens and university administrators. A particularly interesting collection is a file of correspondence relating to Dr. Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist philosophy professor whose presence on the UCSD campus was cause for concern among some members of the San Diego community.5

The Marcuse file came to the UCSD Archives from the Office of the Chancellor, but the Archives also receives records from every office on campus. Recently acquired, for example, were early records from the UCSD Medical Center, which was once the San Diego County Hospital. Bound in large leather ledger books, these Hospital records list names of persons admitted, along with their occupation and ethnicity. There are also records of births and deaths. Here is valuable information for social historians and for genealogists.6

Aside from the official records of UCSD, the university holds a wide variety of manuscript collections which document San Diego’s early history. Among the most significant of these are papers of Ephraim Morse, who, along with Alonzo Horton, helped build New San Diego. Morse had come to San Diego in 1850 at the time of the California gold rush. He ran a general store in Old Town and became closely associated with all of the town’s leaders. With great faith in the future expansion of San Diego he came to play a key role in the city’s dynamic growth.7

The bulk of Morse’s papers are housed at the San Diego History Center but a collection of his business records are located at UCSD’s Mandeville Department of Special Collections. A gift of collector John W. Allen, these records include financial journals, ledgers, and a small amount of correspondence. Within the ledger books can be found the accounts of San Diego’s leading citizens, such as Jose Bandini, Jose Antonio Estudillo, Alonzo Horton, Manual Machado, Father Antonio Ubach, and Thomas Whaley. Also in the Morse papers are scrapbooks containing samples of local flora, all carefully dried, pressed, and described.8 An 1867 letter from Morse to Thomas Whaley, recently acquired, illuminates Morse’s hopes for a rail link to San Diego.9

Aside from Morse materials, the Mandeville Department of Special Collections also holds smaller collections of early San Diego manuscripts. These include letters of the Thomas Whaley Family, 1853-186910; a letter-press copy book from the printing firm of Ferguson, Baumgardner and Company, 1887-189411; and documents created by Jose Estudillo, 1846.12 Descriptions of mid-19th century San Diego can be found in letters of P.B. Maurau, 184913; and Benjamin J. Howe, 1849.14 For insights on the railroad speculation of the 1870s, the letter of J. Laushe, 1876, is most revealing.15

For the study of more recent history, UCSD has many collections relating to early 20th century San Diego. The papers of the George Crippen family contain detailed diaries of family members who lived in the area. The Crippens came from Ohio in the late 19th century. George Crippen made extensive property investments in the Point Loma area, and many of his business records are contained in the family papers. These papers were rescued from oblivion by Marvin Studebaker, a naval officer and historian. He purchased them at a swap meet and donated the collection to UCSD in 1983.16

Other collections dating from the early 20th century are letterbooks and other papers from the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway17 and a detailed valuation of the Spreckles Brothers’ wharf, 1925.18 But the most important UCSD resources for the study of this period are the Fletcher Family Papers.

The history of San Diego County cannot be written without understanding the key role that Colonel Ed Fletcher played. As a land developer, civic leader, and state senator Fletcher helped to shape the future of the entire region. A native of Massachusetts, he arrived in San Diego in 1888 with $6.10 in his pocket. At his death in 1955 he was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the county.19 His success was the result of hard work, shrewd investments, a warm personality, and keen insights into the dynamics of Southern California urban growth. Fletcher understood the two elements essential for San Diego land development — roads and water — and he labored tirelessly to develop the county highway system and to exploit water resources, all of which would enable the region to grow economically.

There are two major collections of Fletcher Family papers in San Diego: one at the San Diego History Center and the other at UCSD’s Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The papers at UCSD contain records of many Fletcher-controlled businesses, such as the Grossmont Park Company, the Volcan Land and Water Company, and the South Coast Land Company. There are plans and construction reports for San Diego county dams and reservoirs; early photographs of Rancho Santa Fe and the El Cajon Valley; abstracts of land titles; and voluminous business correspondence dating from the late 19th century to the 1950s. Of particular interest are materials relating to Fletcher’s promotion of a transcontinental highway through the southern states — an issue of great concern to San Diego civic leaders.20

Contemporary with the career of Ed Fletcher was another important San Diego enterprise, the Point Loma Theosophical Society. Although the actual records of the Society are housed at the Theosophical Library Center in Altadena, the UCSD Library holds a substantial collection of publications produced during the Society’s heyday.

