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Harry Crosby Collection
MSS 0333  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Crosby, Harry, 1926-
    Title: Harry Crosby Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1966-1992
    Extent: 10.20 linear feet (3 archives boxes and 92 mounted photographs)
    Abstract: The Harry Crosby Collection contains photographs of the University of California, San Diego; an exhibit of photographs entitled "Baja California, 1967-1992: Photographs by Harry Crosby" and a book proposal which led to the publication of THE CAVE PAINTINGS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA (1975). The bulk of the UCSD photographs were taken to illustrate a promotional brochure entitled WE PROPOSE TO CHALLENGE and document buildings and campus life during the mid-1960s. The Baja California photograph exhibit includes images of peninsular mission architecture, historic places, everyday life on remote ranches, and landmarks along the unpaved transpeninsular highway. The collection is arranged in three series: 1) PHOTOGRAPHS OF UCSD, 2) BAJA CALIFORNIA, 1967-1992 PHOTOGRAPH EXHIBIT and 3) MANUSCRIPTS.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0333
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Harry Crosby Collection, MSS 0333. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    Harry Crosby was born in Seattle, Washington, on June 10, 1926. He received his B.A from Occidental College in 1948 and his masters degree from San Diego State University in 1951. In 1963, he retired from teaching in the San Diego Unified School District to become a professional photographer. Between 1963 and 1974, Crosby worked in commercial photography, specializing in brochure, magazine and book illustration.
    In 1967, Crosby was hired by the Commission of the Californias to illustrate a book to commemorate the California bicentennial entitled THE CALL TO CALIFORNIA (1969). During his research for the book, he rode 600 miles in Baja California, mostly on muleback, and followed the route of the Portola/Serra expedition of 1769. While photographing historic places in Baja, Crosby also became interested in peninsular rock art and the history of the isolated ranch families he encountered.
    Crosby has since written and illustrated numerous books and articles on Baja California, including THE KING'S HIGHWAY IN BAJA CALIFORNIA (1974), THE CAVE PAINTINGS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA (1975), "Baja's Murals of Mystery" (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, 1980, Vol.158, No.5, p.692-702), LAST OF THE CALIFORNIOS (1981), DOOMED TO FAIL (1989), and ANTIGUA CALIFORNIA, MISSION AND COLONY ON THE PENINSULAR FRONTIER, 1697-1768 (1994).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Harry Crosby Collection contains: images of the University of California, San Diego taken during the mid-1960s; a photograph exhibition entitled Baja California, 1967-1992: Photographs by Harry Crosby; and, a book proposal on the mountains, people and cave paintings of Baja California. The collection is arranged in three series: 1) PHOTOGRAPHS OF UCSD, 2) BAJA CALIFORNIA, 1967-1992 and 3) MANUSCRIPTS.
    The PHOTOGRAPHS OF UCSD series contains black-and-white contact sheets and mounted photographs taken between 1965 and 1970. Many of the photographs were taken to illustrate the UCSD brochure entitled WE PROPOSE TO CHALLENGE (1966) and document instruction, laboratories, student life, and some faculty, including philosophy professor Herbert Marcuse. Other photographs show Muir and Revelle Colleges, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University Hospital, an "Electronic Music Happening," and composer Ernst Krenek during his February 1970 visit to UCSD. The photographs are arranged alphabetically by subject.
    The BAJA CALIFORNIA, 1967-1992 PHOTOGRAPH EXHIBIT series contains ninety-two black-and-white and color images of people and places in Baja California, including peninsular mission architecture, historic places, everyday life on remote ranchos, and landmarks along the unpaved transpeninsular highway. The photographs are arranged in exhibit order in three subseries: A) Pre-history and History of Antigua California, 2) Life at Remote Ranches In Baja California, and 3) Landmarks Along the Trans-Peninsular Highway.
    The following subseries descriptions were written by Crosby and describe three groups of exhibited photographs.
    A) Pre-history and History of Antigua California
    "The Native Americans of the central and lower peninsula disappeared after less than two centuries of exposure to alien diseases and European ideological and economic domination. Their material remains are few and, for the most part, inconspicuous. Thirty years ago, during my first major adventure in Baja California, I was guided to magnificent displays of rock art, paintings and engravings. That experience-- and the scant printed information available on the subject-- inspired me to spend fifteen months in the mountains of the mid-peninsula during the next seven years. My investigations resulted in the text and illustrations for THE CAVE PAINTINGS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA [1975]. The pre-historic art of Baja California now attracts admiring visitors from around the world. The peninsula displays a variety of other remains as well, items worked from or built of stone: hunting blinds, sleeping circles, metates, manos, and other miscellaneous implements.
    The permanent Spanish presence in California began with a toehold established in 1697. During the eighteenth century, the mission-based colony grew to encompass the entire peninsula and expanded onto the mainland to the northwest. I was introduced to peninsular history when I was hired to illustrate a book commemorating the two hundredth anniversary [1969] of Spanish entry into Alta California. My experience did not begin with books or documents, it came in the field in encounters with remains of mission churches, el camino real-- the inter-mission road-- and other masonry constructions resulting from early economic activity: mining, pearling, cattle ranching, and mission agriculture.
