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Historical Society of Southern California Collection – Frank Rolfe Collection of Negatives and Photographs: Finding Aid
photCL 400 volume 12  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Index Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Historical Society of Southern California Collection – Frank Rolfe Collection of Negatives and Photographs
    Dates (inclusive): 1899-1959
    Bulk dates: 1905-1907, 1925-1932
    Collection Number: photCL 400 volume 12
    Creator: Rolfe, Frank, 1874-
    Extent: 8 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: rarebooks@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The collection consists of 325 photographs (the majority of which are housed in two photograph albums), 574 negatives, one book, and ephemera, created and collected by Frank Rolfe, 1899-1959, that depict locations throughout California and the Western United States. Many of these were locations where Rolfe, a geologist, worked on various surveys, including the Los Angeles aqueduct survey.
    Language: English.


    The collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please visit the Huntington's website: www.huntington.org.  

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Photographs. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Historical Society of Southern California Collection – Frank Rolfe Collection of Negatives and Photographs. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Donated to the Huntington Library by the Historical Society of Southern California, 1992.

    Processing Information

    Prior to 2006, volunteers rehoused the negatives and the majority of the photographs. In March 2006, Sue Luftschein completed the rehousing and created this finding aid. Some items have been photocopied for preservation purposes.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Frank Rolfe was born in Gold Hill, Nevada, in 1874, where his father was working as a miner on the Comstock Lode. In 1881, the family settled on a ranch in the Temescal Valley in Riverside County, near what is now Corona, and in 1890, in order to further her children’s education, Rolfe’s mother moved herself and the children to Los Angeles; they spent winters in the city and summers on the family ranch. Frank graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1894, and earned a degree in geology from Stanford University in 1898. He worked on the Los Angeles aqueduct survey, and possibly on the construction of the Ludlow and Southern Railway. He was a long-time member of the Historical Society of Southern California, and authored articles on California history and geology that appeared in Historical Society publications and the Los Angeles Times in the 1930s; he was also the author of “Commercial Geography of southern California,” published by Biola Press, c.1915.
    The Rolfe Collection comprises one portion of the Historical Society of Southern California (HSSC) Collection, which was donated to the Huntington Library in 1992. The HSSC Collection as a whole contains approximately 15,000 photographs and negatives covering the period circa 1870 to circa 1980, and almost exclusively depicts Southern California. As such, it is an important visual record of the growth and history of the region.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection consists of 325 photographs (the majority of which are housed in two photograph albums), 574 negatives, one book, and ephemera, created and collected by Frank Rolfe, 1899-1959, that depict locations throughout California and the Western United States. Many of these were locations where Rolfe, a geologist, worked on various surveys, including the Los Angeles aqueduct survey. The majority of the photographs appear to have been taken by Rolfe, but there are a few, in the photograph album in Box 2, credited to Charles J. Prudhomme.
    The collection begins with Rolfe’s photographs of the initial Los Angeles aqueduct survey, the majority of which are housed in an album. These photographs depict Owens Valley and Black Rock Springs. The collection also contains a published work on the aqueduct.
    A second album contains photographs taken primarily by Rolfe; these are photographs of Los Angeles (central Los Angeles and neighborhoods where Rolfe and his wife lived); the San Gabriel Valley and other locations in Los Angeles County (Devil’s Gate Dam, the San Gabriel Mountains, the St. Francis Dam and San Francisquito Canyon); San Bernardino County (the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake); Riverside County (the Coachella Valley, Tahquitz Canyon, the Temescal Valley, Riverside, the San Jacinto Mountains); Kern County; and commercially produced images of Yosemite.
    Boxes 3 and 4 contain negatives; viewing of the negatives must be arranged with the Curator of Photographs. The negatives depict street scenes in central Los Angeles, including the wrecking of the Temple Block, the Amestoy Block, the Hall of Records, and Bunker Hill. Also included are views of the West Adams neighborhood; houses where Rolfe and his wife lived in the 1920s and 30s; the snowstorm of 1932; and the 1920 Inglewood earthquake. The collection also includes images of Hollywood and vicinity (including a number of photographs of the Mulholland Dam and images of Brentwood and Bel Air); Santa Monica (including the Santa Monica Mountains and Decker Canyon); Santa Catalina Island; north Los Angeles County (including the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, the ruins of the Saint Francis Dam and San Francisquito Canyon, and the “golden spike” celebration at Lang); the San Gabriel Valley (including many views of the San Gabriel Mountains); Orange County (including Modjeska’s home, Santiago Canyon, San Juan Capistrano, the Puente hills, and Santa Ana Canyon); San Diego County; San Bernardino County (including a number of photographs of mining camps, including Ivanpah and Camp Roach; construction of the Ludlow and Southern Railway; and mining operations, such as the Bagdad Chase Mine and the Bagdad Mining and Milling Company); Riverside County (including the Temescal Tin Mine, Temescal and the Temescal Valley, Hog Lake, the San Jacinto River, Mount San Jacinto, and Idyllwild); Ventura County; Kern County (images of the Kern River); Inyo County; Yosemite; northern California (including Stanford University and Susie Lake); Nevada (Truckee River dam projects); Oregon; Washington; Utah; Glacier Park, Montana; people (Rolfe, his family and friends); and miscellaneous photographs (a number of desert views, mostly Southern California).
    The collection also contains commercial photographs of the Rolfe family, many in carte-de-visite format. These were produced by California photographers Bradley and Rulofson, Ellis and Son, Frank G. Schumacher, George Steckel, Carleton Watkins, Michael A. Wesner, and James D. Westervelt, as well as A.J. Beals and Sutterly and Company (Nevada), A.F. Burnham (Faribault, Minnesota), E. Balch (New York City), Charles C. Hartwell (Maine), and Hart’s Arcade Photographic Gallery (Watertown, NY).
    The ephemerial materials consist of a letter written in 1862 from Sutter Creek by Rolfe’s father Ovid to his brother Alfred in Dorchester, Massachusetts; biographical sketches of members of the Rolfe family; clippings compiled by Rolfe; Rolfe’s high school and college diplomas; card files on Rolfe family history, covered wagons in Los Angeles, and Temescal history; and negative books.
    Some photographs exist in duplicate. The majority of the negatives are unprinted. Some negatives have deteriorated or are damaged.
    Original negatives exist for 15 of the photographs in the second album; 2 copy negatives exist of photographs in the first album.