Katherine Tingley was the driving force behind the institution, a splinter from the international organization founded by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott. Madame Tingley (as she was known) came to San Diego at the turn-of-the century and established a school and Theosophical center on Point Loma. There she hosted international conferences, entertained celebrities, and oversaw the Raja Yoga Academy, a boarding school that emphasized the study of world religions and the doctrines of Theosophy. The domed temples of the Theosophical Society were local landmarks until their demolition in the 1950s.21

Publishing was an important Society enterprise, and the UCSD Library houses a major collection of its books and journals. These were gifts of Charles and Eugenia Geiger, and Iverson and Helen Harris. The Harrises were closely associated with Katherine Tingley, and they included in their collection personal papers, scrapbooks and reminiscences of their Point Loma experiences. Also included was a large library of books written by the leaders of the theosophical movement. All of these theosophical materials are held by the Mandeville Department of Special Collections in Central Library.22

Another aspect of local cultural life is documented in the records of the La Jolla Playhouse, one of the most important regional theaters in the U.S. The Playhouse was founded in the late 1940s by a number of Hollywood stars led by Gregory Peck. It flourished in the 1950s and 60s and brought to San Diego leading performers of stage and screen. The revival of the Playhouse in the 1980s was highly successful. The company is now affiliated with UCSD and performs at the Mandell Weiss Center on the La Jolla campus. Documentation of the theatre’s history can be found in its official archives, which are housed in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections.23

The Department also houses the papers of a number of local authors. Here can be found manuscripts of newspaperman and novelist Max Miller. Also available are selected manuscripts of Evening Tribune editor Neil Morgan.24

Documentation of local civic organizations can be found in several collections at the Scripps Institution Archives. The papers of the Sargent Family contain materials related to the Clairemont-Mesa Development Committee and the movement to establish Tecolote Park. Marston Sargent was an oceanographer at Scripps, and his wife Grace participated actively in local civic affairs.25 Also at the Scripps Archives are the papers Professor Winfred E. Allen, which include annual reports of the La Jolla Improvement Association.26 Early photographs of La Jolla itself can be found in the papers of oceanographer Francis Sumner.27 Records of the Sumner Club, 1937-1957, document a discussion group that included prominent business and professional leaders in the La Jolla community.28

Local civic life is also reflected in the diaries of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, wife of Scripps’ founder William E. Ritter. Mrs. Ritter kept consistent and detailed accounts of her daily activities — activities which included lectures on social hygiene, involvement in the La Jolla Women’s Club, and work with philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.29

One of the most important of the Scripps Archives collections are the papers of Roger Revelle. Revelle served as the institution’s director from 1950 to 1964, and he was the driving force behind the establishment of the UCSD general campus. Besides his academic and scientific work, Revelle involved himself in a variety of local organizations and issues. His extensive correspondence includes letters from numerous San Diego business and political leaders.30

The Revelle papers are but one of many UCSD collections that document the lives of important faculty members and administrators.31 Also at the Scripps Archives are some of the papers of the institution’s founder, William E. Ritter32, along with the papers of a recent director, William A. Nierenberg.33 Scripps faculty collections include the papers of oceanographer Willard Bascom34, physicist Hugh Bradner35, ichthyologist Carl Hubbs36, geologist Henry Menard37, and geophysicist Walter Munk.38

The personal papers of three UCSD chancellors are located at the Mandeville Department of Special Collections in Central Library. These are the papers of Herbert F. York39, John S. Galbraith40, and William J. McGill.41 Also in Central Library Special Collections are the papers of noted UCSD faculty members, like Nobel laureates Harold C. Urey42 and Maria Goeppert Mayer.43 Mayer won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for her work on the nuclear shell structure, and her correspondence includes intimate exchanges with her close friend Edward Teller, the “father” of the hydrogen bomb.

