Scope and Content
History of the Collection
Microfilm of the Collection
Title: Susie Baker Fountain Papers,
Date (inclusive): ca 1850-1966
Collection number: HUMCO F868 H8 F597 and MF2638
Fountain, Susie Baker
Extent: 119 reels microfilm and 1483 sheets microfiche index
Humboldt State University Library.
Susie Baker Fountain, Humboldt State University's first graduate in 1915, was a local historian and professional columnist
Blue Lake Advocate.
She developed an extraordinary clipping file and collection of materials on Humboldt County and Del Norte County people, activities,
and history from 1850-1966. The collection's particular strengths include the early period of settlement and development,
Indian-white interactions, early military history, real estate, the lumber and railroad industries, accounts of families and
individuals, small communities, mining history, and a wide variety of other subjects not found in other sources. Further information
about the collection can be found at:
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Humboldt State University Library. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please
contact the Special Collections Librarian.
This project was supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library
Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Librarian.
[Identification of item], Susie Baker Fountain Papers, Humboldt State University Library
Gifted to Humboldt State University in 1966 by Susie Baker Fountain.
Scope and Content
The Susie Baker Fountain Papers is one of the premiere historical sources for Humboldt County, California, and the surrounding
region. It centers on Humboldt County, and also includes some information on the surrounding counties and the brief history
of Klamath County. It covers the time period 1850-1966, with greater emphasis on the earlier years. The collection was created
by Susie Baker Fountain (1893-1969), a local historian and journalist for the
Blue Lake Advocate. When Mrs. Fountain left the area in 1966, she donated the collection to the Humboldt State University Library.
The collection is drawn from a variety of sources, primarily newspapers, but also diaries, letters, photographs, legal documents,
historical publications and other sources, many of them not available elsewhere. Part of the value of the collection lies
in its arrangement by subject and the juxtaposition of related items, reflecting her understanding of her subject matter.
The original collection was arranged in notebooks and envelopes by subjects (geographical, temporal or thematic) and consists
of handwritten notes on slips, newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, maps and other items. The collection's particular
strengths include the early period of settlement and development, Indian-white interactions, early military history, real
estate, the lumber and railroad industries, accounts of families and individuals, small communities, mining history and a
wide variety of other subjects not found in other sources.
In 1966-1968 the HSU Library had two sets of photocopies made and bound into 119 volumes to provide users access to the materials.
These volumes continue to be available for research at both the HSU and Humboldt County libraries and are heavily used. In
1999-2000 HSU had the originals microfilmed, with LSTA funding from the California State Library. Copies of the microfilm
are available at the HSU and Humboldt County libraries and at the California State Library in Sacramento. There is an extensive
(204 drawers of file cards) handwritten name index to the collection at the Humboldt County Library, prepared by Mrs. Ruth
Brink, a volunteer. It has also been filmed and is available in microfiche at all three locations along with the microfilm
of the collection.
History of the Collection
It is not clear just when Susie Baker Fountain began this collection, but evidence internal to the collection indicates that
at least some parts of the collection (e.g. Geer biography) date from her early twenties, although history was only one of
her many interests until later. She began much more extensive work on the collection in the 1940's when her children graduated
from college. It was also during this era that she began her columns for the
Blue Lake Advocate,
with the first column appearing in 1948. She continued to work on her collection intensively until 1966. At that point she
donated the collection to the HSU Library.
Frances Purser, special collections librarian and one of Mrs. Fountain's friends, had the originals photocopied and bound
into volumes, at a time when photocopying was a relatively new technology (1966-1968). These copies have provided users access
to the materials ever since, but have become increasingly difficult to read over time. Oversize and other random items from
the originals were not included in the copies. The transitions between notebooks were not noted in any way, leaving the user
without a clear sense of the organization inherent to the collection. Although the original notebooks appear to have been
kept in alphabetical order by Mrs. Fountain, they were not photocopied and bound in that order. The only recorded reason for
that departure from the original arrangement seems to have been the request of a faculty member to make some of the materials
available to students in a history class shortly after the photocopying process began. After Frances Purser retired in 1971
or early 1972, Erich Schimps assumed responsibility for special collections. During his time notes were made in the front
of the volumes by Lincoln Kilian to assist users in navigating the collection, and a brief (one drawer) card file subject
index was made. The photographs were removed from the originals and processed. It was also during this period of time that
Mrs. Brink prepared the name index to the collection at the county library. This is the index that has been microfilmed along
with the collection.
