Guide to the M. Theo Kearney Papers, 1865-1906

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Biological and Medical Sciences --Agriculture --Plant Culture History --History, California --History, Central Valley/Sierra Geographical (by Place) --California --Central Valley/Sierra

Guide to the M. Theo Kearney Papers, 1865-1906

Collection number: BANC MSS C-G 77

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

Processed by:
The Bancroft Library staff
Encoded by:
Charlotte Gerstein
© 1997 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.. All rights reserved.

Collection Summary

Collection Title: M. Theo Kearney Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1865-1906
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-G 77
Origination: Kearney, M. Theo (Martin Theodore), d. 1906
Extent: Number of containers: 7 boxes
Repository: The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Abstract: Correspondence and papers mainly pertaining to his property in Fresno Co., Calif., and to cooperative raisin production; pocket diary-account books, 1865-1903; social correspondence from his travels; newspaper clippings, pamphlets and pictures.
Languages Represented: English

Information for Researchers


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library 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 reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], M. Theo Kearney Papers, BANC MSS C-G 77, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Related Collection

  • Kearney Ranch records, [ca. 1888-1948], BANC MSS C-G 63

Scope and Content

This collection of Kearney's papers came to The Bancroft Library some time after his estate was received by the University. In 1949 the records of the Kearney Ranch, which had been administered by the University from 1906 to about 1948, were also placed here. A group of account books for the Fruit Vale Improvement Company, found with the personal papers, has now been placed with the Ranch papers which already contained two volumes of records, 1879-1892, for the Esterby "Rancho." The Kearney Ranch records have been cataloged separately (BANC MSS C-G 63) with a brief description and key to arrangement.
The correspondence has been separated from the miscellaneous papers and divided into two groups: the business and general correspondence, arranged chronologically, and the purely social, arranged alphabetically. The general correspondence reflects Kearney's interest and activities in fruit growing and marketing, including cooperative organizations. He was also engaged in promoting land colonies and in developing his Chateau Fresno Park. His purchase of a Mercedes car with a custom body by Hooker & Company, England (a vehicle admired by King Edward VII) is recorded in the correspondence.


M. Theodore Kearney died May 26, 1906, in his stateroom aboard the Cunard liner Caronia, alone, as he had lived in the Victorian mansion adjacent to his vast Kearney Vineyard property. The news did not reach California for nearly a week after his death, and then it was soon learned that he had left his estate to the University of California.
Nothing is known of Kearney's family and early life, nor when or where he was born. Often spoken of as a "man of mystery," Kearney has been described as a rather irascible recluse who built up his great land holdings by shrewd purchases and heartless mortgage foreclosures. From his pocket diary-account books we know that he was in Boston 1865-1867, and was in San Francisco on Jan. 1, 1870. Listed for several years in the San Francisco directories as a real estate broker, Kearney became associated with W. C. Chapman, speculator in Fresno County lands. In 1877 he was agent for the Bank of California in the sale of the Easterby "Rancho" there, and in 1880 purchased N. K. Masten's share therein. This is believed to be the foundation of his ranching and vineyard enterprises. He acquired the noted Fruit Vale estate also, and, later, a controlling interest in the Fresno Vineyard Company. He played an important part in the affairs of the California Raisin Growers' Association. His correspondence and papers reflect the turbulence of his relations with his agricultural and business associates.
Although Kearney has been described as a misanthrope -with a particular aversion to women -his papers do not bear this out. His pocket notebooks reveal that from his arrival in San Francisco he had entré to the highest social circles; his calling lists contain the most important names. Also, there is a considerable file of personal correspondence with friends and acquaintances from his travels, and particularly from his sojourns at various German "spas." This includes letters from a minor German princess, British nobility and members of American, British and Continental "Society."

Key to Arrangement

Box I

General correspondence, 1887-Feb. 1905

Box II

General correspondence, Mar. 1905-May 1906


Social correspondence, ca. 1899-1905


Miscellaneous papers - including folders for: California Fruit Growing Company, California Raisin Growers' Association, California Raisin Growers' Company, Central California Raisin Packing Company, Fresno Vineyard Company, Fruit Vale Estate, Kearney Vineyard Company (formerly Kearney Vineyard Syndicate), Packing House Company and miscellaneous accounts, maps, and plans, planting lists and pictures.

Box IV

Diary-account books, 1865-1903 (30 v. ); personal "record" book of land and financial transactions; address books (4 v.); visiting cards and printed or engraved invitations from friends and acquaintances; S.F. automobile driving license, 1905; copy of epitaph.

Boxes V-VI

Newspaper clippings and pamphlets. Contain clippings re Raising Growers' Assoc., 1893-1906, 1905-1906.


Clippings and pamphlets - various.

Partial List of Correspondents

General Correspondence


Balfour, Robert (of Balfour, Williamson & Company, London, and Balfour, Guthrie & Company, San Francisco)




Carter, Stanton Leslie


Aug. 1903-1906


Castle, Curtis Harvey, 1848-1928


Dec. 10, 1898


Marion De Vries, 1865-1939


Dec. 7, 1898


Drew, Alexander M.


Jan. 2, 1906


Fairweather, John, 1845-


Mar. 25, 1905


Forsyth, William, 1851-


1893 & Oct. 1905


Goodfellow, William Scott, 1850-1913




Hallnor, Andrew (as editor, Cooperative Journal)


Jan. & Feb. 1906


Harris, Milus King, 1853-


Mar. 1903 & Apr. 1906


Hilborn, Samuel Greeley, 1834-1899


Dec. 13, 1898


Huntington, Collis Potter, 1821-1900


May 31, 1894


Huntington, Henry Edwards, 1850-1927


Mar. 22, 1902


Kern County Land Company (a few signed by William S. Tevis)




Loud, Eugene Francis, 1847-1908


Dec. 8, 1898


Morgan, Percy T.


Nov. 25, 1905


Naftzger, Arzo Huffman, 1852-


Dec. 10, 1898


Pardee, George Cooper, 1857-1941




Perkins, George Clement, 1839-1923




Rowley, Howard C. (as editor, California Fruit Farmer)


Mar. & Apr., 1904


Sharp, E. D. (as President, Healdsburg College)


Nov. 6, 1903


West, Frank A. (a few for George West & Son)




Wickson, Edward James, 1848-1923




Wiggins, Frank A., 1849-1924


Dec. 7, 1898

Other correspondents


American Raisin Packing Company


Bank of California


German Savings and Loan Society


Page, McCutchen & Knight (attorneys, San Francisco)

Social Correspondents


Beach, Warren C.


Dartmouth, William Henage Legge, Earl of, 1851-1936


Hanau, Hermione, Princess Carl von


Kidd, Anna Estelle (Mrs. George Kidd)


Kimberly, Isabel Geraldine (Stracy) Wodehouse, Countess of, d. 1927


Oelrichs, Theresa (Fair)


O'Hagan, Bessie


Tevis, Mabel (Pacheco)


Woods, William