These UCSD faculty papers help to document the important scientific work taking place in the San Diego. Scientific research became an increasingly important local enterprise after World War II, and by the late 1960s the area had earned an international reputation in fields such as biomedical research and nuclear physics. One of the most important scientific institutions that appeared in that decade was the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, located in La Jolla. Founded in the early 1960s by polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk, the Institute quickly gained international fame for its distinguished faculty and its significant research. The Salk buildings — the work of noted architect Louis Kahn — are considered architectural masterworks.

The establishment and growth of the Salk Institute is documented in the Jonas Salk Papers, housed in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections.44 The papers include the early administrative records of the Institute, along with materials relating to the siting, design, and construction of the Kahn buildings. The papers also record the personal career of Jonas Salk himself, with extensive correspondence files dating from the late 1940s, and voluminous documentation of the development of the Salk polio vaccine. An interesting file contains thousands of letters from school children throughout the U.S. –letters written in thanks for Salk’s conquest of the dreaded polio virus.

The Salk papers contain, like many UCSD collections, many photographs which help to provide a visual history of San Diego. Photographs in the Fletcher Family papers and the Sumner papers have already been mentioned. The Scripps Archives also hold a series of images taken by the Scripps photo lab, including historical scenes of the La Jolla Shores area and pictures of the construction of the Institution’s buildings. At the Mandeville Department of Special Collections is the Glasheen collection, which serves as the photographic record of UCSD’s first twenty years.46 Photographs of early adobe structures in San Diego County are contained in the collection of Lewis Geddes.47 A scrapbook of San Diego views from the 1870s can be found in the John W. Allen collection. A set of photographs from Turner’s Elite Studio depicts interiors of the Hotel del Coronado, circa 1900.48Among the Theosophical Society collections is a group of unusual images illustrating buildings and events at the Raja Yoga Academy in Point Loma, 1909-1912.49

Another important photograph collection can be found in the papers of Howard Gulick, an engineer, author, and cartographer who explored the border states of Mexico from the 1940s to the 1960s. His extensive slides of Baja California provide a detailed visual record of the region.50

UCSD holds one of the most important Baja California collections in the United States. Housed in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections, these resources include monographs, government reports, and newspaper files. A number of Baja California manuscripts are also located in the Department, including a document transferring ownership of the land that is now the city of Tijuana.51

The Baja California collection is one of many UCSD collections that support the university’s academic programs. Many of these collections also provide essential documentation of the history of the San Diego area. Besides its extensive book and periodical holdings, the UCSD Library houses photographs, manuscripts and archives that will be of value for those researching topics such as the Theosophical Society, the Salk Institute, local scientific research, the development of water resources, the enterprises of Ed Fletcher, San Diego marine resources, Baja California, and the history of UCSD itself.

These materials are all available to the general public. Catalogs, indexes, and inventories will help guide the researcher to needed documents, and personal assistance can be requested from the Library staff. Questions may be directed to the University Archivist at 619-534-2533, and to the Scripps Institution Archivist at 619-534-4878. Although access to most collections is unrestricted, researchers are requested to follow certain rules and procedures designed to protect these fragile and unique resources.

Like pieces of a vast puzzle, these resources will help to fill the many gaps in San Diego’s historical record. Although the hunt for missing pieces will continue as long as historians haunt the reading rooms of libraries and archives, this article should, hopefully, make the task slightly less frustrating.52




1. Marine Biological Association of San Diego, Records, 1902-1912, Accession 81-40, Scripps Archives.

2. The papers of Ellen Browning Scripps are held by Scripps College in Pomona, California. The E.W. Scripps papers can be found at Ohio State University.

