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Finding aid for the John McLaren Collection 1866-1965
SFH 22  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Conservation Note
  • Processing Information note
  • Materials Transferred
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: John McLaren Collection
    Date (inclusive): 1866-1965
    Collection Identifier: SFH 22
    Creator: McLaren, John, 1846-1943
    Physical Description: 11 boxes (7.75 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    info@sfpl.org
    Abstract: Diaries, daybooks, writings, correspondence, newsclippings, scrapbooks, photographs, books, and artifacts created and/or collected by McLaren and his granddaughter, Martha "Matie" McLaren Daniels. The collection documents McLaren's gardening, landscape design, and landscape architecture work for private estates; his travels within the United States and to foreign countries; and to a lesser extent, his work as Assistant Superintendent of Golden Gate Park and then Superintendent of Parks for the City and County of San Francisco. Materials originally collected by McLaren have been added to, rearranged, and annotated by his granddaughter--possibly in preparation of a biography--and a small number of her writings are included.
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.

    Access

    The collection is open for research, with photographs available for viewing during Photo Desk hours: Tuesday: 1-5; Thursday: 1-5; Saturday: 10-12, 1-5.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], John McLaren Collection (SFH 22), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Provenance

    The John McLaren Collection was donated to the San Francisco Public Library by Ralph C. Daniels ca. April 1970. Five medals were returned to Valerie Daniels by Gladys Hansen of the San Francisco Public Library in July 1974.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes, and metal paper clips and most staples were removed. Individual leaves of Jane McLaren's "Notes of a Trip to Europe" (folder 1/14) were flattened and stabilized with Japanese paper, and a preservation photocopy included in that folder. Some volumes from McLaren's library had spine repairs and other treatments, and some volumes were isolated due to water and mold damage.

    Processing Information note

    Processed by Tom Carey in 2009.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Books from McLaren's library have been transferred to the San Fracisco History Center's book collection; they are represented in the SFPL online catalog with a call number of SFH 22 and are found in Boxes 10 and 11.

    Biographical/Historical note

    John McLaren was born December 20, 1846 in Craigford, Stirlingshire, Scotland. At age five, he was enrolled in the local grammar school; he did not go on to high school. About 1857, his family moved to a farm in Muirside, property that remained in the family until 1935. McLaren's first job was at nearby Bannockburn House, working for the master gardener there starting about 1860. In March 1864, he left to work for three years at a larger estate, Blair Drummond House, near Stirling. Following this, he found employment at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, enrolling in the botany classes there during at least one winter and spring. He also found work at other estates: Mavisbank; Dupplin Castle, near Perth; and Gosford, in the Lothians, which was planted on what had been sand dunes.
    McLaren met his future wife, Jane Mill, while studying at the Royal Botanic Garden. While in Edinburgh he was recruited by George Howard to create a garden for his six-thousand acre estate "El Cerrito" in San Mateo, California. McLaren sailed for San Francisco in January 1873, and in February McLaren began work for Howard, continuing as head gardener until 1887. During this time he also landscaped properties owned by Stanford, Mills, Ralston and other wealthy San Francisco peninsula capitalists. Jane Mill followed McLaren to California, and they were married July 31, 1876 in San Francisco. Their son, Donald, was born in 1879. He followed in his father's footsteps, managing MacRorie-McLaren Company (1910- ), landscape engineers and nursery in San Mateo. Donald died in 1925, and Jane died October 4, 1926 in San Francisco.
    The Board of Park Commissioners appointed McLaren Assistant Superintendent of Golden Gate Park in 1887, and three years later he was appointed Superintendent of Parks, a position he held until his death January 12, 1943 at age 97. He was awarded the George Robert White Medal of Honor from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (1924), elected Associate of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society (1930), and honored by the American Institute of Park Executives (1939).
    San Francisco's McLaren Park was named in his honor in 1927. While best known for his work transforming sand dunes into Golden Gate Park, McLaren also supervised the landscaping of Lincoln, Harding, and Sharp Parks, and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, in San Francisco, and Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. For a more complete biography, the best one-volume work is Tom Girvan Aikman's Boss Gardener: The Life and Times of John McLaren (San Francisco: Don’t Call It Frisco Press, 1988.)

    Scope and Contents

    Diaries, daybooks, writings, correspondence, newsclippings, scrapbooks, photographs, books, and artifacts created and/or collected by McLaren and his granddaughter, Martha "Matie" McLaren Daniels. The collection documents McLaren's gardening, landscape design, and landscape architecture work for private estates; his travels within the United States and to foreign countries; and to a lesser extent, his work as Assistant Superintendent of Golden Gate Park and then Superintendent of Parks for the City and County of San Francisco.
    Half of the collection relates to McLaren's career before his tenure with the City of San Francisco. The earliest material included is McLaren's daybook of work done at Mavisbank, Scotland, 1866-1871. His personal library of gardening and landscape architecture includes imprints dating from 1803 to 1934; some volumes appear to have been collected before he came to the United States.
    Materials originally collected by McLaren have been added to, rearranged, and annotated by his granddaughter--possibly in preparation of a biography--and a small number of her writings are included. Some material in the collection-– proclamations, memorials, clippings-– was collected posthumously by Daniels. Writings about McLaren, collected by him or by his granddaughter, are also found in the collection. Considering McLaren's lengthy tenure as Parks Superintendent, there are large gaps in coverage of his professional life.

    Arrangement

    The collection is organized into eight series: Series 1: Diaries, Day Books and Writings by McLaren; Series 2: Correspondence; Series 3: Writings about McLaren; Series 4: Awards and Certificates; Series 5: News Clippings and Scrapbooks; Series 6: Photographs; Series 7: Realia; and Series 8: Library. Within series, folders are generally arranged chronologically. Within folders, items are arranged chronologically.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Daniels, Martha McLaren
    El Cerrito (Estate : San Mateo, Calif.) .
    Howard, George H., 1827-1878
    McLaren family
    Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Horticulturists--California--Biography
    Landscape architects--California--Biography