History of the Larkin House and Thomas O. Larkin
Scope and Content
Title: California. Department of Parks and
Recreation. Larkin House (Monterey State Historic Park) Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1832 - 1957
Date (bulk): (bulk 1880 - 1920).
Collection number: 484.1
Larkin House State Historic Monument
17.98 cubic ft.
California State Parks
Monterey State Historic Park
20 Custom House Plaza
Monterey, CA 93940
Abstract: The Larkin House Collection consists of
material connected with the Larkin House State Historic Monument in
Monterey, California. In this historic adobe, decisions were made and actions
taken that shaped the early history of the State of California. The
collection, while not possessing a large group of Thomas O. Larkin
manuscript documents like that held by the Bancroft Library, still contains
good examples of documents and photographs associated with Larkin and his
Physical location: For current information on the
location of these materials, please consult the Monterey District
Curator at 831-649-7118.
The collections are open for research by appointment only.
Appointments may be made by calling 831-649-7110.
Property rights reside with the California Department of Parks and
Recreation. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records
and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please
contact the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Monterey State
Suggested citation of these records is: [Identification of item], Larkin House Collection, Monterey State Historic Park, 484.1,
California State Parks.
The bulk of this collection was acquired by donation from Alice
Larkin Toulmin (1879 - 1963), granddaughter of Thomas O. Larkin. Her
father, Alfred Otis Larkin, was born at Larkin House and Mrs. Toulmin later
lived in the Larkin House for 35 years.
The collection had limited processing work done by an independent
contractor in 1993. The collection was loosely organized in record series
and some housing in archival containers was done at that time. No
finding aid was produced. In 2002 funds were made available to complete the
processing. All items were arranged in coherent record series and
subseries, a processing plan was formed, and archival materials needed to
complete the proper housing of materials were ordered and received. The
collection has been completely housed in archival quality containers and
enclosures. All photographs, regardless of size, have been sleeved in
PAT-passed polyethylene sleeves. All metal fasteners such as brads and
paper clips have been removed and replaced with inert plastiklips.
Documents have been cleaned where needed with a document cleaning pad. All
monographs have had custom phased boxes constructed by the archivist or,
in the case of pamphlet-size works, in pamphlet enclosures. A family
bible has been housed in a box specially ordered for it. All folders in
document cases are acid-free archival folders. Every box has been
labelled on the exterior with an archival quality label with inert adhesive.
The collection has been completely described in a finding aid.
The collection was arranged chronologically as much as dates could
be ascertained. The majority of the photographs in the collection have
no dates and have been arranged according to the physical age
progression of the subject.
History of the Larkin House and Thomas O. Larkin
The Larkin House is a reminder of the influence Thomas Oliver Larkin
exerted not only on California's political history but also its secular
architecture during the first half of the 19th century. In 1834, Larkin
constructed one of the first two-story houses to be built in Monterey
and one of the earliest examples of Monterey colonial architecture. It
became known as the Larkin House adobe. Larkin adapted eastern form to
available materials: adobe and redwood. The Larkin House adobe is
distinctive for its broad roof overhang above the second floor windows and
its surrounding balcony. The roof, designed to shelter the adobe from the
corroding effects of rain and wind, was stylish as well as practical
and became the predominant design for adobe buildings of the period. As
Larkin's home and business place, for over five important years the
adobe served as headquarters and the center of social life of the Capital.
Here historic decisions regarding California's future were made.
The earliest days of California statehood have a voice in the life
of Thomas Oliver Larkin. He served as the first and only United States
Consul to Mexican California, 1844-48, and, as a confidential agent of
the U.S. government for two of those years, 1846-48, served to 'create a
favorable feeling' toward the United States via an extensive propaganda
campaign in favor of American acquisition of California that helped to
bring about the U.S. seizure of California in the Mexican War. He
served from 1847-49 as Navy agent and Naval storekeeper, and was a delegate
to the state Constitutional Convention, held at Colton Hall in Monterey
in 1849. California became a state in 1850 and Monterey was its first
Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1802, Thomas O. Larkin was an
orphan by the age of sixteen. Of notable Anglo-American descent- one
ancestor, Richard Warren, came to America on the Mayflower, and his
Grandfather Ebenezer Larkin fought at Bunker Hill- Larkin was forced to make
his way in life early, and struggled for a while. He pursued his
earliest business ventures in Massachusetts but in 1821 left to try his luck
in North Carolina. His efforts met with little success and the young
Larkin, encouraged by the adventures of his sailor half-brother, hoped
for a better location to build a successful venture. While he preferred
to remain in the east, Larkin decided that California was to be his land
of venture. He went to California to join his half-brother, John B. R.