3. S.I.O. Office of the Director, 1951-1964 (Revelle), Records, 1930-1963, Accessions 81-23 and 85.20, Scripps Archives (For documentation of Scripps’ expansion in the late 1950s and the development of the UCSD general campus, see Archives 559 Rec, Mandeville Department of Special Collections); S.I.O Office of the Director, 1965-1986 (Nierenberg), Records, 1965-1986, Accessions 81-9 and 88-19, Scripps Archives.

4. American Tunaboat Association, Records, 1929-1982, bulk 1937-1976, Scripps Archives. This important collection documents all aspects of San Diego tuna fishing industry, including voyages, labor relations, working conditions of fishermen, and government regulation. The collection was transferred from San Diego State University in 1990.

5. University of California, San Diego, Office of the Chancellor (McGill, 1968-1970), files concerning Herbert Marcuse, Archives 941 Rec, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

6. San Diego County Hospital, Register of patients, 1912-1926, Archives 893 Rec, Mandeville Department of Special Collections; San Diego County Hospital, Birth register,1945-1954, Archives 894 Rec, Mandeville Department of Special Collections; San Diego County Hospital, Summary of Patient Days, 1941-1942, Archives Accession A1990.4, Mandeville Department of Special Collections; San Diego County Hospital, Death record, 1942, Archives Accession A1990.5. 7. Richard F. Pourade, The Glory Years (San Diego, Union-Tribune Publishing Company, 1964), 6.

8. John W. Allen, collector, collection of manuscripts and ephemera, ca. 1850-1960. MSS 1976.5, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. A larger body of Morse materials can be found in the Ephraim W. Morse Collection in the Research Archives of the San Diego History Center (MS 342). Over four linear feet of correspondence and business records are preserved in this collection. The Research Archives also holds microfilm copies of Morse correspondence from the California State Archives in Sacramento.

9. Ephraim W. Morse, Letter, 1867, MSS 27 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

10. Whaley Family, Letters, 1853-1869, MSS 169 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections; Thomas Whaley, Letter, 1865, MSS 30 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. A far more extensive collection of Whaley materials can be found in the Whaley Collection of the Historical Shrine Foundation, Whaley House, San Diego. This collection contains over 40,000 pieces of correspondence and business records.

11. Ferguson, Baumgardner and Company, Letterpress copybook, 1887-1894, MSS 61 Bnd Folio, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

12. Jose Estudillo, Documents, 1846, MSS 165 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

13. P. B. Maurau, Letters, 1849, MSS 166 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

14. J. Benjamin Howe, Letter, 1849, MSS 167 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

> 15. John Laushe, Letter, 1876, MSS 70 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The signature on this letter is difficult to decipher. The writer was apparently associated with Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

16. Marvin F. Studebaker, Papers, MSS 1983.4, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

17. San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway, Records, 1890-1926, MSS 374 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The bulk of the S.D.A. & E. records are housed at the San Diego History Center.

18. Valuation of the San Diego wharf property of Spreckles Brothers Commercial Company, 1925, MSS 376 SC and 376 Oversize, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

19. Ed Fletcher, Memoirs of Ed Fletcher (San Diego, 1952), 1, 19.

20. Fletcher Family, Papers, ca. 1890-1955, MSS 81, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The Fletcher papers are currently being re-processed and will be available for research at the end of 1991. The bulk of the Col. Ed Fletcher Collection at the San Diego Historical (MS 317) is available for research. A subject card index provides a detailed finding aid to the collection.

21. Emmett A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California, 1897-1942 : A Theosophical Experiment (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1955). The site is now occupied by the Point Loma Nazarene College. A few of the original buildings remain, including the Greek Theater.

22. The theosophical publications are part of the Rare Book Collection in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections. Bibliographic access is via ROGER, the UCSD Library’s online catalog. The papers of Iverson Harris are MSS 1965.1 in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections. An excellent bibliography of Theosophical Society publications is Lauren Brown, The Point Loma Theosophical Society: A List of Publications, 1898-1942 (La Jolla: Friends of the UCSD Library, 1977).

