Scope and Content
Organization and Arrangement
Title: Harriet Rochlin Collection of Photographs of Western Jewish Life
Date (inclusive): ca. 1845-1991
Collection number: 441
Rochlin, Harriet 1924-
2248 photographs and 1623 photocopies in Fourteen boxes. (7 linear feet)
Four oversize boxes.
Abstract: Harriet Rochlin began collecting Western Jewish photographs in the late 1960s to illustrate articles she was writing on Jewish
pioneering in the American West. The collection grew significantly when she and her late husband, Fred Rochlin, contracted
with Houghton Mifflin to compose an illustrated social history,
Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. The book spans Jewish life in the Spanish, Mexican, and American Far West from 1571 to 1912. The majority of the photographs
(2248) and photocopied images (1623) track the Jewish Westward Migration from secret Sephardic Jews in flight from the Mexican
Colonial Inquisition, to tens of thousands of openly Jewish families rooted throughout the Far West by 1912, the end of the
territorial period. She has continued to collect images for articles, essays, slide narratives, and for a work-in-progress,
A Mixed Chorus: Jewish Women in the American West, 1849 to 1924.
University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department
of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Harriet Rochlin, was born and raised in Boyle Heights when that Los Angeles neighborhood housed the largest mixed immigrant-
mostly Jewish and Mexican-population in the West. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in Hispanic America,
in June, 1947, and a month later married U.C. architectural student, Fred Rochlin, a Jewish native of Nogales, Arizona. Both
westerners of an unnamed sub-culture-American, Jewish, Mexican-they expressed their predilections in attachment to their natal
landscapes, foods, music, and literature. They also savored the stories of their parents' moves west, and took pride in their
Western nativity. Neither sensed that beyond their visceral and cerebral responses to western life and culture lay buried
a complex, 400-year-long Jewish history on Western soil. It took the civil rights-inspired ethnic history movement to illuminate
that possibility, and a small army of seekers, the Rochlins among them, to bring it about. After
Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West
was launched, Harriet sought deeper truths in the inner journey from immigrant to westerner in the fictional Desert Dwellers
The Reformer's Apprentice, The First Lady of Dos Cacahuates
On Her Way Home
. She is currently completing an illustrated documentary history,
A Mixed Chorus: Jewish Women in the American West 1849 to 1924
. A recognized authority and popular lecturer, Rochlin travels extensively, speaking on various aspects of Western Jewish
history and fiction. For more, visit
Welcome to the Jewish West
Scope and Content
A major portion of this collection reflects the geographical and chronological boundaries of Rochlin's
Pioneer Jews: a New Life in the Far West: the American Far West, Texas, North and South Dakota, Sonora, Mexico, and the Spanish and Mexican West from the late 16th century to 1912. Pre-American
visuals, from as early as 1571, include reproductions of maps, lithographs, watercolors and drawings related to Secret Jews
in Spanish Colonial Mexico; Jews in the Mexican New Mexico, Texas and California; and land developers in the Texas.
After the U.S./Mexican War (1846-1848), Jews joined the rush to California and subsequent mineral rushes elsewhere in the
Far West between 1849 and 1880. A handful spearheaded the development of the Western mining industry. Thousands of Jewish
men and women pioneered other enterprises--merchandising, manufacturing, banking, roads and railroads, land development, ranching,
and utilities. Photographs over slung-together tents and slapdash stores attest to the humblest of beginnings and others
trace the growth of one- or two-man operations into western conglomerates.
Hundreds of images also document the presence of Western Jewish women of diverse origins and classes. Photographs of newly-married
couples, brides, wedding parties, ketubas-marriage contracts-honeymoon trips abound. Family and clan portraits, shot in studios
and in Western outdoors were also popular. Women's philanthropic and cultural groups also lined up for group photographs.
Early Jewish pioneers served their communities as volunteers, ran for public office, and were frequently elected. Photographs
document the positions held by them. In erupting communities, with fire and crime a constant threat, Jews joined volunteer
fire fighter groups and vigilance committees. Others served in law enforcement as Chiefs of police, sheriffs and police officers.
Jews served as mayors, and some filled state and national posts as governors and US congressmen and senators.
As their photographs will attest, extraordinary Jewish characters emerged in the newly American Far West. A mixed sampling
includes San Francisco's "Beloved Madman," Joshua Norton, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States and the Protector
of Mexico; Solomon Nunez Carvalho, pioneer daguerreotypist, landscape and portrait painter; Jew Jim Levy who was a gambler,
professional regulator, and a notorious gunslinger; David Belasco, a renowned American playwright, director, and producer;
Josephine Sarah Marcus, the longtime consort of Wyatt Earp; Mary Ann (Cohen) Magnin, the founder and guiding spirit of the
store I. Magnin, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, "Colorado's Mother of Charities," the only woman among the sixteen pioneers depicted
in stained class in the rotunda of the Colorado state capitol building; David Lubin, founder of the California Fruit Growers
Association; Gertrude Stein, who spent her youth in Oakland, and became a standard bearer of early modern literature, and
Dr. Albert Abraham Michelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Arranged chronologically, images related to Jewish organization in the newly American West illuminate extraordinarily rapid
growth. The first public Jewish worship service in the Far West took place in September, 1849 in a tent store in San Francisco.
The first two congregations in San Francisco were organized in April, 1851. Reproduced drawings document the construction
of the first two synagogues in the Far West, and photographs track the arrival of the first ordained officiants. Cantors,
ritual circumcisers, ritual animal slaughters, teachers for the religious schools were duly photographed, and members of benevolent
societies also lined up for their pictures. Other congregations and Jewish communities soon organized all over the West.
Between 1881 and 1924, a spill-off of the mass Jewish exodus from Eastern Europe filtered into the Far West, multiplying the
Jewish population three-and four-fold. Yiddish-speaking synagogues and communities sprang up everywhere. And what would
become one of region's leading industries, the film business, was founded, in the main, by Eastern European Jews.
Organization and Arrangement
All the images are arranged by state and city, and then by subject.
The subject, location, date, and source of each image are identified on the back of each photograph and photocopy.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Jews--West (U.S.)--History--Archival resources.
Genres and Forms of Material