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Finding Aid for the Harriet Rochlin Collection of Photographs of Western Jewish Life, ca. 1845-1991
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Harriet Rochlin Collection of Photographs of Western Jewish Life
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1845-1991
    Collection number: 441
    Creator: Rochlin, Harriet 1924-
    Extent: 2248 photographs and 1623 photocopies in Fourteen boxes. (7 linear feet) Four oversize boxes.
    Abstract: Harriet Rochlin began collecting Western Jewish photographs in the late 1960s to illustrate articles she was writing on Jewish pioneering in the American West. The collection grew significantly when she and her late husband, Fred Rochlin, contracted with Houghton Mifflin to compose an illustrated social history, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. The book spans Jewish life in the Spanish, Mexican, and American Far West from 1571 to 1912. The majority of the photographs (2248) and photocopied images (1623) track the Jewish Westward Migration from secret Sephardic Jews in flight from the Mexican Colonial Inquisition, to tens of thousands of openly Jewish families rooted throughout the Far West by 1912, the end of the territorial period. She has continued to collect images for articles, essays, slide narratives, and for a work-in-progress, A Mixed Chorus: Jewish Women in the American West, 1849 to 1924.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Harriet Rochlin, 2005.
    Of the 2248 photographs, all but 433 originals came from national, state, and municipal historical societies and archives; national, state, and municipal Jewish historical society and archives; university special collections; family and individual photo albums, and business and institutional archives. The original photographs were either given to the Rochlins by descendants of pioneers, or photographed by Fred Rochlin. The 1623 photocopies were copied from published works.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Harriet Rochlin Collection of Photographs of Western Jewish Life (Collection 441). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 5475437 


    Harriet Rochlin, was born and raised in Boyle Heights when that Los Angeles neighborhood housed the largest mixed immigrant- mostly Jewish and Mexican-population in the West. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in Hispanic America, in June, 1947, and a month later married U.C. architectural student, Fred Rochlin, a Jewish native of Nogales, Arizona. Both westerners of an unnamed sub-culture-American, Jewish, Mexican-they expressed their predilections in attachment to their natal landscapes, foods, music, and literature. They also savored the stories of their parents' moves west, and took pride in their Western nativity. Neither sensed that beyond their visceral and cerebral responses to western life and culture lay buried a complex, 400-year-long Jewish history on Western soil. It took the civil rights-inspired ethnic history movement to illuminate that possibility, and a small army of seekers, the Rochlins among them, to bring it about. After Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West was launched, Harriet sought deeper truths in the inner journey from immigrant to westerner in the fictional Desert Dwellers trilogy--- The Reformer's Apprentice, The First Lady of Dos Cacahuates, and On Her Way Home. She is currently completing an illustrated documentary history, A Mixed Chorus: Jewish Women in the American West 1849 to 1924. A recognized authority and popular lecturer, Rochlin travels extensively, speaking on various aspects of Western Jewish history and fiction. For more, visit Welcome to the Jewish West  .

    Scope and Content

    A major portion of this collection reflects the geographical and chronological boundaries of Rochlin's Pioneer Jews: a New Life in the Far West: the American Far West, Texas, North and South Dakota, Sonora, Mexico, and the Spanish and Mexican West from the late 16th century to 1912. Pre-American visuals, from as early as 1571, include reproductions of maps, lithographs, watercolors and drawings related to Secret Jews in Spanish Colonial Mexico; Jews in the Mexican New Mexico, Texas and California; and land developers in the Texas.
    After the U.S./Mexican War (1846-1848), Jews joined the rush to California and subsequent mineral rushes elsewhere in the Far West between 1849 and 1880. A handful spearheaded the development of the Western mining industry. Thousands of Jewish men and women pioneered other enterprises--merchandising, manufacturing, banking, roads and railroads, land development, ranching, and utilities. Photographs over slung-together tents and slapdash stores attest to the humblest of beginnings and others trace the growth of one- or two-man operations into western conglomerates.
    Hundreds of images also document the presence of Western Jewish women of diverse origins and classes. Photographs of newly-married couples, brides, wedding parties, ketubas-marriage contracts-honeymoon trips abound. Family and clan portraits, shot in studios and in Western outdoors were also popular. Women's philanthropic and cultural groups also lined up for group photographs.
    Early Jewish pioneers served their communities as volunteers, ran for public office, and were frequently elected. Photographs document the positions held by them. In erupting communities, with fire and crime a constant threat, Jews joined volunteer fire fighter groups and vigilance committees. Others served in law enforcement as Chiefs of police, sheriffs and police officers. Jews served as mayors, and some filled state and national posts as governors and US congressmen and senators.
    As their photographs will attest, extraordinary Jewish characters emerged in the newly American Far West. A mixed sampling includes San Francisco's "Beloved Madman," Joshua Norton, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States and the Protector of Mexico; Solomon Nunez Carvalho, pioneer daguerreotypist, landscape and portrait painter; Jew Jim Levy who was a gambler, professional regulator, and a notorious gunslinger; David Belasco, a renowned American playwright, director, and producer; Josephine Sarah Marcus, the longtime consort of Wyatt Earp; Mary Ann (Cohen) Magnin, the founder and guiding spirit of the store I. Magnin, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, "Colorado's Mother of Charities," the only woman among the sixteen pioneers depicted in stained class in the rotunda of the Colorado state capitol building; David Lubin, founder of the California Fruit Growers Association; Gertrude Stein, who spent her youth in Oakland, and became a standard bearer of early modern literature, and Dr. Albert Abraham Michelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
    Arranged chronologically, images related to Jewish organization in the newly American West illuminate extraordinarily rapid growth. The first public Jewish worship service in the Far West took place in September, 1849 in a tent store in San Francisco. The first two congregations in San Francisco were organized in April, 1851. Reproduced drawings document the construction of the first two synagogues in the Far West, and photographs track the arrival of the first ordained officiants. Cantors, ritual circumcisers, ritual animal slaughters, teachers for the religious schools were duly photographed, and members of benevolent societies also lined up for their pictures. Other congregations and Jewish communities soon organized all over the West.
    Between 1881 and 1924, a spill-off of the mass Jewish exodus from Eastern Europe filtered into the Far West, multiplying the Jewish population three-and four-fold. Yiddish-speaking synagogues and communities sprang up everywhere. And what would become one of region's leading industries, the film business, was founded, in the main, by Eastern European Jews.

    Organization and Arrangement

    All the images are arranged by state and city, and then by subject.
    The subject, location, date, and source of each image are identified on the back of each photograph and photocopy.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Jews--West (U.S.)--History--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material


    Related Material

    Harriet Rochlin Collection of Western Jewish History  . Available at the Department of Special Collections.