Scope and Content
Language of Material:
SJSU Special Collections & Archives
Title: John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2011.05.01
(70.5 linear feet)
Date (inclusive): 1905-1950
Date (inclusive): 1920-1945
Abstract: The John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection documents the history of San José and Santa Clara Valley from 1905-1950
(bulk 1920-1945). The collection consists of approximately 15,000 glass plate, acetate and nitrate negatives. The negatives
are arranged by index number, format and topic, and include a variety of subjects that illustrate everyday life in the region.
This collection documents the changes in area business ventures that include agriculture, fruit canning and processing, banking,
local businesses, aeronautics, railroads, and other manufacturing businesses. This collection is arranged into two series:
Series I: Indexed Negatives – Acetate & Nitrate, c. 1926-1945; and Series II: Topical Negatives – Glass, Acetate & Nitrate,
The John C. Gordon materials also include 6,000 photographic prints, 187 panorama prints, and 525 panorama nitrate and safety
film negatives. These items are located in the John C. Gordon Photographic Collection.
Collection is open for research.
The John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection is comprised of several film formats and mediums, including large format
glass plate negatives and cellulose nitrate film. Glass plate negatives in this collection have been moved and stored separately.
Due to its considerable volume and external constraints on department staffing, budget, and project time, the cellulose nitrate
film of this collection has remained interfiled with cellulose acetate film. Glass and nitrate film is especially sensitive
to environmental conditions and physical handling, and can be easily damaged or become hazardous to human health. Frequent
handling and removal from a temperature controlled environment can also accelerate the decomposition of film. Consequently,
the John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection will be accessed by appointment only at the sole discretion of the Director
of SJSU Special Collections & Archives. To prevent possible exposure to degraded nitrate film, patrons approved for research
will use respiratory, eye, and hand protection. Patrons using the collection will follow staff directions on how to properly
handle and view film for research.
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 SJSU 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.
John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection, MSS-2011-05-01, San José State University Library, Special Collections &
Collection processed by Project Archivists Daniel Jarvis and Erin M. Louthen, and the student assistant staff at SJSU Special
Collections & Archives. Finding aid EAD encoded by Daniel Jarvis and Erin M. Louthen. Reviewed by Danelle Moon, Project Director.
This finding aid was created as part of the Detailed Processing of the John C. Gordon and Ted Sahl Photographic Collections
Project, a one year San José State University Library grant project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records
Commission. The project began in 2010. The Project Director is Danelle Moon. The Project Archivists are Daniel Jarvis and
Erin M. Louthen.
John C. Gordon Photographic Collection, MSS-1996-03-29, San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives.
John C. Gordon (1887-1967) 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 on 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 First 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 local newspaper, 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 at the 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
The John C. Gordon Photographic Negatives Collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from c.
1905-1950 (bulk 1920-1945). The collection consists of approximately 15,000 glass plate, acetate and nitrate photographic
negatives, and includes a variety of topics that provide a 50-year visual history of the region. Arranged by index number,
format and topic, the collection documents everyday life, the historical context of place and time, and illustrates the changes
in area business ventures that include agriculture, fruit canning and processing, banking, local businesses, aeronautics,
railroads, 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.
Please note that other materials created by John C. Gordon include 6,000 photographic prints, 187 panorama prints, and 525
panorama nitrate and safety film negatives. These items are located in the John C. Gordon Photographic Collection.
This collection is arranged into two series: Series I: Indexed Negatives – Acetate & Nitrate, c. 1926-1945; and Series II:
Topical Negatives – Glass, Acetate & Nitrate, undated (bulk).
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Santa Clara Valley (Santa Clara County, Calif.) -- History -- Photography -- Negatives
California -- Social life and customs -- Photography -- Negatives
California -- History -- Photography -- Negatives