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 Bernal Files are a collection of notes and materials gathered by Dr. James P. Delgado when he was researching the history of Rancho Santa Teresa in the 1970s including the Bernal family and other Santa Clara County pioneering families.
Books that predate 1910 which have been stored in the vaults to protect them from the elements. These books are accessible with a photo ID. Some are available from home through our digital collections.
This collection includes Right of Way Assessments for the County of Santa Clara from 1938 through 1979, the majority are from the 1960s and 1970s. These assessments include descriptions of property, maps and photographs. Right of Way administers the statewide program for right of way acquisition and real property management in support of Caltrans' purpose, mission, vision and goals. Right of Way's primary responsibilities are: To appraise, and purchase property required for transportation purposes; affect and orderly relocation of affected families, businesses and utility facilities: and clearing of properties prior to construction.
Complete San José City Directories including resident listings (1870-1970) are available in the California Room during open hours. Our digital collections includes the San Jose City Business Sections for the years 1870-1918 as well as the complete 1870, 1887 and 1920 City Directories which are searchable.
The Clyde Arbuckle Research Collection represents the regional history of San José and Santa Clara County. This includes materials collected in the research for Clyde Arbuckle's history of San José.
Edith Harvey Heron was born on January 2, 1895, the daughter of William S. and Ada Heron of Hostetter Road in the Berryessa Community of San Jose, California.In the 1930s, Edith became a well-known award winning watercolor artist. In 1942, Edith continued her teaching art therapy by teaching art and crafts to Japanese-Americans in the Poston, Arizona, an internment camp.
The San Jose Public Library holds 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, Night (marble, 1870), is held at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The term ephemera refers to anything short-lived or ephemeral, and is generally printed paper material that was meant to be thrown away. This includes printed matter such as brochures, handbills, memorabilia, pamphlets, tickets, timetables, and more.
The Fiesta de las Rosas was an annual festival and parade designed to highlight San Jose as a “garden city” and bring tourists into town. This collection was compiled by the Fiesta de las Rosas Committee, and consists of correspondence, fiesta guidelines, entry forms, tickets, pamphlets, and more.
Frontier Village was a western-themed amusement park which opened in 1961 and closed in 1980. It was located on approximately 30 acres of what had previously been part of the Hayes' estate on Monterey Highway in San Jose. After the park's closure, part of the land it occupied was eventually made into Edenvale Garden Park.
Los Lupeños de San José Records
This collection is comprised of administrative records, organizational papers and history, board reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, clippings, flyers, dance programs, dance school materials, photographs, slides and audiovisual performances of Los Lupeños de San José. The records have been kept by Los Lupeños de San José. Los Lupeños de San José was co-founded (and initially directed) by Susan Cashion and Ramón Morones in 1969 as Los Lupeños Dancers. Originally beginning as a study and performance group of Mexican dance and culture under the guidance of Daniel Galan, Consul General of Mexico in San José, and assisted by Guadalupe Suarez, a local civic leader in Mexican affairs, Los Lupeños de San José also branched out to engage in community outreach and opened a school called Escuela de Danza y Cultura (School of Dance and Culture).
The California Room has an extensive collection of over 1,000 maps from the 1870s to the 1980s. A Digital Sanborn Maps database is available covering many cities throughout California (1867-1970). A collection of aerial photographs (1931, 1948, 1960, 1968, 1981) from Fairchild Aerial Photography and the U.S. Geological Survey covers central Santa Clara County approximately from: Alviso south to Los Gatos, then east to the Calero Reservoir, then north to Milpitas and the Alameda County Line, then west along the bay to Alviso.
The California Room houses a Choral Music Collection, Sheet Music Collection, and Stock Music Collection for San José Public Library. This includes the work of many local artists. 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 Articles
The San Jose Mercury News has 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, merged with the Evening News became the San Jose Mercury and then the San Jose Mercury News). On microfilm in the California Room:
- 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 clipping files on site.
The Historic Photograph Collection includes over 2,500 contact prints, negatives, transparencies, and 35mm slides that document California and the American West. Photographs document California and Santa Clara Valley containing a diverse range of subject areas, 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 local individuals.
A collection of postcards document California and Santa Clara Valley. Subjects include historic landmarks and attractions, schools, churches, businesses, parades, valley views, theaters, street scenes, hotels, events, and commerce and industry.
This collection of documents represents the issues and events in and around the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe and its adjacent mission, Santa Clara de Asis, 1841 - 1850. History San José has a related collection of materials.
City of San José Council Minutes, Ordinance and Resolution Records (1850-1950) deal with maintaining public safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the populous. Also included are photographs and records from the Office of the City Clerk.
Historic images and documents from the City of San José's Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Departments (PCBE) from 1931 - 1975. Subjects include maps, plans, photographs of historic structures, aerials views, and documents. These materials were used to fulfill PCBE's mission to create and maintain a safe, healthy, attractive, and vibrant place to live, work, and play.
The San José Public Library History Collection chronicles more than a century of growth starting in 1880. The one-room “Free” San Jose Library opened in the Murphy building on what is now Post and Market Streets in 1880. Between 1882 and 1970, the library occupied five different locations until the construction of the Main Library.
The San Jose Redevelopment Agency (SJRA) was a public, government organization created in 1956 by the City of San Jose to improve the quality of life for all who live, work, and play in the City by creating jobs, developing affordable housing, strengthening neighborhoods, and building public facilities. This collection includes photographs from development projects and research throughout the life of the organization.
The California Room houses school yearbooks from local high schools and middle schools within the County of Santa Clara. Follow this link for a complete list of yearbooks held in the California Room. We welcome donations of any yearbooks we are missing from our collection.
Silicon Valley Company Archive (1986-1993)
Over 600 early tech companies in Silicon Valley are represented in this collection. The materials were compiled by the San José Public Library and document the creation and developing culture of the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley from 1986 through 1993.
Online Archive of California Finding Aid
Townsend Family Papers (1826-1914)
The Townsend Family Papers collection contains correspondence, business and other personal documents of Dr. John Townsend, his wife Elizabeth Townsend, and their son John Henry Moses Townsend. Items in this collection offer glimpses into the Townsends' lives: their travels with the Murphy party, their real estate investments and their roles as settlers of Northern California during the mid to late 1800s.
Dr. John Townsend was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. His parents, who were among the first settlers of Fayette County, arrived in America from England in the late eighteenth century. Dr. Townsend received his first medical degree from Lexington Medical College and later set up successful practices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri. In 1832, he and Elizabeth Louise Schallenberger were married in Stark County, Ohio.
The United States Weather Bureau opened an office in San José on October 1, 1905. The official logs record daily weather observations for 1906-1962 with entries written by hand. The office and weather instruments were located in the Dougherty Building on South 2nd Street near San Fernando Street. This building was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, and all instruments and records were lost. The Weather Bureau opened a new office in the old Post Office Building at Market and San Fernando Streets on July 1, 1906.
Willow Glen Annexation
The independent incorporated city of Willow Glen lasted for only nine years, from 1927 until 1936. Today it is part of San José, California and is considered to be one of its heritage neighborhoods. The impetus to incorporate Willow Glen stemmed from a proposal by the Southern Pacific Railroad to track through the middle of Willow Glen.
Willows Reading and Study Club Records
The Willows Reading and Study Club was established 1896 and is one of the oldest organizations in the Santa Clara Valley. "Willows" in the club’s title refers to the Willows neighborhood, later known as Willow Glen. While initially the club was organized as an improvement club for the Willows, it later became a reading and study club.