California Room Collections
The California Room at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library collects materials on California history with emphasis on the history of San José and Santa Clara Valley. Some topics covered are California ethnic groups, Gold Rush, indigenous people, missions, railroads, earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, famous Californians, overland journeys, and Spanish and Mexican California. Books and journals can be found by searching the San José Library Catalog. Please keep in mind that the California Room collection is non-circulating.
Our Digital Collections Database is available 24/7 and will allow you to search and view historic images.
Please observe our Use & Handling Rules when visiting the California Room.
The aerial collection includes aerial and street level photographs from the City of San Jose Planning Division (1931, 1948, 1960, 1968, 1981) from Fairchild Aerial Photography and the U.S. Geological Survey. These photographs cover central Santa Clara County from Alviso south to Los Gatos, east to the Calero Reservoir, north to Milpitas and the Alameda County Line, and west along the bay to Alviso.
The Bernal Files are a collection of notes and materials gathered by Dr. James P. Delgado in the 1970s. These files include information on the history of Rancho Santa Teresa and Santa Clara County pioneers, with an emphasis on the Bernal family.
This collection contains rare books and journals dating from 1767 to 1910. These books are accessible with a photo ID and are searchable through the library catalog. Some are available in digitized format.
This collection includes Right of Way Assessments for the County of Santa Clara from 1938 through 1979, with the bulk of materials being from the 1960s and 1970s. The assessments include descriptions of property, maps and photographs.
Clyde Arbuckle Research Collection
This collection represents the regional history of San José and Santa Clara County, and includes materials collected in the research for Clyde Arbuckle's History of San José.
This collection includes city directories, for San José, San Francisco, and other cities in print, on microfilm, or online as well as Haines Criss Cross directories and phone books.
For more information about using our city directories, please see our House and Property Research Guide.
This collection includes watercolors by local artist and art therapist, Edith Harvey Heron.
The California Room features three sculptures created by Edmonia Lewis; Asleep (marble, 1871), Awake (marble, 1872), and a bust of Abraham Lincoln (marble, 1871). An earlier version of Asleep, called Night (marble, 1870), is held at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
This collection includes printed paper materials including brochures, handbills, memorabilia, pamphlets, tickets, and timetables.
This collection was compiled by the Fiesta de las Rosas Committee, and consists of correspondence, fiesta guidelines, entry forms, tickets, pamphlets, and more. The Fiesta de las Rosas was an annual festival and parade designed to highlight San Jose as a “garden city” and attract tourists.
Frontier Village was a western-themed amusement park which opened in 1961 and closed in 1980.
Los Lupeños de San José Records
This collection comprises administrative records, organizational papers, correspondence, clippings, ephemera, photographs, and audiovisual material related to Los Lupeños de San José. Los Lupeños de San José was a study and performance group of Mexican dance and culture founded in 1969.
This collection comprises over 1,000 maps from the 1860s - 1980s, including Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, geological surveys, street maps, planning and land use maps for San Jose, Santa Clara County and other cities and counties throughout California.
Physical maps (on site)
- Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for 1932, 1939, 1950, 1958, and 1962 *some years also available on microfilm
- City of San José Block Books: 1909, and 1924 multi volume set updated to the 1940s
- 1876 Historical Atlas of Santa Clara County
- City and street maps
- State, county, and subdivision maps
- A Digital Sanborn Maps database covers cities throughout California (1867-1970) including San Jose maps from 1884, 1891, and 1915-1950.
- Brainard Atlas of Santa Clara County
- 1876 Historical Atlas of Santa Clara County
- City of San José Block Books, 1871 and 1882-1886
- and more from our Digital Collections
The California Room houses a choral music collection, sheet music collection, and stock music collection including the work of many local musicians. The initial collection was donated to the library by David Earl McDaniel in 1946, followed by a donation by the widow of Charles M. Richards in 1957.
Newspapers and Clippings
This collection includes clipping files, scrapbooks and microfilm of area newspapers.
