California Room Upcoming Events

Digital Collections

Images of San Francisco & Marin County damaged by the 1906 Earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.  San Francisco photographs are principally by W. J. Street, a professional photographer.  Tomales resident, Ella Jorgensen, took most of the Marin County photographs.

The Country Club in Bear Valley was established in 1890 by members of the Pacific Union Club in San Francisco who were seeking a bucolic spot with plenty of fish and game for their sporting activities. These photographs are mostly from an album made for club members, circa 1895. Click here to read a brief history of the Country Club in Bear Valley by Bliss Brown, 1936. Click here to see a map showing the location of the Country Club.

From 1943 through 1949 the Bear Valley Ranch was operated by Eugene C. Compton, as a dairy ranch. Compton staged rodeos there in an arena he built for that purpose. The "W" or Bear Valley Ranch site later became the headquarters for the Point Reyes National Seashore which was established in 1963.

Billy Shannon's Villa, located on the west end of Fourth Street in San Rafael, was both a saloon and boxing training camp, owned by former amateur lightweight champion, Billy Shannon.

The California Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) was located in the Sun Valley neighborhood of San Rafael, Marin County, between 1914 and 1921. The studio produced 15 films, including Salomy Jane, which survives in its entirety in the Library of Congress. Principals in the company included director, George Middleton and his wife, Beatriz Michelena, the leading lady. The images in this collection are mostly stills from the CMPC’s archives, and were digitized from the original glass plate negatives.

Images from the Anne T. Kent California Room Collection, related to Fairfax.

Documentary on construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Civic Center, based on slide collections of Harold Stockstad and Davina Kosh. Stockstad was chairman of the Marin Council for Civic Affairs, who garnered support for Wright’s design for the Civic Center campus. Stockstad presented his slide show to citizens throughout Marin and was instrumental in ending the work-stoppage ordered by Supervisor Fusselman in January, 1961. Davina Kosh, a poet and long-time San Rafael resident, photographed the Hall of Justice under construction while working for the Marin County Veterans Service Office. Click here to read a brief history of the Civic Center.

Miscellaneous images from the Anne T. Kent California Room Collection. 

Golden Gate Bridge construction photographs by Charles M. Hiller who was under commission by the Associated Oil Company. Additional photographs showing the “last rivet” ceremony, April 27, 1937, are from the Kent Family collection. Click here to read a brief history of the Golden Gate Bridge. Click here to view an 8-minute video, "Building the Bridge: Tales from Original Golden Gate Bridge Workers," courtesy of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

The illustrated envelopes presented here were hand-colored by Joseph Dennis McNeil, and sent, with a few exceptions, to his fiancée, Ellen Josephine Redding, who was living in Nicasio and San Rafael during their courtship. This collection spans the years 1925 to about 1933. At this time, Joseph was working for Schmidt Lithograph Company in San Francisco and then in Los Angeles.


Joe and Ellen had met as youngsters in Nicasio. They were married on August 9, 1928, at St. Mary's Church in Nicasio, the same church where her own parents were married, and in which she was baptized. Joe and Ellen raised their family in Los Angeles.

Included here are: an envelope addressed to Joseph's future father-in-law (also named Joseph), whom he calls "Pa Redding," and references to the births of the couple's two oldest children, Joseph and Lawrence.

Joe and Ellen were married for 47 years before Joe passed away on August 8, 1975. Shortly afterwards, Ellen relocated from Los Angeles to the family property in Nicasio with one of her daughters, Martha. On June 13, 1987, Ellen died at the age of 87. She was survived by two sons, Joseph and Lawrence, and two daughters, Mary Ellen and Martha; her brother George; and nine grandchildren. To read and listen to Ellen Redding McNeil's oral history interview from July 15, 1980, click here.

Charles H. Bach, born in Erfurt, Germany in 1841, married Emilie Rittmeyer and moved to San Francisco (by way of Amador County) around 1874. He joined the malting business of F. Scherr, which he eventually purchased, and renamed the Charles Bach Company, Incorporated. On July 14, 1892, he bought 5.733 acres of land in Ross Valley for a down payment of $10.00 in gold coins. On this site he built his home, which the San Francisco Call referred to as a "country residence." Bach called this retreat Quisisana, named for a resort on the island of Capri where the family, which included five children, stayed in 1884; the name translates to "here you can recover."  Sometime between 1896 and 1897, the family became permanent residents of Kentfield.  A fire on January 19, 1901 destroyed the home, and soon after it was replaced with a late-Queen Anne-style estate designed by architect Hermann Barth of San Francisco. After Charles' death in 1904, his eldest son, Alfred, raised his own family on the estate. The images included here depict the Bach estate in Kentfield as well as the College of Marin. For more on the Bach Family, the Pioneer Malt House, and the Laurel Grove estate, click here.

Photographs include the Kent family home; the annual Grape Festival (c.1921); the Pistol Shoot (c.1930); and miscellaneous views of Kentfield.