    The collection begins with the two photograph albums. These are followed by the negatives, which are arranged in geographic order, beginning with Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. Rolfe family photographs and the ephemeral materials can be found at the end of the collection.
    The negatives were originally housed in negative books; these contain itemized lists of Rolfe’s original notations and can be found in Box 8.

    Index Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Balch, E., photographer.
    Beals, A. J., b. ca. 1821
    Burnham, A. F., photographer.
    Hartwell, Charles C., photographer.
    Prudhomme, Charles J., 1854-1934.
    Schumacher, Frank G., b. 1861
    Steckel, Geo. (George), b. 1864
    Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916.
    Wesner, Michael A., photographer.
    Westervelt, James D., b. 1844


    Bagdad Mining and Milling Co. (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Bradley and Rulofson.
    Ellis and Son (Los Angeles, Calif.), photographer.
    Hart's Arcade Photographic Gallery (Watertown, N.Y.), photographer.
    Ludlow and Southern Railway -- Photographs.
    Mission San Juan Capistrano -- Photographs.
    Stanford University -- Photographs.
    Sutterly and Co. (Virginia City, Nev.), photographers.


    Bel Air (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Big Bear Lake (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Black Rock Springs (Humboldt County, Nev.) -- Photographs.
    Brentwood (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Bunker Hill (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Camp Roach (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Coachella Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Decker Canyon (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Devil's Gate Dam (Pasadena, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Glacier National Park (Mont.) -- Photographs.
    Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Idyllwild (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Inyo County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Ivanpah (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Kern County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Kern River (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    La Puente (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Los Angeles aqueduct (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Modjeska Ranch (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Mulholland Dam (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Orange County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Oregon -- Photographs.
    Owens Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Riverside (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Riverside County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Saint Francis Dam (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Bernardino County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Bernardino Mountains (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Diego County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Fernando Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Francisquito Canyon (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Gabriel Mountains (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Gabriel River Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Jacinto Mountains (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Jacinto Peak (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Jacinto River (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santa Ana Canyon (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santa Catalina Island (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santa Clarita Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santa Monica (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santa Monica Mountains (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santiago Canyon (Orange County, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Susie Lake (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Tahquitz Canyon (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Temescal Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Truckee River Watershed (Calif. and Nev.) -- Photographs.
    Utah -- Photographs.
    Ventura County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Washington (State) -- Photographs.
    West Adams (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Yosemite National Park (Calif.) -- Photographs.


    Cityscapes -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs.
    Earthquakes -- California -- Photographs.
    Inglewood Earthquake, Calif., 1920 -- Photographs.
    Mines -- California -- Bagdad -- Photographs.
    Surveying -- California -- Photographs.
    Winter storms -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs.

    Document Types:

    Photograph albums.