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Guide to the Charles F. Lummis Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Important Information for Researchers
  • Historical Background
  • Bibliography
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Appraisal Note
  • Related Collections
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles F. Lummis papers
    Date: 1877-1928,
    Date (bulk): bulk 1904-1914
    Collection Number: MS-R033
    Creator: Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928
    Extent: 5.6 linear feet (14 boxes and 1 oversized folder)
    Languages: The collection is in English. A few letters are in Spanish.
    Repository: University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.
    Irvine, California 92623-9557
    Abstract: Charles F. Lummis explored and documented the culture and history of the Southwest in his writings and photography from 1884 until his death in 1928. A resident of Los Angeles for most of his life, Lummis was city editor of the Los Angeles Daily Times, city librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library, an advocate of Native American rights, and founder of the Landmarks Club and the Southwest Museum. This collection contains a portion of his prolific correspondence to friends and colleagues, documents his tenure as Los Angeles Public Librarian, provides a sample of his photography, and offers a rare glimpse into his college interests and activities.

    Important Information for Researchers


    The collection is open for research. Box 13 is restricted due to fragility of the materials. Photocopies were not made for these items; special permission is required to use them. Box 14 is restricted due to mold. Photocopies were made and have been integrated into the collection.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Charles F. Lummis papers. MS-R033. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired as part of the Don Meadows collection, 1996.

    Custodial History

    The papers were collected by Don Meadows. It is not known how or when Meadows acquired them.

    Processing History

    Processed by Cyndi Shein and Michelle Weng, 2007.

    Historical Background


    Charles Fletcher Lummis explored and documented the cultures and histories of Spanish California and the Southwest through his writings and photography from 1884 until his death in 1928. He resided in Los Angeles for most of his life and influenced Southern California as city editor of the Los Angeles Daily Times, city librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library, and an advocate of Native American rights. He gained fame in 1884 during his "tramp across America," when he walked from Ohio to California, dispatching newspaper articles about his adventures and gaining respect for the Southwest and its people as he went. He wrote numerous books, reported on the injustices committed against Native Americans, battled to have Native American children released from government schools and returned to their families, advised President Theodore Roosevelt on "Indian affairs," and established the Sequoya League to defend Native American rights. Lummis also photographed and explored the Southwest, Mexico, Central America, and South America, collecting artifacts along the way. He also collected Native American and Spanish folktales and recorded many traditional songs on wax cylinders. He founded the Southwest Museum in Los Angles to share his collections with the public and established the Landmarks Club to restore the old Spanish missions. Lummis' campaigns and editorials in favor of preserving Native American and Spanish culture were unusual for the time and often generated great debate.
    Lummis also positively affected the community of Los Angeles during his controversial tenure as city librarian. In 1905 veteran librarian Mary L. Jones was fired (without apparent justification) from her job as city librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and replaced by Lummis, who was a popular figure, but had no library experience. In 1910, during a very public scandal surrounding his second divorce, Lummis was accused of neglecting his duties and was forced to resign his position. In spite of his stormy career as librarian, Lummis' contributions to the community were significant. He insisted on equal access to library materials for all people regardless of their social or economic standing, instituted entrance exams for library employees in an effort to establish fair hiring practices, and lobbied to increase salaries for library employees. Lummis also boosted the popularity of the library, built a collection of contemporary biographies and autographs, instituted the branding of books to prevent theft, improved children's services, and moved the main library to a better facility.
    Lummis' personal life was as turbulent as his professional life. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried. He grew up with one sister, three half sisters, and one half-brother. He was married and divorced three times. He fathered one child before he was married and later had four children with his second wife, Eve. He received his early education from his father, Reverend Henry Lummis, and later attended Harvard. While at Harvard, he worked summers in the print shop of a resort in New Hampshire, where he printed and sold his first work, Birch Bark Poems. In spite of his demonstrated intelligence, Lummis was unenthusiastic about his studies. Ultimately, he failed two final exams in mathematics and, rather than retake the exams, he left Harvard without a degree. Years later, after Lummis had gained national renown, Harvard bestowed an honorary bachelor's degree upon him. He received other honors during his lifetime, including an honorary degree from Santa Clara College and knighthood from the King of Spain. Aside from his service as LAPL librarian and his time as editor of the Los Angeles Daily Times and Out West Magazine, he depended upon the sale of his books, articles, and essays for income. Charles F. Lummis died of cancer at his home, El Alisal, in 1928. The home, which Lummis built with his own hands, is now a historic landmark in Los Angeles.