Documents the May Day Festival, held annually at the Tamalpais Centre in Kentfield, in which all of the schools in Southern Marin participated. The celebration included races and baseball games, a Queen of the May and May Pole dances. The children wore white dresses and white shirts with colored ribbons to designate their school. Some of the photographs were collected by Jessie Hanna who was the physical education teacher at the Tamalpais Centre. She taught gym classes and dancing.

Images from the Anne T. Kent California Room Collection, related to Larkspur.

Until the 1960s, residents of Marin City resided in housing which had been built for workers at Marinship, a World War II liberty shipyard on Sausalito’s waterfront. The approximately 700 apartments and 800 houses were envisioned as temporary housing, yet post-war residents, most of whom were low and middle-income African-Americans, continued to reside in structures which soon became dilapidated. In 1955, the Marin County Housing Authority purchased the 365-acre Marin City site from the federal government. In 1959, Marin’s recently-formed Redevelopment Agency purchased 121 acres of the site from the Housing Authority. The intent of the Marin City redevelopment project was to rebuild the entire site and transform it into a modern community including a shopping center, schools, community center, churches and recreational spots. Developer James Scheuer’s plan envisioned tearing down the war-time housing and service buildings. Architect Aaron Green, in association with John Carl Warneke, designed the new public housing project, which was quickly filled. The physical changes of Marin City and its community before and after redevelopment are documented in this collection of photographs, many of which were taken by Emme Fisk Gilman, a local photographer, conservationist, and public health educator.

Views of Marin County during the 1920s photographed by Hayden Lothers and Ralph Young who had a studio at 165 Post Street in San Francisco. Images include the Mill Valley train depot with the Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railroad; hikers on Mt. Tamalpais; Hotel Sausalito; San Rafael High School; Baltimore Park, Larkspur; and Harlan Hall, Marin Junior College (now College of Marin).

Photographs and ephemera document the history of the Marin County Free Library and its branches from its inception in 1927 to the present. Click here to view a Chronology of the Marin County Free Library. Click here to read a brief History of the Marin County Free Library.

Stark was a scenic postcard photographer who moved to Mill Valley, California in the mid-1920s. From the early 1930s through the mid-1950s, he produced thousands of "real photo" postcards documenting much of California. The Marin County postcards emphasize scenery, particularly on Mt. Tamalpais and in Muir Woods. They also document many of the townships in the area including Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, Belvedere, Tiburon, Stinson Beach and Bolinas.

Marinship Corporation in Sausalito was a WWII Liberty shipyard owned by W.A. Bechtel Co. During WWII, residential Marin City was developed as housing for Marinship workers and their families. In the span of Marinship's three and a half years of active service (1942-1945), fifteen EC-2 Liberty Ships were built, along with seventy-eight oil tankers and twenty invasion barges. At its peak, Marinship employed a multi-ethnic workforce of 20,000.

Since 1913, the Mountain Play has been performed annually in a natural outdoor amphitheater on Mt. Tamalpais. The first six decades of the Mountain Play are well-documented in our collection of Mountain Play scrapbooks which include photographs, play programs, clippings and ephemera and which cover 1913-1958 and 1961-1972. Three men are generally credited with the inspiration for the Mountain Play: lawyer and hiker John C. Catlin; producer and director Garnet Holme; and inveterate hiker “Dad” O’Rourke. One day as they hiked the Rock Springs area of Mt. Tam, Holme paused to look at the view and saw a perfect setting for play performances: a natural outdoor amphitheater. Until the late 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built what we now recognize as the Mountain Theater, performances took place in this natural amphitheater as audiences watched from the surrounding hillside.

William Kent purchased Redwood Canyon, now Muir Woods National Monument, and donated it to the Federal Government in 1908, to save the ancient Redwood trees and the canyon from development.


The Marin County Journal, was founded March 23, 1861 by Ai Barney and his son, Jerome.  The newspaper was a four-page weekly, printed from paper produced by Samuel P. Taylor's mill.  Jerome Barney served as editor and publisher until October 1872, when he sold the paper to Simon Fitch Barstow.

The Marin County Journal continued in 1888 under the name Marin Journal.


The Marin Journal (previously Marin County Journal) began publication in 1888 in San Rafael, California.
Available here are issues through 1922.

From 1974 to 1984, Carla Ehat, with partner Anne Kent, and later Genevieve Martinelli, interviewed a broad spectrum of Marin's long-time residents, from ranchers to politicians, including descendants of early pioneer families. This program was co-sponsored by the Marin County Free Library and the Moya Library in Ross. The resulting archive, consisting of nearly 300 recordings and their corresponding transcriptions, are housed in the California Room. A subset of this collection has been digitized and posted here. (Additional interviews are posted as they are processed.) In 2002, the Anne T. California Room re-started its oral history program with professional oral historian, Marilyn Geary. These interviews are also added as they are processed.

The Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) was a world's fair held in San Francisco between February 20 and December 4, 1915.

The Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railroad ran from 1896 until 1929 between downtown Mill Valley to near the summit of Mt. Tamalpais, with a second line descending the West side of Mt. Tamalpais to Muir Woods beginning in 1907. The photographs and ephemera in this collection include depictions of the Tavern on Mt. Tamalpais; Gravity Cars; and the Inn at Muir Woods.

Photographs and ephemera document the railroads that operated in Marin, c.1875-1941. Includes the history of the narrow gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad through Marin from Sausalito to Tomales. Click here to read a brief history of the North Pacific Coast Railroad.

Photographs document the camping trip of a group of friends at Camp Taylor, West Marin County, 1889. Included are views of the paper mills, dams, and railroad trestles. Also shown is a part of the North Pacific Coast Railroad route, including the White's Hill trestle and the San Anselmo train station.

Family album of San Quentin guard, Richard M. Smith, and his wife, the San Quentin matron, Genevieve Smith. Depicts living conditions and activities of San Quentin inmates as well as prison grounds and buildings. During this period there were two wardens at San Quentin: John E. Hoyle (1907-1913), and James A. Johnston (1913-1925). Both men were reform wardens who tried to make prison life more humane. Warden Johnston initiated many industrial and educational training opportunities for the inmates. The photographs reflect this reformist climate, showing inmates engaged in sporting events as well as playing in a prison band and acting in theater productions. The album forms part of the Dr. Leo Stanley Collection. Stanley was the prison doctor at San Quentin from 1913-1951.

Beginning in 1913, an annual track and field meet known as the Little Olympics was held at San Quentin Prison on a holiday such as Thanksgiving Day or Admission Day, under the auspices of the San Francisco Olympic Club. This was a day when prison rules were suspended and prisoners were allowed to participate in athletic and stage events, cheered on by their fellow inmates. The meet was the brainchild of reformist warden, James A. Johnston, who was a member of the Olympic Club. After Olympic Club sponsorship ended, athletic events and field meets inspired by the Little Olympics continued to form part of prison life. In addition to traditional track and field events, the Little Olympics also included such non-traditional activities as a tug-of-war between teams recruited from the San Quentin mill and shops, a pie-eating contest, sack races, clowns, and musical and stage entertainment. This album forms part of the Dr. Leo Stanley Collection. Dr. Stanley was the prison doctor at San Quentin from 1913-1951.

Miscellaneous images documenting the history of San Quentin Prison and the life of Dr. Leo Stanley (1886-1976), prison doctor at San Quentin from 1913-1951.

Dr. Henry Orton Howitt practiced medicine in San Rafael, beginning in 1893. Both his home and office were located at 311 Lincoln Avenue (later, 1111 Lincoln Ave.). He was a founder of the old Cottage Hospital in San Rafael and the doctor for the Mt. Tamalpais Military Academy. He and his wife, Alice, had three children: Edith, Beatrice and Henry. Read more about the Howitt family in Beatrice Howitt’s oral history. Among the Howitt’s friends were fellow San Rafael residents and socialites, Truxtun and Marie Oge Beale. Several photographs show the Beale’s Beaux Arts mansion, designed by Arthur Brown of Bakewell and Brown. Truxtun Beale was the son of General Edward F. Beale who had come to California with Stockton during the Mexican War and who later became General Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada. Click here for more about the Beale family. Images in the Howitt album include: Mt. Tamalpais and watershed lands; Willow Camp (now Stinson Beach); Bolinas; San Rafael; the San Rafael Canal area; Lagunitas Road; Sausalito; Mount Tamalpais Military Academy.

Images of early San Rafael from San Rafael Illustrated & Described, showing its Advantages for Homes, published by W.W. Elliott & Co., in 1884. They represent original lithographs made from the sketches of Mr. Chris Jorgensen, a teacher at the San Francisco Art School. San Rafael Illustrated & Described is a promotional piece, meant to attract new residents and investors to Marin’s most populous town. The lithographs portray San Rafael in a still bucolic setting, and highlight homes, businesses, churches, train routes, ferries, etc. Articles include: A Suburban Arcadia; A Lovely Village; Magnolia Valley; The New Railroads.

Images of Santa Venetia (San Rafael) from two promotional brochures published by Mabry McMahan to promote his failed Santa Venetia development plan. Both were produced in late 1914, around the time of McMahan’s “Grand Opening” celebration. McMahan was responsible for filling in Santa Venetia marshland and creating a series of canals, the canvas on which he hoped to create a luxury subdivision modeled after the Italian city of Venice. Click here to read more about Santa Venetia.

Photographs and ephemera documenting the history of some of the private schools of San Rafael. Includes information on: Dominican College; Mount Tamalpais Military Academy; the Selbourne School; Hitchcock Military Academy and other institutions. Click here to read Jocelyn Moss’ detailed history of San Rafael’s private schools from an article originally published in The Marin County Historical Society Bulletin, August, 1989.

Photographs  document the 1965 relocation and 1966 dedication of San Domenico's Lower and Upper Schools from Dominican College in San Rafael to their new campus in Sleepy Hollow, on the site of the old Raisch Ranch, formerly the Hotaling dairy ranch and mansion.