California Historical Society

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Coordinates: 37°47′12.64″N 122°24′5.33″W / 37.7868444°N 122.4014806°W / 37.7868444; -122.4014806

Exterior view of the California Historical Society, located at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
1930s Menu from the CHS menu collection

The California Historical Society is the U.S. state of California's state historical society.[1] It is headquartered in San Francisco.


The California Historical Society was founded in 1871.[2] In 1993 the organization purchased 678 Mission Street, home of the former San Francisco Builders Exchange, E.M. Hundley hardware store, and Nancy Pelosi's first campaign headquarters in the re-developing Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. In 2012 the exterior was repainted in Sherwin Williams' International Orange, the color of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the world-famous suspension bridge.[3]

The Society is a privately funded nonprofit organization that produces original exhibitions; maintains a collection of historical documents, photographs, art and other research materials; hosts educational events; and awards the annual California Historical Society Book Prize. The Society publishes California History, an academic journal, in association with the University of California Press.[4]


Recent exhibitions at the California Historical Society's San Francisco headquarters include:

  • A Wild Flight of the Imagination: The Story of the Golden Gate Bridge (February - October, 2012) on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • I See Beauty in this Life: A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California (October 2012 - March, 2013)
  • Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History (April - August, 2013)
  • Unbuilt San Francisco: The View from Futures Past (September - December, 2013)
  • Juana Briones y su California ~ Pionera, Fundadora, Curandera (January - June, 2014)
  • Yosemite: A Storied Landscape (June 2014 - January 2015), on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National Park
  • City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World's Fair (February 2015 - January 2016), on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition[5]


The California Historical Society Collection represents the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural heritage of the state of California, including materials from outside California that contribute to a greater understanding of the state and its people.[6] The collection includes 50,000 volumes of books and pamphlets; 4,000 manuscript collections; 500,000 photographs; printed ephemera, periodicals, posters, broadsides, maps, and newspapers; the Kemble Collection on Western Printing and Publishing; 5,000 works of art, including paintings, drawings, and lithographs; and numerous artifacts and costumes.[7]

Fine Art Collection[edit]

The Historical Society houses an outstanding collection of over 5,000 works of art, including paintings, drawings, and lithographs. Artists represented in the Fine Art Collection include Albert Bierstadt, Maynard Dixon, George Albert Frost, William Hahn, Thomas Hill, Grace Carpenter Hudson, William Keith, Arthur Frank Mathews, and Theodore Wores.[8]

Manuscript Collection[edit]

The Historical Society holds the papers of noteworthy organizations and businesses, including those of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, League of Women Voters, California Tomorrow, Stern Grove Festival Association, Peoples Temple, and the Heller Ehrman law firm. The Society also holds the papers of influential persons, including the Burr-Allyne Family, San Francisco Mayor James Rolph, Jr, Asbury Harpending, and Isaias W. Hellman.[9]

Ephemera Collection[edit]

This collection consists of a wide range of ephemera pertaining to the state of California and each of its constituent counties. Dating from 1841 the collection includes ephemera created by or related to churches; civic associations and activist groups; clubs and societies, especially fraternal organizations; labor unions; auditoriums and theaters; historic buildings, landmarks, and museums; hotels and resorts; festivals and fairs; sporting events; hospitals, sanatoriums, prisons, and orphanages; schools, colleges, and universities; government agencies; elections, ballot measures, and political parties; infrastructure and transit systems; geographic features; and other subjects.

In 1964, former Society president, printing historian, and collector George L. Harding founded the Kemble Collection on Western Printing and Publishing, named in honor of pioneer California printer and publisher Edward Cleveland Kemble. Dedicated to the history of printing and publishing in the West, this collection began with three major gifts—Harding's printing and publishing library, William E. Loy's typographical library, and the business archives of San Francisco printing firm Taylor & Taylor—and has since grown in size and scope.[10][11]

Photography Collection[edit]

The Historical Society holds documentary and fine art photographs by photographers such as Marliese Gabrielson, Arnold Genthe, Louis Herman Heller, Eadweard Muybridge, Anton Wagner, Carleton Watkins, Minor White and Willard Worden.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "About CHS: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2015-06-26. 
  3. ^ "About CHS: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  4. ^ "California history.". California history. 1978. ISSN 0162-2897. 
  5. ^ "Past Exhibitions: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  6. ^ "Collection Overview: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  7. ^ "Collection Overview: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Bridgeman Images". Bridgeman Images. Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  9. ^ "California Historical Society, Online Archive of California". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  10. ^ "California Ephemera Collection CA EPH". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  11. ^ "About the Library: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  12. ^ "Collection Overview: California Historical Society". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 

External links[edit]