- California Star (1847 - 1848)
- Santa Clara Register (1853 - 1853)
- San Jose Daily Mercury (1861 - 1899)
- San Jose Weekly Mercury (1864 - 1881)
- Daily Argus (1876 - 1877)
- San Jose Daily Herald (1876 - 1900)
- Daily Morning Times (1879 - 1884)
- Daily City Item (1884 - 1885)
- San Jose News Evening Edition (1887 - 1947)
- San Jose Mercury Herald (1900 - 1985)
- Morning Times (1906 - 1909)
- San Jose News (1973 - 1983)
For articles after 1985 in the San Jose Mercury News visit the NewsBank database.
When looking for information on a particular subject prior to 1985, the San José Mercury News (1920-1979) clipping collection is available on microfiche in both the California Room and Periodicals Department on the Lower Level of King Library.
The California Room also holds a physical collection of clippings, updated through the late 2000s. Clipping files are searchable in the California Room Index.
A note on the Mercury News
The San Jose Mercury News varied in titles over the years. It began as the Weekly Visitor, changed to the Daily Mercury, Times Mercury, San Jose Daily Mercury, San Jose Mercury Herald, then merged with the Evening News to become the San Jose Mercury, which in turn became the San Jose Mercury News.
1920-1930: Digitized index and hardcopy original. Actual permits held by the Sourisseau Academy, located next door in the Special Collections area.
1926-1943: Original permit summaries
1940-1986: On microfilm.
History San Jose has San Jose building permits from 1895 through the 1930s.
Building permits from the 1950s to the present can be found at City of San José Online Building Permits.
The Historic Photograph Collection includes over 2,500 contact prints, negatives, transparencies, and 35mm slides comprising diverse subjects including schools, churches, businesses, parades, valley views, theaters, street scenes, hotels, images from the 1906 quake in San José, the Winchester House, and portraits of residents.
The collection includes approximately 3500 pictorial and photographic postcards of California. Of these, 600 are of San Jose. The collection spans from the year 1900 to the 1960s.
This collection includes documents pertaining to the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe and its adjacent mission, Santa Clara de Asis, 1841 - 1850.
This collection includes City of San José Council Minutes, Ordinance and Resolution Records from 1850-1950, and photographs and records from the Office of the City Clerk.
San José Planning Division & Code Enforcement
This collection includes records from the City of San José's Planning Division and Code Enforcement Departments (PCBE) from 1931 - 1975. Subjects include maps, plans, and photographs of historic structures, aerials views, and documents.
San José Public Library
This collection chronicles more than a century of San José library history beginning in 1880.
San José Redevelopment Agency Photograph Collection
This collection includes research materials and photographs from sundry projects undertaken by the San José Redevelopment Agency (SJRA).
This collection includes yearbooks from high schools, middle schools and universities within Santa Clara County. Visit our Yearbooks page to view a list of all yearbooks available in the California Room.
This collection comprises over 700 boxes of materials donated by over 600 early Silicon Valley tech companies, documenting the evolution of the Silicon Valley’s tech industry from 1986 through 1993.
Our collection of Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Rolls ranges from 1979 -2007 on microfilm. More are available at the Tax Assessor's Office and also online. See our House and Property Research guide for more information on using these resources.
This collection contains the personal and professional documents of Dr. John Townsend, his wife Elizabeth Townsend, and their son John Henry Moses Townsend.
This collection includes United States Weather Bureau weather logs for 1906-1962, with entries recorded by hand.
The United States Weather Bureau opened an office in San José on October 1, 1905 in the Dougherty Building on South 2nd Street near San Fernando. The building, as well as all instruments and records, were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The Bureau opened a new office in the old Post Office Building at Market and San Fernando on July 1, 1906.
Willow Glen Annexation
This collection includes documents pertaining to the annexation of Willow Glen.
The Willow Glen neighborhood developed within the Willow Glen School district, established in the 1860’s. When the Southern Pacific Railroad made a bid to run a track through the area, the residents took action to prevent it, and the independent incorporated city of Willow Glen was born. The city lasted for only nine years, from 1927 until 1936, when it was annexed by San José in order to benefit from city services. Today it is considered one of San José’s heritage neighborhoods.
Willows Reading and Study Club Records
This collection includes membership rosters, agendas, and other materials pertaining to the Willows Reading and Study Club.
Established in 1896, the club is one of the oldest organizations in the Santa Clara Valley. Initially organized as a neighborhood improvement club, it transformed into a reading and study club. "Willows" refers to the Willows neighborhood, also known as Willow Glen.