Title: J. D. Black Papers
Bulk Dates: 1920-1929; 1950-1959
Collection number: CSLA-15
Black, J. D.
22 archival document boxes, 14 oversize boxes
Loyola Marymount University. William H. Hannon Library. Department of Archives and
Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
Abstract: The J. D. Black Papers (CSLA-15) contain photographs, publications,
correspondence, and organizational records related to J. D. Black's career and business in
Big Pine, California. Of particular value are the records of the reparations organizations
of Big Pine active during the Owens Valley Water Wars of the 1920s and the photographs
documenting life in the mining towns of California's eastern Sierras and western
Physical location: Research use requires both an advance notice of intent to
use the collection and an appointment. To schedule an appointment, please contact the
Department of Archives and Special Collection, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount
University: 310-338-2780, 310-338-5357.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection:English
Digitized collection materials available online.
The J. D. Black Papers are part of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of
Los Angeles Research Collection, a program of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the
Study of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University. The Research Collection is administered
by the Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University. The J.
and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University.
Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to
copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Loyola Marymount University does not claim
ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. The user or publisher must
secure permission to publish from the copyright owner. Loyola Marymount University does not
assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or of publication rights held by the
original author or artists or his/her heirs, assigns, or executors.
[Identification of item], Series number, Box and Folder number, J. D. Black Papers,
CSLA-15, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola
Barbara Black Fitzpatrick and Jacqueline Holmes; gift; 1999; 2001.
John David Black was born in 1893 to a pioneer family of California's Owens Valley of the
eastern Sierra Nevadas. J. D.'s father, John, established a store in Bishop in 1888 that J.
D. continued to run at least until the 1950s. In 1902, still retaining the family home and
store in Bishop, the Blacks moved to nearby Big Pine, where John opened another store, which
eventually came under J. D. Black's management and remained in business until 1948. John
participated in other business enterprises, such as a saloon, and father and son also held
mining property jointly, as well as individual mines.
J. D. Black was a leader in the 1920s in different Big Pine citizens' organizations seeking
relief and compensation for economic losses owing to the City of Los Angeles' control of the
Owens Valley. Despite the economic decline of the Owens Valley, J. D. Black continued to
reside there, until his death in 1960.
The J. D. Black Papers consist of materials relating to the personal and poltical life, and
mining and business interests of J(ohn) D(avid) Black, a leading activist of the fight of
Big Pine, Califoria, of the Owens Valley, against the City of Los Angeles' takeover of that
region's land and water rights. The holdings of the J. D. Black Papers span the years
1876-1999, with the bulk of the datable material originating in the 1920s and in the 1950s.
The majority of the materials pertain to the reparations organizations in Big Pine,
California, of which J. D. Black was a leader, seeking redress from the City of Los Angeles
during the Owens Valley Water Wars of the 1920s. See especially Series 1 and Series 2.
The collection consists of textual and non-textual materials. Textual holdings include
correspondence, minutes, brochures, organizational papers, publications, newspaper clippings
and scrapbooks, and government documents, both county (voter registration lists) and state
(legislative bill on reparations). Other textual materials include miscellany on Bishop,
California; miscellaneous publications, such as
(found in Series 2) and legal documents on the Black family's holdings in
the Owens Valley, eg, mining properties.
Non-textual materials are comprised of personal photographs of the Black family, as well as
general interest photographs of activities and places in the Owens Valley (cf. Series 3). Of
special interest are photographs of mining and daily life in the California Sierras and
neighboring Nevada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the more
valuable photographs in this collection are those of the Nevada mining towns of Tonopah and
Candelaria, and the present-day ghost towns of Bodie and Keeler, California. Some
photographs document the decline of the ranches, farms, and towns of the Owens Valley after
the City of Los Angeles became the major landholder there.
On-Line Digital Collections
Photographs and documents from
the J. D. Black Papers have been digitized and are part of the William H. Hannon Library's
To view the images, see the following digital collections:
The J. D. Black Papers are organized into six series, with three subseries:
Series 1. Owens Valley Water Controversy
. This series consists of materials concerning the Owens Valley water
controversy in the 1920s, which marked the final stage of the valley residents' most
active resistance to the City of Los Angeles. Central in this series are the
correspondence, and organizational and administrative records (many of which are copies)
of the Big Pine Property Owners Association (BPOA), the Big Pine Reparations Association
(BPRA), and the Big Pine Water Association (BPWA). This includes the by-laws and
articles of incorporation of the BPRA and the BPWA, and meeting minutes for the BPOA and
the BPRA. There is also incoming and outgoing correspondence from the organizations
regarding their plans for reparations, including lawsuits initiated by State Senator J.
