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The Bancroft Collection
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Pictorial Collection

Pictorial Collection

Photographic material
Non-photographic material
Online access
Duplication services


The Bancroft Library Pictorial Collection, comprising an estimated 8 million items in a variety of media, documents and illustrates the history of California and the American West. Scholars from all parts of the United States and the world make use of The Bancroft Library Pictorial Collection. While there is representation of the entire geographical area covered by the Bancroft collection, the largest area of concentration is on Northern California.

The development of photography and the growth of the American West are chronologically parallel, which allows the Pictorial Collection to provide a complete panorama of settlement and expansion. Special emphasis is given to the California Gold Rush and 19th-century images of California transportation. Other major subject areas significantly represented in the collections include Yosemite and other wilderness areas; mining in California, Nevada, and Alaska; the lumber industry; portrait files of individuals prominent in the history of the West; Native Americans in California; early exploration; California Missions; the Monterey Peninsula; vacation and leisure activities; scenic views of early California; major industrial projects (bridge and dam constructions, shipyards, etc.); World War II in California; Japanese American relocation; Chinese Americans in California; and immigrant labor. The Bancroft Library owns the first pictures ever made of San Francisco, Monterey, and countless other locations along the Pacific coast and Hawaii. One of Bancroft's greatest strengths in photography lies in the thousands of nineteenth-century images of California cities and towns.

For futher information about the Bancroft Pictorial Collection, please contact the Pictorial Curator, Jack von Euw.

Photographic material

The work of famous photographers, such as Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton E. Watkins, Edward Weston, George Fiske, Arnold Genthe, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams can be found in the collection, as well as the work of commercial photographers such as San Francisco's Isaiah West Taber, and that of hundreds of lesser-known California photographers who are just now beginning to be documented. The collection includes early photographic processes, such as daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, notably in the Zelda Mackay Collection, and large collections of stereographic views. The Bancroft Library also holds papers and family pictures relating to thousands of settlers in California and the American West, from the Spanish era to the present time (e.g., the Vallejo and Cooper-Molera families, James Phelan, Earl Warren). Also of great historical and human interest are the thousands of photographs taken by amateur photographers over the past 140 years which provide researchers with an extraordinary insight into daily lives, personalities, and events.

Non-photographic material

Non-photographic images are also well represented in the collection. The Robert B. Honeyman Collection, acquired in 1963, contains original works, such as drawings and paintings, as well as printed images, lithographs, engravings, and woodcuts, including specialty items such as pictorial lettersheets upon which early settlers would write to those back home. Also part of the Honeyman collection are unique, original drawings and paintings that were made by official expedition artists accompanying the La Perouse Expedition (1769), the Malaspina Expedition (1791), Vancouver's Expeditions (1792 et al.), the Langsdorff/Rezanov Expedition (1803-1807), and later American expeditions and surveys.

Online access

Selected digitized images from the Pictorial Collection can be viewed in the Online Archive of California. The California Heritage Collection contains more than 30,000 images illustrating California's history and culture. Within this collection is the Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection of early Californian and Western American pictorial material. The Honeyman collection is comprised of over 2300 items, with formats and media ranging from original oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, lithographs, engravings, etchings, lettersheets, clipper cards, and ephemera, to plates and spoons featuring western themes, and a fore-edge painting.

Duplication services

Photographic reference copies and information on obtaining permission to publish pictorial images is available through Bancroft's Duplication Services Unit.

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