System of Arrangement
History of Peoples Temple
Scope and Contents
Title: Peoples Temple ephemera and publications
Date (inclusive): 1959-1979
Date (bulk): 1973-1978
Collection Identifier: MS 4124
1 box, 1 oversize box
(2.0 linear feet)
California Historical Society
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Location of Materials:
Collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials:
Collection materials are in English.
The bulk of the collection consists of printed materials generated by Peoples Temple pertaining to their activities in the
United States and in Jonestown, the agricultural project started by Jim Jones in Guyana. Includes promotional materials such
as periodicals, flyers, brochures, newletters, fundraising materials and issues of
, the Peoples Temple newspaper.
Collection is open for research.
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Director
of the Library and Archives, North Baker Research Library, California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco,
CA 94105. Consent is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. Restrictions
also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational
[Identification of item], Peoples Temple ephemera and publications, MS 4124, California Historical Society
Peoples Temple records, 1922-1984, MS 3800
Federal Bureau of Investigation collection of Peoples Temple papers from Jonestown, Guyana, 1931-1978, MS 3801
Moore family papers, 1968-1988, MS 3802
John R. Hall research materials on Peoples Temple, 1954-2003, MS 3803
Ross E. Case collection pertaining to Peoples Temple, 1961-1984, MS 4062
Margaret T. Singer materials on Peoples Temple, 1956-1998, MS 4123
Newspaper clippings on Peoples Temple: photocopies, 1953-1978, MS 4125
Peoples Temple miscellany, 1951-2011, MS 4126
Photographs from Peoples Temple miscellany, 1966-1978, MSP 4126
Photographs from Peoples Temple records, 1941-1983, MSP 3800
Photographs of Peoples Temple in the United States and Guyana, 1967-1978, PC 010
Materials in Peoples Temple ephemera and publications have been acquired at different times from various sources. Many of
the materials in the collection were donated to the California Historical Society by surviving members of Peoples Temple and
their families. Other materials were received from members of the general public.
Future additions are expected.
System of Arrangement
Peoples Temple ephemera and publications is arranged into 4 series: Series 1: Press releases; Series 2: Fundraising materials;
Series 3: Brochures, flyers and mailings; Series 4: Periodicals.
The arrangement of the collection was imposed by California Historical Society staff.
Processed by Denice Stephenson in 2006. Re-processed by Frances Wratten Kaplan in 2011.
History of Peoples Temple
Peoples Temple began as a church founded by Jim and Marceline Jones and a small group of parishioners in Indianapolis in 1955.
As pastor, Jim Jones preached to a racially-integrated congregation during Pentecostal-based services that included healings
and sermons on integration and class conflicts. Peoples Temple conducted food drives; opened a "free restaurant" that served
thousands of meals to the city's poor in the early 1960s; operated nursing homes; and hosted weekly television and radio programs
featuring their integrated choir. The church became well known in the Indianapolis press for the members' integration activities
and for their assertions of their pastor's gifts as a healer. The church became affiliated with the Disciples of Christ denomination
In the summer of 1965, the Jones family and approximately one hundred Peoples Temple members relocated to Redwood Valley,
a rural community eight miles north of Ukiah in Mendocino County. Peoples Temple conducted church services and meetings in
rented and borrowed spaces until 1969 when they finished building their own church with a swimming pool, an animal shelter,
gardens, and a community kitchen. By this time, the church's membership had grown to three hundred.
In 1970, Jim Jones began to preach in cities throughout California. Recruiting drives in African American communities in San
Francisco and Los Angeles increased Peoples Temple membership to over twenty-five hundred by 1973. Some members lived in communal
housing and worked full time for Peoples Temple. Others contributed significant portions of their income and property to the
church. The church's operations included real estate management; home care facilities for seniors and youths; publishing and
bookkeeping services; mail order services; and maintenance of a fleet of buses to transport members to services throughout
the state and across the country. Tens of thousands of people, including politicians and members of other congregations, attended
Peoples Temple services between 1970 and 1977.
