Scope and Content
Harbison, J. S. (John S.)
Title: John S. Harbison Papers
Date (inclusive): 1857-1920
1.3 linear feet
Abstract: John S. Harbison (1826-1912) was one of the first beekeepers to import bees into
California and was an inventor of innovative beehives and new methods of rearing queen bees. He authored
An Improved System of Propagating the Honey Bee (1860) and
(1861). His papers contain daybooks documenting Harbison's beekeeping activities;
correspondence to and from his brothers, his patent representatives, and business partners; and deeds, business
receipts and patent grants.
Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many
are stored offsite.
University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
Davis, California 95616-5292
Collection number: D-080
Language of Material: Collection materials in English.
John Stewart Harbison was born to William and Margaret (Curry) Harbison in Beaver County, Pennsylvania on
September 28, 1826. Harbison followed in his father's footsteps and became interested in beekeeping and the
In 1854, he settled in Calaveras County, California where he began searching for gold. His quest for gold did
not last long and in early 1855 he relocated to Sutterville, near Sacramento, where he started the first nursery
of fruit and shade trees in the Sacramento Valley.
Harbison returned to Pennsylvania in 1857 with the intention of shipping bees back to California. His first
shipment of bees arrived in San Francisco on November 30, 1857 aboard the Sonora. Since this endeavor was
successful, he obtained a second supply of bees from Pennsylvania the following year.
During 1857-1858, Harbison created a bee hive with a section honey box. The hive, which was patented by
Harbison, is described and illustrated in his book, The Beekeeper's Directory (1861).
Harbison formed a four year partnership with R.G. Clark in 1869 for the purpose of introducing and keeping bees
in San Diego County. Harbison agreed to furnish one hundred and ten colonies of bees, bee supplies, and the
necessary financing to transport and keep the bees in San Diego County, while Clark had complete charge of the
apiaries. The partners equally divided the surplus honey and any increase in the colonies.
By 1873, Clark & Harbison had sold three hundred colonies of bees to the residents of San Diego County.
When their four year contract expired in November 1873, they split the bees and apiary sites evenly and operated
their apiaries separately.
Harbison continued his nursery and apiary business near Sacramento until February 1874 when he moved to San
He passed away on October 12, 1912.
Watkins, Lee H. "John S. Harbison: Pioneer San Diego Beekeeper." The Journal of San Diego History. 15.4 (1969):
Scope and Content
The John S. Harbison Papers contain daybooks documenting Harbison's beekeeping activities; correspondence to
and from his brothers, his patent representatives, and business partners; and deeds, business receipts and
patent grants. Also included are manuscripts of his book
The Beekeepers' Directory.
Arrangement of the Collection
The collection is arranged in six series: 1. Writings by Harbison, 2. Correspondence, 3. Legal and Financial
Materials, 4. Works by Others, 5. Ephemera, 6. Photographic Materials.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public
Harbison, J. S. (John S.)--Archives
Collection is open for research.
Sara Gunasekara processed this collection and created and encoded this finding aid.
[Identification of item], John S. Harbison Papers, D-080, Department of Special Collections, General Library,
University of California, Davis.
Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17, of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to
publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of
California, Davis 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 researcher.