Guide to the John C. Gordon Photographic Collection MSS.1996.03.02

SJSU Special Collections & Archives
© 2009
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
San José State University
One Washington Square
San José, CA 95192-0028
special.collections@sjsu.edu


Language of Material: English
Contributing Institution: SJSU Special Collections & Archives
Title: John C. Gordon Photographic Collection
creator: Gordon, John C., 1887-1967
Identifier/Call Number: MSS.1996.03.02
Physical Description: 18 boxes (32 linear feet)
Date (inclusive): 1910-1963
Abstract: The John C. Gordon Photographic Collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963. The collection consists of 6,000 photographic prints and 187 panorama prints.

Access

This collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright is assigned to the San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Special Collections & Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also apply to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

Preferred Citation

John C. Gordon Photographic Collection, MSS-1996-03-02, San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Danelle Moon. Finding aid EAD encoded by Mary Ellen Petrich. Reviewed by Danelle Moon and Erin Louthen.

Project Information

This finding aid was created as part of the Survey and Cataloging Project, a two-year San José State University Library grant project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project began in 2008. The Project Director is Danelle Moon. The Project Archivist is Erin Louthen.

Biographical History

John C. Gordon was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin on January 3, 1887, the first son of Reverend G. W. Gordon. Reverend Gordon earned his living as a photographer and as a Methodist preacher. John Gordon attended Albion College in Michigan, and later took a teaching position in Nebraska. On June 8, 1910, he married Mina Eleanor Schnackenberg and following their wedding reception, the couple moved to Campbell, California. Their first residence was in a prune orchard located on Budd Avenue, and within a few years they relocated to Mayellen Avenue near West San Carlos Street. Gordon earned his early living working at the local hardware store, while raising his young family.
In 1916 Gordon opened a commercial photography studio located at 97 South First Street in downtown San José, just above what was then known as Lean's Jewelry Store. He later moved to 395 South Street where he remained until his retirement in 1963. As a local commercial photographer, Gordon served the business community by creating glass slides for advertisements used to promote local theaters, sporting events, civic events, and weddings. In addition, Gordon photographed accidents and criminal trials for the San José Mercury News.
An active community member and businessman, Gordon belonged to the Chamber of Commerce, the San José Water Board, and was Master of the Campbell Grange. He also held membership in the Knights of the Round Table, served on the school board, the YMCA, and the First Methodist Church. Gordon was a noted singer, song leader, and musician, and loaned many of his musical instruments (piano, guitar, marimba, saxophone, and trombone) for use in Santa Clara Valley's annual Fiesta de las Rosas Parade, as well as the school band.
John C. Gordon died at the age of 80 in 1967, and was buried in Los Gatos Cemetery next to his wife, who died in 1950. His children, Ronald H. Gordon, Doris Herschbach, and Wilbur C. Gordon sold their father's photographic collection to San José State University in 1996.

Scope and Content of Collection

The John C. Gordon Photographic collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963. The photographic prints are organized by subject, covering a variety of topics that provide a 50-year visual history of the region. Arranged by subject categories assigned by the photographer, the collection documents everyday life, historical context of place and time, and illustrates changes in area business ventures that include agriculture, fruit canning and processing, banking, local businesses, aeronautics, rail roads, and other manufacturing businesses. In addition, the collection includes images of the Winchester Mystery House, the Lick Observatory, storefronts, hospitals, hotels, landscapes, funerals, weddings, parks, parades, and many mixed group shots of families and local organizations.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into three series: Series I. Photographic Prints; Series II. Panorama Prints; and Series III. Digital Backups.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

California -- History -- Photographs.
California -- Social life and customs -- Photographs.
Santa Clara Valley (Santa Clara County, Calif.) -- History -- Photographs.
Gordon, John C., 1887-1967

 

Photographic Prints Series I: 1910-1963

Physical Description: 11.0 boxes

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series provides a rich visual representation of everyday life in San José and Santa Clara County, California. The range of subjects covered illustrate change over time in a variety of industries, including agriculture and manufacturing, as well as small and medium local businesses such as Hart's Department Store and the Hippodrome Theater. Other images include the Winchester Mystery House, the Lick Observatory, the San José Light Tower, San José State University, parks and parades, funerals, weddings, and mixed groups and local organizations. While the bulk of the collection documents industry, there are some fine representations of landscapes and historic sites including churches and missions, museums, and views of the Monterey Bay, the town of New Almaden, and Yosemite National Park. In addition, Gordon was very active in the Grange as well as the Knights of the Round Table Youth, and a small portion of the collection is devoted to the Grange movement in California.
While all of the photographs have historical value, the images documenting agriculture and the canneries provide the foundation for understanding the transformation of the San José and Santa Clara County region from the "Valley of Hearts Delight" to Silicon Valley. Fruit production brought prosperity and opportunity to the county, which brought diverse ethnic groups to the area. This same prosperity and immigration to the region would be replicated with the formation of high-tech industries in the 1960s forward. Researchers interested in tracing the diversity of life in this region will thus find examples of urban life, education, politics, religion, ethnicity and race, transportation, industry, art, and culture.

