Object Collection


From its first acquisition in 1929, the History Center has expanded its collections to more than 17,000 objects representing our region’s diverse history from the Kumeyaay to contemporary San Diego.

In nearly 90 years of collecting, the Object Collection has become a unique repository of regional historic artifacts, primarily objects of daily life, providing the public with valuable research and educational tools and widely used in History Center exhibitions. Located within this collection are items such as: children’s toys, medical and dental objects, items of transportation, Kumeyaay archeological artifacts, Spanish Colonial artifacts and tools and equipment.

See some example of Children’s Toys from our collection.

Collections objects are not available for viewing in our Research Library.

For questions about our Object Collection: [email protected].

The History Center welcomes inquiries regarding donations of objects to our collection. To donate an object, please forward a photographic image with complete information, or schedule an appointment: [email protected]. Objects brought to the History Center without review will not be accepted.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  Curated by the San Diego History Center Collections/Archive Team, an FAQ list for Appraisals, Restoration and Conservation.



Universal Portable Radio
Zenith Radio Corporation
Wood, metal, plastic, 1941
Purchased by the donor’s father at the Walker Scott Department Store in the summer of 1941, the family “followed the entire war from the Battle of Britain to VJ Day on this radio.”
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Weaver, 94.42

Hotel Room Key
Brass, late 19th Century
The Horton House opened in Fall 1870 and was the first luxurious hotel in San Diego. It was located where the U.S. Grant Hotel now stands.

Ice Cream Freezer/Maker and Ice Cream Scoop
Wood, metal, early 20th Century
White Mountain Brand In 1895, White Mountain advertised an improved version of their freezer that would make ice cream in three minutes. This is their “Junior” half-pint model.
Gift of Philip Klauber, 85.6; Gift of Jean Wallace, 2000.11.2

Toy Grand Piano
Wood, patent date 1873
Schoenhut Company (1872-1935), Philadelphia, PA
It belonged to the donor’s adopted grandmother, Ivy Leathem, and used circa 1885. A xylophone is concealed under the lid and creates the sound generated by playing the keys.
Gift of Gwendolyn Stephens, 83.7.2

Shaving Mug with Lid
Belonged to Alonzo Horton (1813-1909)
Gift of California Department of Parks and Recreation, 82.56.6

Sumac, juncus, bunch grass, pre 1919
Kumeyaay or neighboring culture. Probably used for winnowing and has a rattlesnake design.
Gift of Montgomery Moulton, 54.9.16 

Tizon Brown Ware
Kumeyaay Pottery was made from clay found near river banks, placed into the fire to harden, thus making it suitable for carrying water or other food items.
Gift of Lee Palmer, 53.4.10


The Decorative Arts Collection contains items such as furniture, glassware, silverware, dinnerware and ceramics. Notable items are the Alonzo Horton bedroom furnishing set, commemorative glassware from the 1935-1936 California-Panama International Exposition, Allied Craftsman Modernist ceramics and enamels, Theosophical Society hand-carved chairs, modern art glass and metalwork. The collection also includes examples from the Art Deco, Art Nouveau and American Arts & Crafts periods including ceramics from the Valentien Pottery Company.

Cooper, 1935
California Pacific International Exposition
Hammered copper surface, with design that includes the iconic California Tower and adjacent exposition buildings.


Plate with fish design
Enamel, mid-20th century
Ellamarie Woolley (1913-1976) and Jackson Woolley (1910-1992)

Reginald Machell (1854-1927)
Carved and painted wood, c.1905-1910
Celtic Art Nouveau design, using flowing and interwoven elements; carved by the artist for use at the Theosophical Society at Point Loma.

Valentien Pottery Company, San Diego
Decorated by Albert Valentien (1862-1925)
Matte-glazed earthenware, c. 1912
Albert and his wife Anna both worked for Rookwood Pottery as decorators. They arrived in San Diego in 1908 and established the short lived Valentien Pottery Company (1911-1913). They were both proficient in nearly all aspects of both fine and decorative arts.

Tea Set
Paul Lohman for Alfred Stahel & Sons, San Diego
Overglaze decorated Austrian porcelain blanks, c. 1915-1920
A native of Germany, Lohman studied art and china decorating in Dresden. He immigrated to America in the 1880s and settled in San Diego about 1911. He created a line of decorated china known as “Persimmon Red” and other pieces sold at Alfred Stahel & Sons, an exclusive home furnishing store in San Diego.