Collection Scope and Content Summary
Title: Peterson, Harry C. Papers,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1880-1944
Collection number: M0649
Peterson, Harry C.
2 linear ft.
Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Abstract: The collection contains correspondence, notes, memorabilia, typescripts. Included is material pertaining to Stanford University
and Sutters Fort.
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights
reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To
obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the
Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.
Harry C. Peterson Papers. M0649. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
Harry Claude Peterson never met a historical fact or artifact that he didn't like. The inveterate historian spent his entire
adult life in one position after another related to history, particularly California Gold Rush Days.
Harry was born in Algona, Iowa, in 1876, son of Julius E. Peterson, a Norwegian mechanician. Leland Stanford had learned of
the elder Peterson in Europe and brought him to Stanford University to teach Machine Shop Practices. Young Harry was educated
in public schools in Algona and Palo Alto, California. He was in the photographic business in Palo Alto for a time. He was
married in 1902 and had one son, Austin Peterson.
Harry was named Director and Curator of the Stanford University Museum of Fine Arts (now the Cantor Center) in 1899, where
he remained until 1918, adding collections to the Museum and writing historical papers. He also acquired his own collection
of historical books and documents while serving as Curator. During his residence in Palo Alto, he served on the city counsel
for eight years.
Harry's next endeavor was as head of Field Research for the California History Department of the California State Library.
He remained in that position for three years, and then joined the Oakland Tribune as feature writer of California history
for the paper, for another three years. In 1925, he was named Curator of Sutter's Fort Museum in Sacramento, California, and
became a charter member of the American Association of Museums.
Harry Peterson's credits are many, from over three hundred published stories and speeches and countless photographs concerning
California History, many for professional and trade publications and meetings. He was responsible for energizing the public
to the historical value of Sutter's Fort. He served on the Southern Pacific Railroad Company's selection committee to identify
historical sites along its lines. He also acted as historical consultant on several Hollywood films of the Gold Rush days,
such as The Pony Express, The Big Trail, the Fighting Caravan, and Sutter's Gold.. He was a member of the Board of Directors
of the Sacramento Golden Empire Centennial in 1939. His energy, exemplified by his many activities, appeared to be unstoppable,
but Harry Peterson died suddenly of a heart attack, in his office at Sutter's Fort, in 1941. His series of articles on the
Gold Rush for the Oakland Tribune were collected in book form, The 49er, published posthumously by the Doubleday Company in
Collection Scope and Content Summary
Correspondence, notes, memorabilia, typescripts. Included is material pertaining to Stanford University and Sutters Fort.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Hewes, Anna Lathrop.
Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931.
Lathrop, Charles G. (Charles Gardner), 1849-1914.
Stanford, Jane Lathrop, 1828-1905.
Wilbur, Ray Lyman, 1875-1949.