About the Library


In 1922, the California Historical Society was reorganized and revived by a small group of distinguished San Franciscans, among them two of the most important California bibliophiles of their day, C. Templeton Crocker and Henry R. Wagner. To support the Society's fledging library, Crocker deposited his superb private collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, and periodicals in rooms adjacent to CHS headquarters. Formally acquired by the Society in 1940, the Crocker Collection—with its emphasis on voyages of discovery, Western overland travel, California's transition from a Mexican province to statehood, and the Gold Rush—remains at the heart of the CHS library collection today.

From 1923 through the 1960s, CHS consistently built on the strengths of the Crocker gift through purchases and donations from major Californian collectors and bookmen. In addition to manuscripts and printed materials, the library assiduously collected photographic works, beginning with the 1928 acquisition of forty-seven Carleton E. Watkins mammoth plate photographs of John C. Fremont's Mariposa Estate. The CHS library would soon be home to thousands of photographic images, providing stunning visual documentation of the state and its people from the 1850s to the present.

In 1964, former Society president, printing historian, and collector George L. Harding founded the Kemble Collection on Western Printing and Publishing, named in honor of pioneer California printer and publisher Edward Cleveland Kemble. Dedicated to the history of printing and publishing in the West, this peerless collection began with three major gifts—Harding's printing and publishing library, William E. Loy's typographical library, and the business archives of San Francisco printing firm Taylor & Taylor—and has since grown in size and scope.

Since the 1960s, CHS has continued the collecting legacy that began with the Crocker gift. At the same time, the library has been enriched by major acquisitions that highlight the state's historic diversity and document complex contemporary subjects. In 1996, the CHS library moved from Pacific Heights to its current home at 678 Mission Street, and was renamed for former Board of Trustees president North Baker in honor of his generous bequest. Here, students, researchers, and lovers of books and history continue to explore the library's rich holdings of Californiana, bringing the dream of Crocker and his associates to life in the present day.

678 Mission Street
San Francisco
CA 94105
415.357.1848 voice
415.357.1850 fax
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