The leadership of Peoples Temple voted to establish an agricultural and rural development mission in Guyana, South America
in the fall of 1973. Over the next two years, members traveled to Guyana to scout a location for the mission; establish a
residence in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana; clear the land; and begin construction at the site. The building plans for
the community which became known as Jonestown included farm buildings, a large communal kitchen, medical facilities, schools,
dormitory-style housing, small cabins, a day care center and a large open-air pavilion that became the community's central
By 1976, Peoples Temple had moved its headquarters from Redwood Valley to San Francisco and had become involved in citywide
electoral politics. They published their own newspaper,
Peoples Forum; staged rallies and events for local and national political figures; and were vocal in their support of causes such as freedom
of the press, affirmative action, and gay rights. In the fall of 1976, recently elected Mayor George Moscone appointed Jim
Jones to the San Francisco Housing Authority. Jones served as its chairman until he left for Guyana the following year.
In 1977, former members and relatives organized a group called the Concerned Relatives to protest Jones's treatment of church
members. Child custody issues and living conditions in Jonestown were at the center of the conflict between Peoples Temple
and the Concerned Relatives. Both sides filed lawsuits, sought public support through the media, and appealed to government
officials for protection. Media coverage of Peoples Temple practices and political activities led the government to investigate
the church's financial and social welfare programs. Peoples Temple began to close many of their businesses, sell their properties,
and relocate hundreds of their members to Guyana.
In response to issues raised by the media and former members, California Congressman Leo Ryan scheduled a trip to Jonestown
in November 1978. By this time, more than a thousand Peoples Temple members were living in Guyana. His staff, members of Concerned
Relatives, Embassy officials, and journalists accompanied Ryan on an overnight visit to Jonestown. As the congressional party
left for the airstrip at Port Kaituma, sixteen disaffected Jonestown residents accompanied Ryan. As the group boarded two
small airplanes at the airstrip, Peoples Temple members drove up on tractors and began shooting. They killed Ryan, three journalists,
and a Peoples Temple member. That same day, November 18, 1978, more than nine hundred people died, most by cyanide poisoning,
in Jonestown; four other members died in Georgetown.
More than eighty Peoples Temple members survived the deaths in Guyana: people who lived through the airstrip shootings; Jonestown
residents who left the community before and during the poisonings; and members who were in Georgetown and on boats. Hundreds
of Peoples Temple members had remained in the U.S., many of them in California.
Scope and Contents
The bulk of the collection consists of printed materials generated by Peoples Temple pertaining to its activities in the United
States and in Jonestown, the agricultural project started by Jim Jones in Guyana. During its existence, Peoples Temple was
a prolific publisher of promotional and fundraising materials aimed at increasing the profile of the church, recruiting members,
and raising money to support its programs. Between 1975 and 1978 investigative reports by journalists and accusations made
by a group known as Concerned Relatives caused the church to generate materials defending itself and Jim Jones against various
Series 1, Press releases, consists of press releases, newsletters, testimonials, and open letters to newspaper editors publicizing
the work of Peoples Temple and defending Jim Jones and Peoples Temple against criticism from the media, in particular a series
of critical articles in
New West magazine by reporters Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy. This series includes news articles and editorials about Peoples Temple
San Francisco Chronicle,
San Francisco Examiner, and
Sun Reporter. Also includes materials produced by Concerned Relatives in their efforts to gain public support for a government investigation
into Jim Jones and Jonestown.
Series 2, Fundraising materials, includes samples of organizational stationary used for promotional campaigns, gift tags for
use in the sale of items made in Jonestown, and printed invitations and programs for a Peoples Temple benefit dinner in San
Francisco scheduled for December 2, 1978. The bulk of the material in this series consists of direct mail appeals sent out
by Peoples Temple to promote church services, increase membership, and raise funds for the church.
Series 3, Brochures, flyers and mailings, consists of materials advertising church services and promoting Peoples Temple as
a community church. Includes flyers for healing services and community events; calendars and programs of church services;
a 1977 Peoples Temple Agricultural progress report about Jonestown; a booklet written by Jim Jones as “Father Divine”; and
a catalog of Peoples Temple assets auctioned on Wednesday, March 14, 1979. The auction was held after the deaths in Guyana
and was organized by Robert Fabian, the court-appointed receiver responsible for the dissolution of Peoples Temple after the
events of November 1978.
Series 4, Periodicals, includes issues of
Peoples Forum, the Peoples Temple newspaper,
The Temple Reporter, a newsletter, and
The Living Word, a booklet and magazine of Peoples Temple Christian Church that included articles, photos, testimonials, and a schedule of
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Concerned Relatives and Citizens Committee.
Jones, Jim, 1931-1978.
Peoples Temple Agricultural Mission.
Jonestown Mass Suicide, Jonestown, Guyana, 1978.