Guide to the Frank Kester Papers, ca. 1912-1981

Processed by California Historical Society staff; supplementary encoding and revision supplied by Xiuzhi Zhou.
California Historical Society
North Baker Research Library
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94105-4014
Phone: (415) 357-1848, ext. 220
Fax: (415) 357-1850
© 2001
California Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Frank Kester Papers, ca. 1912-1981

Collection number: MS 3588

California Historical Society

North Baker Research Library

San Francisco, California

Contact Information:

  • California Historical Society
  • North Baker Research Library
  • 678 Mission Street
  • San Francisco, California 94105-4014
  • Phone: (415) 357-1848, ext. 220
  • Fax: (415) 357-1850
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
California Historical Society staff
© 2001 California Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Frank Kester Papers,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1912-1981
Collection number: MS 3588
Creator: Kester, Frank, b. 1888
Extent: 3 ft.
Repository: California Historical Society, North Baker Library
San Francisco, California 94105-4014
Language: English.

Administrative Information


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The North Baker Research Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The North Baker Research Library 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 by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Frank Kester Papers. MS 3588, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library.


Frank Kester covered the waterfront beat for the Oakland Tribune from 1921 to 1942. An archetypical reporter, Kester was characterized by an insatiable curiosity, a penchant for keeping journals, a passion for photography and a devotion to the reporting trade which has left us a wealth of biographical materials and historical images of almost half a century.
Born in Cholame Valley, California in March 1888, Kester spent his youth in such small towns as Alvarado, Mendocino and Watsonville. He often made friends with Spanish and Indian children from whom he learned to speak Spanish and some smattering of Indian hunting and fishing techniques. These childhood experiences imbued him with a lifelong interest in mining towns, Indian lore, sea adventures and an abiding love for nature and wilderness.
Before Kester reached his teens, his mother divorced his father, remarried and moved the family to Oakland. He had finished six years of schooling when his stepfather decided that he should withdraw from school in order to contribute to the family income. He entered into a series of jobs which included working as a glass blower and stockboy in department stores.
After much frustration, he convinced his stepfather of his ability to work and attend school. He enrolled in Wilmerding High School and obtained a janitorial position. The young Kester engaged in school activities with enthusiasm and soon earned the position of assistant editor on the school paper.
By the time he was eighteen, Kester was on the million dollar sports staff of the Morning Call and the San Francisco Examiner. After a short stint on the sports page, he was moved over to the waterfront beat. When news of the first World War surfaced, he was reassigned to the news department. In November 1917 Kester reported for naval duty. Overseas for one year, he took the opportunity to document through photographs and autobiographical sketches the personal and tragic side of war.
At the war's end, he came back to San Francisco and the newspaper business. He joined the staff of the Oakland Tribune in 1921. Weaving mythology and fact, Kester spun tales of California history, from the gold country and the Yosemite mountains to the small towns and growing cities. The majority of his eighteen years at the Tribune were spent reporting on the San Francisco and Oakland waterfront and editing a full page daily on maritime activities. He witnessed the emergence of a militant union and strikes; the expansion of the land fill and harbor construction; and, the economic boom in the shipping trades following World War II.
Kester was an inveterate joiner in his private life. Among his organizations were the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Masons and the Audobon Society. Appropriately, he met his wife on a Yosemite trail.

Scope and Contents

The Frank Kester Papers provide a detailed account of the life of a dedicated reporter and nature lover. Included are chapters of his autobiography, short stories and poetry. Kester's research notes and stories highlight the histories of small California towns, national parks and Bay Area waterfronts. The collection also contains original columns Along the Trail and Dog Watch, as well as unpublished manuscripts such as The Sea Takes its Toll and They Tramped the Mountains. Copies of his poetry, accounts of his personal trips and numerous photographs give further insight into Kester's own character. Thoroughly Californian, Kester dedicated his life and work to the appreciation of the natural beauty of his home state.

Chronology of Newspaper Positions Held and Other Jobs

1901 THE ELM, Oakland School Dept. paper
1908-09 WILMERDING LIFE, Editor, W.S.I.A.
1910 MORNING CALL, S.F. special articles
1911-21 S.F. EXAMINER, cub reporter, marine editor, sports
1917-21 Off to War
1921-42 OAKLAND TRIBUNE, Marine Editor, Features, Column, Science
1945-46 WOODLAND DEMOCRAT, Telegrph editor
1949 GILROY DISPATCH, Editor and Columnist
1951-52 LINDSAY NEWS, Editor, columnist
1953 REDDING SEARCHLIGHT, country editor
1954 ANTIOCH LEDGER, reporter
1955-56 WALNUT KERNEL, Managing Editor
1955-56 DIABLO BEACOM, Concord, Managing Editor
1956 CAMARILLO NEWS, Managing Editor
1956-63 RED BLUFF DAILY NEWS, Red Bluff, Mng. Ed. columnist