    Biography/Organization History


    1859 March 01 Born Charles Fletcher Lummis in Lynn, Massachusetts to Harriet Fowler Lummis and Reverend Henry Lummis.
    1877 Entered Harvard University as a freshman.
    1878 Summer Worked at Profile House resort hotel in New Hampshire as a printer.
    1878 Summer Printed and sold his Birch Bark Poems.
    1879 Unbeknownst to Lummis, daughter, Bertha Belle was born to Emma L. Nourse and soon adopted by the Page family.
    1880 April 16 Married Mary Dorothea Rhodes (Roads) in Boston Massachusetts. Rhodes went by her middle name, Dorothea, and is sometimes called "Dolly" or "Thea."
    1881 Left Harvard after completing all the coursework, but without passing two of the final exams. Moved to the Rhodes' family farm in Chillicothe, Ohio.
    1882 Became editor of Scioto Gazettein Chillicothe.
    1884 Began walk from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California. Dispatched reports of his progress to Los Angeles Daily Times and Chillicothe Leader along the way.
    1885 February 01 Arrived in Los Angeles and was appointed city editor for the Los Angeles Daily Times.
    1886 Traveled to the Arizona territory to report on the campaign of General George H. Cook against Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches.
    1886 Published The Home of Ramona (Los Angeles: Charles F. Lummis & Co.).
    1887 Suffered a stroke which paralyzed the left side of his body.
    1888 February 05 Traveled to New Mexico for convalescence from his stroke. Stayed first in San Mateo with Amado Chavez and family and then moved to the pueblo of Isleta.
    1888 Explored the Southwest with archaeologist Adolph Bandelier.
    1891 February Dissolution of marriage to Dorothea Rhodes.
    1891 March 27 Married Eva "Eve" Francis Douglas in San Bernardino, California.
    1891 Published A New Mexico David and Other Stories and Sketches of the Southwest (New York: C. Scribner's Sons).
    1892 June 09 Daughter, Dorothea "Turbesé" Lummis born to Eve Lummis in Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico.
    1892 Secured release of Native American children (from the pueblo of Isleta) that had been kept against their families' wishes at the government school in Albuquerque, Mew Mexico.
    1892 Relocated Eve and Turbesé from Isleta to Los Angeles and joined Bandelier on an archaeological expedition to Peru and Bolivia.
    1892 Published A Tramp Across the Continent (New York: C. Scribner's Sons).
    1892 Published Some Strange Corners of Our Country (New York: The Century Co.).
    1893 December Returned to Los Angeles.
    1893 Published The Land of Poco Tiempo (New York: C. Scribner's Sons).
    1893 Published The Spanish Pioneers (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.).
    1894 November 15 Son, Amado Bandelier Lummis born.
    1894 Published The Man Who Married the Moon, and Other Pueblo Indian Folk-Stories (New York: The Century Co.).
    1895 January Became editor of magazine, Land of Sunshine.
    1896 Published The Gold Fish of Gran Chimú (Boston and New York: Lamson, Wolffe & Co.).
    1897 Founded Landmarks Club with the intention of restoring and preserving the old Spanish missions of California.
    1897 Published The Enchanted Burro: Stories of New Mexico and South America (Chicago: Way and Williams).
    1897 Published The King of the Broncos, and Other Stories of New Mexico (New York: C. Scribner's Sons).
    1898 Began to build his home, El Alisal, on three acres along the Arroyo Seco, just north of downtown Los Angeles.
    1898 Published The Awakening of a Nation: Mexico Today (New York and London: Harper & Bros.).
    1900 January 19 Son, Jordon "Quimu" Lummis born.
    1900 December 25 Son, Amado Bandelier Lummis died of pneumonia.
    1901 Summoned to Washington, D.C. to advise President Roosevelt on Native American issues.
    1902 Founded the Sequoya League as an instrument to defend Native American rights.
    1902 Became chairman of the Warner's Ranch Indian Advisory Commission.
    1902 Changed title of magazine Land of Sunshine to Out West.
    1903 Founded the Southwest Society, a branch of the Archaeological Institute of America.
    1903 Received honorary degree from Santa Clara College in recognition of his service to the history of the American West.
    1904 August 20 Son, Keith Lummis born.
    1905 June Appointed Los Angeles City Librarian.
    1906 Granted honorary bachelor of arts degree from Harvard at 25th class reunion.
    1906 Bestowed Lummis name upon newly discovered daughter, Bertha Belle Page, and invited her to live with him at El Alisal.
    1907 Founded and acted as secretary of Southwest Museum in California.
    1908 Became founding board member of the School of American Archaeology at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    1909 Separated from wife, Eve.
    1909 December Ceased to edit Out West.
    1910 Deeded El Alisal and his collections to the Southwest Museum.
    1910 March Was forced to resign from the Los Angeles Public Library.
    1910 Published Pueblo Indian Folk-Stories (New York: The Century Co.).
    1911 March Led expedition to Mayan Ruins of Guatemala, where he contracted "Jungle Fever." Fever reportedly left him temporarily blind.
    1911 Published My Friend Will (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.).
    1912 Wrote column, "In the Lion's Den," for West Coast Magazine.
    1912 June 13 Dissolution of marriage to Eve.
    1912 November 16 Participated in the groundbreaking of the Southwest Museum.
    1913 Published In Memory of Juan Rodrígues Cabrillo, Who Gave the World California(Chula Vista, California: Denrich Press).
    1914 August 01 Opened Southwest Museum to public.
    1914 Acted as founding member and vice-president of the Arroyo Seco Association.
    1915 March 11 Resigned as secretary of the Southwest Museum.
    1915 March 15 Knighted by Alfonso XIII of Spain for his sympathetic portrayal of the actions of Spain in the Americas.
    1915 May 09 Married Gertrude Redit in Los Angeles, California.
    1923 Published Spanish Songs of Old California (San Francisco: Scholz, Erickson & Co.)
    1923 Separated from wife, Gertrude.
    1925 Published Mesa, Cañon and Pueblo: Our Wonderland of the Southwest (New York and London: The Century Co.).
    1927 Autumn Diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
    1928 Published A Bronco Pegasus (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.).
    1928 November 12 Suffered a massive hemorrhage and fell into a coma.
    1928 November 25 Died El Alisal.
    1929 Posthumous publication of The Spanish Pioneers and the California Missions (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.).
    1929 Posthumous publication of Flowers of Our Last Romance (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.).
    1970 Cultural Heritage Board of the city of Los Angeles declared El Alisal a historic monument.