M. Inman and Inyo County District Attorney Jess Hession (see, for example, Box 8, Folder
1). Also to be found are City of Los Angeles proposals for resolving problems and
subsequent position statements issued in response by Big Pine organizations (see
especially Boxes 8 and 9). Depositions from Big Pine residents, and data sheets and
lists regarding population and business losses, and losses of farms and ranches also
form an important part of this series. Noteworthy as well are the handwritten estimates
from members of the Big Pine Canal Company and Owens River Canal Company on the value of
their water rights and farms in late 1923, a time when the City of Los Angeles was
actively buying up property and water rights in the Owens Valley (Box 8, Folder 3).
Names of note in these organizational and administrative records include W. W. Watterson
and Fred Eaton.
Series 2. Publications and
. In this series are loose newspapers, clippings of newspaper and
magazine articles, governmental publications, and scrapbooks that Black compiled of the
Owens Valley water controversy, most of which date from the 1920s and the early 1930s.
Some of the clippings on the Owens Valley water controversy date from after J. D.
Black's death (1960), indicating that his wife Sophie or other Black family members had
added them to his collection. Magazine articles on the Owens Valley postdating J. D.
Black's death in this collection indicate a provenance similar to the one just
mentioned. Important California state publications on the Owens Valley water controversy
include the state engineer's report in 1925 to Governor Friend Richardson. Also in this
collection are City of Los Angeles publications, dating from the 1920s and 1930s,
related to its involvement in Owens Valley. They are often apologia for the city's
actions, eg, the City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power's response to claims
Facts Concerning the Owens Valley Reparations
(Box 9, Folder 7).
. The photographic materials consist of personal photographs of the
Black family, as well as general interest photographs of life, persons, and places in
the Owens Valley. There are also two subseries (described below). All photgraphs and
postcards of this series and its subseries are in black and white, unless otherwise
Series 3. Subseries A: Photographic
. Photographic post cards--very popular in the United States ca.
1900--constitute much of the photographic materials; because of their value in the J. D.
Black Papers and format, they have been arranged as Subseries A within Series 3. The
photographic postcards document important events in the history of the eastern Sierras
of California and western Nevada. These include the first crossing of the California
state line by the Carson and Colorado Railroad, the railroad that serviced the Owens
Valley and the mining towns of western Nevada. Other valuable postcards include those of
such mining towns as Bodie, California, and Candelaria, Nevada. Also found in this
subseries are photographic postcards related to the Owens Valley water controversy, most
notably the seizure of the Alabama Gates by the residents of the Owens Valley in 1924
(Box 16, Folders 1-13), and the photographic postcards reproducing original photographs
of Andrew Alexander
Forbes documenting the Native Americans of the Owens Valley, chiefly the
Paiutes (See Box 16, Folders 16-29).
Series 3. Subseries
B: Abandoned Properties, Owens Valley
. Extremely rare, perhaps even unique, are
the photographs that J. D. Black took of ranches and farms, and other properties in the
Owens Valley abandoned after their acquisition by the City of Los Angeles. J. D. Black
labelled many of the photographs with the names of their owners and dated some as well.
Because of their value, and because J. D. Black stored them separately, they have been
established in Subseries B: Abandoned Properties, Owens Valley.
Series 4. Protest Correspondence, 1946-1960. This series contains
correspondence (some incoming, but mostly outgoing), telegrams, night letters, and
newspaper clippings regarding the injustices of the Owens Valley water controversy that
J. D. Black sent to state and federal officials and bodies. Eccentric in mission and
content, these communications date from after World War II to J. D. Black's death in
1960, a period well after the time when the Owens Valley water controversy had been
decided in the favor of the City of Los Angeles.
5. Personal Correspondence and Records
.This series is made up of
correspondence, receipt books, receipts, newspaper clippings, leases, and contracts
related to the personal affairs and business interests in the Owens Valley (mining and
stores) of J. D. Black and his wife Sophie Black and their daughters.
Series 5. Subseries A: World War I, World II, Korean War
. This subseries of Series 5 is comprised of correspondence and
photographs to J. D. Black from servicemen of World War I, World War II, and the Korean
conflict. The photographs include pictures of the famous Italian monastery of Monte
Cassino during the Allied assault there in 1944 (Box 7, Folder 2)
Series 6. Personal Notes. In this series are found the
handwritten, loose notes of J. D. Black on the Owens Valley water controversy. They
often functioned as rough drafts of the correspondence found in Series 4 and are often
hard to decipher. The loose newspaper clippings in Box 14ov of Series 2 originally
accompanied the notes found in Series 6.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Black, J. D. (John David)
Owens Valley (Calif.)
Big Pine (Calif.)
Water rights -- California -- Owens Valley -- History --
Water rights -- California -- Los Angeles -- History --
Frontier and pioneer life -- California -- Owens Valley --
History -- Sources