    Historic preservation was barely a concept during the peninsula's three Hispanic centuries. Known losses were great, but most went unrecorded and can only be imagined. Since the opening of the paved highway in 1973, I have watched the patrimony of the peninsula suffer accelerating losses from neglect, looting, and development. I hope that my work will stimulate interest in finding, recording, and preserving the historical legacy. That is my appeal to Baja California's leaders and residents- and to sincere aficionados wherever they reside.
    B) Life at Remote Ranches in Baja California
    Peninsular California experienced profound changes during the first third of the nineteenth century. Mexican independence [1821] ended Spanish interest and support; the new government lacked finances and was primarily involved in its own organization and solving problems closer to the heart of the republic. By 1830, Baja California languished for lack of money, supplies, and trade. As the numbers of mission Indians declined, missions were abandoned or secularized. The Presidio of Loreto, the peninsula's largest employer, was scaled down, then abandoned. Local men turned to subsistence ranching or farming on small land claims or, more frequently, to squatting on ex-mission properties or at remote water sources in the sierras or their foothills. The population, so dispersed, developed the basis for much of the small economic activity in the area. The few towns and villages became trading centers where merchants dealt with farmers and ranchers.
    This economy, with many of its practices and traditions almost unchanged, persisted to a remarkable degree in 1967 when I first entered the remote areas. However, in half a dozen years, the paved road brought in the outside world and old ways quickly began to fade. Goods and produce from the mainland and tourism from the United States changed the local economy by lowering demand for more expensive local produce and by creating other needs for local labor. I was extremely fortunate to arrive before those events, to travel to many dozens of inaccessible ranches, to know their people, and to experience the last days of a culture hauntingly like that of our own American West in the nineteenth century. My 1981 book, LAST OF THE CALIFORNIOS, set forth my photographs, my experiences, and my research vis-à-vis this remarkable-- and remarkably nearby-- survival.
    C) Landmarks Along the Wheeltracks Grandly Known as the 'Trans-Peninsular Highway'
    Since the second decade of the twentieth century, men have used automobiles to travel over the more level terrain in various parts of the peninsula. Gradually, after truly heroic efforts with hand tools and a little dynamite and blasting powder-- the efforts of various communities, companies, and ranchers made it possible to traverse the entire length of Baja California, usually with aid from local manpower and mulepower to pass through the most difficult terrain. By the 1940s, it was possible, with favorable weather, to drive a high-clearance vehicle from San Diego to San José del Cabo, but few made the trip without long delays due to mechanical problems or shortages of fuel or other wondrous difficulties. Such trips were adventures, often the greatest adventures of the travelers' lives. A cult sprang up around Baja California travel. The individuals or families that offered gas and meals along the way became in-group personalities. Howard Gulick and Peter Gerhard put their experiences to use in creating a truly inspired handbook, LOWER CALIFORNIA GUIDEBOOK-- a historically accurate and geographically sound work that assisted the traveler and educated him as he went.
    The same set of wheeltracks served the slow-growing peninsular economy as an avenue for imports from the U. S. and mainland Mexico and for exports of local produce from fisheries, fields, or herds. Mexican truckers became part of the growing legend; regulars often provided assistance to visitors in distress, sometimes pulling them from mud or sand, sometimes transporting vital vehicle parts, sometimes carrying them to places from which they could get conventional transportation back to their homes. I know at one time or another, I needed and got all of these services and much more. Travel was slow in those days, stops were frequent and there was a lot of camaraderie; friendships were made between fellow travelers and with those who lived or worked along the road. It was an idyll not truly appreciated until the paved road was built and opened in 1973. Changes were sudden and mostly painful to old-timers, whether gringo or peninsular. Much of the romance disappeared. Few of those who had provided services along the old road had the money or political clout to be involved in profits from the new tourism. An era had ended; LOWER CALIFORNIA GUIDEBOOK is a collectors' item. Sic transit gloria mundi...."
    The MANUSCRIPTS series contains Crosby's treatment proposal for a book on Baja California mountain people, cave paintings and sierra life. The proposal led to his book entitled THE CAVE PAINTINGS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA (1975). The volume includes Crosby's written proposal, a statement of professional background, his vita, a map of Baja California, and 39 photographs.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Crosby, Harry, 1926- -- Archives
    University of California, San Diego -- Pictorial works
    University of California, San Diego -- Buildings -- Pictorial works
    Rock paintings -- Mexico -- Baja California (Peninsula)
    Spanish mission buildings -- Mexico -- Baja California (Peninsula)
    Jesuit architecture -- Mexico -- Baja California (Peninsula)
    Architecture -- Mexico -- Baja California (Peninsula)
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula)
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula) -- Social life and customs
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula) -- Description and travel -- Pictorial works
    Photographic prints -- 20th century.