Cooper, a merchant sea captain and another American destined to
importance in early California. He sailed from Boston to Monterey in 1832, and
during the voyage had an affair with a married woman, Rachel Hobson
Holmes, who was traveling to California to join her own sea captain
husband. Not long after her arrival in California, Rachel received word of
her husband's death. She and Larkin married in 1833, and the couple
(together with a child who had been born to them out of wedlock) took up
residence in Monterey. Rachel became the first Anglo-American woman to
settle in Alta (Upper) California. Larkin settled in Monterey and opened a
store, conducting trade with Mexico and the Sandwich Islands,
unquestionably taking advantage of his half-brother's success as a merchant
As the political and economic capital of Alta California, Monterey
was well suited to Larkin's business activities. Not content to work in
the employ of his half-brother, Larkin soon embarked upon a successful
career as a financier and merchant. After the U.S. conquest, Larkin
turned his attention to real estate development and he and a partner,
Semple, created the community of Benicia, the first California town to be
founded by promoters. He eventually held extensive tracts of land from
the Monterey area north, including in San Francisco and the Feather
River Valley. Larkin was an unapologetic social climber, and he fostered
personal relationships with the influential -- both Californios
(Spanish-speaking Californians) and Anglo-Americans -- whom he thought might
advance his business interests. Unlike many Anglo- American settlers in
Mexican California, Larkin does not seem to have harbored feelings of
racism toward the Californios. He also distinguished himself from most of
his compatriots who had arrived in California during the 1830s by
remaining as staunchly Protestant as he was patriotic, and he never
converted to Catholicism or became a Mexican citizen.
While perhaps overshadowed by his role as a businessman, Larkin also
engaged in diplomatic activities which facilitated California's
transition from Mexican to U.S. control. In 1844, he was appointed U.S. Consul
at Monterey and was the only individual to hold that position. As
Consul, Larkin promoted U.S. economic interests and protected the civil
rights of Anglo-American immigrants. In 1845, President James K Polk
appointed him as a confidential agent. Larkin used that position to further
what he had earlier advocated in a series of letters published in
several eastern newspapers, namely, the peaceful acquisition of California,
initiated by the Californios themselves, by the United States. However,
Larkin's plans for this peaceful union were shortly to be dashed by the
outbreak of war between the United States and Mexico.
At the time of his death in San Francisco on October 27, 1858,
Larkin was one of the richest and most highly respected men in
||Thomas Oliver Larkin and his soon-to-be wife,
Rachel Hobson, arrive in Monterey to join his half-brother John B.
||Larkin begins construction of his home at the
corner of Calle Principal and Jefferson Streets in Monterey.
||Larkin is appointed U.S. Consul to Alta
California. The adobe serves as the consulate.
||President James K. Polk enlists Larkin's
special help in promoting U.S. interests in California.
||California admitted to the Union as the 31st
state. Business concerns prompt Larkin's move to New York.
||Larkin returns to California, settling in San
||Thomas O. Larkin dies. After his death, the
Larkin House is sold as part of the disposition of the estate.
||Larkin's granddaughter, Mrs. Alice Sistare
Larkin Toulmin, the daughter of his oldest son Oliver, purchases the house
and returns control of it to the Larkin family. She lives in the house
for 35 years.
||Larkin's granddaughter donates the historic
adobe and its contents to the State of California as a memorial to her
Scope and Content
The Larkin House Collection consists of records, photographs, and
memorabilia connected with the Larkin House State Historic Monument in
Monterey, California. In this historic adobe, decisions were made and
actions taken that shaped the early history of the State of California.
The collection, while not possessing a large group of Thomas Larkin
manuscript documents like that of the Bancroft Library, still contains good
examples of documents and photographs associated with Larkin and his
descendants, particularly his son Oliver, Oliver's wife Mary Ball and
the Ball family, and Larkin's granddaughter, Alice Sistare Larkin. An
item of note is the original 1852 paper on linen Map and Deed of the
Flugge Rancho on the Feather River, Northern California, property of
Thomas O. Larkin, enclosed in a leather case. Additional items of note are
the well-preserved photograph albums of Alice S. Larkin, which, over a
range of thirty years, 1890 to 1920, contain a visual record of her
extensive international travels and supplies a wealth of images from a
host of cultures around the world at the turn of the 19th to the 20th
The following terms have been used to index the description of
in a library's online public access catalog:
Library of Congress Subject Headings
John B. Rogers, 1791 - 1872.
Thomas Oliver, 1802 - 1858.
Additional information about Thomas O. Larkin may be
found in the following publications:
Bancroft, Hubert Howe, 1832-1918.
San Francisco, CA:
Conmy, Peter Thomas.
The centenary of the American consulate
in California. Thomas Oliver Larkin, consul, 1843-1848.
San Francisco, CA:
Native Sons of the Golden West,
Hague, Harlan and Langum, David.
Thomas O. Larkin: a life of
patriotism and profit in Old California.
of Oklahoma Press,
Kelsey, Rayner Wickersham.
The United States
Consulate in California.
University of California,
Larkin, Thomas Oliver, 1802-1958.
Chapters in the
early life of Thomas Oliver Larkin, including his experiences in the
Carolinas and building of the Larkin House at Monterey.
California Historical Society,
The Larkin House.