Added Entries

  • California-Description and Travel
  • California--Gold Discoveries
  • Camarillo, California
  • Camarillo News
  • Camping--California
  • Clipper-Ships
  • European War, 1914-1918
  • Gold Mines and Mining--California
  • Hotels, Taverns, etc.--California
  • Indians of California
  • Indians of California--Missions
  • Log-Books
  • Missions--California
  • Missions-History
  • Newspapers--California
  • Newspapers--Oakland
  • Newspapers--San Francisco
  • Oakland, California
  • Oakland Tribune
  • Panamal Canal
  • Recreation--California
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Francisco-Commerce
  • San Francisco--Earthquake and Fire, 1906
  • San Francisco--Harbor
  • San Francisco--Waterfront
  • San Francisco Examiner
  • Shipping--San Francisco
  • Voyages and Travel
  • Wilmerding High School

Folder List

Folder 1

Personal Papers

Folder 2


Folder 3

Biography - chronologies

Folder 4

Biography - 1888-1905

Folder 5

Biography - 1906-1908


Earthquake and Fire

Folder 6

Biography - 1989-1910


South Seas Trip

Folder 7

Biography - 1914


Mr. Lassen Trip

Folder 8

Biography - 1917-1918


World War One

Folder 9

Biography - 1917-1918


World War One

Folder 10

Biography - 1925


Black Rock Desert

Folder 11

Biography - 1928


Panama Trip

Folder 12

Biography - 1936?


LakeTahoe, Seattle, High Sierras

Folder 13

Biography - 1949-1950


Lindsay Gazette


Santa Clara Valley


San Joaquin Valley


Sequoia National Park


Gilroy Dispatch

Folder 14

Biography - 1949-1952


Lindsay & Walnut Creek

Folder 15

Biography - 1954-1955


Contra Costa County




The Pinnacles


Oakland Leader


Contra Costa County


Diablo Beacon

Folder 16

Biography - 1956


Southern California Edison Plants


Big Creek


Folder 17

Biography - 1956-1959


Ventura County

Folder 18

Biography - 1957-1965


Red Bluff

Folder 19

Biography - 1957-1969


Red Bluff and Oakland

Folder 20

Biography - 1970


on Retirement

Folder 21

Last Mans Club

Folder 22

Camp and Trail Club

Folder 23

1963 Correspondence Course

Folder 24

Research Notes

Folder 25

Research Notes

Folder 26

Early Manuscripts and drafts

Folder 27

First drafts of scenarios

Folder 28

Last Slaver - a civil war story

Folder 29

Mother Lode Notes #1

Folder 30

Mother Lode Notes #2

Folder 31

Mother Lode Field Notes

Folder 32

Mother Lode Field Notes

Folder 33

Mother Lode Field Notes

Folder 34

Mother Lode Field Notes

Folder 35

Mother Lode Stories


Ghosts, Gold & Church Bells

Folder 36

Mother Lode Stories


Ghosts, Gold & Church Bells

Folder 37

Mother Lode Story



Folder 38

They Tramped the Mountains


(Gold Rush Tales) Indexed

Folder 39

They Tramped the Mountains


(Gold Rush Tales) Indexed

Folder 40

They Tramped the Mountains


(Gold Rush Tales) Indexed

Folder 41

They Tramped the Mountains


(Gold Rush Tales) Indexed

Folder 41

Along the Mission Trail


California Missions

Folder 43

The Sea Takes its Toll - Shipwrecks

Folder 44

The Sea Takes its Toll - Shipwrecks

Folder 45

The Sea Takes its Toll - Shipwrecks

Folder 46

The Sea Takes its Toll - Shipwrecks

Folder 47

The Sea Takes its Toll - Shipwrecks

Folder 48

Sea Stories

Folder 49

Articles about the sea

Folder 50

Rape of the Elfin Forest


Story for Sierra Club - published

Folder 51

Miscellaneous articles

Folder 52

Miscellaneous articles

Folder 53

Miscellaneous articles

Folder 54

Miscellaneous articles

Folder 55


Folder 56

Lectures & Talks

Folder 57

Radio Talks

Folder 58

Radio notes and talks

Folder 59

Clippings - 1912-1914

Folder 60

Dogwatch Stories #1- clippings

Folder 61

Dogwatch Stories #2- clippings

Folder 63

Clippings - Dogwatch and Knave and Misc.

Folder 64

Clippings - Along the Trail

Folder 65

Clippings - Gilroy Gazette, Lindsay Gazette, Camarillo News


1924-1941 and misc.

Folder 66

Clippings - Along the Trail and miscellaneous 1959-1962

Folder 67

Clippings - 1924-41



Folder 68

Clippings - 1951 -


Miscellaneous and Lindsay Gazette

Folder 69

Clippings - Misc.

Folder 70

Earthquake and Fire Clippings

Folder 71

Clippings on California Missions

Folder 72

Stories by other authors


Gene and Jean Ellis, Francis Gilbert

Folder 73

Sea Chanties and Folk Songs

Folder 74

Newspaper Style Guides

Folder 75

Clippings of articles (not by Kester)

Folder 76

Printed Material



Folder 77

Logs from Cutter Edna 1925-24

Additional Note

Note: Logs also used as clippings books are in folders 29, 63, 62