    Apostol, Jane. El Alisal: Where History Lingers. Brea, California: Premier Printing Corporation/Sultana Press, 1994.
    Fiske, Turbesé Lummis. Charles F. Lummis: The Man and His West. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.
    Gordon, Dudley. Charles F. Lummis: Crusader in Corduroy. United States: Cultural Assests Press, 1972.
    Sarber, Mary. Charles F. Lummis: A Bibliography. Tucson: Graduate Library School University of Arizona, 1977.
    Thompson, Mark. American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Rediscovery of the Southwest. New York: Arcade Pub., 2001.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    This collection contains a portion of Charles F. Lummis' prolific correspondence to friends and colleagues, documents his tenure as Los Angeles Public Librarian, provides a sample of his photographic prints, and offers a rare glimpse of his early interests and activities through a personal scrapbook that he assembled during his college years. Lummis' papers include manuscripts, typescripts, notes, articles about and by Lummis, news clippings, publications, photographic prints, legal transcripts, correspondence, invoices, and printed ephemera, all of which are related to his personal and professional interests.

    Collection Arrangement

    This collection is arranged in six series.
    • Series 1. Scrapbooks and photographic prints, 1877-1927, undated. 1 linear foot.
    • Series 2. Family correspondence, 1904-1928, undated. 0.4 linear feet.
    • Series 3. Personal and professional papers, 1879-1928, undated. 3.4 linear feet.
    • Series 4. Ephemera, 1909-1928, undated. 0.2 linear feet.
    • Series 5. Clippings, 1891-1926, undated. 0.4 linear feet.
    • Series 6. Publications, 1884-1914. 0.2 linear feet.

    Appraisal Note

    Damaged newspaper clippings and journal articles with significant preservation issues that were also available online were discarded.

    Related Collections

    Related materials are found in the following collections:
    • Charles F. Lummis Manuscript Papers Collection. Autry National Center, Southwest Museum. http://www.autrynationalcenter.org/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=record&id=CGAV06-A0&type=201
    • Charles Fletcher Lummis Papers (Collection 763). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf6n39p0x7

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928 -- Archives.
    Los Angeles Public Library -- Archives.
    California -- Archives.
    San Francisco (Calif.)-- Photographs.

    Genres and Formats of Materials

    Letters -- 20th century.
    Cyanotypes -- 19th century.
    Cyanotypes -- 20th century.
    Scrapbooks -- 19th century.
    Scrapbooks -- 20th century.
    Photographic prints -- 19th century.
    Photographic prints -- 20th century.
    Ephemera -- Southwest, New -- 20th century.
    Ephemera -- California -- 20th century.
    Ephemera -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge -- 19th century.




    Meadows, Don -- collector