Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
Restrictions on Access
Overview of the Collection
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA
Pierce, C. C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946
Title: C.C. Pierce Collection of Photographs
Dates: ca. 1840-1930
Dates: (bulk 1880-1920)
Quantity: 51.19 linear feet, 63 boxes
Abstract: The C.C. Pierce collection constitutes one of the most important collections of historical photographs of early California
and Los Angeles extant. The collection of 10,100 prints was assembled by Charles C. Pierce, a photographer and long-time operator
of a thriving Los Angeles photographic business. The collection is divided into nine topical headings devised by Pierce. These
include Los Angeles Historical; Indians; Missions; California cities, counties, etc.; Industries and Agriculture; Transportation;
Natural History; Art and Architecture; and Miscellaneous Scenery. Within these large sections are smaller categories that
focus on the history, landscape, people, civic and cultural events, built environment, and development of Southern California
and the Southwest from approximately 1845-1930. Of particular interest are the various Indian tribes depicted as well as all
twenty-one of the California Missions.
Identification: photCL Pierce
Language of Material: English
Charles Chester Pierce was born on November 22, 1861 in Springfield, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Pierce migrated
to Southern California in 1886. Pierce began his photographic career in the thriving boom town of Los Angeles, first in partnership
with Albert H. Lohn, and then successively with J.B. Blanchard and A.E. McConnell. He established his own studio around 1900
at 313 Spring Street. He moved several times during his career, eventually expanding his business to include the sale of
photographic supplies. The most outstanding aspect of his business, however, was the vast picture library he amassed over
three decades at work. Aside from making his own photographs, Pierce acquired the negatives and prints of other regional
photographers such as Emil Ellis, Parker and Knight, Ramsey, Herve Friend, L.M. Clendenon, George P. Thresher, George Wharton
James, and F.M. Huddleston. Pierce eradicated the existing signatures from the photographs, stamped his own name on the images,
and organized the lot into subject files. The consequence of Pierce’s business practices assured that most, if not all, of
the connections between the images and their original creator are now lost. However, the archive which he advertised as the
"C.C. Pierce Collection of Rare, Historical and Curious Photographs, Illustrating California, the Pacific Coast and the Southwest,"
became an invaluable resource for researchers and boosters alike, all of whom came to Pierce’s shop to locate an image for
C.C. Pierce died on November 7, 1946 at the age of 84. His prints and negatives are dispersed at several Los Angeles-area
repositories including the Title Insurance and Trust Company (or Ticor) at the USC Regional History Center; the Los Angeles
Museum of Natural History; and UCLA Special Collections. In addition, UCLA acquired the account books of C.C. Pierce’s business
dealings from 1909 to 1921 (Call # 170/134). The eight volume manuscript ledgers provide a detailed listing of his clients
and the nature of the business.
Scope and Contents
The collection is divided into nine topical headings assigned by Pierce: Los Angeles Historical; Indians; Missions; California
cities, counties, etc.; Industries and Agriculture, Transportation; Natural History; Art and Architecture; Miscellaneous Scenery.
Within these large sections are smaller categories that focus on the history, landscape, people, civic and cultural events,
built environment, and development of Southern California and the Southwest from approximately 1845-1930. Of particular interest
are the various Indian tribes depicted as well as all twenty-one of the California Missions. Pierce described the latter
as "a very extensive and superior collection of this subject, covering a period of over sixty years" that includes copies
of paintings and etchings made by Edward Vischer from 1842-1876 and Henry Chapman Ford (1883).
Pierce’s practice of copying other photographer’s images and supplying his own identification should alert the researcher
to treat the descriptive and date information on the photographs with some skepticism.
There are two numbers on the back of each photograph: the regular penciled number is the negative number assigned by Pierce;
the red penciled number is that assigned by the Huntington. Researchers should refer to the red number at all times when
The original order of the collection has been maintained and all subject headings are those assigned by Pierce himself.
Cards for individual items are filed in subject and geographical sections of the Photo Catalog.
See also photCL 464 for photographs related to the Charles C. Pierce family and business, including one photograph of the
interior of Pierce's last studio at 1572 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles (photCL 464 (1)).
For more information about C.C. Pierce and his business see:
"C.C. Pierce, Photographer,"
UCLA Librarian (volume 17, no. 10, March 26, 1964),
Kurutz, Gary F."'Courtesy of Title Insurance and Trust Company'- The Historical
Collection at CHS' Los Angeles History Center,"
California History (Summer 1978), 186-194.
Smith-Baranzini, Marlene, "The CHS Southern California Historical Collection:
New Location and New Opportunities for Historic Research,"
California History (Winter 1991/1992), 397-398.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Ford, Henry Chapman, 1828-1894.
Los Angeles (Calif.)--History--19th century--Photographs.
Los Angeles (Calif.)--History--20th century--Photographs.
Indians of North America--Photographs.
Cities and towns--California--Photographs.
Restrictions on Access
Access is granted to qualified researchers and by appointment.
All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Photographs. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington 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.
photCL Pierce, C. C. Pierce Collection of Photographs, ca. 1840-1930.
Purchased by the Friends of the Huntington Library in 1939.
The collection was numbered and catalog cards were created by Huntington staff sometime after its purchase. In the mid-1990s,
Huntington staff housed and boxed the collection. In 2001, the original finding aid was created based on the original numbering