Ever since the bound volumes became available they have been used heavily. Most articles and books on the history of this
region draw from and quote this collection. This pattern of heavy use and the gradual deterioration of the bound volumes (the
photocopies) prompted the HSU library to initiate a preservation microfilm project, partly funded through LSTA funding from
the California State Library.
This project involved proper preparation and improved archival storage of the originals, locating the missing photos and other
missing materials, microfilming, quality control checking and preparation of this finding aid. One of the guiding principals
of the project has been to maintain the volume and page arrangement of the bound volumes, given that we have the indices and
over thirty years of scholarly citations using that format. This requirement made preparation of the materials rather exacting
since much of the collection consists of small slips of paper. Each reel represents one volume, and the page numbers are the
same, although the arrangement on the page is not always the same. In some cases we found original materials within the notebooks
that were not included in the photocopied volumes, either because they were oversize or for other unknown reasons. We included
these other materials in their logical place and added an extra page with the number supplemented by a letter (e.g. Pages
68, 68A, 69 etc.) as needed. We added informational "target" pages to indicate the beginning of each of Mrs. Fountain's notebooks,
so that the user may have a better sense of her organization of the materials. We also filmed the versos of photos when information
was present. In the few cases when an item was truly missing from the original materials, and we could not otherwise reproduce
it from the bound volume or other sources, we used a target page to indicate that it was missing. Fortunately this was a very
The two indices to the collection are quite different, each with its strengths and limitations. The very large name index
is crucial to finding information at a detailed level, since so much of the collection is organized by people and families
and is used extensively for genealogical research. It also has a limited index of selected subjects at the end. This index
has been stored in 204 card catalog drawers which lack rods to hold the cards in the drawers, with the inevitable result that
some of the cards are slightly out of alphabetical order. Many names are entered in several variants, with or without first
names, and women may be variously entered under their maiden name, married name(s) or their husbands' names. The researcher
is cautioned to use this index accordingly. The brief subject index located at the HSU Library is a good general guide to
finding subjects, but one should keep in mind that the information on any given subject may be spread across a number of volumes,
under a variety of headings. Both indices are useful in navigating the collection, especially since a subject or person often
appears across multiple volumes of the collection. This finding aid includes a list (in two forms, by volume and page and
also in alphabetical order) of Mrs. Fountain's notebook titles.
Microfilm of the Collection
The user should note that there are some esthetic problems with the microfilm that arose either from the nature of the original
materials or from the microfilming process. The mixed nature of the originals made filming difficult, and the requirement
to maintain the arrangement of the photocopied volumes exacerbated these difficulties. Parts of the film are underexposed,
leading to less than optimal contrast levels and in some cases to bleedthrough of images from the other side of the paper.
Often more than one exposure of a page was done to minimize this tendency, but with some volumes this was not always done.
In addition, some of the reels have very fine, horizontal scratches which were not discovered until the microfilming process
was completed. Some of the originals have holes, tears, blotches and bleedthrough that could not be fully repaired. In some
cases pages missing from the original materials were filmed from the bound volumes and reflect the fading and exposure problems
of the bound volumes.
In the process of preparing the collection we discovered substantial additional original materials that were never included
in the bound volumes. Some of these represent Mrs. Fountain's own collection of her writing with annotations, both columns
in series and columns on a variety of special topics. The omitted sections include her later columns with her notes, in which
she interpreted much of her knowledge of local history. Only her early columns are presently represented in the collection
as it is available to the public. These additional materials also include her hand-drawn maps, on which she synthesized by
location the multiple layers of information she had collected over the years. There are also 44 subject notebooks and the
materials in Volume 120, which was added to the bound volumes at a later date and exists only at the Humboldt County Library.
We recently (October, 2000) went to Vallejo and interviewed Mrs. Fountain's son, Matthew Fountain, who was able to fill in
many of the gaps in our knowledge of Mrs. Fountain's personal history and the history of her work. He also gave us two large
newsprint sketchpads, probably left out of the original collection because of their large size. They contain a set of her
columns that were not present elsewhere in the collection. These pads are referred to in some of the notebooks of her columns,
but we were never able to understand these references until we saw the sketchpads. Thus we came to understand that ironically
Mrs. Fountain's own writing has never been adequately represented in the Fountain Collection, given that all of her later,
interpretive writings have been left out. These additional materials are currently being processed for microfilming in the