From Sign Hill to DNA Way: South San Francisco

Prepared by South San Francisco Public Library
South San Francisco Public Library
840 West Orange Avenue
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Phone: (650) 829-3876
Fax: (650) 829-3866
© 2009
All rights reserved.

From Sign Hill to DNA Way: South San Francisco

Collection number: Consult library

South San Francisco Public Library

South San Francisco, CA 94080
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
South San Francisco Public Library
© 2009. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: From Sign Hill to DNA Way: South San Francisco
Dates: Circa 1908-2008
Collection number: Consult library
Collector: South San Francisco Public Library
Collection Size: 200 objects, primarily photographs but also including brochures, postcards and posters 138 online items
Repository: South San Francisco Public Library
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Abstract: South San Francisco Public Library's collection includes photographs, posters, brochures and other materials from the city's earliest history with emphasis on the 100 years from the time of incorporation in 1908 through the city's centennial celebration in 2008. Images document early businesses beginning with the Western Meat Company, headed by G.F. Swift who contributed the city's name (he had similar businesses in South Chicago, Illinois and South Omaha, Nebraska) and other industries that led to the Chamber of Commerce painting South San Francisco the Industrial City on Sign Hill. Many early businesses have come and gone, but the signage remains and is a battle cry for old timers whenever anyone suggests its removal. Change is noted in the collections' documentation of South San Francisco as the birthplace of Biotechnology. Genentech was the first of many biotechnology corporations. In 1997, the naming of DNA Way outside of the Genentech headquarters was heralded as a new industrial era for South San Francisco.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English
Selected digitized images from this collection.


Parts of the collection have been digitized ( Bits of History and Shades of California) and may be accessed online through the library's website: .

Preferred Citation

From Sign Hill to DNA Way: South San Francisco. South San Francisco Public Library, South San Francisco, CA 94080.

Acquisition Information

This collection was created by library staff as part of the 2008-2009 California Local History Digital Resources Program.

Project Information

These digital objects were assembled from several sources, including the South San Francisco Public Library's Local History Collection, The South San Francisco Historical Society and materials on loan. As part of the library's participation in the California Local History Digital Resources Program (LHDRP), these items were digitized in order to provide broader access to the cultural and social history of South San Francisco. These and other library digital collections are available via the library's website  as well as California Digital Library's (CDL) Calisphere and OAC websites (see  and ).

Scope and Content of Collection

The South San Francisco Local History Collection is devoted to the historical development and current events of South San Francisco. Established in 1967, this collection includes pamphlets, newspaper clippings and other written material about South San Francisco. The South San Francisco Enterprise Journal is available on microfilm from 1895 to present. Other materials that are preserved in the History Room are the South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce business directories (1964 to present), South San Francisco's budgets and general plans, photographs, oral history tapes, city government records and maps. There are approximately 2000 photographs, slides from the 1850s to the present and local school photographs and yearbooks from 1917 to present.
In addition, the History Collection consists of general genealogical reference materials, city directories (1905, 1908, 1929, 1938, and 1940), local telephone books from 1979 to the present, photocopies of the local telephone books (1912, 1915, 1920, 1937, 1942, and 1944), a historic building survey (1986), Sanborn Maps (1910 and 1929), South San Francisco zoning and area maps (1840s to present), and Oral History tapes.


The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Genentech, Inc.
Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center
South San Francisco (Calif.)
Biotechnology industries
Medical facilities
Business enterprises
Centennial celebrations--California--South San Francisco--2008
American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976
City views--California--South San Francisco
Photographic prints
Photographic postcards