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Guide to the Hiram Johnson papers, 1895-1945
BANC MSS C-B 581  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Scope and Content
  • Biography

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Hiram Johnson Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1895-1945
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 581
    Creator: Johnson, Hiram, 1866-1945
    Extent: Number of containers: 196 boxes, 50 cartons, 6 oversize folders, 5 oversize volumes Number of microfilm reels: 39 Linear feet: 151
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Includes correspondence; reports; speeches; statements and press releases; scrapbooks; clippings; and printed materials, including government documents. Most materials relate to Johnson's career as governor of California, 1911-1917, as U.S. Senator from California, 1917-1945, and to his leadership of the Progressive Party. Material covers various election campaigns; major legislation, both state and national; and the important issues of the period. Some family correspondence also included. Includes correspondence with Francis J. Heney.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft 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], Hiram Johnson papers, BANC MSS C-B 581, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • Motion pictures transferred to the Microforms Division of The Bancroft Library.

    Scope and Content

    The Johnson Collection was purchased by the Bancroft Library in December 1955 from Hiram Johnson, Jr. The papers have been divided into five parts. Part I deals primarily with the California gubernatorial campaign of 1910, although there are a few items for the years preceding. Part II consists of the gubernatorial papers, 1911-1917, dealing with the election campaigns of 1912, 1914 & 1916, the major pieces of legislation (e.g. the Alien Land Law of 1913), and the general progressive program. Part III is the senatorial material, 1917-1945, similarly focused on legislation and political campaigns. Much of the correspondence, particularly after 1930, emanates from his San Francisco, rather than his Washington, office. There is only a meager amount of material covering the final years, 1941-1945. Part IV consists of diary letters, known as the Diary Correspondences, written to his sons and Hiram Jr., 1917-1945 [Film to be used instead of originals]. Part V consists of family correspondence and papers. Included are letter from Hiram's father, Grove Johnson; from his wife, Minnie; from his sons Hiram Jr. and Archibald; and from Hiram Jr.'s wife, Amy Bowles Johnson. Part VI is an addition to the Johnson papers received from Philip B. Johnson, the Senator's grandson in 1965.
    The organization of the papers is uniform in all five parts. Copies of letters written by Johnson are arranged chronologically, and letter to Johnson are arranged alphabetically. Single incoming letter have been placed in miscellanies preceding each letter of the alphabet. The correspondence files in each part are followed by subject files which include notes, miscellaneous papers and printed material. These have been arranged, as far as possible, in the categories set up by the Senator.
    A key to arrangement and partial list of correspondents follows herein.


    Hiram Warren Johnson was born in Sacramento, September 2, 1866, the son of Grove and Annie (De Montfredy) Johnson. He was educated in the Sacramento public schools and attended the University of California at Berkeley. He left in 1886, in his junior year, to marry Minnie L. McNeal. He studied law in his father's law office, was admitted to the bar in 1888, and practiced in Sacramento. In 1894 he and his brother, Albert, managed their father's first congressional campaign. However, they opposed him in his bid for re-election and backed a reform group. The political rivalry estranged father and sons for many years.
    In 1902 Johnson went to San Francisco to practice law. In 1908 he was selected to take the place of Francis Heney, after the latter was shot during the prosecution of the graft trials, and secured a conviction against Abraham Reuf for bribery. At this time Johnson came to the attention of the state reform element and enhanced his anti-machine reputation by his dynamic speeches before the Lincoln-Roosevelt Republican League.
    By 1910 he was the acknowledged leader of the progressive movement in the state, and in November he was elected Governor. In 1912, he led the California delegation to the Republican convention in Chicago, and, with Theodore Roosevelt and other Progressives, bolted the convention after the renomination of President William H. Taft. Johnson then became the vice-presidential nominee of the newly formed Progressive Party. In 1914, he was re-elected Governor and in November 1916, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. On March 17, 1917, he resigned his state office and went to Washington.
    Johnson served as a U.S. Senator from California for five terms, 1917-1945. During this time he maintained his image as a progressive reformer by his sponsorship of the Boulder Dam project, through investigations into the labor conditions in the West Virginia coal mines, by his attack on the power of private utilities, and through his strong support of the public works projects in the New Deal era. In the field of foreign relations, Johnson's stands were always highlighted by a vigorous nationalistic spirit, and he was popularly termed an "isolationist".
    The coming of World War II brought Johnson into a headlong clash with Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The disintegration of American neutrality alarmed Johnson and led him into a bitter losing battle from which he never recovered. Once the war began he gave it full support, but his failing health kept him more and more from the active business of the Senate. He died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on August 6, 1945.