23. La Jolla Playhouse, Records, 1952-1979, MSS 1990.13, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. These are records of the Theatre and Arts Foundation, which was the administrative name of the La Jolla Playhouse. The collection was transferred to the UCSD Library from San Diego State University. Additional Playhouse records are currently being transferred from the Mandell Weiss Center.

24. Max Miller, Papers, 1930-1965, MSS 1982.6, Mandeville Department of Special Collections; Neil Morgan, Papers, 1963-1972, MSS 38, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. This collection contains manuscripts of Morgan’s books about San Diego and the Southwest, along with notes from interviews he used in writing the books.


25. Marston Cleaves Sargent, Papers, 1929-1979, Accession 88-16, Scripps Archives; Sargent Family, Papers, 1845-1878, Accession 88-16, Scripps Archives.

26. Winfred Emory Allen, Papers, 1873-1947, Accession 81-19, Scripps Archives.

27. Sumner Family, Papers, 1875-1960, MC 11, Scripps Archives.

28. Sumner Club, Minutes, 1937-1957, Accession 82-34, Scripps Archives.

29. Mary Bennett Ritter, Diaries, 1919-1935, Accession 81-27, Scripps Archives.

30. Roger Randall Dougan Revelle, Papers, 1928-1985, MC 6, Accessions 87-22, 85-27, and 87-30, Scripps Archives.

31. These are the personal papers of individuals and families rather than the official records of university officers. The official records kept by an individual are usually kept as a separate collection.

32. William E. Ritter, Papers, 1893-1942, MC 4, Scripps Archives. Another collection of Ritter’s papers can be found at the Bancroft Library on the UC-Berkeley campus.

33. William Aaron Nierenberg, Papers, 1937-1986, MC 13, Scripps Archives.


34. Willard Newell Bascom, Papers, 1947-1987, Accession 89-8, Scripps Institution Archives.

35. Hugh Bradner, Papers, 1938-1981, MC 16, Scripps Institution Archives.

36. Carl Leavitt Hubbs, Papers, 1915-1979, MC 5, Scripps Institution Archives. Hubbs carried out much research in Baja California and his papers contain materials that may of interest to those studying the region.

37. Henry William Menard, Papers, 1941-1980, Accession 82-53, Scripps Institution Archives.

38. Walter Heinrich Munk, Papers, 1944-1980, MC 17, Scripps Institution Archives.

39. Herbert F. York, Papers, 1958-1987, MSS 1987.14, 1987.26, 1988.3, 1988.5, and 1990.4, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

40. John Semple Galbraith, Papers, 1945-1985, MSS 41, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

41. William J. McGill, Papers, ca. 1940-1989, MSS 1989.27, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

42. Harold Clayton Urey, Papers, 1929-1981, MSS 44, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

43. Maria Goeppert Mayer, Papers, 1925-1973, MSS 20, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

44. Jonas Salk, Papers, 1926-1985, MSS 1, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The Salk papers can only be used with the permission of Dr. Salk’s office. Permission can be arranged through the UCSD University Archivist.

45. Robert Glasheen, Photograph collection, Archives 1096 Rec, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

46. Lewis Geddes, Papers, ca. 1930, MSS 129, Mandeville Department of Special Collections. The Photograph Department of the San Diego History Center has also preserved a Geddes collection of historic photographs–138 prints of San Diego County adobes.

47. John W. Allen (collector), collection of manuscripts and ephemera, ca. 1850-1960, MSS 1976.5, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

48. Turner’s Elite Studio, Photographs, ca. 1900, MSS 194 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

49. Point Loma Theosophical Society, Photographs, 1909-1912, MSS 193, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

50. Howard E. Gulick, Papers, 1948-1978, MSS 1986.25, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

51. Santiago Arguello, Original land transfer to Manuel Machado, 1851, MSS 211 SC, Mandeville Department of Special Collections.

52. I would like to thank Deborah Day and Lynda Claassen for providing information and suggestions for this article.

Geoffrey Wexler is the University Archivist and Manuscripts Librarian at the University of California, San Diego. He holds a B.A. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in history and library science. He is an active member of the Society of California Archivists and the Society of American Archivists.