Arrangement

This series is arranged alphabetically by subject categories assigned by the photographer.
Box 1

Aerial Views

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Agriculture

Physical Description: 8.0 folders
Box 1

Albert L. Solon Tile Patterns

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Alma Village

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Alviso

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

American Legion Activities

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

American Peat Moss Collection

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Animals

Physical Description: 12.0 folders
Box 1

Artwork

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 1

Asilomar Church Retreat

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Banks

Physical Description: 11.0 folders
Box 1

Body Parts

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Books

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 1

Buildings

Physical Description: 4.0 folders
Box 2

Burlesque Theater

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Business Interiors

Physical Description: 10.0 folders
Box 2

Cabinets

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Cafeteria/Ice Cream Equipment

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Canneries

Physical Description: 4.0 folders
Box 2

Cemeteries/Mortuaries

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 2

Ceramic Kilns

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Churches

Physical Description: 21.0 folders
Box 2

Clubs

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Construction

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

County Fair

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 2

Disasters

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 2

Documents

Physical Description: 7.0 folders
Box 3

Entertainment

Physical Description: 5.0 folders
Box 3

Factories

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 3

Fair Displays

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 3

Flowers

Physical Description: 6.0 folders
Box 3

Fruit

Physical Description: 10.0 folders
Box 3

Fruit Processing

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 3

Funerals

Physical Description: 8.0 folders
Box 4

Funerals (continued)

Physical Description: 3.0 folders
Box 4

Furniture

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 4

Grange

Physical Description: 3.0 folders
Box 4

Government

Physical Description: 8.0 folders
Box 4

Hart's Department Store

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 4

Hinds Murder Case

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 4

Horse Races

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 4

Hospitals

Physical Description: 5.0 folders
Box 5

Houses

Physical Description: 11.0 folders
Box 5

Insects

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 5

Interiors

Physical Description: 13.0 folders
Box 5

Knights of the Round Table Youth

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 5

Landscapes

Physical Description: 3.0 folders
Box 6

Landscapes (continued)

Physical Description: 3.0 folders
Box 6

Lick Observatory

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 6

Light Tower

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 6

Machinery

Physical Description: 5.0 folders
Box 7

Machinery (continued)

Physical Description: 4.0 folders
Box 7

Medico Dental

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 7

Miscellaneous

Physical Description: 3.0 folders
Box 7

Monterey Bay

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 7

Museums

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 7

New Almaden

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 7

Normandin Auto

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 7

Parades

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 7

Parks

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 8

People Exterior

Physical Description: 40.0 folders
Box 9

People Exterior (continued)

Physical Description: 27.0 folders
Box 9

People Interior

Physical Description: 13.0 folders
Box 10

People Interior (continued)

Physical Description: 21.0 folders
Box 11

People Interior (continued)

Physical Description: 16.0 folders
Box 11

Plaza San José

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 11

Poultry Farming

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 11

Products

Physical Description: 5.0 folders
Box 11

San José Lumber Co.

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 11

San José State University

Physical Description: 8.0 folders
Box 11

San José State University - People

Physical Description: 8.0 folders
Box 11

Schools

Physical Description: 14.0 folders
Box 12

Schools (continued)

Physical Description: 15.0 folders
Box 12

School Portraits

Physical Description: 7.0 folders
Box 12

Scottish Rite

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 12

Sports

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 12

Smith Manufacturing Company

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 12

Storefronts

Physical Description: 83.0 folders
Box 13

Storefronts (continued)

Physical Description: 33.0 folders
Box 13

Streets

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 13

Stretchers

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 13

Structures

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 13

Theaters

Physical Description: 11.0 folders
Box 13

Transportation

Physical Description: 36.0 folders
Box 13

Valley Scenes

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 13

Vegetables

Physical Description: 10.0 folders
Box 14

Weddings

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 14

Winchester Mystery House

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 14

Window Displays

Physical Description: 6.0 folders
Box 14

Wineries

Physical Description: 2.0 folders
Box 14

Wood

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
Box 14

Yosemite

Physical Description: 1.0 folders
 

Panorama Prints Series II: 1910-1963

Physical Description: 3.0 flat file drawers
Physical Location: Located in Vault 2 flat file 28-06,-07,-15.

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series consists of 187 panorama prints, which document the history of Santa Clara County from the 1920s through the 1950s. The images include landscape views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Lake Tahoe, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Alum Rock, agriculture, local business storefronts, churches, the Santa Clara Mission and the Carmel Mission, schools, and a variety of social gatherings of men, women, and children. Also included are a few images of the town of Cupertino and the Linda Vista Golf Course.

Arrangement

This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.
drawer 28-06

Agriculture

Physical Description: 72.0 prints
drawer 28-07

Storefronts, Churches, Schools, Landscapes

Physical Description: 61.0 prints
drawer 28-15

People, Transportation

Physical Description: 54.0 prints
 

Digital Backups

Scope and Contents

This series contains digital backups for 602 photographs in this collection.
Box 15

Panorama Photographs 001-281

Box 16

Panorama Photographs 287-389

Box 17

Panorama Photographs 390-509

Box 18

Panorama Photographs 510-602